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It’s always best to let the foods you eat provide your vitamins and minerals. However, more and more people are turning to alternative medicines and supplements. In fact, according to the American Diabetes Association, diabetics are more likely to use supplements than those without the disease.
So, are nutritional supplements really necessary? Is there a natural treatment for diabetes?
Many studies have shown the positive benefits of taking supplements for diabetes. Scientists feel very comfortable recommending supplements to all diabetic patients, In today’s fast-paced, hectic world, it is very difficult to eat nutritiously all day long every day.
So, the short answer is “yes” nutrtional supplements are necessary
If you are ill with a disease like diabetes, this should tell you that you are not consuming and absorbing enough of the proper nutrients. Because your body is very depleted in terms of nutrients, you need to supplement the super foods that you’ve begun to consume with some nutritional supplements to help accelerate the body’s healing process.
Supplements should not be used to replace standard diabetes treatment. Doing so can put your health at risk. But there is proven evidence that some people with type 2 diabetes have been able to stop taking medication to treat diabetes after taking regular supplements.
Some key nutritional/herbal supplements for diabetes include:
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Supplements such as gymnema sylvestre, bitter melon, cinnamon, CoQ10, ALA, Omega-3 EFAs, EPO, are important for Type 2 diabetes.
But remember supplements are designed to complement your nutritional program — but, only use high quality food-based supplements and organic-based supplements — avoid the synthetic versions.
Below I now go into more detail what effects each of the herbs & supplements listed above can help you with. I have spent many months researching about supplements to help with diabetes care, and these are my findings.
Alpha-lipoic acid is a vitamin-like chemical called an antioxidant. Yeast, liver, kidney, spinach, broccoli, and potatoes are good sources of alpha-lipoic acid. It is also made in the laboratory for use as medicine.
The antioxidant properties of alpha-lipoic acid have been linked to benefits like lower blood sugar levels, reduced inflammation, slowed skin aging and improved nerve function.
Humans only produce alpha-lipoic acid in small amounts. That’s why many turn to certain foods or supplements to optimize their intake.
Scientists believe that alpha-lipoic acid helps lower blood sugar by promoting processes that can remove fat that has accumulated in muscle cells, which otherwise make insulin less effective
Alpha-lipoic acid has strong antioxidant properties, which may reduce inflammation and skin aging, promote healthy nerve function, lower heart disease risk factors and slow down the progression of memory loss disorders.
New research shows that the amino acid arginine, commonly found in almonds and hazelnuts, proves just as useful as established type 2 diabetes drugs at metabolizing glucose in mice.
The arginine improved the burning of glucose by as much as 40 percent. It also stimulated production of glucagon-like peptide, or GLP-1, an intestinal hormone that regulates appetite. The scientists have said although it could be years away, this discovery could lead to more effective medical treatments for type 2 diabetes due to obesity.
Some people apply L-arginine to the skin to speed wound healing and for increasing blood flow to cold hands and feet, especially in people with diabetes. It is also used as a cream for sexual problems in both men and women.
Taking 5 grams of L-arginine by mouth daily seems to improve sexual function in men with ED. Taking lower doses might not be effective. However, there is some early evidence that adding 40 mg of Pycnogenol three times daily might improve the effectiveness of low-dose L-arginine for ED.
There is early evidence that taking L-arginine by mouth can reduce blood pressure in healthy people, people with high blood pressure, and people with slightly high blood pressure with or without diabetes.
Ginseng is one of the most well-known and widely used herbal medicines in the world. Ginseng is said to treat a wide variety of ailments. It is used to boost energy, relieve stress, and bring about total body balance. More recently, ginseng has been investigated as a therapy to help control blood sugar, improve circulation, bolster immunity, improve stamina and increase resistance to stress.
Studies have found ginseng to significantly reduce insulin resistance and improve glucose control in both diabetic mice and obese mice.
Ginseng has been attributed to anti-diabetic properties and is commonly used by the Asian culture in the prevention and treatment of the type 2 diabetes.
In another study of 90 men with erectile dysfunction, 60% of the participants reported improvement in their symptoms compared with 30% of those using the placebo. The study was published in the International Journal of Impotence Research.
Unlike prescription drugs for erectile dysfunction (which are usually taken when needed), ginseng only appears to be useful for erectile dysfunction if taken on a continuous basis.
Benfotiamine is a dietary supplement that is a derivative of thiamine (also known as vitamin B1), since benfotiamine is fat-soluble and appears to have higher bio availability and absorption by the body than thiamine, some people use it to raise their thiamine levels and manage certain health conditions.
