Natural Trends in Diabetes Care
Saturday, April 5th 2003
Diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases in New Zealand. Diabetics are unable to properly process glucose, a sugar the body uses for energy. Diabetes involves the pancreas, which produces the hormone insulin. Insulin facilitates the entry of glucose into the tissues where it is either stored or converted into energy. Without enough working insulin to help the sugar enter the tissues, blood sugar levels rise. The causes of diabetes includes stress, heredity, non-specific viral infections, obesity and an excessive intake of refined sugar from various sources.
There Are Two Types of Diabetes
Type 1, or insulin-dependent diabetes must take insulin injections daily and is an autoimmune disease in which the body produces no insulin. Type 1 accounts for between 5 and 10 percent of diabetics and occurs most often in children and young adults.
Type 2 usually develops in older adults over 45 years of age and an estimated 80% of those are overweight. As more children become obese, type 2 diabetes is increasingly being seen in young people. Type 2 diabetics can often control their blood sugar through weight loss, diet and exercise, sometimes combined with medication that enhances the effect of their own insulin.
Common symptoms of diabetes which includes frequent urination as well as excessive thirst and appetite, may not seem particularly serious, many diabetics do not consult a doctor about their condition.
Among the chief complications of diabetes are heart disease and stroke, poor wound healing, nerve damage, higher risk of infections and eye and kidney disease. Although diabetes is a serious medical condition and diabetics should be under the care of a medical practitioner, there are several natural options to help manage the condition. These involve correct dietary and lifestyle changes, nutritional supplements and herbs.
Supplements and Diet Help
Many diabetics have experienced improvement in their condition when following a diet low in saturated fat and refined sugar and high in plant fibre, including whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, pears, apples, and most vegetables. A high-fibre diet reduces glucose levels after meals. Eating regular small, frequent meals helps the pancreas perform on a regular schedule. Eat slowly and chew food thoroughly.
People with low blood levels of vitamin E are more prone to developing Type 2 diabetes and some studies have shown that taking vitamin E improves glucose tolerance in this group. Patients experienced improvement after three months of taking the vitamin at a dose of 900 IU daily.
Chromium was first discovered as an essential trace element under 50 years ago in 1955. In the body, chromium is a key constituent of GTF (glucose tolerance factor), which enhances the blood sugar lowering effects of insulin by facilitating the uptake of glucose into cells. By increasing the activity of insulin, it reduces the amount of insulin required to control blood sugar.
Double-blind studies have shown that chromium supplements improve glucose tolerance in people with both types of diabetes, apparently by increasing sensitivity to insulin. The dosage used in clinical trials is 200 mcg per day. Solgar Chromium Picolinate 200mcg capsules contains Chromaxz, a certified biologically active form of chromium picolinate, a yeast free source of chromium. Chromium is particularly recommended for borderline diabetics, the elderly, hypoglycaemia, athletes and during pregnancy.
CoQ10 has proven beneficial to Type 2 but not type 1 diabetes. This supplement helps normalise carbohydrate metabolism. In one trial, blood sugar levels fell substantially in 31 percent of people with diabetes after they supplemented with 120mg of CoQ10 daily. Radiance CoQ10 capsules are available in 3 different combinations.
This is a herb native to the tropical forests of India and it has a long history of use for treating diabetes. Extracts of the herb have been shown to improve blood-sugar control in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The recommended dosage is 400mg daily. See article on Gymnema sylvetsra herb.
Fenugreek Seed Powder
This herb has been shown to prevent cardiovascular disease. When insulin dependent diabetics took 100gms of Fenugreek seed powder daily, they experienced a significant reduction in fasting blood sugar and improved glucose tolerance. Nature's Way Fenugreek capsules provide 610mg of powdered Fenugreek seeds.
Stevia - Natural Non-Caloric Sweetener
We have written on many occasions about the use of Stevia in food and drinks but it is especially useful for diabetics. This native South American herb is used as a replacement for sugar and artificial sweeteners. Because long term use of chemical sweeteners can have an adverse effect on the liver, people with blood sugar problems may want to consider using stevia as a natural, non-caloric sweetener. Diabetics should be able to safely use stevia because it does not raise blood sugar levels - it simply provides a sweet taste. Do not use too much as the food or drink may taste like licorice. Stevia is available as Stevia tablets, Liquid and Sachets (great for travelling).
Reproduced unabridged from the April - June 2003 issue of Health and Herbal News, with the kind permission of Health and Herbs International Ltd.
Footnote from Ideal Health:
The following products are all useful for Blood Sugar Regulation:
Chromium Sugar Balance
Clean Lean Protein
Chromium Picolinate 200mcg
High Dose Chromium
L-Arginine 500 mg
Prevent, Treat & Reverse Diabetes Book
Stevia Sweet Recipes
Related health information can be found here:
Diabetes and insulin resistance
Levels of protein, carbohydrates and fat in food
Protein - a macronutrient so often overlooked
Stevia - natural sweetener and sugar alternative
Related articles can be found here:
If you need help or advice, you are welcome to email our naturopathic team with your health question.
Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered. The information is not intended to be comprehensive or to provide medical advice to you. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.
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