The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 100 million U.S. adults are living with diabetes or pre-diabetes which often leads to diabetes within 5 years.1 Of those diagnosed with diabetes, 90-95% of them are Type 2 Diabetics as opposed to those with Type 1 Diabetes or Gestational Diabetes.
This disease has traditionally been thought of as a chronic, long-term disease that people have to live with for life. While not a cure, recent research has begun to indicate that with weight loss and intensive long-term lifestyle modifications, some people with type 2 diabetes can experience remission.2 Health practitioners with a thorough understanding of the disease and the most effective dietary and behavioral treatments are positioned to positively influence this trend and those they serve with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. In addition, with 2/3 of the American population designated as overweight, such treatments can also benefit the overweight patients you likely serve in your practice every day.
It has long been understood that people diagnosed with diabetes either don’t produce enough insulin or don’t properly use the insulin their body produces. Insulin is one of the most powerful hormones produced by the body (pancreas). It is an important part of metabolism. Insulin is responsible for converting glucose (from ingested macronutrients and stored fat) into energy and distributing this energy to body cells. Insulin also helps the liver, fat and muscle cells store glucose that is not immediately required by the body so it can be utilized for energy later.
The great thing about insulin is that it is a hormone that can be controlled for most through their nutritional intake and other specific behaviors. Dietary recommendations over the years has varied and often confused the lay population. However, a recent analysis by Nita G. Forouhl and colleagues indicates that common ground on dietary approaches for the prevention, management and potential remission of Type 2 Diabetes can be found.3
This common ground includes the understanding that weight loss/weight management is critical for metabolic health. Additionally, dietary quality such as avoiding processed foods, refined grains and foods high in sugar, while increasing intake of quality protein sources and vegetables as well as taking into account personal, cultural and social factors is preferred.
Integrating weight management and supportive treatment for type 2 diabetes can be a great fit within any chiropractic practice. Such integration supports overall patient health, low back pain treatment, improving or eliminating inflammation and brain fog, effectiveness of adjustments among others.
Based upon research and experience working with thousands of patients, here are 3 ways you can positively impact your patients with type 2 diabetes and those that are overweight.
- Don’t avoid the weight management conversation:Your patients know, like and trust you and rely on you for quality advice that positively impacts their holistic health. Provide them with information that will help them with their weight management efforts and support the treatment plan for those suffering from type 2 diabetes. Any weight management conversation should include the following components at a minimum:
- Nutrition: Recommend a nutrition plan that will lower their insulin requirements and result in controlled insulin levels. This generally includes a diet low in carbohydrates and refined foods that includes quality sources of lean protein. Do your own research as well regarding nutrition and type 2 diabetes and be open to what you find. There is a great deal of evidence that diets lower in carbohydrates that include adequate amounts of quality protein are beneficial. In fact, prior to the development of exogenous insulin as a treatment for diabetes in 1921, the treatment was dietary management including a diet comprised of 5% carbohydrates, 20% protein and 75% from fat.4 You will find many variations of this today as well as much research and support for intermittent fasting.5
- Lowering stress levels: When people with type 2 diabetes are under emotional or physical stress, their blood sugar levels can raise which results in the need for more insulin. Controlling stress can help avoid such glucose swings and improve insulin level stability.
- Exercise: Physical fitness has been shown to lower blood sugar levels, improve overall health, avoid complications through improved blood flow and glucose utilization as well as improve mental outlook. Start with small goals and increase from there. Begin by having your patient’s track their steps and increase up to 10,000 per day. Then integrate resistance training for an increase in lean body mass. Improving lean body mass throughout their weight loss journey is important for supporting their metabolism which is critical for long term weight loss success.
- Quality sleep: Research has found that insufficient sleep (specifically duration and quality) increases risk for development of type 2 diabetes.6 Insufficient sleep, like stress, can cause cortisol levels to rise. The result is higher levels of glucose in the blood, an increase in appetite and a craving for high calorie foods. In addition, lack of sleep adversely affects the desire to exercise for many people. The recommended amount of sleep for adults is at least 7 hours and poor quality sleep can be evidenced by not feeling rested or repeatedly waking up throughout the night.7
- Consider offering a quality weight loss program within your practice. Any successful medical weight loss program must include specific easy-to-follow nutritional instruction, patient engagement and accountability, ongoing support and integration of the behaviors that support long term weight management. These can be created in house and offered on-site with supporting online patient interaction for convenience or integrated through a turn-key program offered through a reputable 3rd party.
- Partner with bariatric specialists as appropriate. Overweight patients need your services. Reach out to bariatricians and/or bariatric surgeons and investigate ways to partner or at the very least refer patients to each other for optimal holistic care. You could even consider offering a satellite weight loss program within your office that includes a shared revenue model. Integration of high quality protein products can also add an additional revenue stream. It is critical to make sure whatever products you select tastes great, is not offered at other ‘big box’ retailers and can be combined into a program that enhances patient weight loss efforts.
Integrating one or more of these strategies can not only improve the health of your patients but add additional revenue streams to your practice. The key to success is keeping the patients’ needs top of mind, practicing what you teach and enjoying your journey along the way.
*First published in Chiropractic Economics Magazine Filed Under: 2019, Health, Wellness & Nutrition, issue-5-2019
Karol Clark, MSN, RN is the best-selling author of How to Add Medical Weight Loss to Your Practice: 7 Steps to an Enjoyable Business, Healthier Patients and Increased Profitability and owner of Weight Loss Practice Builder. She has over 20 yrs. of experience working with surgical and non-surgical weight loss patients and assisting physicians build an enjoyable weight loss practice. She partners with Nutritional Resources (d/b/a HealthWise- www.healthwisenri.com) for creation of educational programs/articles for weight loss practitioners.
3Forouhi, N.G., Misra, A., Mohan, V., Taylor, R., Yancy, W. (2018). Dietary and nutritional approaches for prevention and management of type 2 diabetes. BMJ 2018;361:K2234. https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2234
5Fung MD, J. & Moore, J. (2016) The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal your body through intermittent, alternate-day and extended fasting. Victory Belt Publishing, Las Vegas.
6Knutson KL, Ryden AM, Mander VA, Van Cauter E. Role of sleep duration and quality in the risk and severity of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Arch Intern Med 2006;166:1768–1764.