What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that causes sugar (glucose) to accumulate in the blood rather than being used as fuel by the cells. When we eat, food passes through our digestive tract. Carbohydrates and sugars are turned into glucose. The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, when blood glucose rises, insulin is released to enable glucose to be absorbed into the cell. Diabetes mellitus is when there’s too much glucose in the blood. Diabetes mellitus can be split into type 1, type 2, as well as a couple of other subtypes, including gestational diabetes and drug-induced diabetes. Diagnosis for either type is by measuring blood sugar levels.
Diabetes Type 1
This is when the pancreas cannot make enough insulin. There is a genetic abnormality that causes the loss of self-tolerance and beta cells, which leads to less production of insulin. The only treatment option here is insulin. The clinical symptoms include:
● Polyphagia – eating a lot
● Glycosuria – the presence of glucose in the urine
● Frequent urination
● Excessive thirst
● Diabetic ketoacidosis
Diabetes Type 2
In type two diabetes the cells become resistant to insulin also known as insulin resistance. Risk factors for insulin resistance include obesity, lack of exercise and hypertension. Over time damage occurs to cells and blood vessels. Treatment includes lifestyle changes; weight loss, exercise, a healthy diet and some supplements to keep blood sugar levels normal. The key symptoms include:
● Frequent urination
● Excessive thirst and dehydration
● Blurred vision
Other subtypes of diabetes mellitus there are:
● Gestational diabetes – when pregnant women have high blood glucose especially in the third
trimester due to pregnancy hormones.
● Drug-induced diabetes – caused by the side effects of certain medications that lead to insulin
Alternative Complementary Treatments for Diabetes
Alternative treatments for diabetes include:
● Natural herbs and supplements
● Diet, with a focus on legumes, vegetables, omega fatty acids, whole grains and fruits
● Exercise and frequent physical movement
● Relaxation techniques
Please note that herbs and supplements are complementary treatment options. Always speak with your doctor before you start taking any new supplements. Some supplements can interact with the medications you’re taking. Some of the most popular supplements used for diabetes include:
This incredible antioxidant-rich plant slows the progress of type 2 diabetes. Aloe vera may help protect and repair the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin and improve fasting blood sugar levels especially crucial for people with diabetes. It helps to ease digestion due to its laxative effect and can be made into a smoothie or taken as a supplement.
This warm spice has many great benefits besides the amazing flavour it adds to foods and baked goods. In certain quantities, it may lead to lower fasting blood glucose levels, less total cholesterol and “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol as well as increased insulin sensitivity. The results for human studies are still ongoing for their full benefits.
Popular in South America and Asia, this bitter-tasting fruit has been used to treat diabetes and can be used safely as a complementary therapy. Bitter melon contains substances that suppress the appetite and decrease blood sugar levels. In this way, it behaves similarly to insulin. It can be taken in powder form, as a supplement or in a juice or smoothie.
Rich in polyphenols and antioxidants, this amazing tea provides many benefits to people with diabetes and in the prevention of other comorbidities. The main antioxidant in green tea is known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) lowers cardiovascular disease risk, prevents the formation of type 2 diabetes, improves glucose control and provides better insulin activity.
Fenugreek contains fibres and compounds that help to slow down the digestion of carbohydrates and sugar. It can be used fresh or dried as a spice, flavouring agent, and supplement. Fenugreek is a historical medicinal supplement used in Indian and Chinese medicine with antidiabetic properties.
They reduce intestinal glucose absorption, delay gastric emptying, improve insulin sensitivity and action reduce concentrations of lipid-binding protein. It is also beneficial for those with pre-diabetes.
This ancient remedy is native to Ayurveda in Indian medicine. It consists of three plants known as Amla, Haritaki and Bibhitaki. They help promote insulin secretion from the pancreas and have been shown to reduce high blood sugar and improve insulin resistance and lower inflammation. It’s available in many forms, including capsule, powder or liquid and can be taken between meals on an empty stomach for maximum absorption with honey or ghee in warm water.
This herb has been used for its medicinal benefits as well as condiments to foods for thousands of years. Ginger is famously used to treat nausea, digestive and inflammatory issues. It contains antioxidants that potentially reduce the risk of diabetes by reducing insulin resistance, cancer, and other health problems.