“High glycemic index foods are going to be primarily processed foods,” says Lori Chong, RD, CDE, at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. Those processed foods tend to have more white sugar and flour in them, which are higher on the GI, she says. Foods lower on the GI include vegetables, especially non-starchy vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, and leafy greens and whole-grain products, such as brown rice (as opposed to white rice), Chong says. She notes that even many fruits are low on the GI, with pineapple and dried fruit being some of the highest (Berries, apples, and pears tend to be fairly low.)
Given the consequences of diabetes, self-management is something I want to encourage, not discourage. Without a commitment from the patient to take an active role in managing their diabetes, any treatment plan is doomed to fail. So is self-treatment with supplements a wise idea? There’s an array available, and patients regularly ask about the latest treatment “Big Pharma doesn’t want you to know about”. That treatment used to be chromium. Ginseng was popular for a time, too. Fenugreek and bitter melon are used as well. The treatment that seems most popular now is cinnamon. Like any other herbal remedy, most sources will tell you that it’s been used for “thousands of years” as a medicinal herb. As a treatment for diabetes, I have my doubts. While reports of diabetes go back to 1552 BCE, the ability to effectively measure any diabetes treatment only goes back a few decades. Interest in cinnamon as a treatment seems to have started with in vitro tests but gained some plausibility in 2003, when a study from Alam Khan suggested several grams of cassia cinnamon per day could lower fasting blood glucose. Khan randomized Type 2 diabetes to 1g, 3g, or 6g of cinnamon for 40 days. All three groups improved their fasting blood glucose, and blood lipid levels, but there was no effect on A1C.
You can talk to your diabetes health care team about making any necessary meal or medication adjustments when you exercise. They'll offer specific suggestions to help you get ready for exercise or join a sport and give you written instructions to help you respond to any diabetes problems that may happen during exercise, like hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).
One of the most advanced alternatives comes from the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) in the US, which is developing a bioengineered mini-organ where insulin-producing cells are encapsulated within a protective barrier. Two years ago, the DRI announced that the first patient treated in an ongoing Phase I/II trial no longer requires insulin therapy.
Although the promises are big, these technologies are still far from the market. First, clinical trials will have to show they do work. Then, the price could be steep, as cell therapy precedents for other applications, such as oncology, come with price tags that reach the six figures and are finding difficulties to get reimbursed. Considering that compared to cancer, diabetes is not an immediately life-threatening disease, health insurers in some countries might be reluctant to cover the treatment.
O-3 oils, with both EPA and DHA, can help patients by lowering lipid panels (reduce triglycerides and cholesterol); reducing insulin resistance; reducing pain and inflammation so exercise and sleep are easier; reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure; reducing the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease; preventing and treating anxiety and depression; and promoting antioxidant actions in the body and brain to help reduce developing diabetic complications.
Type 2 diabetes develops when the body cannot use insulin properly or make enough insulin, so the body cannot properly use or store glucose (a form of sugar) and sugar backs up into the bloodstream, raising blood sugar levels. In the United States, some 8.9 percent of adults 20 and older have been found to have diabetes, and health officials estimate that another 3.5 percent have undiagnosed diabetes.
Some studies show that certain plant foods may help your body fight inflammation and use insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar. Cinnamon extracts can improve sugar metabolism, triggering insulin release, which also boosts cholesterol metabolism. Clove oil extracts (eugenol) have been found to help insulin work and to lower glucose, total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides. An unidentified compound in coffee (not caffeine) may enhance insulin sensitivity and lower the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
“Patients should empower themselves by checking their blood sugars daily, knowing what their target blood sugar levels should be, and having regular appointments with their doctor,” Arguello added. “If patients are having blood sugars above their target blood sugar levels then this may be a warning sign that they need to talk with their physician on how to take a different approach in managing their diabetes.”
Eating too many refined carbohydrates elevates your insulin levels for long periods of time and your cells start to become resistant to the effects of insulin. Think of this a bit like alcohol. When you start to drink, a single glass of wine can make you feel drunk. Once your body becomes accustomed to drinking, you need more and more alcohol to achieve the same effect. This is what happens in diabetes. You need more and more insulin to do the same thing. The problem is that too much insulin is toxic to the body.
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.