Metabolic Flexibility vs. Keto: Benefits, Drawbacks for Type 2 Diabetics
Many doctors advocate for the keto diet to treat type 2 diabetes, but sticking to a strictly no-carb diet can be difficult in the long run. Learn about metabolic flexibility and what it means for type 2 diabetes reversal in this in-depth article.
What is metabolic flexibility?
Metabolic flexibility is the body’s ability to burn available carbohydrates and fats efficiently without the help of external resources. In other words, the body is able to process all kinds of food. Dr. Subhashini Katumuluwa, a doctor with Ciba Health, explains, “The body is able to use whatever source of food is most readily available, and the body can very easily switch back and forth between using these different types of fuel.”
This is an ideal metabolic state, as the body produces everything it needs to turn food into fuel, and is able to respond and adapt to varying amounts of blood sugar in the body. There are many benefits of achieving metabolic flexibility, including: consistent energy, consistent blood sugar levels, less dependence on synthetic insulin, easier weight loss and maintenance, improved body composition, better sleep, improved immune system functioning, better physical and mental functioning, and fewer restrictive, long-term lifestyle changes.
Diabetes is influenced by a number of factors, including nutrition (macronutrient and micronutrient composition), your microbiome, quality of sleep, level of physical activity, body composition, heart rate, stress level, mitochondrial density and efficiency, and other existing health conditions. Once metabolic flexibility is addressed, many other factors that impact diabetes tend to improve as well.
How is Type 2 diabetes treated by conventional medicine?
“Don’t eat carbs,” is how a conventional doctor or endocrinologist would chiefly advise a patient with Type 2 diabetes. Patients would be advised to avoid foods high on the glycemic index (i.e. foods that spike blood glucose levels after they are eaten), such as white bread, potatoes, apples, and oranges.
Diets low in carbs, such as ketogenic diets or low-carb Mediterranean diets may also be recommended. Conventional doctors may also encourage exercise and prescribe an anti-diabetic medication such as Metformin to improve the body’s ability to burn carbohydrates. However, taking a one-size fits all approach and simply cutting out carbohydrates of one’s diet does not address the root cause of diabetes: the body’s inability to produce insulin and/or the body’s resistance to insulin.
How does functional medicine treat diabetes?
Functional medicine uses testing that identifies the underlying drivers of diabetes, that when addressed can decrease medication need, decrease HbA1c levels, and oftentimes completely reverse diabetes.
We focus on achieving metabolic flexibility, an ideal metabolic state. Once this is achieved, many other diabetic symptoms improve as well – such as weight maintenance, immune functioning, sleep and stress levels.
It is more than symptom control. Other treatments control the symptoms of high blood sugar with diet changes, without actually addressing the underlying causes. We address the root cause of diabetes.
We create a personalized diet and lifestyle plan for you that is sustainable and produces long-term results. Other treatments that focus only on limiting carbohydrates are not feasible in the long run. While blood sugar improves for a while, the underlying insulin resistance issue is often exacerbated by these treatments.
Functional medicine sets realistic goals and lifestyle changes. Other diabetes treatments work as long as you stay on a strict diet of no carbohydrates, but very few people can maintain these types of diets in the long term.
We aim to decrease insulin resistance (which is the cause of high blood sugar). Once a person regains insulin sensitivity, their blood sugar and HbA1c levels stay in healthy ranges, their cholesterol and cardiovascular risk factors improve, and they are able to maintain long term success.