Many studies show that lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, eating healthy and increasing physical activity, can dramatically reduce the progression of Type 2 diabetes and may control Type 1 diabetes. These lifestyle changes can also help minimize other risk factors such as high blood pressure and blood cholesterol, which can have a negative impact on people with diabetes.
At his first visit, the naturopathic doctor told John he’d be “off medication and free of diabetes in three months.” John left the doctor’s office with instructions to eat a low-carb diet. He’d been on a low-fat diet for years because of heart problems, but while he’d cut the fat, his meals included many highly processed foods. His new diet included “a lot of salads and healthful, organic foods.” He was given several whole food supplements that he says were “simple to mix and tasted good.”
Diabetes is a well-established problem and a multi-billion dollar industry. It is medically characterized by Fasting Blood Glucose higher than 126 mg/dL , which ranges between 100-125 mg/dL are considered pre-diabetic and ranges below 99 mg/dL are considered normal. Studies are finding that a fasting blood glucose below 83 mg/dL is actually a better benchmark, as risk of heart disease begins to increase at anything above that.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, and unlike type 1 diabetes, it usually occurs in people over the age of 40, especially those who are overweight. Type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance, which means that the hormone insulin is being released, but a person doesn’t respond to it appropriately. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that’s caused by high blood sugar. The body can keep up for a period of time by producing more insulin, but over time the insulin receptor sites burn out. Eventually, diabetes can affect nearly every system in the body, impacting your energy, digestion, weight, sleep, vision and more. (5)
Because blood sugar levels fluctuate throughout the day and glucose records are imperfect indicators of these changes, the percentage of hemoglobin which is glycosylated is used as a proxy measure of long-term glycemic control in research trials and clinical care of people with diabetes. This test, the hemoglobin A1c or glycosylated hemoglobin reflects average glucoses over the preceding 2–3 months. In nondiabetic persons with normal glucose metabolism the glycosylated hemoglobin is usually 4–6% by the most common methods (normal ranges may vary by method).
For our very insulin resistant patients with type 2 diabetes, after starting out at 30 grams, a few months later most of our patients find that they can increase their daily carb intake to 40 or 50 grams. Fifty grams of total carbohydrate typically allows 4-5 servings of non-starchy vegetables, 2 oz of nuts, and 3 oz of berry fruit (which includes avocado – but obviously you’d need to share it with someone unless it’s a tiny one!)”
Chromium plays a vital role in binding to and activating the insulin receptor on body cells, reducing insulin resistance. Supplemental chromium has been shown to lower blood sugar levels, lipids, A1C, and insulin in diabetic patients. It can also help decrease one’s appetite, particularly for sweets. A dosage from 200 mcg to 2,000 mcg a day is safe. Higher doses are unnecessary and can cause acute kidney failure.
Known as gurmar, or “sugar destroyer,” in Aryuvedic medicine, Gymnema has consistently shown benefits in patients with diabetes. The most active part of Gymnema seems to be gymnemic acids, and many products list the percentage each capsule contains. Analyses of the herb for diabetes have shown it may be helpful in lowering high blood sugar levels. It can delay glucose absorption from the intestine. It was shown to regenerate pancreatic tissues, allowing more insulin to be produced, and help regulate insulin secretion. It also increases the utilization of glucose by the cell, reducing insulin resistance and decreasing appetite, especially for sweets. I usually use it in capsules, or in liquid form in some patients. Due to Gymnema having a very similar shape to glucose, it can fit into the taste bud receptors for sugar; it thus has unbelievable power to actually prevent the taste of sweets in the mouth for up to 1.5 hours. When I have a patient who is still struggling to not eat cake and cookies and so forth at parties or celebrations (or just in general), I will give her a tincture of Gymnema sylvestre. This is one of my favorite herbs for diabetes. In capsule form doses of 400 to 2,400 mg a day are recommended.
Robert Ferry Jr., MD, is a U.S. board-certified Pediatric Endocrinologist. After taking his baccalaureate degree from Yale College, receiving his doctoral degree and residency training in pediatrics at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), he completed fellowship training in pediatric endocrinology at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.