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Functional Medicine for Diabetes

An estimated 11 percent of Americans have type 2 diabetes and more than 38 percent have prediabetes (1). Unfortunately, conventional medicine fails to treat the root cause of this disease, and leaves many people sick, defeated, and chasing symptoms with multiple medications.

Functional medicine is an individualized and science-based approach that aims to identify and treat the root cause of disease. In this article, we’ll review a few interventions we recommend when using functional medicine for diabetes.

Note: please talk to your doctor before making any dietary changes if you are taking diabetes medication and/or insulin. 

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how your body metabolizes sugar. Your body uses a variety of hormones, like insulin, to maintain blood sugar balance. After eating a meal or snack, your blood sugar levels will rise and trigger the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin will bind to receptors on your cells to allow sugar to move inside to be used as energy or stored for later. As a result, your blood sugar levels return back to normal. 

Inflammation, diet, environmental toxins, and more can disrupt this biological process. For example, a diet rich in added sugar and refined carbohydrates causes the pancreas to release excessive insulin. Over time, the cells become “resistant” to insulin and stop responding as efficiently. This is called insulin resistance. When this occurs, your blood sugar levels stay elevated and can eventually cause symptoms like weight gain or difficulty losing weight, excessive thirst, fatigue, frequent urination, and more. High blood sugar levels can also worsen other conditions, like polycystic ovary syndrome

How is type 2 diabetes diagnosed?

Your doctor can order a simple blood test to evaluate for type 2 diabetes. The two most common blood tests to diagnose diabetes are hemoglobin a1c and fasting blood sugar. 
The below levels may indicate a diagnosis of diabetes:
  • Hemoglobin A1c > than 6.5% 
  • Fasting blood sugar > 126 mg/dL 


A diagnosis of “prediabetes” means you have a higher blood sugar level than normal, but it is not high enough to meet criteria for type 2 diabetes. An estimated 25 percent of people with diabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years, and over 70 percent of these individuals will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime (2). 
You meet the criteria for prediabetes if your blood tests show:
  • Hemoglobin A1c is 5.7 - 6.4% 
  • Fasting blood sugar 100 - 126 mg/dL
While the conventional method for diabetes is often a “wait and see” approach, functional medicine aims to identify blood sugar imbalances as soon as possible to effectively treat, and even reverse, this disease. 

Functional Medicine for Diabetes

Inflammation, poor gut health, and vitamin/mineral deficiencies are a few possible root causes leading to type 2 diabetes. Here are a few interventions we may recommend using a functional medicine approach to treat this condition.

The Root Plate™ Method

Your diet plays a crucial role in supporting optimal blood sugar balance and reducing inflammation. We recommend using our PFC (protein, fat, carb) method and Root Plate™ to ensure you have a protein, fat, and fiber-rich carbohydrate with each meal and snack. These three macronutrients work in symphony to fuel your body, prevent blood sugar spikes, and encourage a sustainable approach to meal planning. 

To make your own Root Plate™ with the PFC method, fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, one quarter of your plate with fiber-rich carbohydrates, and the other quarter with high-quality protein. Finally, top off your plate with 1 to 2 tablespoons of healthy fat. 

Here are some examples of what to put in each category:
  • Protein: beef, pork, seafood, poultry, eggs, tofu, edamame
  • Fat: olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, nuts, seeds
  • Carbs: fruit, sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, oats, winter squash, beans, lentils, whole-grain bread
  • Non-Starchy Vegetables: leafy greens, Brussel’s sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, tomato, bell peppers, cucumber, zucchini, etc.
In our Root membership program, we have the capability to order continuous glucose monitoring systems, which allows you to track (in real time) how your blood sugar levels respond to different types of food. Our dietitians can use this information to further personalize your diet recommendations.

Correcting Nutrient Deficiencies

Many Americans fail to meet recommended dietary allowances for crucial nutrients involved in blood sugar balance. For example, an estimated 52 percent of people do not meet the daily requirement for magnesium and over 94 percent fail to meet vitamin D recommendations (5). Large studies show that supplementation with magnesium and vitamin D may improve fasting glucose levels, hemoglobin a1c, and insulin sensitivity markers (6, 7). Our Root Foundational Supplement Bundle includes highly absorbable magnesium, vitamin D, and omega-3 to correct these common nutrient insufficiencies, lower inflammation, and support optimal blood sugar levels.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

CoQ10 is a vitamin-like compound that is critical for energy production inside the mitochondria of your cells. Mitochondria are the “power plants” of your cells that transform fat, protein, and carbohydrates into energy that your body can use. CoQ10 supplements have numerous benefits, especially for people with type 2 diabetes. For instance, a high-quality review analyzing 40 studies found that just 100 to 200 milligrams (mg) of CoQ10 per day can lower fasting blood sugar levels, hemoglobin a1c, and fasting insulin (3). CoQ10 may also reduce inflammation and oxidative stress markers, which are often higher in people with diabetes (4). You can purchase CoQ10 in our Root Store.

Metabolism Support

Finally, we may recommend our Metabolism Support supplement to an individual with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. This product contains vitamin C, berberine, and alpha-lipoic acid to encourage healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels, support gut health, and lower inflammation in the body (8, 9). Do not take Metabolism Support if you are on other diabetes medications. Personalizing supplement recommendations with respect to current medication interactions is something that our MD/DOs can help with in our membership program.
Co Q10


You can't produce energy without this key antioxidant
foundational supplements

Root Foundational Supplement Bundle

A wellness starter pack
metabolism support supplement

Metabolism Support with Berberine

AKA "nature's GLP-1"

Key Takeaways

Using functional medicine for diabetes includes measures like eating for blood sugar balance, lifestyle modifications, and appropriate supplementation. Our team of Root doctors and dietitians can help you identify the root causes of your diabetes (or prediabetes) and treat this condition with a realistic and sustainable functional medicine approach. Learn more about working with us

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