The most well-studied benefit of benfotiamine is in improving nerve damage that causes weakness, numbness, and pain (neuropathy) in diabetics. Daily supplements of benfotiamine protected 13 diabetic patients from the harmful effects of a meal that contained high levels of AGEs by reducing free radical damage and blood vessel dysfunction
Benfotiamine improved circulation and blood vessel health in diabetic mice and helped muscle heal after suffering from poor blood flow
In a pilot study, benfotiamine enhanced the antioxidant defenses and reduced DNA damage in 15 hemodialysis patients
Benfotiamine protects the kidneys against oxidation stress and loss of filtering capability, thus helping to prevent diabetic kidney disease, it also helps prevent or delay the development of diabetic retinopathy, a cause of vision loss.
Bilberry extract is not recognised as a treatment for diabetes but people with diabetes may notice that it helps in lowering blood glucose levels. If you are on blood glucose lowering medication that can bring on hypoglycemia, you may need to monitor your blood glucose levels and take precautions to ensure blood sugar levels don’t go too low.
Bilberry is used for improving eyesight, including night vision. In fact, during World War II, British pilots in the Royal Air Force ate bilberry jam to improve their night vision, bilberry is also used for treating eye conditions such as cataracts and disorders of the retina. There is some evidence that bilberry may help retinal disorders.
Other uses not proven with research have included treating menstrual pain, glaucoma, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, osteoarthritis, gout, chronic fatigue syndrome, urinary problems, and other conditions.
Bilberry has been used in alternative medicine as a possibly effective aid in treating circulation problems caused by chronic venous insufficiency. Bilberry also protect pancreatic beta cells from glucose induced oxidation stress. This in turn could benefit diabetics who have insulin deficiency as it protects the pancreatic beta cells.
Past research was unable to confirm that supplemental chromium could benefit people with impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes, but more recent studies indicate that it may help in managing diabetes, reducing levels of blood lipids, enhancing weight loss, and improving body composition.
A few studies suggest that taking chromium combined with a resistance-training program might help you lose weight and body fat while increasing lean body mass. Some evidence also suggested it decreased weight gain in type 2 diabetes patients who are taking certain diabetic medication
Additionally, in a large study of over 62,000 adults, the likelihood of having diabetes was 27% lower in those who took dietary supplements containing chromium
In an 8-week study, 1,000 μg/day of chromium (in the form of chromium picolinate) reduced food intake, hunger and cravings in healthy overweight women
It can be the perfect medicine for the prevention of metabolic syndrome, this promotes a healthy metabolic function in the body, which reduces the storage of fat and maintains functions such as muscle regeneration, bone density maintenance, and cellular protection.
In one study, volunteers ate from 1 to 6 grams of cinnamon for 40 days. (One gram of ground cinnamon is about half a teaspoon.) The researchers found that cinnamon cut cholesterol by about 18% and blood sugar levels by 24%. But in other studies, the spice did not lower blood sugar or cholesterol levels.
As a result of the scientific evidence available, many health experts claim that cinnamon contains properties that are beneficial for blood sugar regulation and treatment of type 2 diabetes.
A Chinese study of 66 subjects with Type 2 diabetes who were given a placebo (inactive treatment), or 120 milligrams or 360 milligrams of cinnamon extract, along with a sulfonylurea (oral diabetes medicine), for 3 months. Both HbA1c and fasting blood sugar levels were significantly reduced in the treatment groups but not the placebo group. Lipid levels remained unchanged. The authors concluded that cinnamon is effective at improving glucose control in Chinese patients with Type 2 diabetes.
Cinnamon has also shown promise in addressing other diabetes symptoms. The 2003 Diabetes Care study also found a reduction in blood fat levels and so-called “bad” cholesterol. The levels remained lower even 20 days after participants had stopped consuming cinnamon.
When taken in appropriate doses by mouth, cod liver oil seems to help lower high triglycerides (a type of blood fat), lower high blood pressure, and treat some symptoms of kidney disease related to diabetes. It doesn’t seem to lower high cholesterol but does increase good cholesterol. Other uses are still under investigation.
Animal studies have found that cod liver oil may reduce the risk of plaques forming in the arteries. Plaque buildup can narrow the arteries and lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Unlike plain old fish oil, cod liver oil is also a rich source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for good health, and most of us don’t get enough of it. Vitamin D is good for your bones, heart, brain, and more, helping to prevent things like osteoporosis, dementia, and cardiovascular disease.
Omega 3 fats are essential fatty acids. Two of the most important omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Your body can’t make them and they must be obtained from the diet or other external sources – which is why both adults and children should aim to consume two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily.
