Imagine having the power to take control of your well-being, reversing your doctor’s diagnosis and reclaiming your health. No, that’s not the plot of a science-fiction movie nor does it have to be little more than a fleeting dream. On the contrary, it’s a very realistic possibility for the 96 million adults in the U.S. who are living with a diagnosis of prediabetes. And reversing prediabetes doesn’t take as long as you might think — if you know the truth about what works.
What is prediabetes?
Prediabetes is a condition characterized by blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but aren’t yet high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. One way to think of what’s happening: Imagine your body is a car and sugar is the gas. Normally, insulin acts like a key to let the sugar into your cells to use as energy. But if you have prediabetes, your body isn’t making enough insulin (or the insulin isn’t working quite right) to let the sugar into cells. So the sugar stays in your bloodstream instead of getting into your cells, raising your blood sugar level.
Janet M. O’Mahony, M.D. an Internist practicing in Baltimore, explains that a diagnosis of prediabetes is a warning that diabetes could be in your future. Dr. O’Mahoney explains that without lifestyle changes, people with prediabetes are at high risk to develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years. “About 10% of people with prediabetes will develop diabetes each year.” (Already have diabetes? Click through to see how upping your GLP-1 levels naturally lowers your A1C levels.)
How is prediabetes diagnosed?
For most folks, prediabetes is picked up on the routine bloodwork they have done at their annual physical. The most common metric used is the Hemoglobin A1C, which measures your average blood sugar level over the past three months. It does this by looking at the percentage of your red blood cells that are coated with sugar. An A1C level between 5.7% and 6.4% is indicative of prediabetes. Also derived from routine blood work is fasting blood sugar level, which is normal if below 100 mg/dl and indicates prediabetes if it’s in the range of 100 to 125 mg/dl. (Haven’t had bloodwork in awhile? Click through for an instant online prediabetes diagnostic test.)
What are the risks of prediabetes?
“The biggest risk of prediabetes is the long-term damage of diabetes — especially to your heart, blood vessels and kidneys — that may already be starting,” says Dr. O’Mahoney. Click through for more on the associated health risks of Type 2 diabetes.
How long does it take to reverse prediabetes?
That all depends, says Linda Khoshaba, NMD, FABNE, founder of Natural Endocrinology Specialists and a board-certified physician specializing in naturopathic endocrinology. It takes time to reverse prediabetes. “It can take weeks or several months to see results. However, the sooner you start making lifestyle changes, the sooner you will be able to reverse prediabetes and reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.” Anecdotal evidence from our real-life success story archives: Cindi Levengood reversed her prediabetes in less than three months.
The 8 easiest ways to reverse prediabetes
A daily walking routine for exercise…check. Aiming for 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night…check. Quitting smoking…check. Indeed Dr. O’Mahoney says these are excellent ways to reverse your prediabetes. But to help you speed the healing along, we rounded up 8 study-proven easy lifestyle extras:
1. Swap out black tea for green
Makeover your morning routine, starting your day with green tea instead of black, to reduce blood sugar levels in just 4 weeks, according to Ohio State University scientists. The anti-inflammatory compounds called catechins in green tea have been study-proven to reduce inflammation in the gut as well as help heal “leaky” junctures between cells that line the gut. It’s thought that that toxins that make their way into the bloodstream via a so-called “leaky gut” help trigger the all-body inflammation that can lead to elevated blood sugar levels as well as diabetes. (Click through for more food swaps for diabetes.)
2. Eat breakfast before 8:30 AM
Turns out eating early in the day reduces insulin resistance as well as blood glucose levels. When researchers analyzed data from 10,575 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, they found that those who routinely eat breakfast before 8:30 AM, had lower blood sugar levels all day. “We found people who started eating earlier in the day had lower blood sugar levels and less insulin resistance, regardless of whether they restricted their food intake to less than 10 hours a day or their food intake was spread over more than 13 hours daily,” lead researcher Marriam Ali, MD told the folks at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in 2021.
