How To Naturally Reduce the Need for Insulin in Type 2 Diabetes

Lifestyle changes can help some people get off insulin.

Diabetes treatment options vary depending on the type of diabetes you have. For example, people with type 1 diabetes need insulin to survive because their pancreatic beta cells don't produce enough of the hormone. In contrast, people with type 2 diabetes need to produce more insulin to control their blood sugar due to insulin resistance.

However, with type 2 diabetes, insulin may not necessarily be a permanent treatment. Here's what you should know about insulin and why some people with type 2 diabetes might need it, as well as how they may be able to stop using it.


The Role of Insulin in Type 2 Diabetes

Your pancreas releases insulin when blood sugar, also known as glucose, is in your bloodstream. Insulin allows blood sugar to serve as an energy source for your cells at the moment or for later use.

However, when you have high blood sugar levels, the pancreas may try to keep up by producing more insulin than usual. Over time, the cells that usually take in blood sugar ignore the insulin, known as insulin resistance.

As a result, your body will eventually have an issue producing more insulin, leading to type 2 diabetes.

How Does Insulin Treat Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes treatment entails healthy eating, physical activity, and medications. However, if you cannot manage your blood sugar levels with those methods, you will need to add insulin to your treatment plan.

Even though people with type 2 diabetes have problems producing insulin, the natural hormone is still present in some amount. Thus, staying on insulin may not always be necessary.

Still, there are certain circumstances where you may have to take insulin, such as:

  • Being treated in the hospital
  • During pregnancy
  • Having glucose toxicity, an extension of insulin resistance

"When the sugar has been running high, it creates in and of itself a resistance to other things to bring it down. It's a term we call glucose toxicity," William Bornstein, MD, chief medical officer and chief quality and patient safety officer at Emory Healthcare, told Health. "Let's say that somebody comes in and their blood sugar is running pretty high, and they want to try diet and exercise. It's less likely that the diet and exercise will work to bring it down." 

Once your blood sugar is back under control, you may have the option to come off insulin.

How Do You Wean Yourself Off Insulin?

Starting or returning to a good workout and eating plan can reduce your insulin dose or remove insulin from your treatment plan by helping you maintain a healthy body weight. Maintaining a healthy body weight helps reduce insulin resistance.

"[A] person who is very, very obese or very heavy will find that if they lose a large amount of weight, their insulin requirements or their oral medication requirements may drop tremendously—even disappear," Richard N. Hellman, MD, a senior clinical nephrologist and former president of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists told Health

Depending on your physical health, surgical treatments are also available if those options don't work or are not possible.


Exercise makes your body more sensitive to insulin than usual. Your blood sugar may lower for up to 24 hours or more.

You can start with as little as five to 10 minutes of exercise daily and gradually work your way up as you feel comfortable. You can try walking, running, cycling, swimming, Pilates, or a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout.

Having a Healthy Diet

You can also complement your exercise routine with a healthy diet. This can include foods like:

  • Low- or non-fat dairy
  • Produce, like fruits and vegetables
  • Proteins, such as lean meats, nuts, and beans
  • Whole grains, like quinoa and oats

You can also try the Diabetes Plate Method, which can help you choose foods and portions that are better for keeping your blood sugar in check. This is a simple way to make sure you get the right balance of veggies, protein, and carbs:

  • Half your plate should be non-starchy vegetables. Try salad, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, bell peppers, and mushrooms.
  • A quarter of your plate should be lean protein. Some examples are chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, and tofu.
  • A quarter of your plate should be healthy carbohydrates. Try starchy vegetables (like green peas, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes), whole grains (like brown rice, oats, and quinoa), beans or legumes, fruit or dried fruit, and dairy (like yogurt or milk).

Undergoing Weight Loss Surgery

Weight loss surgery, like bariatric surgery, may be an option if you cannot lose weight by working out or eating healthily. After surgery, maintaining those healthy lifestyle choices, like exercise and diet, can help sustain a healthy body weight.

Several different weight loss surgeries are available, depending on your health. For example, some weight loss surgeries help change how your body digests food.

A Quick Review

Don't stop taking insulin or any medications for diabetes without first consulting a healthcare provider. Also, talk to a healthcare provider before starting a new exercise or diet regimen. 

Further, ensure you take any medications to manage your diabetes as prescribed. Checking your blood sugar regularly—for example, daily, after each meal, or according to a healthcare provider's instructions—is also essential for keeping it within a normal range.

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is Diabetes?

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Insulin resistance and diabetes.

  3. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Insulin, medicines, & other diabetes treatments.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Insulin Resistance and Diabetes.

  5. American Diabetes Association. Blood sugar and exercise.

  6. National Library of Medicine. Diabetic diet.

  7. American Diabetes Association. What is the diabetes plate method?

  8. National Library of Medicine. Weight loss surgery.

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