Supplemental chromium has beneficial effects on HbA1c, glucose, insulin, and cholesterol variables. Banaba extract has an “insulin-like principle” and the ability to reduce blood sugar. The herb Gymnema Sylvestre is capable of lowering blood glucose levels. Bitter melon can significantly improve glucose tolerance and Grape Seed Extract improves venous blood flow.
There are two primary types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Both types result in high levels of blood sugar levels, which may manifest itself through any of the following symptoms: increased thirst and an increased need to urinate; feeling edgy, tired, and sick to your stomach; and having an increased appetite (but a loss of weight).
In addition, other symptoms may include: repeated or hard-to-heal infections of the skin, gums, vagina, or bladder; blurred vision; tingling or loss of feeling in the hands or feet; and dry, itchy skin. If left uncontrolled, high blood sugar may result in a variety of serious complications. There are nutrients and supplements that can ease some of the burdens of living with diabetes.
Many of these complications are the result of glycosylated protein (GP). GP simply means that sugar (glucose) has attached itself to protein. For example, blood sugar can attach itself to the protein in your red blood cells’ hemoglobin and form glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c). Virtually all proteins are glycosylated to some degree.
However, if this process continues to excess, eventually you end up with compounds called Advanced Glycosylation End Products (AGE). This AGE becomes permanent fixtures in our cells. AGE impregnated cells are very reactive and react with one another, and other proteins. In the case of blood capillaries, they can result in the walls of the capillaries thickening, eventually causing the vessels to be blocked off. This is the underlying cause of kidney complications (nephropathy) and eye complications (retinopathy). Unfortunately, the more blood sugar, the more glycosylated proteins.
Another mechanism by which complications in diabetes result is excessive cellular sorbitol (a type of sugar alcohol). Many cells in the body do not rely on insulin for glucose uptake. When you have hyperglycemia, you actually get high sugar levels inside these cells, which causes sorbitol to be produced in high concentrations. Intracellular sorbitol disrupts the pressure balance between the inside and outside of the cell, causing water to enter. This swelling of nerve cells is what is believed to be, at least in part, responsible for the nerve damage (neuropathy) caused by diabetes. (This does not mean that if you consume sorbitol in foods that it will have the same effect—it won’t).
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1, immune-mediated diabetes (formerly called insulin-dependent diabetes), is a disease that affects the way your body uses food. In type 1 diabetes, your body destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, usually leading to a total failure to produce insulin. It typically starts in children or young adults who are slim but can start at any age. Without insulin, your body cannot control blood levels of sugar. And without insulin, you would die. So people with type 1 diabetes give themselves at least one shot of insulin every day. An estimated 500,000 to 1 million Americans have this type of diabetes today. Conventional medical treatment for type 1 diabetes includes insulin injections and diet regulation.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes used to be called non-insulin dependent diabetes. The most common type of diabetes, it affects about 15 million Americans. Nine out of ten cases of diabetes are type 2. It usually occurs in people over 45 and overweight, among other factors.
When you have type 2 diabetes, your body does not make enough insulin—or your body still makes insulin but can’t properly use it. Without enough insulin, your body cannot move blood sugar into the cells. Sugar builds up in the bloodstream. Conventional medical treatment for type 2 diabetes includes any of the following, alone or in combination: insulin injections, oral drugs, or diet alone.
Following is a discussion about dietary supplements that may help diabetics to gain greater control over their blood sugar levels, reduce the long-term detrimental effects of high blood sugar levels, or both.