Is It Possible To Control Your Diabetes With Nutritional Supplements?
Improper nutrition does contribute to the development of diabetes, but proper nutrition can be a powerful treatment for this disease. (1) This disease is so closely related to diet and nutrition; scientists have studied how nutritional supplements can effectively treat diabetes. In researching vitamin supplements, researchers have found that many vitamins and herbs can effectively help lower blood sugar. Some of these supplements are vitamin C, B vitamins, minerals like chromium and vanadyl sulfate, and herbs like Gymnema Sylvestre can all help lower blood sugar. If one combines these supplements together, they can synergistically work together to lower blood sugar. First let’s look at what diabetes is and then we can discuss how these supplements work.
The foods we eat are digested and broken down into simpler forms; most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar also known as glucose. These sugars are absorbed through the intestinal tract into the bloodstream where it is circulated through out the body to feed cells.
Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas. The pancreas is a long skinny organ that sits behind the stomach adding enzymes into the digested food. Insulin helps deliver nutrients and sugar from the bloodstream into cells where it is needed. The sugar supplies energy to various organs such as the heart and lungs; for example the heart beats and lungs breathe which keep us alive as a result of sugar’s energy supply. (2,3)
There are two classes of diabetes type I and type II. Type I diabetes is sometimes called insulin dependent, juvenile or child onset diabetes. This type usually starts at a very early age and the pancreas stops producing insulin. When the body does not make insulin, the sugar stays in the bloodstream instead of going into the cells where it’s needed. This can be fatal, so a person with type I diabetes needs a shot of insulin every day for his/her body to function properly (to stay alive).
Type II diabetes usually starts in adults and is the most common kind of diabetes in America. Most people who have diabetes have type II, that’s about 90% -95% of all diabetics in America. In this type of diabetes, the pancreas is producing enough insulin but the body doesn’t use the insulin effectively. This is called insulin resistance, cells in the body do not respond to the insulin and so the pancreas produces more and more insulin to over compensate this resistance. When blood sugar starts to raise in the bloodstream in this manner, the medical doctor (MD) will diagnose type II diabetes. Most type II diabetics need a prescription drug to lower the blood sugar because a diet change isn’t enough to control their blood sugar problem. (4)
In both cases, the blood sugar is too high in the bloodstream and will cause several problems. The first problem is cells cannot absorb sugar for energy; they starve and start to die. Secondly an excess amount of sugar in the blood leads to cardiovascular disease, hardening of the arteries, nerve and eye damage, and kidney damage.
Scientists are not exactly sure what causes type I diabetes, but they do know it has something to do with the immune system. A healthy immune system protects us from the common cold and cancer cells (cells in the body that go bad). The immune system can becomes confused and starts attacking good cells, in some cases, the healthy cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, which causes diabetes. (4)
Type II diabetes has been linked to individuals who are overweight. These overweight individuals have high blood pressure and high cholesterol as well which may also lead to this form of diabetes. Being overweight causes the body to become insulin resistant and by dropping some excess weight one could possibly reverse type II diabetes (rare).
If you think you have diabetes, you should look for the following symptoms. Type I diabetics usually have frequent urination because of the high blood sugar; the kidneys are trying to balance the body’s bloodstream. The kidneys are forced to eliminate all the unused nutrients and sugar in the blood over working the kidneys and if left unchecked can lead to kidney damage. If you experience intense thirst, your body is trying to replace the liquids lost from frequent urination. You may experience increased hunger but you will not gain weight when you do eat more. This is because your body’s cells need more nutrients, but since these cells can not absorb the insulin and nutrients the body starves.
With type II diabetes you might not notice any symptoms. Type II diabetes usually happens very gradually and the person doesn’t know about it till diabetic complications occur, then it’s too late. (3,4)
All diabetic complications are caused from high blood sugar. The longer the blood sugar goes unchecked the greater your chances of having complications. High blood sugar causes cardiovascular disease. The blood vessels begin to thicken from excess fat in the bloodstream because high blood sugar elevates the fat circulating in the blood. When the vessels thicken circulation becomes poor and with poor circulation your ability to heal is impaired. Heart attack, heart pain, and stroke are common in diabetics because of poor circulation and blocked arteries form all the fat buildup in the blood vessels.