CoQ10 may help decrease heart disease by boosting energy production within heart muscle cells, preventing blood clots from forming, and acting as an antioxidant. Research has shown that people who had a heart attack and received CoQ10 supplements after the fact were less likely to have another heart attack and less likely to die from heart disease than those who didn’t receive CoQ10.
With congestive heart failure (CHF), the heart is weakened and can’t pump blood efficiently. Blood can accumulate in various parts of the body, such as the feet and legs. CoQ10 may help reduce fluid buildup and improve breathing, although more research is needed to show whether CoQ10 is really beneficial for CHF.
CoQ10 levels tend to be lower in people with high cholesterol. And many people who take statins for cholesterol-lowering take CoQ10 as a supplement, as there’s some indication that statins deplete CoQ10 levels in the body. Some studies show that CoQ10 can reduce muscle pain associated with statins.
Due to it’s antioxidative effects, research has found that CoQ10 reduces inflammation in the body. This is significant because so many diseases are caused by inflammation. We are realizing that inflammation is often due to our poor health habits, insufficient sleep, and… you guessed it – lack of nutrients! CoQ10 is one nutrient you should increase to fight off disease-causing inflammation.
Systemic enzymes support and maintain overall health. They help a wide variety of processes in the body and can be thought of like the lubrication that keeps the gears moving easy. Supplements with systemic enzymes may be taken to address specific health issues, a few things that systemic enzymes help with include the breakdown of excess mucus, fibrin, toxins, allergens, and clotting factors.
Digestive enzymes, true to their name, aid the digestive process. Enzymes help the body break down fiber, protein, carbohydrates and fats. Digestive enzymes do all their work in the gastrointestinal tract and help combat common issues such as indigestion, bloating, abdominal discomfort, and gas. Many people find that their digestive system is more efficient and self-maintaining when their digestive enzymes are in check.
There is a connection between the strength of our immune system and our enzyme level. The more enzymes we have, the stronger our immune system will be.
The reason we are running out of enzymes is a LIFESTYLE PROBLEM. Research has shown that older people (30>) and people with chronic disease have fewer enzymes in their saliva, urine and tissues. Our poor dietary habits require excessive amounts of enzymes to digest our foods. Stress kills and damages cells, resulting in our enzyme-making machinery having to work overtime to help rebuild and replace them.
In people who have diabetes, the GLA in evening primrose oil has been shown to help prevent nerve damage (neuropathy). In a study of people with mild diabetic neuropathy, one year of treatment with GLA reduced numbness and tingling and other symptoms of the disorder better than a placebo, suggesting that evening primrose may be of value in reversing neuropathy.
Consuming evening primrose oil regularly helps to reduce the risk of fractures in patients suffering from osteoporosis. This oil improves the bone mineral density and makes your bones stronger and healthier. A few studies have proved that the presence of GLA in the oil makes it highly effective in the management of osteoporosis.
When applied topically, this oil renders a nourishing glow to the face and body. Not only that, it also prevents and cures skin problems like acne, dark pigmentation, rashes, inflammation.
High blood sugar levels, alterations in the pancreas cells, irregular fat metabolism, disruption of blood flow damage the structure of nerves in diabetes. The myelin sheaths around the nerve cell degenerates, the nerve fibres begin to separate, the axon length decreases etc. Treatment with evening primrose oil prevents such structural damages to the nerve cells. It inhibits myelin degeneration and protects axon length.
Green tea is about 30 percent polyphenols by weight, including large amounts of a catechin called EGCG. Catechins are natural antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and provide other benefits. These substances can reduce the formation of free radicals in the body, protecting cells and molecules from damage. These free radicals are known to play a role in aging and all sorts of diseases.
If you look at the ingredients list for any fat burning supplement (weight loss), chances are that green tea will be on there. This is because green tea has been shown to increase fat burning and boost the metabolic rate, in human controlled trials
Not only can green tea improve brain function in the short term, it may also protect your brain in old age. Multiple studies show that the catechin compounds in green tea can have various protective effects on neurons in test tubes and animal models, potentially lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Studies show that green tea can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels. According to a review of 7 studies with a total of 286,751 individuals, green tea drinkers had an 18% lower risk of becoming diabetic.
As people age, they produce less glutathione. Researchers at Baylor School of Medicine used a combination of animal and human studies to explore the role of glutathione in weight management and insulin resistance in older individuals. Study findings indicated that low glutathione levels were associated with less fat burning and higher rates of fat storing.
Among diabetics, the natural glutathione levels in the body are low, which makes them vulnerable to oxidation stress. Taking glutathione therefore is very helpful to diabetic patients to improve their defense against oxidation stress, enhance the ability of the body to eliminate free radicals and antioxidants that could otherwise result to cellular damage and the progress of insulin resistance or diabetes mellitus.
