Try managing type 2 diabetes with natural remedies, including fenugreek, alpha lipoic acid, bitter melon and a variety of spices.
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Managing Type 2 Diabetes with Natural Remedies
I was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I know that I
need to lose weight, but what herbs, supplements and dietary
changes do you suggest?
Stansbury responds: Losing weight and getting plenty of exercise will indeed help your blood sugar levels. General dietary recommendations include limiting sugar, sweet juices and pastries, as well as limiting all bread and grain products which are rapidly metabolized to sugar. Avoid rice, bagels, cereals, potatoes, pasta and the like, favoring the starch of beans, colorful vegetables and nuts whenever possible. Eat daily large, fresh salads, vegetable soups, steamed veggies, baked squash and bean dishes. Legumes are not only a starch substitute, but an excellent source of protein, so diabetics should eat them instead of refined carbohydrates. Legumes also are high in saponins, which are known to improve glucose regulation.
I also encourage the liberal use of spices, such as garlic (Allium sativum), onions (Allium cepa), ginger (Zingiber officinale) and cayenne (Capsicum annuum). The sulfur components of garlic have an insulin-like action and improve elevated cholesterol and triglycerides. This helps regulate blood glucose and protects blood vessels. One of the major long-term concerns with diabetes, blood-vessel damage can lead to eye, kidney and peripheral circulatory damage.
Cayenne and ginger also will help with elevated blood fats and protect blood vessels, as will the blue and purple pigments in blueberries, grapes, beets, blackberries and raspberries.
Another herb to consider as a food and a supplement is fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum). Fenugreek seeds contain a constituent known as trigonelline, which is thought responsible for at least some of fenugreek’s action on reducing hyperglycemia. Fenugreek also contains several other compounds shown in animal and human studies to reduce blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides. Fenugreek seeds can be sprouted and eaten, ground into powder and used in cooking or consumed as pills or tincture.
Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) and other plants containing essential fatty acids may help reduce blood lipids in diabetics as well as reduce neuropathy by improving blood flow to the nerves. Essential fatty acids also may reduce blood pressure and help protect the heart and blood vessels.
American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) acts as a heart and cerebrovascular tonic, among myriad other benefits. American ginseng is an antioxidant and may help protect the tissues from oxidative damage.
Willard responds: Type 2 diabetes (insulin-resistant or adult-onset diabetes) is speedily becoming one of the most prominent diseases in North America. It is almost always a disease of poor lifestyle choices, and it can usually be turned around quickly with dramatic lifestyle changes and herbal and nutritional supplementation.
The most important thing to do is reduce the consumption of carbohydrates or foods that rapidly turn into glucose and raise the blood sugar levels. The rate at which a food turns into glucose is expressed as the glycemic index (GI). You can find a GI list from your health-care provider or on the Internet. High-GI foods raise blood sugar, stress the pancreas and produce fat even faster than simple sugar.
Several herbs and nutritional supplements also can help. In addition to the information Stansbury provided above, the following are ones I have found most beneficial:
Alpha lipoic acid helps burn glucose, converting it to energy. It also works as a strong antioxidant, protecting the body against free radicals. It has been shown to be effective in treating diabetes. Alpha lipoic acid lowers glucose and insulin levels, while reducing insulin resistance. Dosage: 200 mg twice daily.
Chromium is by far the most important mineral to prevent insulin resistance. This is very important because 90 percent of North Americans don’t receive enough chromium in their diet. Chromium helps insulin function more efficiently. Responsible for glucose tolerance factor, chromium will reduce radical changes related to both diabetes and hypoglycemia. Chromium has been used in the last several years to encourage weight loss, reduce blood lipids and lower blood pressure.
Devil’s club (Oplopanax horridus) is specific for type 2 diabetes. One of the most useful things we have noticed in the clinic is its ability to stop the lust for sweets and binge eating. We have found this very beneficial for diet management in weight-loss clients. Devil’s club also helps reduce general stress (mind or body) and gives a person a feeling of well-being. Dosage: 40 drops of tincture, twice daily.
Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) has been used for centuries in Asia for blood sugar-related problems. It has been shown to lower blood glucose levels in diabetics by improving the utilization of the glucose, not by increasing insulin. Dosage: consumed as food, or take 500 mg of concentrate daily.
Gymnema (Gymnema sylvestre) also has been used for centuries to reduce blood-sugar levels. It does this by increasing the efficiency of insulin. Other research says that gymnema promotes the regeneration of the pancreatic beta cells, which produce insulin. Dosage: 300 to 500 mg, twice daily.
Jill Stansbury has been a naturopathic physician for more than 12 years, with a private practice in Battleground, Washington. She is the chair of the Botanical Medicine Department at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon, and the author of many books, including Herbs for Health and Healing (Publication International, 1997).
Terry Willard is a clinical herbalist, president of the Canadian Association of Herbal Practitioners and founder of the Wild Rose College of Natural Healing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is the author of eight books and a CD-ROM, Interactive Herbal.
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