Blood sugar regulation, a sticky subject…
There are quite a few herbs that may have merit for helping regulate blood sugar levels. Many alternative therapies used in in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for treating serious conditions such as diabetes are showing promise. There is quite a lot of scepticism in Western medicine as to the benefits, mainly because certain herbs, vitamins and supplements may interact with diabetes medications. It is very important to remember that herbs that help regulate blood sugar can clash with drugs (including insulin) and increase their hypoglycaemic effects.
Therefore I do not recommend supplementing with herbal alternatives without the recommendation of a qualified practitioner, who knows your medical history. Whatever you decide when it comes to using any of these specific herbs in this article, you must always discuss your plans with your doctor. It is vital to first establish that the herbs are safe for you and then to decide on suitable dosages.
Interestingly the actual cause of diabetes is not completely understood. Experts list various possible factors, which include poor diet (overly rich in refined carbohydrates), chromium deficiencies, obesity due to fat metabolism malfunction, pancreas and liver malfunctions, allergies, and hypothyroidism. The type that is becoming more prevalent is type two. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic degenerative disease in which the body's ability to use carbohydrates is reduced due to insulin resistance. The definition of insulin resistance is as follows, insulin resistance causes glucose to build up in the bloodstream and stay there, which means that the body’s cells are deprived of nutrients.
There are a number of symptoms, which include constant hunger, dry or itchy skin, excessive thirst, lack of energy and mental confusion. These symptoms may be accompanied by recurrent kidney infections, cramps, blurred vision, menstrual problems, excessive urination, obesity, hypertension, decreased immunity and accelerated aging. The most well-known symptom is elevated blood sugar. Diabetes is not to be trifled with and the long-term complications include scarring of the retina, damage to peripheral nerves, chronic kidney failure, atherosclerosis, and disorders of the thyroid.
The dietary recommendations for diabetics are quite strict. Avoid all fatty foods and refined sugars, this is not optional. Make sure to eat lots of whole grains, unrefined, low GI carbohydrates and cereals. The reason for this is that high-fibre diets have proven key for controlling diabetes and the slower the release the less likely a spike in blood sugar will occur. It is also important to eat plenty of vegetables and the best is to eat five to six small meals throughout the day.
There are some herbs, vegetables and so on that can be included in you cooking and added to your diet on a regular basis. Dandelion, liquorice, fenugreek, stinging nettle, and rosemary should be consumed on a regular basis as they may help balance and stabilize blood sugar levels. One of the best is Fenugreek, which contains six blood sugar regulating compounds. Also include garlic, bilberry, burdock, and astragalus which may help in the formation of insulin. Lastly there are a few herbs that may help the body use excess insulin; these include bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, and turmeric. Finally also include any chromium containing foods as they are good for controlling diabetes. Add raw onions, broccoli, turkey, raw tomatoes, lettuce, grape juice, and potatoes to your dishes.
Chromium supplementation is one of the most widely studied for its use in diabetes, but the resulting data is quite mixed. The reason why chromium supplements may improve diabetes control, is because of how chromium is used in the body, chromium is needed to make glucose tolerance factor, and glucose tolerance factor is what helps insulin be more effective. We know that chromium is an essential trace element and it is used in the metabolism of carbohydrates. Exactly how effective it is in treating diabetes is still being determined.
Vanadium is also a trace mineral, which is found minute amounts in plants and animals. The results from a few early studies have shown that vanadium may normalize blood sugar levels and may also aid in increasing insulin sensitivity, thereby decreasing the insulin requirements of patients. There is still much study required to determine exactly how and why vanadium works, and to establish safe supplemental dosages.
One of the best herbs is Gymnema sylvestre, which has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. Gymnema has been associated with substantial blood glucose lowering effects. Interestingly the chewing of the leaves is known to block the sweet taste. It also thought to help regulate blood sugar by blocking the absorption of sugar in the intestines.
One of the supplements I feel is very important for diabetics is Ginkgo Biloba. Gingko is most well-known as an herb which improves brain health. More importantly in the case of diabetes is extremely useful as it has been proven to help boost blood circulation to a person's arms, fingers, legs and toes. This may be of significant benefit for persons with diabetes, as many diabetic suffer from poor blood circulation to the extremities.
The most widely research supplements Is cinnamon, which may help regulate blood sugar. I have included some of the research results below:
“A 2011 study found that it has the potential to significantly decrease fasting blood glucose. Cinnamon may also significantly help people with type 2 diabetes improve their ability to respond to insulin, thus normalizing their blood sugar levels. … compounds in cinnamon not only stimulate insulin receptors, but also inhibit an enzyme that inactivates them, thus significantly increasing cells' ability to use glucose. In humans with type 2 diabetes, consuming as little as 1 gram of cinnamon per day was found to reduce blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and total cholesterol, in a study published in the December 2003 issue of Diabetes Care.”
“The placebo-controlled study evaluated 60 people with type 2 diabetes (30 men and 30 women ranging in age from 44 to 58 years) who were divided into 6 groups. Groups 1, 2, and 3 were given 1, 3, or 6 grams of cinnamon daily, while groups 4, 5, and 6 received 1, 3 or 6 grams of placebo. After 40 days, all three levels of cinnamon reduced blood sugar levels by 18-29%, triglycerides 23-30%, LDL cholesterol 7-27%, and total cholesterol 12-26%, while no significant changes were seen in those groups receiving placebo. The researchers' conclusion: including cinnamon in the diet of people with type 2 diabetes will reduce risk factors associated with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.”
Finally it is up to you to decide whether or not you would like to try supplementing with herbs for blood sugar regulation. Please be aware that I do not recommend starting any supplementation without the advice and support of a qualified healthcare practitioner who knows your medical history.
About The Author:
After eight years in the retail side of the health industry, much accumulation of knowledge and information I changed industries completely and gone back to my graphic design roots. I still wish to help inform people on natural alternatives, as well as help people when they are choosing to use natural alternatives to treat disorders, diseases and distresses.
(Read more posts by Charlie)