Supplements and foods that may help with diabetes
Diabetics have high blood sugar either because their body is not producing enough insulin, or their cells are not responding to the effects of insulin, or they are consuming way too much sugar and refined carbohydrates. Insulin is the body's natural hormone that shuttles sugar from the bloodstream into the cells.
Many diabetics would like to be able to lower their blood sugar without dangerous drugs that potentially have side effects. Of course the best treatment is lifestyle effects of regular exercise and a diet low in sugar and refined carbs. Eating lots of fiber in the form of vegetables is good.
In addition, certain nutrients may help. Below are some supplements that may help lower blood sugar.
If you are taking insulin and/or taking diabetic medications, be sure to consult with your physician and monitor your blood sugar before starting and during taking any of these supplements. Because these supplements lower blood sugar, it may cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) when combined with diabetic medications and/or insulin.
We are not talking about cinnamon buns here, because those would be highly refined-carbs that would be on a diabetic's "do not eat" list. We are talking about the spice cinnamon. Cinnamon helps with the insulin receptors in the cells respond better to insulin.
Shane Ellison tells of cinnamon as being a natural diabetes cure in the video on the right. Cinnamon un-jams the insulin receptors. He recommends that diabetics use half a teaspoon before a meal (three meals a day). It can be used in teas.
Another tip he gives is to reduce fruit intake to maybe at most one fruit a week. He says "if it tastes sweet, spit it out".
In his book, Over the Counter Natural Cures, Shane Ellison writes that cinnamon ...
"successfully lowers blood sugar, triglycerides, and A1C levels while increasing insulin sensitivity -- and without a single negative side effect. ... Nothing outperformed the tasty spice in increasing insulin sensitivity." [page 179]
Caution: People's Pharmacy says that some cinnamon may be contaminated with coumarin, which in excess can harm the liver. Of the two types of cinnamon, Cassia and Ceylon, the Ceylon type typically have less coumarin.[reference] As mentioned in LiveStrong.com, there are some potential side effects from too much cinnamon.
In the book Diabetes without Drug, Suzy Cohen raves about the benefits of spirulina ...
"Spirulina is an incredible source of minerals, which are needed for pancreatic health and insulin sensitivity." [page 241]
These minerals include potassium, calcium, chromium, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese, selenium, sodium, and phosphorus. It contains nutrients such as B vitamins and beta-carotene.
Caution: Do not take spirulina or blue green algae if you have any kind of autoimmune condition or elevated autoimmune antibodies or phenylketonuria, as they may increase immune response.
Any food (rather than a supplement) that can help with the diabetic condition is good news. Bitter melon is one such food. While some people like the taste of bitter melon (especially when well salted), some people may find it to be, well, too bitter. In any case, give it a try. Just wash, remove seeds, cut, stir fry, and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Black pepper is also a source of vanadium, which is an important trace mineral that seem to act like insulin.
In the book Reversing Diabetes, Dr. Julian Whitaker writes that ...
"bitter melon has been discovered to contain a number of compounds that have blood-sugar-lowering effects." [page 195]
Among these compounds are charantin and polypeptide P.
Although the family of B vitamins work together, biotin (which is B7) in particular have been shown to reduce blood glucose. And it may help with reduction is risk of diabetic neuropathy.
Dr. Whitaker writes ...
"The nicotinamide from of vitamin B3 has been demonstrated to preserve pancreatic function and actually reverse diabetes in some type 1 patients when administered within the first few years of diagnosis." [page 183 of Reversing Diabetes]
but cautions that this particular nicotinamide protocol should only be done under doctor supervision.
Brewer's Yeast contain various B vitamins, chromium, and selenium.[reference] The B vitamins may help prevent diabetic neuropathy. However, do not take Brewer's Yeast if you are allergic to yeast, have candida or yeast overgrowth, or are taking Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (such as in depression medications).
There are some cautions about use of Brewer's yeast. Don't use if you have yeast over-growth conditions like candida. Don't use if you have antibodies against Saccharomyces cerevisiae (which sometimes occur in people with Crohn's or Ulcerative colitis).
Chromium can help lower blood sugar as will be mentioned in the next section.
Magnesium is an all-important mineral that many of us get too little of (due to reduction in plants from depleted soils). I wrote about the health benefits of magnesium in another article.
The Blood Code book writes ...
"The primary nutrients that facilitate your healthy insulin response are magnesium, vitamin D, and chromium."
The book also suggests Co-Q10 and Alpha-lipoic-acid, but it does NOT recommend berberine because of gastrointestinal side effects (causing mal-absorption) and its potential undesirable antimicrobial effect in the gut.
Book writes that effect of cinnamon is small, but no real harm if used just a little. Book prefers not to use gymnema sylvestre because while it does work to reduce blood sugar, it also raises insulin.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha Lipoic Acid is an great antioxidant in its own right as written about previously. As for the diabetic, alpha lipoic acid helps prevent diabetic neurophathy; it helps protect the nerves against the ravages of high blood sugar.
The book Outsmart Diabetes says ...
