Monday, 21 March 2011 03:15
Diabetes affects over 23 million Americans, nearly 8 percent of the population, and these numbers are on the rise. Diabetes prevalence increased 13 percent in the two years between 2005 and 2007. Add to this the 24 percent of people who are believed to be undiagnosed and you can see the picture of the epidemic rise of diabetes in recent years. Adult onset diabetes, the most common form, can lead to complications such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, and kidney failure.
Prevention and lifestyle are still the best medicine. Though there is no known cure, a healthy lifestyle can reduce symptoms. The National Institute of Health has launched a campaign that focus on lifestyle and dietary choices for diabetes prevention. Alternative medicine has also been busy researching natural treatments for diabetes prevention and health maintenance. Numerous products—including foods, botanicals, and vitamins—offer promising results.
Three research trials of alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) demonstrate ALA’s ability to increase insulin sensitivity and enhance glucose metabolism. ALA may also heal nerve damage in patients with diabetic neuropathy. Doses of 600 milligrams were shown to be effective and well tolerated.
Gymnema sylvestre is a climbing plant that grows in Southeast Asia and Africa. It has been used in India to treat diabetes as part of Ayurvedic medicine for over 2,000 years. Modern research has shown gymnema to lower serum glucose levels by inhibiting the intestinal absorption of glucose. Gymnema has an added health benefit for diabetes treatment, in that it can be used alongside insulin. Other uses for this beneficial herb include weight loss and hypercholesterolaemia.
The element chromium is important in the regulatory function of insulin and blood glucose. Its action is similar to the prescription drugs used by diabetics: metformin and troglitazone. It is thought that chromium acts by decreasing the body’s insulin resistance. Chromium picolinate is the form that is best absorbed for this purpose.
Beta-glucan is a soluble fiber derived from the cell walls of algae, bacteria, fungi, yeast, and plants. It is also found in cereal grains like oat and barely. It is commonly used for its cholesterol-lowering effects and is now being cited for its ability to control blood sugar levels. You may have seen beta-glucan on the ingredient list on your morning cereal box because in 1997 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed oat bran to be registered as the first cholesterol-reducing food. (The recommended amount for this purpose is three grams beta-glucan daily.) Several trials are underway investigating the use of beta-glucan in diabetes and for blood sugar control.
For over 2,000 years, ginseng roots have been prized in Chinese medicine for their health-giving qualities. Its name is from the Greek, Panax, means “all cure” (pan—all, akos—cure). Panax is a member of the Araliaceae family and should not be confused with Siberian Ginseng, which is from a different plant family (Eleutherococcus senticosus). Research suggests that ginseng may lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Bitter melon is a melon in the Cucurbitaceae family and related
to honeydew and Persian melon. Bitter melon extracts and tea contain the glycosides momordin and charant that can be used to treat hypoglycemia. A 1999 study of bitter melon pulp with type 2 diabetic patients show a reduction in serum blood sugar levels that lasted for up to twelve hours. The plant acts on liver and muscle glycogen synthesis and inhibits the enzymes involved in glucose production.
*There are numerous other products from nature that may prove to have a healing effect on diabetes and blood sugar control. Alfalfa, aloe vera, barley, bilberry, bladderwrack, burdock, evening primrose oil, flaxseed oil, fenugreek, fish oils, gotu kola, horse chestnut seed extract, marshmallow, milk thistle, rosemary, spirulina, stinging nettle, and white horehound are just a few of nature’s bountiful healing agents that have been used in treating diabetes with natural medicine in the past. Hopefully, modern science can investigate these natural substances, and find the quantizes needed for the healing doses needed to bring relief to those suffering from diabetes.
By Melanie Grimes
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