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Nutrition: There are better ways to handle diabetes

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There are better ways to handle diabetes
by Wendy Smith

July 8, 2004 • Vol. 14, No. 28
© 2004 Metro Pulse

This is part two of a New Health discussion of type 2 (adult onset) diabetes:

The goal of nutrients such as herbs, minerals and natural supplements in regard to type 2 diabetes is to regulate the body’s blood control system. Since type 2 diabetes generally causes insensitivity to insulin and thus overproduction of the same, many of these treatments help increase sensitivity to insulin.

Some herbs that can help with this function are cinnamon, gymnema and mulberry extract to name a few. Cinnamon has been shown to have insulin like properties and may act as an insulin substitute in type 2 diabetes.

Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Iowa State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggest that cinnamon may be helpful in preventing and combating diabetes by affecting the insulin signaling in fat cells which produce insulin inhibitors. Gymnema, an Ayurvadic (Indian system of medicine) herb, is known to enhance insulin activity and increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin.

Another herb, mulberry extract, is highly regarded in Chinese and Japanese medicine. It is used to control fasting blood glucose levels and improve blood sugar control. Additionally, it helps reduce the amount of cell membrane damage, making it an effective antioxidant as well. And worth mentioning here is stevia. It’s a very sweet herb, between 100 and 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is used mostly as a non-sugar sweetener in food and drink. Stevia, also known as sweetleaf, does not have any calories, does not affect blood sugar levels and it is a heck of a lot safer than aspartame. A friend brought me some last week and it makes an excellent sweetener for coffee and tea. Stevia can be used fresh, dried or purchased as a powder at health food stores.

Some minerals, vitamins and amino acids are especially important in the prevention and monitoring of type 2 diabetes. Chromium is crucial in controlling blood sugar stability, as it is a key constituent of the glucose tolerance factor. Without chromium, the action of insulin is blocked and glucose levels rise. Magnesium is a mineral used in hundreds of bodily functions, including the glucose metabolism system. It improves insulin response and glucose tolerance. Magnesium deficiency is very common among diagnosed diabetics.

Vitamin C is a highly regarded antioxidant and works as part of the immune system. People with diabetes often have low levels of vitamin C, even if they are getting lots of it, because cells cannot import and use vitamin C without stable insulin levels. A deficiency in vitamin C can lead to poor wound healing, elevated cholesterol and a depressed immune system.

Alpha Lipoic Acid is a very powerful universal antioxidant often abbreviated as ALA. Universal means that it is soluble in both fat and water. Some studies have shown that ALA can either prevent or halt both neuropathy (nerve disease) and retinopathy (eye disease). Everyone needs a good antioxidant and this one in particular may prove quite valuable to type 2 diabetics. If taken in regular doses it may help alleviate the symptoms of the disease and therefore improve the quality of life.

Also important but neither animal, vegetable or mineral is sleep. Sleep deficits can be very dangerous in the long run as lack of sleep in linked to poor hormone regulation and can impair the glucose metabolism.

Additionally, lack of sleep (whether caused by stress, a sleep disorder, or burning the candle at both ends) has been linked to weight gain and obesity which is closely linked to type 2 diabetes.

There are a couple of supplements that are very useful to diabetics and those at risk. PGX is often recommended as a preventive supplement. It contains a unique fiber called konjac root that slows down the absorption of glucose and gives a feeling of fullness.

Fiber has been tied to blood sugar control and lower cholesterol levels. Another popular supplement is WellBetX. It was created for diabetics and is more of a kit as it contains several items and a regime. It contains many supplements such as PGX, vitamins, such as vitamin C, and minerals, such as chromium and magnesium, that have already been mentioned in this article as well as several others that I didn’t have room to include. WellBetX contains a glucose balancing formula as well which can be taken as a snack or a meal and is designed to release blood sugar over a longer period of time to help people who can’t eat several small meals a day.

With type 2 on the rise, we should all take a few precautions. There are several good books on the market. One is How to Prevent and Treat Diabetes with Natural Medicine by Michael Murray, N.D. and Michael Lyon, M.D. The book discusses what diabetes is, its implications and natural methods of preventing and controlling both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. There is also a helpful web site, http://www.lef.org. See the section titled “Diabetes protocols.”



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