Managing Diabetes Naturally

Q:  My husband has Type 2 diabetes and I’m interested in checking out some natural ways to lower his blood sugar.  I know there are a lot of things out there, so I wanted to ask what you’d recommend.

A:  The Center for Disease Control has said that currently 8.3% of the American population has diabetes, and that number is expected to rise in the coming years.  While it is important to be under a doctor’s care, there are a number of natural remedies which can help with lowering blood sugar and increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin.  There are many wonderful supplements of benefit to diabetics, but for the sake of space I’ll just list a few below.  

A supplement that many people don’t think of for diabetes is magnesium though there is a growing body of evidence that links magnesium deficiency with Type 2 diabetes and its complications.  A recent Brazilian study scrutinized blood sugar levels in a group of diabetics and found that patients with lower blood glucose levels had higher magnesium levels than those with higher blood sugar levels.   The USDA has determined that 7 out of 10 Americans do not get the recommended amounts of magnesium from diet alone.  Magnesium deficiency has been found to result in a poorer functioning of insulin, which is the body’s main tool for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.  

Chromium is another great supplement for diabetics.  It’s an essential trace mineral that aids in carbohydrate and fat metabolism and also helps cells in the body to properly respond to insulin.  Interestingly, research has found that many diabetics are deficient in chromium.  A review of clinical research studies on chromium and diabetes found significant positive outcomes in nearly every study for blood sugar and diabetes management.  One study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, compared the diabetes medication sulfonylurea taken with 1,000 mcg of chromium to the medication taken with a placebo.  After 6 months, people who did not take chromium had a significant increase in body weight, body fat, and abdominal fat, while people taking the chromium had significant improvements in insulin sensitivity. Those seem like pretty impressive results to me.  I’d really recommend Natural Max’s
Extended Release Chromium Picolinate, it’s a one a day supplement that releases the mineral
throughout the day instead of all at once, which helps to maintain more stable blood sugar levels.

Cinnamon is also a popular for controlling blood sugar levels.  It works by helping to prevent insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance is when cells in the body become resistant to insulin, the substance which helps the body to metabolize foods, especially carbohydrates.  Most of the studies with cinnamon have shown benefits with dosages ranging from 2-6 grams a day.  Supplements of cinnamon capsules are usually at a dose of 500 mg per capsule, so taking 2 cinnamon capsules morning and night, as well as sprinkling cinnamon on your oatmeal or applesauce can be a safe and easy way to improve insulin sensitivity.  Cinnamon is especially nice to take since it has been used for thousands of years in Indian and Chinese medicine.  There have been a number of favorable studies published regarding cinnamon and diabetes, one recently found that cinnamon reduced cholesterol by about eighteen percent and
blood sugar levels by twenty four percent.

Another great supplement for diabetics is the antioxidant alpha lipoic acid.  Alpha lipoic acid works to help prevent and treat diabetic neuropathy, a condition characterized by numbness and pain in the hands and feet that occurs in over twenty percent of diabetics.  Alpha lipoic acid has been used for years in Germany to treat nerve damage and neuropathy and is thankfully becoming more well known in America as an effective supplement for diabetics.  One recent study found that 600mg per day was an effective dosage for helping to relieve pain, burning and numbness in the hands and feet.

Finally, I wanted to mention the importance of diet and exercise in managing Type 2 diabetes. Regular exercise has been shown in study after study to have numerous benefits to everyone, especially diabetics.  Losing weight increases insulin sensitivity, but even exercising without losing weight has been shown to lower blood sugar.    With the beautiful fall weather we’re having, there’s no excuse not to get out in the fresh air and take a walk.  Regular exercise has also been found to boost mood and reduce stress, something everyone can use.  Lake Katherine in Palos Heights has a beautiful walking path around the lake, and there are also many paved walking and bike paths in Palos.  Centennial Park in Orland and the other Centennial Park in Tinley are two other beautiful places to walk.  Making the choice to become more active is one that will help you to both feel better and live longer, and it’s never too late to start.