Diabetes – does it have to be a dietary death sentence? Not really. To understand how to defeat it naturally, we first have to believe that we are capable of conquering it. As the saying goes – to defeat the villain, you first have to know him thoroughly. So let’s dive in!
Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a group of metabolic diseases characterized by high blood sugar resulting from defects in insulin secretion, insulin action, or both. Nearly 90% of patients with DM have Type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 DM: Absolute Insulin Deficiency
This implies that the body cannot produce insulin.
Why does this happen?
The credit for producing insulin in our body goes to the pancreas. But when the body fails to produce insulin, this is a red flag that our pancreas is in trouble. Thus, in Type 1 Diabetes, the pancreas has a defect which affects its insulin-producing properties. It is characterized as an auto-immune disorder – one where the body destroys its own tissue (in this case, the pancreatic cells).
Type 2 DM: Insulin Resistance
In this Type, the body might produce insulin. But it fails to use it properly. Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes usually carry excess body fat. 80% of clients with Type 2 DM are obese at its onset.
What Statistics Say
India currently represents 49 percent of the world’s diabetes burden. With an estimated 72 million cases in 2017, this figure is expected to almost double to 134 million by 2025.
What you should know?
Type 2 DM is rampant, agreed. But did you know that it’s almost entirely preventable? Indeed, the vast majority of Type 2 DM cases can be prevented by the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.
Nutritional modifications, exercise and lifestyle changes for DM should be tailored to clients’ treatment goals and outcomes.
You may have been prescribed one or more medications. These fundamentally stimulate insulin production, inhibit glucose production or improve your insulin sensitivity.
Regardless of what med(s) you’re on, lifestyle changes are the foundation of treating type 2 diabetes. After all, it’s the base of your life (no, but literally. It’s your life – style!)
Many professionals will help you with the dietary modifications for Diabetes. Let us illuminate some good old (literally) ingredients that are scientifically-proven to contribute to the regulation of insulin and also help maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Here are the magical herbs and supplements which do the trick:
Super Herb #1 Gymnema Sylvestre (Gurmar): “ The Sugar Destroyer”
As the name suggests, this powerful herb promotes glucose utilization in the cells. Simply put, it increases the utilisation of glucose which ultimately lowers the blood glucose level.
It also prevents the liver from releasing more glucose into the bloodstream, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides. It helps repair and regenerate pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin. Gurmar has shown remarkable reductions in blood glucose levels, hemoglobin A1c and glycosylated plasma protein levels. It contains Gymnemic Acid whose molecular arrangement is similar to glucose molecules. Here’s the interesting part: There are sugar molecules present in our food. They activate our taste buds. Now, what the molecules of Gymnemic Acid do is, they fill the receptor locations on the taste buds. This prevents the activation of taste buds by the sugar molecules. Et Voila! Sugar craving = Curbed.
Super Herb #2 Cinnamon: “The Insulin Sensitizer”
Cinnamon is perhaps the most widely recognized herbal diabetes treatment.
Fun Fact: Chinese medicine has been using cinnamon for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years.
There have been numerous studies to determine its effect on blood glucose levels. In fact, a 2011 study has shown that cinnamon, in whole form or as an extract, helps lower fasting blood glucose levels. This common spice acts as an insulin sensitizer. According to studies, cinnamon may have a positive effect on the glycemic control and the lipid profile in patients with diabetes mellitus, because it contains 18% polyphenol.
What’s the secret behind Cinnamon’s magical properties?
It imitates the effects of insulin and increases the glucose transport into cells. Thus, it may help lower blood sugar and fight diabetes.
It can also help lower blood sugar by increasing insulin sensitivity, making insulin more efficient at moving glucose into cells.
In a study, eight men demonstrated increases in insulin sensitivity following two weeks of supplementing with cinnamon. One study found that consuming 1.2 teaspoons (6 grams) of cinnamon with a serving of rice pudding led to slower stomach emptying and lower blood sugar elevations than eating rice pudding without it. Other studies suggest that it may lower blood sugar following meals by blocking digestive enzymes that break down carbs in the small intestine.
