Natural Remedies for Diabetes and Sugar Metabolism
One of the most prevalent diseases in developed countries is diabetes. Stats Canada reports 5% of the population diagnosed and rising, with 10-15% aged 45 to 55 and nearly 18% in the 65+ age group.
Diabetes can be regarded is a glucose dysregulation disease, where there can be a lack of insulin production (Type I) or cellular insulin resistance (Type II). Contributing factors include genetic predisposition, poor diet, overweight, lack of physical activity and excess cellular toxicity. Recent U.S. findings show populations with elevated levels of BPA (Bisphenol A) had 26 times higher risk for diabetes than those associated with obesity! Hence, small amounts of hormone disrupting toxins have a huge effect on the body’s metabolism, indicating the importance of a regular detox regime, ideally 2-4 times a year. Complications can include kidney disease, atherosclerosis, blindness, neuropathy and increased risk of infections.
Diabetes needs a lifestyle management approach where diet, activity and nutrients are all taken into account to help maintain healthy glucose levels, reset the cell sensitivity to insulin, and reduce oxidation and glycation.
Several small meals and 2 small snacks help to maintain blood glucose levels more effectively than 2-3 larger meals, or skipping meals. Avoid or reduce high Glycemic Index (GI) foods (refined grains; bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, bananas, mangoes) and increase (root) vegetables and protein sources, and eat only medium GI fruit such as berries, apples, pears and cherries. Reducing the Glycemic Load (GL) means to not ‘load up’ on too much food at one meal.
Key Blood Sugar Balancing Nutrients:
The mineral Chromium can be taken, from 100-300 mcg, with each meal to a maximum of 1,000mcg/day. Lipoic acid will help increase insulin sensitivity. The best kind is the R+SR (Sustained Release) version, one at breakfast and dinner. Chlorella and Spirulina taken between meals also have a favourable effect. Chicory root powder taken with or between meals can slowly release sugar into the blood over a 4-6 hour period. Cinnamon extract is also useful for regulating blood glucose levels and can be taken as before each meal. Gymnema Sylvestre, an Ayurvedic herb, also known as ‘Destroyer of Sugars’ can lower blood sugar in both types of diabetes, increasing insulin levels while also improving peripheral insulin receptivity. Both North American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Chinese ginseng (Panax ginseng) are both known to have an influence on glucose metabolism. Ginkgo Biloba can increase oxygenation and protection of the vascular and nervous system against oxidative stress related to diabetes and hence will mitigate symptoms and risk of neuropathy and reduced circulation.
Other herbs such as bitters (andrographis, burdock, gentian, goldenseal) and carminatives (Calamus, fennel, ginger, lemon balm, mint, lavender) may be included in liquid extract form (before meals in a little water) to improve overall digestion of protein, fats and carbohydrates.
While dietary changes and exercise can go a long way to help improve blood sugar metabolism, in more advanced cases of diabetes it would be helpful to consult a qualified natural health practitioner for specialized guidance.
Gord Cooper R.H. is a Registered Herbalist and Professional Member of the Ontario Herbalists Association. He has a clinical herbal and Iridology practice and can be reached for consultation at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 905-895-6691.