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Prediabetic Symptoms and Ways To Reverse It

Natalie Stein
October 14, 2018
How To Get Blood Sugar Down In A Hurry

What Are the Symptoms of Prediabetes?


It is common for a pre-diabetic person to only have slightly elevated blood sugar levels, but the body continues to require increased insulin to maintain it. Symptoms include:

  • Sleepiness after eating
  • Lethargy
  • Weight gain around the abdomen
  • Thirstier than normal
  • Urinating more frequently

Is there a test to diagnose prediabetes (HbA1c and prediabetes chart)?

There are three blood tests that can diagnose whether you’re pre-diabetic:

How To Read Your Tests

  • A pre-diabetes level is 5.7% and 6.4%.
  • An HbA1c > 6.5% is considered a diabetes glucose level.
  • Fasting blood sugar or serum glucose is a measure of your blood sugar first thing in the morning before you have eaten anything.
  • Prediabetes also can be identified with serum glucose, or blood sugar level. A fasting blood sugar test of 100-125 mg/dl indicates prediabetes.

Can Prediabetic Symptoms be Reversed?


Prediabetes can be reversed with lifestyle changes.

If your lifestyle is not changed, prediabetes usually progresses to diabetes. Lark has a pre-diabetes program that is covered as a preventive health benefit under many insurance plans. You can check it out here.

How Can I Reverse Prediabetes?


When you are working to reverse prediabetes, your health-care professional will advise you on how often you should have your blood tests checked – usually every 3 months.

Having your own personal home glucose monitor (finger stick test) gets you involved in managing your pre-diabetes, and also can help you track your progress. Write down the numbers and what was consumed to learn how you respond to different meals. This is a great way to test different pre diabetes meal plans to find out what foods cause your blood sugar levels to go up the least, and the most!

How To Track Your Meals and Foods:


  • Check your blood sugar and write it down
  • Enjoy your meal and write down what you ate and the portion sizes
  • In two hours, check your blood sugar and write it down. Did that meal treat your body well? How much did your blood sugar go up? How did you feel?
  • Keep a log of these readings to discuss them with your health-care professional or nutritionist to problem-solve ways to make better diet choices. This will help you find foods to eat and foods to avoid for your personal situation.

What Is The Treatment For Prediabetics?


Prediabetes is best treated with a proactive, renewed commitment to getting healthier, and making healthier choices every day. It can, and usually is, treated with diet and exercise alone.

However, some people with prediabetes are treated with a medication called metformin. Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that lifestyle changes reduced diabetes incidence by 58% compared to metformin, which reduced the incidence by only 31%.1

If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, discuss a treatment plan with your health-care professional.

Is There a Prediabetic Diet?


Best Foods for Prediabetes

  • Healthy proteins and fats
  • Lots of vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Low glycemic index carbohydrates like quinoa, oatmeal, and brown rice

The foods to eat for prediabetes are real foods in their natural or whole form. There needs to be a balance of fat, protein, and carbohydrate. Drinking lots of water or unsweetened tea also is important.

Foods To Avoid for Prediabetes Management

And easy way to identify the most important foods to avoid is to avoid any food that is white. This includes white:

  • Sugar (and anything made with sugar)
  • Flour (and anything made with flour)
  • Bread
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Potato

Cauliflower is white, but it is a good food for prediabetes because it is a whole, real vegetable.

Avoid highly processed foods (like foods that come in boxes or packages already prepared). They’re high in calories, carbs, chemicals, and low in nutrients and vitamins. Other foods to avoid include:

  • Fried foods
  • Fatty meat such as prime rib, burgers, bacon, and fatty cuts of pork, sausages, greasy burgers, hydrogenated fats.
  • Blackened or burned foods (these cause inflammation)
  • Snack foods like pretzels, chips, or cookies
  • Many “energy bars” (compare nutrition labels – a bar that is friendly for prediabetes will have less than 5 grams of sugars and at least 2 grams of fiber)
  • Meals without any vegetables
  • Sodas, sweetened tea, fruit juice, juice-like sweetened beverages

The take home message is to pay close attention to the quality of all foods – fats, proteins, and carbohydrates – and choose less processed ones.

What About a Low Carb Diet for Prediabetics?


A low-carb diet is a great option for prediabetes because it will improve blood sugar, help you lose weight, and help you feel more energetic. Carbohydrates are digested into glucose very easily. A person with prediabetes already has too much sugar in the blood so you don’t want to add any more. To feel satisfied on a low carb diet you have to eat healthy amounts of protein and fat.

What Is The Glycemic Index?

The easiest way to choose quality carbohydrates by following a low glycemic index diet. With a low glycemic index diet you balance the carbohydrate/sugar content of a meal with enough fiber, fat, and protein so that the meal is digested and absorbed slowly. This gradually releases glucose into the bloodstream, and thus the body does not require a large amount of insulin. It also provides the body with good, steady energy over many hours.

Examples Of Good Food Choices For a Prediabetes Diet?

Choosing quality fats and proteins means choosing real food rather than processed versions. Believe it or not, a serving of organic full-fat Greek yogurt with real raspberries will be much more satisfying, and better for your blood sugar and weight, than the fat-free fruity version.