Nerve damage is another complication of diabetes. Diabetics may notice numbness in their arms and legs because of nerve damage caused from high blood sugar. These nerves can not send signals to the brain relaying pain and touching sensations. Most diabetics will notice numbness in the feet and lower legs before other parts of the body are effected. (3,4)
The next complication is eye damage. A more sever complication because going blind is not pleasant for anyone. The eye has very small delicate vessels in the retina, these vessels help you see when light shines upon them in the eye. When blood vessels are weakened, they can hemorrhage and leak fluid into the eye. This causes swelling and blurs the vision. There is a clear gel in the eye keeping it solid and round, if blood leaks into this gel, your vision can become blurred or completely impaired. As the eye continues to get damaged, the eye will attempt to repair itself by growing new vessels. These new vessels are fragile and can burst. Scar tissue can form and cause the retina to pull away from the eye, worst case causing blindness. (3,4)
Blood vessels network throughout the entire body. Your kidneys are made up of vessels and can become damaged as well. If the vessels in the kidneys become impaired, waste cannot be eliminated from the body and a form of treatment called dialysis might be required. If blood sugar is not kept under control, damage to the kidneys will continue to the point where a transplant might be needed or daily dialysis is required to remove waste from the bloodstream. The good news is practically all of the complications that occur with diabetes can be prevented when the right care is taken.
With proper diet and nutrition one can successfully prevent diabetic complications. Along with diet and nutrition, vitamins, minerals and herbs can also help lower blood sugar and reduce the complications that may occur. The best kind of supplement is one that combines vitamins and herbs together so that they work together synergistically to effectively lower blood sugar. You might be wondering what vitamins, minerals and herbs are good for blood sugar, your in luck here is a list:
Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin B-6, Folic Acid, Vitamin B-12, Biotin, Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium, Copper, Manganese, Chromium, Gymnema Sylvestre, Bitter melon, Fenugreek seed extract, Bilberry berry extract, Bioflavonoids, and Vanadyl Sulfate. Make sure most of these ingredients are in the formula you buy. The frequency at which you take these supplements should be listed on the bottle you buy as well. As a rule of thumb they should be taken at least twice a day. Do not stop taking your normal multiple vitamin supplement; diabetic formulas are a complement to what you currently take not a replacement.
Vitamin C (ascorbic Acid) – keeps diabetics blood vessels and kidneys healthy. Vitamin C works with vitamin E to get sugar out of the blood stream and into the cells.
Vitamin E (Natural Tocopherols) – helps prevent nerve damage, helps prevent kidney damage, blindness, and heart attack. Vitamin E works with the B vitamins to help keep the pancreas healthy.
Vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine HCL) – works with folic acid to help prevent nerve damage and heart attack.
Folic Acid – works with B-12 to help prevent stroke and the loss of limbs due to diabetic complications.
Vitamin B-12 (cyanocobalamin) – works with B-6 and folic acid to help relieve neuropathic pain.
Biotin – helps insulin work better and helps keep the pancreas working well to lower blood sugar.
Magnesium (Krebs Cycle Chelate) – helps insulin work more effectively and relieves neuropathic pain.
Zinc (picolinate, chelate) – helps insulin work better and helps shuttle blood sugar into cells.
Selenium (aspartate) – helps prevent nerve damage and protects blood vessels against elevated blood sugar. Selenium mimics insulin helping blood sugar into the cells.
Copper (picolinate) – helps protect the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. Also, copper helps prevent diabetes-related damage to blood vessels and nerves, and lowers blood sugar levels.
Manganese – helps prevent damage to nerves and blood vessels.
Chromium (picolinate) – works with biotin to help bring down blood sugar and keeps the pancreas working well.
Gymnema Sylvestre leaf extract – helps balance blood sugar and may protect us from gaining weight.
Bitter melon whole fruit extract – helps pathways in the liver work more efficiently; lowers blood sugar levels.
Fenugreek seed extract – helps our kidneys and liver metabolize blood sugar more efficiently.
Bilberry berry extract – helps reduce the severity of diabetic cataracts.
Mixed bioflavonoids – helps protect vitamin C and E from becoming damaged. Helps clear and sharpen vision in diabetics.