Because cells are not able to get adequate food which is needed to produce energy, diabetics tire easily. This can hamper a diabetics’ social life and cause problems at work. People who have diabetes can overcome their lethargy by taking glutathione which increases energy levels. With GSH and proper treatment, diabetics can live an active lifestyle and participate in any activity they want.
Diabetics are prone to many complications due to the nature of the disease. Long-standing diabetes can lead to heart, kidney and circulation problems, including stroke. People suffering from diabetes will need a strong immune system to help them fight against complications and secondary infections. Being a necessary component in the normal functioning of the immune system, glutathione helps diabetics strengthen their immune system.
Gymnema sylvestre may help you fight sugar cravings and lower high blood sugar levels. The plant may also play a beneficial role in diabetes treatment, as it may help stimulate insulin secretion and the regeneration of pancreas islet cells — both of which can help lower blood sugar.
A 2001 study found that 65 people with high blood sugar who took gymnema leaf extract for 90 days all had lower levels. Gymnema also appeared to increase glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes. The study authors concluded that gymnema could help prevent diabetic complications in the long term.
Early research shows that taking gymnema for 12 weeks can reduce body weight and body mass index in some people who are overweight. Early research also shows that taking a combination of gymnema, hydroxycitric acid, and niacin-bound chromium by mouth can reduce body weight in people who are overweight or obese.
In genetically obese rats, gymnemic acid improved fat metabolism by lowering the levels of triglycerides and total cholesterol and increasing the proportion of “good cholesterol” (HDL-cholesterol) [R].
Gymnema extract decreases pancreatic lipase activity, an enzyme that breaks down fat, allowing it to be absorbed by the gut. Therefore, this activity is potentially beneficial in preventing obesity [R].
One of the few more recently published trials is a 2008 study from Diabetes Care. The study involved 60 people with mild diabetes, each of whom took either a placebo or ivy gourd extract every day for 90 days. Study results showed that members of the ivy gourd group experienced a significantly greater improvement in blood sugar levels compared to those in the placebo group.
Iron is an essential element for the optimal bodily functions. Including iron-rich food in the diet is the key to avoiding fatigue, anemia is often caused by iron deficiency in the body. Ivy gourd has 1.4mg of iron and thus is a valuable source of iron. This vegetable will keep you energized, healthy and fit. Iron deficiency can lead to several health ailments that can be corrected if this vegetable is consumed.
The root, fruits, and leaves of the plant are made into a paste to treat scabies and leprosy. While many medicines are available in the market, but ivy gourd is one of the most effective natural remedies. It also works well as an antibiotic against bacterial infections.
Dietary fiber plays an important role in increasing the weight and size of your stool and softens it. Frequent consumption of Ivy gourd is important to add bulk to the faeces. Increased fiber intake benefits a number of gastrointestinal disorders including the following: duodenal ulcer, hemorrhoids, gastro esophageal reflux disease, constipation, and diverticulitis.
Magnesium deficiency has been linked to insulin resistance, which is central to the development of type 2 diabetes, research shows. On the flip side, increasing your intake of magnesium has been shown to possibly lower your risk of developing the chronic disease.
Twitches, tremors and muscle cramps are signs of magnesium deficiency. In the worst case scenarios, deficiency may even cause seizures or convulsions. Scientists believe these symptoms are caused by a greater flow of calcium into nerve cells, which overexcites or hyper stimulates the muscle nerves.
Observational studies have associated low magnesium levels with an increased risk of depression. Scientists have also speculated that magnesium deficiency might promote anxiety, but direct evidence is lacking.
Among the most serious symptoms of magnesium deficiency is heart arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat. Symptoms of arrhythmia include light headiness, shortness of breath, chest pain or fainting. In the most severe cases, arrhythmia may increase the risk of stroke or heart failure.
If you’re not getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet you could be asking your body to do the impossible. Everything from your joints and heart to your brain, plus the skin they’re all wrapped up in, needs a good supply of Omega 3 to keep healthy. Researchers have shown that omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat found primarily in seafood, can improve your chances of living longer if you have heart disease. But its healing powers don’t stop there. Other organs may benefit.
Omega-3 is linked to a reduced risk of macular degeneration, one of the world’s leading causes of permanent eye damage and blindness.
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of conditions. It includes central obesity as well as high blood pressure, insulin resistance, high triglycerides and low “good” HDL cholesterol levels. It is a major public health concern because it increases your risk of many other illnesses, including heart disease and diabetes. Omega-3 fatty acids can improve your metabolism.