3. Sprinkle cinnamon on your oatmeal
The estimated 96 million of us in the U.S. living with pre-diabetes could improve blood sugar levels and treat our taste buds at the same time. So says a study published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society that found a daily diet that includes cinnamon was helpful in lowering elevated blood sugar levels and improving the body’s response to eating a high-carb meal —two hallmark indicators of pre-diabetes. (Click through for more on how cinnamon can help reverse diabetes.)
Register dietician Robert Iafelice, MS, RDN says that while all four types of cinnamon—Sri Lankan or Ceylon (typically sold as “cinnamon”), Chinese cinnamon, Indonesian cinnamon and Saigon (or Vietnamese)—are helpful, Saigon cinnamon is the most potent, containing more anti-inflammatory and other components than its counterparts that make it a natural insulin balancer. “About 1 teaspoon per day is a tasty way to tap into cinnamon’s power,” says Iafelice.
4. Sip water all day…from the right bottle
Proper hydration can help flush glucose from your blood, helping you better maintain levels and reverse pre-diabetes. Equally important: how you hydrate. So says research published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism that swapping out plastic cups and water bottles slashes your risk of diabetes by as much as 63%. Plastic contains estrogen-mimicking compounds called phthalates, which cause your body to glom onto fat, disrupting its ability to regulate glucose. Tote one of these water bottles to the gym or work to hydrate guilt-free. Also smart: Stash leftovers or pack lunches in glass storage containers or reusable silicone bags instead of plastic bags or containers. One to try is the Pyrex 22-piece glass food storage set (Kohls.com).
5. Take your lunch outside
Forget eating at your desk or grabbing lunch while running errands: Instead, head outside to bask in the sun around noon. In just 10 minutes — the time it takes to snack on your sandwich — you have cut your risk of diabetes suggests Tufts university research. The precise angle of solar rays at this time boosts your body production of vitamin D without harming skin, according to a Norwegian study in Advances in Experimental Biology. And keeping D-levels high cuts diabetes risk up to 78%, and dramatically increases the likelihood of remission of prediabetes.
6. Sip this mocktail before a big meal
Several studies, including one from Arizona State University, tout the benefit of knocking back 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before sitting down to a carb-heavy meal. “The acetic acid in vinegar that is the result of fermentation can control blood sugar,” says Iafelice. Science agrees as the researchers found apple cider vinegar improves blood sugar response by 55%. But apple cider vinegar isn’t your only option. “Anything acidic such other types of vinegar as well as lemon slows the digestion and absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, preventing blood sugar spikes,” explains Iafelie.
Try tossing your dinner salad with this triple-threat vinaigrette made with 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, but also 1/2 cup olive oil (which a study published in Nutrition and Diabetes says trims the risk of prediabetes developing into type 2 diabetes by 16%). Season it up with some salt, pepper and 1 crushed clove of garlic or a variety of herbs like basil and oregano.
7. Skip the bedtime snack
Forgo a late night trip to the kitchen and start reversing your pre-diabetes today — that according to research published in Diabetes Care. Researchers found that eating one hour before going to bed raises blood sugar levels by more than 8% and drops insulin levels by almost 7%, compared to eating the same meal a 2 to 3 hours earlier. Edibel Quintero, a registered dietician and medical advisor with HealthInsider suggests not eating anything past 8 p.m. if your normal bedtime is around 10 p.m. “Aim to eat earlier if you typically go to bed earlier.”
8. Sleep on a cool pillowcase
Add flash-freezing your pillowcase to your bedtime routine to burn more calories — and boost brown fat production which the National Institutes of Health says makes you nearly three times less likely of developing diabetes. Before heading off to brush your teeth, mist your pillowcase with water and pop in the freezer 10 minutes before bed.
For an added bonus, add a few drops of lavender essential oil to the water since research has linked that its aroma to promoting calmness to help you grab that all important sleep. Lavender oil also helps reduce stress, another risk factor for diabetes according to research published in Cureus. As if that isn’t enough reason to cool out at bedtime, University of Chicago research says that a cooler head helps you doze off fast and reach deeper levels of slow-wave sleep, something finds improves insulin sensitivity as much as losing 30 pounds!
For real-life success stories featuring women who successfully reversed prediabetes, check out these stories from our sister site:
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.