Vanadyl sulfate – helps muscle and liver cells use insulin more effectively.
These supplements will not lower your blood sugar too much, but help bring them down to a more normal level. Diabetes is a disease that needs to be monitored daily several times throughout the day. When you start taking a diabetic supplement to help equalize your blood sugar, monitor your sugar levels more often at first so you can get a feel for where you sugar levels come down to before taking more insulin. A normal range of blood sugar for diabetics before a meal is 70 – 150 (1,2,5) and ideally 70 – 120.
The diabetic formula you may take for lowering blood sugar is by no means a license to eat any way you want. You still need to eat healthy and see your health practitioner on a regular basis. Diabetes might make you feel overwhelmed, especially if you have recently been diagnosed with it. With proper exercise, diet, and vitamin supplements you can be well on your way to a lower more manageable blood sugar level, and live a longer healthier life.
1. American Diabetes Association. In the news. Available at: www.ada.yellowbrix.com/pages/ada. Accessed on December 10, 2001.
2. Guven S, Kuenzi J. Diabetes mellitus. In: Porth CM. Pathophysiology: Concepts of Altered Health States. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott; 1998: 810-830.
3. Guyton AC, Hall JE. Diabetes mellitus. In: Textbook of Medical Physiology. 10th Ed. Philadelphia, Pa: W.B. Saunders Company;2000: .
4. Grodner M, Anderson SL, DeYoung S. Diabetes mellitus. In: Foundations and Clinical Applications of Nutrition: A Nursing Approach. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2000:540-548.
5. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Do your level best. Available at: www.niddk.nih.gov/health/diabetes/dylb/chap1.htm#e. Accessed December 31, 2001.
About the Author:
VitaNet Health Foods VitaNet sells high quality vitamins and herbs like Nature's Plus Vitamins.
Definition: A disorder caused by decreased production of insulin, or by decreased ability to use insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that is necessary for cells to be able to use blood sugar.
Causes... Incidence... and Risk Factors
The cause of diabetes mellitus is unknown, but heredity and diet are believed to play a role in its development. Diabetes results when the pancreas produces insufficient amounts of insulin to meet the body's needs. It can also result when the pancreas produces insulin, but the cells are unable to efficiently use it (insulin resistance). Insulin is necessary for blood sugar (glucose) to go from the blood to the inside of the cells, and unless the sugar gets into the cells, the body cannot use it.
The excess sugar remains in the blood and is then removed by the kidneys. Symptoms of excessive thirst, frequent urination, and hunger develop. The (metabolism) of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins is altered.
Diabetes occurs in several forms. The most common types are: Type I, or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM); Type II, or non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM); and Gestational Diabetes Mellitus.
Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM or Type I) usually occurs in people before the age of 30 requires insulin injections to live. Risk factors for IDDM include autoimmune disease, viral infections, and a family history of diabetes.
Non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM or Type II) usually occurs in severely overweight (obese) adults and rarely requires insulin treatment. Treatment includes diet for diabetics and exercise. Risk factors for Type II are obesity, physiological or emotional stress, pregnancy, certain medications, age over 40, and family history.
Gestational diabetes starts or is first recognized during pregnancy. It usually becomes apparent during the 24th to 28th weeks of pregnancy. In many cases, the blood-glucose level returns to normal after delivery. Risk factors for gestational diabetes are maternal age over 25 years, family history of diabetes, obesity, birth weight over 9 pounds in a previous infant, unexplained death in a previous infant or newborn, congenital malformation in a previous child, and recurrent infections.
Diabetes mellitus affects up to 5% of the population in the US, almost 14 million people.
Prevention... Controlling body weight in individuals at risk may prevent the onset of Type II diabetes.
There may be no symptoms early in the course of the disease.
weight loss in spite of increased appetite
frequent infections including bladder, vaginal, and skin
impotence in men
cessation of menses.
Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:
Signs and Tests
urinalysis showing glucose and ketone bodies in the urine
glucose tolerance test
fasting blood glucose
glycosylated hemoglobin (hemoglobin A1C) level
This disease may also alter the results of the following tests
urine 24h volume
ketones - urine
glucose - urine
euglobulin lysis time
CSF total protein
The immediate goals of treatment are to stabilize the metabolism, restore normal body weight, and eliminate the symptoms of high blood-glucose. The long-term goals of treatment are to prolong life, improve the quality of life, relieve symptoms, and prevent long-term complications through education, careful dietary management and weight control, medication, physical activity, self testing, and foot care.