Good protein choices include:

  • Organic poultry (chicken or turkey)
  • Grass-fed red meat (beef or buffalo)
  • Organic lean pork
  • Wild fish and seafood
  • Whole eggs
  • Plant-based proteins such as
    • Beans
    • Lentils
    • Nuts
    • Seeds
    • Tofu
    • Peas
    • Protein powders for smoothies

Organic and grass-fed choices are important because what an animal eats changes the nutrition of the meat. Non-organic and factory-fed animal meats increase inflammation. In prediabetes, this means increased risk for heart disease and complications.

Make some of your meals vegetarian because plant-based fats are associated with lower oxidized LDL and less inflammation. Good fat choices include:

  • Avocado
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil and coconut milk
  • Organic full-fat dairy products
  • Wild, cold water fish
  • Grass-fed red meat
  • Dark meat from pastured poultry

Check labels because hydrogenated fats are often are used in packaged bakery products.

What About Exercise and Prediabetes?

All exercise helps reverse prediabetes by using up sugar in the bloodstream and improving insulin sensitivity. An exercise plan should focus on two things:

  1. Be physically active every day. This could be a walk after dinner, doing yard work or gardening, playing with the kids, swimming, biking, dancing, etc. Tracking the number of steps you take each day with a smartphone or fitness tracker can be very helpful.
  2. Focus on building more muscle a few times a week.

Increasing muscle strength makes the cells of the muscle “hungrier” (more insulin sensitive), and that equals a healthier metabolism.

  • Use weights
  • Your own body weight
  • Resistance bands

If you choose weight training, start slowly and ask for help using the equipment safely and properly. Begin with low weights, and gradually work up to heavier weights. Lifting one round of heavy weights for only 6-8 repetitions has more benefit than one round of light weights for 10 or more repetitions. If you can do more than 10 repetitions, add more weight.

If you like cardiovascular exercise, focus on short bursts of high intensity activity. Research studies show that few people lose weight by spending an hour on a treadmill or elliptical machine. Lifting heavy weights, and short sprints that make you breathless helps you lose weight best. For most people, this is less than 90 seconds, after which, you should walk until you catch your breath and do it again! You’ll be done in 20 minutes.

And, as always check with your health-care professional before starting any exercise program and get help using equipment properly to avoid injury.

What Medications or Supplements Treat Prediabetes?

Metformin is the only medication approved by the FDA to treat prediabetes. It works by stopping the liver from producing excess glucose. For some people, metformin also helps them lose weight. It can be an option for people who aren’t ready or able to make lifestyle changes right away. Metformin also is a medication that can be discontinued as soon as blood sugar levels are at goal, and healthy lifestyle habits have become routine.

Some dietary supplements have good evidence of helping reverse prediabetes. For example, most people with prediabetes are deficient in vitamin D and magnesium. Both of these are necessary to keep cells properly sensitive to insulin.

A health-care professional can order a blood test to check and see if your deficient in these and other nutrients, for example, chromium, biotin, and N-acetyl cysteine. These also are nutrients that have research supporting their role in improving insulin sensitivity.3 Check with a health-care professional before taking supplements. You may need to find one with this specialized knowledge such as a naturopathic doctor, nutritionist, or integrative medicine doctor.

What Kind of Doctor Treats Prediabetes?

Prediabetes is diagnosed and managed by your primary care practitioner, including internists and family medicine specialists, or pediatricians in the case of children or adolescents. Other specialists include physicians who specialize in endocrine glands and hormones including diabetes management (Endocrinologists).

A nutritionist is consulted when you need to review your diet and have suggested dietary and lifestyle changes.

A personal trainer can be helpful if you are having a hard time putting together an exercise plan for yourself. There are a lot of self-care resources too. Eating healthier, exercising, and losing weight are ways to improve your health, and are key to prediabetes treatment.

Can Prediabetes Be Prevented?

Absolutely! The best way to prevent prediabetes are to

  • Stay active
  • Eat a healthy low glycemic index diet, and
  • Handle stress in healthy ways.

If you had gestational diabetes, you may want to pay special attention to adopting the habits discussed in this article. Take action earlier.

What Is The Prognosis For A Person With Prediabetes?

Unfortunately, most Americans with prediabetes don’t make healthy changes or aren’t empowered to take control of their health. Because of this, most people with prediabetes do progress to diabetes. But the good news is, and what research proves, is that with physical activity and healthier foods 58% of new cases of diabetes can be prevented.

If you’re not already a member of the Lark app, we recommend taking advantage of the Coach like so:

  • Download the “Lark Coach” app
  • It will prompt you to indicate your basic eligibility information, which determines if the $600 program is covered by your insurance!
  • If you qualify, you’ll find out and we’ll activate the free health Coach + send you the FitBit, scale, and more.

The Lark Coach is the most innovative thing to happen to health in years, especially when it comes to losing weight and preventing diabetes. Lark was named the most Innovative Company in the World; Apple and Google named it “Top App” and “Best of 2016” as well. See how she can help you.

Author
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health