November was recognized as National Diabetes Month, although diabetes is a condition worthy of year-round attention, which is why we discuss it here and now. We take a look at what it takes to manage diabetes, and then discuss some of the supplemental herbs and nutrients which can help you manage diabetes.
Diabetes mellitus, which is more commonly known as just “diabetes,” is a disease wherein the body’s blood glucose levels are too high. This is the result of the body’s failure to produce, or properly use, insulin. Insulin is a crucial hormone that enables the body’s cells to use glucose for energy.
There are two primary types of diabetes, and both require an individual to be able to manage their lives around the disease. Type 1 diabetes is where the body fails to produce insulin due to an autoimmune dysfunction, and is often caused by genetic factors. Type 2 diabetes is where the body fails to use insulin properly, and it often develops as a result of certain health factors.
Because diabetes can affect almost every part of the body, diabetic individuals must conscientiously manage their lifestyle to avoid health problems which can result from diabetes. Some of the pillars of managing diabetes include:
- Sufficiently monitoring and regulating A1C levels (avg. blood glucose), blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, including daily glucose monitoring if necessary
- Following a diabetes-adapted meal plan that is healthy, low in excess sugar, and low in saturated & trans fats
- Regularly engaging in physical activity
- Regularly taking medications prescribed by your doctor, even if you feel you don’t have to
Supplements to Manage Diabetes
Nutrition has a big influence on the health of a diabetic. There are a range of alternative remedies which are said to help manage the disorder. Here are some of the best herbs and nutrients which can support the bodily health and well-being of diabetic individuals.
Fenugreek is an herb which contains fiber and other natural chemicals that can slow down the digestion of carbohydrates and sugar, and reduce blood glucose as a result. Research suggests that taking a fenugreek supplement could potentially mitigate the risk of Type 2 diabetes as well. It is believed that the benefits of fenugreek are a result of its ability to increase insulin levels.
Ginger has been shown to help with diabetes by reducing blood glucose, and possibly also by increasing insulin resistance in those with Type 2 diabetes. Research has shown that taking a ginger supplement could improve fasting blood glucose levels and HbA1c levels, both of which are important metrics for those with diabetes.
Magnesium is an essential nutrient, and studies have shown that supplementing with magnesium can help improve glucose levels in those with diabetes. Furthermore, it could improve insulin sensitivity in those at risk for diabetes, or who are pre-diabetic (at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes). Supplementing with magnesium could be a helpful component of nutritional management for diabetes.
Chromium is another trace mineral that could improve blood glucose control in diabetic individuals. Having too little of this mineral in your diet can reduce the body’s ability to process glucose. A large-scale review from 2014 concluded that chromium is an effective help for managing blood sugar in the context of conventional diabetes care.
Vitamin B12 could be helpful for those with diabetes, especially those with long-term diabetes or who experience neuropathy as a result of diabetes. For diabetic individuals who eat a plant-based diet, supplementing with B12 could prove very beneficial because it is not common in plant-based foods.
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a naturally occurring substance found in some plant foods, and available as an oral supplement. ALA has antioxidant properties, and taking it could help improve insulin sensitivity in those with diabetes. ALA could also help prevent diabetic neuropathy.
If you have diabetes, whether Type I or Type 2, then nutritional supplements could be of great benefit to your bodily health. Talk to your healthcare provider about the herbs and nutrients discussed above, and learn how they could be a worthwhile addition to your diabetes management regime.