Diabetes education is an important part of a treatment plan. Diabetes educators and health care providers are available in many areas to teach essential skills needed after initial diagnosis of the disease.
Appropriate education teaches people with diabetes how to incorporate the management principles of the disease into their daily lives and minimize dependence upon the health care provider.
Basic principles, called survival skills, include:
how to recognize and treat low and high blood sugar
how to select the kinds of food to eat and when to eat them
how to administer insulin or how to take oral hypoglycemic agents
how to test and record blood-glucose and urine ketones
how to adjust insulin, food intake, or both for changes in the usual exercise and eating habits
how to handle sick days
where to buy diabetes supplies and how to store them
After the patient learns the basic principles of diabetes care and a routine has been established (several months), an education programs is helpful to learn more about the disease process, how to control and live with diabetes, and intermediate and long-term complications of the disease.
Annual review of diabetes information is strongly recommended. Continually updating personal knowledge of diabetes is advised, because new research and new and improved ways to treat the disease are constantly being developed.
DIET Meal planning includes choosing healthy foods, eating the right amount of food, and eating meals at the right time.
The American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association developed 6 food exchange lists for the purpose of meal planning for people with diabetes. The 6 lists are starch or bread, meat and substitutes, vegetables, fruits, milk or dairy, and fat. Every food on the list has approximately the same amount of carbohydrate, fat, protein, and calories for the amount given. Any food on the list can be exchanged for any other food on the same list.
The food exchange lists also show the number of food choices that can be eaten at each meal and snack. Using the foods on the exchange list (along with a personal meal plan designed by a registered dietitian or nutritional counselor) will control the distribution of calories throughout the day so that food and insulin will be balanced.
Meal plans differ depending on the type of diabetes. With insulin-dependent diabetes (Type I), consistency in the time meals are eaten and the amounts and types of food eaten is very important to allow food and insulin to work together to regulate blood-glucose levels. If meals and insulin are out of balance, extreme variations in blood glucose can occur. In non-insulin-dependent diabetes, weight control is the most important principle in addition to a well-balanced diet...
Consultation with a registered dietitian or nutrition counselor is an invaluable tool for planning meals and controlling diet for persons with diabetes.
Insulin lowers blood sugar by allowing it to leave the blood stream and enter the cell.
Everyone needs insulin. People with type I diabetes cannot make their own insulin and must take insulin injections every day to survive. People with Type II diabetes make insulin, but are not able to use it effectively. They can survive without insulin injections, but many may take insulin shots to more effectively control blood-glucose levels. Insulin must be injected under the skin using a needle and syringe, or in some cases, an insulin pump. Insulin is not available in an oral form.
There are several types of insulin preparations that differ in how fast they start to work and how long they work. Choice of the insulin type to use is made by a health care professional based on the patient's blood-glucose measurements. Sometimes the types of insulin will be mixed together to provide the best control of blood glucose. Insulin injections are usually needed from 1 to 4 times per day.
People needing insulin are taught to give themselves their injections by their health care providers or diabetes educators referred by their providers.
Medications: Medications (oral hypoglycemic agents) to control blood sugar are pills usually taken once or twice per day. These medications work by preventing the body from sending sugar into the bloodstream when insulin is not working properly, releasing more insulin into the bloodstream, and helping the body's own insulin move glucose from the bloodstream into the cells. Some people need insulin in addition to oral medications. Some people no longer need medication if they lose weight because their own insulin works better without the extra weight, fat, and sugar.
Oral medications are not insulin and will not help a person who needs insulin.
Regular exercise is especially important for the person with diabetes. It helps control the amount of sugar in the blood and helps burn excess calories and fat to achieve optimal weight. Exercise improves overall health by improving blood flow and blood pressure. Exercise also increases the energy level, lowers tension, and improves the ability to handle stress.
Before people with diabetes begin any exercise program, they should obtain medical approval.
Choose an enjoyable physical activity that is appropriate for the current fitness level. Exercise every day and at the same time of day if possible.
