Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone in your pancreas that helps your body use blood sugar and keeps blood sugar within a healthy range. But in the case of type 2 diabetes, a person’s body doesn’t use insulin properly, leading to insulin resistance. When your pancreas simply can't make enough insulin or use it well enough to control blood sugar, your doctor is likely to prescribe insulin injections.
The American Diabetes Association publishes treatment guidelines for physicians based on all available scientific evidence. In the 2018 guidelines document, Standard of Medical Care in Diabetes, the ADA states that there is not sufficient evidence to support the use of any of the proposed alternative treatments for diabetes. These guidelines state that:
The ripe fruit of this cactus has been shown in some small studies to lower blood sugar ­levels. You may be able to find the fruit in your grocery store, but if not, look for it as a juice or powder at health food stores. Researchers speculate that the fruit may possibly lower blood sugar because it contains components that work similarly to insulin. The fruit is also high in fiber. Try these foods for the best diabetic diet.
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.
However, the observation that normalization of glucose in type 2 diabetes occurred within days after bariatric surgery, before substantial weight loss (15), led to the widespread belief that surgery itself brought about specific changes mediated through incretin hormone secretion (16,17). This reasoning overlooked the major change that follows bariatric surgery: an acute, profound decrease in calorie intake. Typically, those undergoing bariatric surgery have a mean body weight of ∼150 kg (15) and would therefore require a daily calorie intake of ∼13.4 MJ/day (3,200 kcal/day) for weight maintenance (18). This intake decreases precipitously at the time of surgery. The sudden reversal of traffic into fat stores brings about a profound change in intracellular concentration of fat metabolites. It is known that under hypocaloric conditions, fat is mobilized first from the liver and other ectopic sites rather than from visceral or subcutaneous fat stores (19). This process has been studied in detail during more moderate calorie restriction in type 2 diabetes over 8 weeks (20). Fasting plasma glucose was shown to be improved because of an 81% decrease in liver fat content and normalization of hepatic insulin sensitivity with no change in the insulin resistance of muscle.
When the insulin levels are unable to keep up with the increasing resistance, blood sugars rise and your doctor diagnoses you with type 2 diabetes and starts you on a pill, such as metformin. But metformin does not get rid of the sugar. Instead, it simply takes the sugar from the blood and rams it back into the liver. The liver doesn’t want it either, so it ships it out to all the other organs – the kidneys, the nerves, the eyes, the heart. Much of this extra sugar will also just get turned into fat.
Self-testing is clearly important in type I diabetes where the use of insulin therapy risks episodes of hypoglycaemia and home-testing allows for adjustment of dosage on each administration.[22] However its benefit in type 2 diabetes is more controversial as there is much more variation in severity of type 2 cases.[23] It has been suggested that some type 2 patients might do as well with home urine-testing alone.[24] The best use of home blood-sugar monitoring is being researched.[25]

Practitioners agree that nutrition is the cornerstone of diabetes management, and that a range of nutrition intervention strategies can be used to meet the metabolic goals and individual preferences of the person with diabetes. However, there are significant differences in the approach and methodologies used by alternative and conventional practitioners to manage the disease. One difference is in terminology. When is remission really remission?
“Our findings suggest that even if you have had type 2 diabetes for six years, putting the disease into remission is feasible”, says Prof Michael Lean from the University of Glasgow who co-led the study. “In contrast to other approaches, we focus on the need for long-term maintenance of weight loss through diet and exercise and encourage flexibility to optimise individual results.”
“A major difference from other studies is that we advised a period of dietary weight loss with no increase in physical activity, but during the long-term follow up increased daily activity is important. Bariatric surgery can achieve remission of diabetes in about three-quarters of people, but it is more expensive and risky, and is only available to a small number of patients.”
At the start of the study, all of the patients had been taking two oral diabetes drugs for at least six months. But they still had poorly controlled diabetes based on blood tests showing so-called hemoglobin A1c levels, which reflect average blood sugar levels over about three months. Readings above 6.5 signal diabetes, and everyone in the study had readings of at least 7.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, defines complementary and alternative medicine as a "group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine." Complementary medicine is used with conventional treatments, whereas alternative medicine is used instead of conventional medicine.
Drugs that increase insulin production by the pancreas or its blood levels and/or reduce sugar production from the liver, including alogliptin (Nesina), dulaglutide (Trulicity), linagliptin (Tradjenta), exenatide (Byetta, Bydureon), liraglutide (Victoza), lixisenatide (Adlyxin), saxagliptin (Onglyza), sitagliptin (Januvia), and semaglutide (Ozempic)
Milk thistle is an herb that has been used since ancient times for many different ailments and is considered a tonic for the liver. The most studied extract from milk thistle is called silymarin, which is a compound that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is these properties that may make milk thistle a great herb for people with diabetes.
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.
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