Pro-Tip: Some easy ways to use cinnamon towards your goal of beating diabetes are to sprinkle on an apple or add it into soup. Taste? Check. Health? Check, check!
Super Herb #3 Fenugreek Extract (Meethi): “The Carb Killer”
A study revealed that people who consumed 25 g of fenugreek seeds daily had controlled blood sugar as well as the post-meal spikes.
Fenugreek seeds help lower blood sugar. How do they do that? By slowing down the process of digestion and absorption of carbohydrates in the small intestine. Rich in amino acids, the seeds of fenugreek help increase your insulin sensitivity. As per ayurveda, Tikta ras (bitter taste) and ushna virya of methi makes it kapha shamak, which fights the root cause of diabetes
One small 2009 study found that a daily dose of 10 grams of fenugreek seeds soaked in hot water may help control type 2 diabetes. Another very small 2009 study suggests that eating baked goods, such as bread, made with fenugreek flour may reduce insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes. Other studies noted a modest decrease in fasting glucose with fenugreek taken as a supplement.
Super Herb #4 Bitter Melon: “The Glucose Controller”
One of the most effective and natural ways to control diabetes, is by consuming Bitter Melon. It helps control the sugar absorption in the intestines.
Bitter gourd aids in reducing our fasting blood glucose, postprandial blood sugar (our post-meal blood sugar levels) and glycosylated hemoglobin. It also improves the kidney and liver functions, and the blood lipid profile. In addition, it also showed improvement in the plasma triglyceride levels.
Ayurveda says, Tikta, laghu, ruksha gunas (qualities) of karela pacify the aggravation of kapha. It stimulates the pancreas, liver and spleen. Not just that, it also regulates blood sugar level. Ruksha guna and katu vipak improves food absorption and improves metabolism. Bitter gourd is linked to lowering the body’s blood sugar. This is because it has properties that act like insulin, which helps bring glucose into the cells for energy.
The consumption of bitter melon can help your cells use glucose and move it to your liver, muscles, and fat. It may also be able to help your body retain nutrients by blocking their conversion to glucose that ends up in your bloodstream.
A study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology compared the effectiveness of bitter melon with a current diabetes drug. The study concluded that bitter melon did reduce fructosamine levels with type 2 diabetes participants.
Super Herb #5 Berberine: “The Pancreas Protector”
Berberine’s anti-diabetic properties are well-established. In fact, berberine is every bit as powerful as a pharmaceutical drug. Not many supplements can boast that kind of effectiveness.
Taking 500 mg of berberine 3 times per day (1500 mg total) appears to improve glucose control and other markers of type 2 diabetes just as well as taking 1500 mg of the diabetes drug Metformin.
Not only that, but when taken together, Metformin and Berberine seem to work synergistically for even better glucose control!
But diabetics are not the only people who could benefit from taking berberine. It might also protect against metabolic syndrome, since it reduces blood glucose, body fat, triglycerides, and cholesterol.
Berberine seems to work through multiple pathways.
First, it improves muscle insulin sensitivity, and promotes blood glucose and fatty acid uptake into muscle cells.
It then appears to prompt the liver to decrease glycolysis, and down-regulate the high level of free fatty acids in the blood that occur due to poor body composition – thus decreasing insulin resistance.
A series of three trials, using around 1 gram of berberine daily for 1-3 months in people with metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes showed that their fasting blood glucose decreased by 17-26%, and their HbA1C levels by 12-18%. (HbA1C is a measure of blood glucose control over time.)
These are remarkable improvements, easily comparable to those obtained by taking diabetes drugs.
Berberine also protects the pancreas from cell death. When the pancreas is exposed to excessive fat, it detects the rise in blood glucose and secretes insulin thereby keeping glucose in check.
To sum it up:
Diabetes Mellitus can be a devastating disease. About 90% of DM cases are Type 2. But since Type 2 is so easily prevented through lifestyle modifications, good nutrition and regular activity, it could drastically reduce the number of Type 2 DM cases.
It is always best to let the foods you eat provide your vitamins and minerals. However, supplements have shown promise as diabetes treatments. It is important to talk to your doctor or nutritionist before using any supplements to ensure that they do not interfere with other treatments and medications.