"Studies prove that alpha-lipoic acid prevent free radical damage to your cells, in part by recycling vitamins C and E. But where it shows real promise is in relieving diabetic neurophay." [page 100]
The article A current update on the use of alpha lipoic acid in the management of type 2 diabetes mellitus states that ...
"There is growing evidence that Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) has beneficial effects on the treatment of T2DM and some of its complications. It represents an attractive pharmacological target in the treatment of T2DM by modulating the signal transduction pathways in insulin resistance and antagonizing the oxidative and inflammatory stresses, which are major players in the pathogenesis of this disorder."
where T2DM mean type 2 diabetes.
However, a note of caution.... alpha lipoic acid (ALA) may in rare cases trigger insulin autoimmune syndrome in genetically susceptible individuals. Here is the reference, which states ...
"Although ALA has potential applications in both alternative and conventional medicine (as well as in cosmetics), it is important to be aware that the ingestion of this compound may trigger insulin autoimmune syndrome in East Asians and in some North American natives, among whom the prevalence of HLA alleles that confer predisposition to this syndrome is relatively high"
Co-Enzyme Q10 plays a role in blood sugar regulation. Dr. Perricone listed it as his Top 10 supplements saying that...
"CoQ10 also works synergistically with other antioxidants to elevate cellular levels of vitamins C, E, and glutathione and to help regulate blood sugar and enhance insulin sensitivity." [reference]
People who are taking statins drugs may have the side effect of reduction of Co-Enyzme Q10. Low levels of Co-Q10 may cause high blood sugar. That is why Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt wrote the post Statins May Cause Diabetes.
The Hyperlipid blog writes that ...
"I suspect that EVERYONE on a statin will step their insulin resistance up by an amount proportional to the CoQ depletion."
In the book Yoga as Medicine it mentions Co-Q10, Chromium, Cinnamon, and others including ...
"Both Korean and American ginseng may improve control of diabetes via several mechanisms including improving sensitivity to insulin."
In the book Diabetes without Drug, Suzy Cohen writes that ...
"Chromium is one the of the most useful trace minerals for diabetes because it helps turn carbs into energy. It may also stabilize blood sugar and reduce carb cravings." [page 283]
In addition, some studies have shown chromium to produce a reduction in bad cholesterol, but only in those who are deficient in. It doesn't help people who already have sufficient chromium.
Chromium is only needed in trace amounts, with chromium picolinate being the most bio-absorbable. If you are not deficient, taking more may not be better. In fact, it may be harmful in that it may damage kidneys and cause other mineral deficiencies. Never take more than 1000 micrograms per day.
Although, the book's recommended dosages is 100 to 200 micrograms one to three times daily, others may prefer to just use the the lower dosage of found in a multivitamin or in a combined mineral supplement. Generally (with the exception of magnesium), taking a pill containing a single supplement may result in taking too much.
Broccoli, by far, is the best natural food source of chromium. Look at this chart on World's Healthiest Foods, the second runner up don't even come close.
Whitaker also mentions that the herb gymnema sylvestre also have blood-sugar-lowering effects. In rat studies, gymnema sylvestre appears to regenerate insulin-producing beta cells.
According to WebMD, gymnema can decrease the absorption of sugar from the intestine. And it may increase insulin as well as increase pancreas cell growth. It further mentions that ...
"Gymnema appears to be safe when used appropriately for up to 20 months."
But it might also raise insulin levels. Panax gingseng also lowers blood sugar by boosting insulin.
The pieces of blood sugar regulation
Dr. Peter Osborne in the below video explain how the body regulates blood sugar and the different vitamins and minerals that are needed for this cycle to happen efficiently. He mentions the importance of magnesium, chromium, Co-enzyme Q10, calcium, zinc, B vitamins, and vitamin D.
What about Vanadium supplements
Vanadium has been mentioned in various references in its aid in insulin sensitivity. However, it too is needed only in trace amount and is only warranted if you are tested to be deficient. Like chromium, too much can lead to kidney problems.
Suzy Cohen writes ...
"I think this supplement is good for you, if you are shown to be deficient in vanadium. Supplements probably won't help that much if you are not deficient, and could contribute to kidney problems."
Healthy-vitamin-choice.com writes ...
"Vanadium is very toxic and high quantities are linked to manic depression."
However, others are less concerned. Dr. Whitaker writes ...
"... these rumors of toxicity are based on studies done by one -- and only one -- researcher. ... Although vanadium is indeed retained in the tissues, it is safe and well tolerated by most people at dosage levels in the 100-150 milligram range." [page 171 Reversing Diabetes]
Article on Diabetesnet.com, says ...
"researchers have discovered several disturbing effects form vanadium, including damage to DNA, blocking of protein synthesis, as well as oxidation of lipids"
And there is even evidence that it may kill beta cells and inhibits protein synthesis.
With that said, play it safe and avoid any vanadium supplements. If you want, you can get vanadium from foods such as seafood (such as cod and scallops), whole grains, seeds, black pepper, free-range chicken breast, dill, radishes, egg yolks, carrots. [reference]
This article was updated in March 2013 and is only opinion at the time of writing. Author is not a medical professional and may receive compensation from display ads within articles.