It is no secret that millions of people suffer from Diabetes and struggle with managing blood sugar. Most all of us know someone affected by the disease or may be even dealing with it personally. Generally speaking, when a chronic disease becomes a common household name, many individuals feel stirred to look beyond conventional medical treatment and begin to explore complementary health approaches. Although much research is still required, and present-day recommendations remain strongly based on conventional medical treatment and a healthy lifestyle, complementary approaches are most certainly being discussed in the realm of diabetes treatment and managing blood sugar.
Before we dive into current complementary health approaches to diabetes, it is important to have a basic understanding of this group of diseases to better comprehend why these approaches are under consideration. In short, diabetes impacts the way bodies utilize food for energy. Utilizing food for energy is known as metabolism. When we eat, our bodies break down most of the food we consume and turn it into energy in the form of glucose. For our bodies to use this glucose for energy, we need the hormone insulin to make it happen. People with diabetes either do not produce enough insulin (Type 1 Diabetes) or their bodies do not respond properly to the insulin they are producing (Type 2 Diabetes). Type 2 Diabetes is much more common than type 1. It should be mentioned there is a third type of Diabetes known as Gestational Diabetes, which only affects women who are pregnant. For the majority of women diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it goes away after the baby is born. That being said, these women are at a greater risk of developing diabetes later in life.
Now that we understand what happens in the diabetic body, we can gain a better understanding of why certain complementary health approaches are of interest. Let’s first take a look at dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are commonly used alongside conventional health care. They should not be used to replace a prescribed treatment plan, but may offer additional benefits. One supplement that is of particular interest to those coping with diabetes is Chromium. Chromium is a mineral that is found in trace amounts in our bodies and in some foods. According to research, chromium may enhance the action of insulin. It may also play a role in metabolizing carbohydrates, fat and protein. Because of these qualities, some consider chromium supplementation as a viable complimentary treatment option for those with type 2 diabetes. Another supplement often considered for diabetes is cinnamon. Cinnamon has been used for quite some time in traditional medicine. Its use as a dietary supplement has been investigated in numerous studies. Although evidence-based research does not currently support the use of cinnamon for health conditions, many still consider cinnamon a beneficial supplement in managing blood sugar, with little risk or negative side effects.
Chinese Herbal Medicine has also been highlighted as a potential complementary therapy to help slow the onset of, or prevent, diabetes in pre-diabetic adults. Studies have been conducted to examined the use of various blends of Chinese herbs in conjunction with lifestyle modifications for pre-diabetic subjects. Results demonstrated promising outcomes in normalizing blood sugar levels among subjects who used herbs alongside making changes to lifestyle habits versus those who only made lifestyle modifications and did not use herbs. That being said, the blends of herbs varied among subjects, and a more controlled study is needed to gain a better understanding regarding results.
Conclusively, there are many unknowns and much left to be understood regarding the use of complementary health treatments in diabetes prevention and management. However, given the number of cases of diabetes annually and the interest levels of those affected by the disease, there does appear to be a need for additional information. As always, if you are considering dietary supplements or other complementary health approaches, be sure to discuss these options with your doctor before making any changes to your health care routine.