Lily Robinson wanted to share a few alternative diabetes supplements with us (to use in conjunction with your medication). Here’s what she had to say:
There are few things in medicine as controversial as alternative treatments and medications. As many of them are untested, it is not right to advertise them as complete substitutes for ordinary diabetes medicine. They can, however, be used as supplements to help diabetics live ordinary and healthy lives wherever possible.
Diabetes mellitus can be caused by two distinct metabolic problems within the body. Either the body is not producing enough insulin to process blood sugars or cells are not processing the insulin that is being produced. Type 1 and 2 diabetes are both chronic conditions that are treatable. For Type 1 diabetes, insulin therapy has been available since 1921. Type 2 diabetes usually requires Type 2 diabetes medication, which increases glucose uptake in periphery tissues. The major side effect of these medications is lactic acidosis.
Naturally most drugs have side effects. The human body is a finely balanced organic machine and something that affects one element is bound to affect others indirectly too. Sometimes patients seek to avoid these side effects by looking at alternative treatments. Three very active areas where people are looking for herbal remedies, natural remedies and other ideas is diabetes, hair loss prevention and cancer treatment. Alternative treatments are classed as Complementary and Alternative Medicine or CAM for short.
There are a wide range of dietary supplements available for diabetics to use alongside orthodox treatments. These can be used to increase blood glucose control and can be used to reduce the risk of cardio-vascular problems.
Alpha-lipoic Acid (ALA) protects cells against damage. This is particularly useful for Type 2 diabetics. ALA is thought to improve the way the body’s cells use insulin and therefore, reduces glucose levels. It is also good for helping to prevent diabetic neuropathy.
Chromium is a trace mineral, which is used in small quantities to help the body work. The mineral is found in a number of foods such as spices, fruits and vegetables. By eating a healthier diet, an essential of diabetes control, it could improve chromium levels and help control glucose in the blood. There are also chromium tablets and capsules available too. Do not take too much though, or glucose levels could become unhealthily low.
Glucomannan is a naturally occurring substance found in the konjac plant in Asia. It can be found as a dietary supplement and a few types of food. It has not been the subject of many studies, so its effectiveness scientifically speaking is uncertain. It is thought to help with both glucose and cholesterol.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids tend to be found in fish, fish oil, vegetable oil (soybean and canola), wheat germ and walnuts. These oils are used by the body to help move substances in and out of cells, such as calcium. There are a wide range of other uses such as aiding digestion, fertility and cell division.
Vitamin D has been long associated with helping to fight diabetes. This vitamin is often absorbed through the right kinds of food and through exposure to sunlight. Products such as cheese, butter, cream, fatty fish, oysters and fortified products such as milk and breakfast cereals contain vitamin D. Be careful of taking too much vitamin D as it may cause too higher rate of calcium absorption in the guts.
Polyphenols are anti-oxidants that are typically contained in tea and dark chocolate. They are good for lowering blood pressure and regulating the use of insulin. The type of polyphenol found in green tea (EGCG) is thought to help with cardiovascular diseases.
Other natural remedies that are thought to help include garlic, ginseng, magnesium, coenzyme Q10, aloe vera, fenugreek, bitter melon, prickly pear cactus, gurmar, coccinia indica and vanadium.
Listed above are a wide range of supplements and alternative remedies. None of them are scientifically proven to work alone as a replacement for medication. They are however, good at helping the body deal with side effects of diabetes. Do not take high amounts of any of them and be careful about which ones you take. If you take all of them there will probably be a wide range of other side effects to deal with and possible overdoses – just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean there are no risks. Consult with your doctor about the best range of supplements to take.
Lily Robinson is a healthcare writer working on behalf of one of only two fully licensed online pharmacies in the USA. She is particularly interested in prevention and alternative therapies but as always you should consult your doctor before making any decisions about your treatment.