Monitor blood-glucose levels by home testing before and after exercise. Carry food that contains sugar in case blood-glucose levels get too low during or after exercise.
Carry a diabetes identification card and change for a phone call in case of an emergency.
Drink extra fluids that do not contain sugar during and after exercise.
Changes in exercise intensity or duration may require diet or medication modification to keep blood glucose levels within an appropriate range.
Blood-sugar testing or self monitoring of blood glucose is done by checking the glucose content of a small drop of blood. The testing is done on a regular basis and will inform the person with diabetes how well diet, medication, and exercise are working together to control diabetes. The results can be used to adjust meals, activity, or medications to keep blood-sugar levels within an appropriate range. It will provide valuable information for the health care provider to suggest changes to improve care and treatment. Testing will identify high and low blood-sugar levels before serious problems develop.
There are two methods of testing blood-glucose measurements at home. One method is a visual comparison with small plastic strips. A small drop of blood is placed on the pad of a strip, and the color change is matched with the color code on the test-strip bottle. The results are accurate if small changes in shades of color can be determined. The results are given in a range rather than a specific number.
The second method is a meter test that provides a more exact reading of blood glucose. A test strip is used and placed in a meter to read the result.
Testing is easy to do. A health care provider or diabetes educator will help set an appropriate testing schedule. Tests are usually done before meals and at bedtime. More frequent testing may be indicated during illness or stress.
Accurate record keeping of the test results will make the testing more useful for planning the care of the diabetic person.
Ketone testing is a second test that is used more frequently in Type I diabetes but is also used in Type II diabetes during stress, illness, or complications. The test is done on a urine sample. Ketones (the end products of fat metabolism) build up in the blood and spill over into the urine when sugar is not available as a fuel for the body, and fat is burned as an alternative fuel source. High levels of blood ketones may result in a serious condition called ketoacidosis. Ketone testing is usually done in the following circumstances...
when the blood sugar is over 240 mg/dL illness
nausea or vomiting, ketoacidosis, extreme stress
People with diabetes are prone to foot problems because of complications caused by damage to large and small blood vessels, damage to nerves, and decreased ability to fight infection. Blood flow to the feet may become compromised, and damage to the nerves may cause a foot injury to go unnoticed until infection develops.
Death of skin and other tissue can occur necessitating their removal.
To prevent injury to the feet, diabetics should adopt a daily routine of checking and caring for the feet as follows...
Check the feet every day and report sores or changes and signs of infection.
Wash the feet every day with lukewarm water and mild soap, and dry them thoroughly.
Soften dry skin with lotion or petroleum jelly.
Protect the feet with comfortable, well-fitting shoes.
Exercise daily to promote good circulation.
See a podiatrist for foot problems or to have corns or calluses removed.
Remove shoes and socks during a visit to the health care provider to remind them to examine the feet.
Discontinue smoking because it worsens blood flow to the feet...
The stress of illness can often be helped by joining a support group where members share common experiences and problems. See diabetes - support group.
The outcome for diabetes mellitus is variable. Good control of blood-glucose levels reduces complications of diabetes. Usually Type I diabetes mellitus is more severe, and the potential for developing complications is greater. Even with good control by diet and medication of both types of diabetes, complications may result. In gestational diabetes, blood-glucose may return to normal after the delivery; however, the risk of developing diabetes in the future is greater. Maintaining normal body weight is critical in reducing the risk of diabetes for the future.
Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if symptoms of ketoacidosis are present:
increased thirst and urination
deep and rapid breathing
sweet smelling breath
loss of consciousness
Note: This may occur in insulin-dependent diabetics when a dose of insulin is missed or if infection is present.
Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if symptoms of hypoglycemic coma or insulin reaction are present:
lack of coordination
convulsions or unconsciousness may follow
From personal experience… Since I have studied how to improve health through natural methods I have found diabetes is like any other disease.
You can make a difference. It is so important that diet be taken care of. Because of my book, “ I Cured My Arthritis You Can Too” I get letters about how it has helped to eliminate their arthritis pain and also other ailments, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Best of Health,
Margie "The Arthritis Lady"
This article is only for information and does not take the place of medical advice. It mainly gives you a starting place to explore what is best for you. I agree with everything in these articles, but it is up to you to make your own decisions.