Long-term inflammation can contribute to almost every chronic illness like diabetes, In autoimmune diseases, your immune system mistakes healthy cells for foreign cells and starts attacking them, Omega-3s can combat some of these diseases and may be especially important during early life.
Vitamin A is needed to convert light that hits your eye into an electrical signal that can be sent to your brain. One of the first symptoms of vitamin A deficiency can be night blindness which means you can still see normally during the day, but have reduced vision in darkness as their eyes struggle to pick up light at lower levels.
Researchers saw that the beta-cells’ resistance to inflammation decreases in the absence of vitamin A. In case of a complete deficiency, the cells die. The discovery may also be significant for certain types of type 1 diabetes when the beta-cells are not sufficiently developed during the early stages of life.
Your body reproduces tissues and cells naturally, but it needs nutrients for the process. Without enough nutrients, this process can’t take place and your body remains unable to produce new tissues. Therefore, consume vitamin A in any form to enable this natural process as it replaces old tissues with the new ones effectively.
It is also known that vitamin A is essential for reproductive processes in both males and females and plays a role in normal bone metabolism. In addition, some of the most cutting-edge research in the field of genetics has been examining the role of vitamin A (in the form of retinoic acid) in regulating genetic events. Vitamin A is also known to be required for proper production of sperm (through a process called spermatogenesis).
Vitamin B12, a water-soluble vitamin, plays a significant role in nerve function, the formation of red blood cells, and the production of DNA. While most people get plenty of vitamin B12 benefits in a varied, balanced diet, if you are on a vegan or vegetarian diet, you are at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. Also, elderly adults and people with diabetes lack adequate B12.
Homocysteine is an amino acid produced when proteins are broken down. A high homocysteine level, also called hyperhomocysteinemia, can contribute to arterial damage and blood clots in your blood vessels. High homocysteine levels usually indicate a deficiency in vitamin B-12
In total there are 8 different B vitamins, if you take a vitamin B complex this will provide you with all 8 vitamins. B vitamins are water sulable which means they can not be stored by our body and they are flushed out in urine, which diabetics do a lot.
Diabetic people tend to lack vitamin B-1, or thiamine, in the blood. According to Diabetes Health, this is because diabetic kidneys excrete thiamine instead of retaining it. Low thiamine can result in a defect in the lining of tiny blood vessels, resulting in inflammation of the entire vessel. Research reported by the Internet medical resource Physorg.com has shown that vitamin B-1 administration can prevent blood vessel problems. This is significant because many people with diabetes develop blood vessel complications.
Antioxidants are molecules that boost the immune system. They do so by protecting cells from harmful molecules called free radicals. When free radicals accumulate, they can promote a state known as oxidation stress, which has been linked to many chronic diseases. Vitamin C reduces antioxidants in our body
High blood pressure puts you at risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death globally, an analysis of 29 human studies found that taking a vitamin C supplement, on average, reduced systolic blood pressure.
Gout symptoms appear when there is too much uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is a waste product produced by the body. At high levels, it may crystallize and deposit in the joints. Several studies have shown that vitamin C may help reduce uric acid in the blood and, as a result, protect against gout attacks.
While vitamin C appears to reduce the severity of colds and the recovery time by 8% in adults and 14% in children, it is not able to prevent them.
As plaque accumulates and as vessel walls thicken, blood vessels become increasingly stiff, making them less able to participate in blood pressure control and to deliver appropriate amounts of blood flow. Vitamin C protects against plaque build up.
Vitamin D3 has several important functions. Perhaps the most vital are regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, and facilitating normal immune system function. Getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D is important for normal growth and development of bones and teeth, as well as improved resistance against certain diseases.
Several observational studies have shown an inverse relationship between blood concentrations of vitamin D in the body and risk of type 2 diabetes. In people with type 2 diabetes, insufficient vitamin D levels may negatively effect insulin secretion and glucose tolerance. In one particular study, infants who received 2,000 International Units per day of vitamin D had an 88 percent lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes by the age of 32.
In one study, people taking a daily calcium and vitamin D supplement were able to lose more weight than subjects taking a placebo supplement. The scientists said the extra calcium and vitamin D had an appetite-suppressing effect.
Vitamin D is believed to help improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin – the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels – and thus reduce the risk of insulin resistance, which is often a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
Tell your health care team about any complementary health approaches you use. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
If you’re going to take supplements to treat diabetes, do so under your doctor’s supervision. It’s important to check your blood sugar levels more often until you know how it affects your body. As sugar metabolism improves and your blood sugar levels decrease, dosages of medications may need to be adjusted.
Garry (Type 1)
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