For those with diabetes, managing blood sugar levels is a top priority. In many cases, insulin treatments are necessary for keeping blood sugar at a healthy level. However, there are other steps that those with diabetes can take, such as changing diets or exercise routines, to help with their diabetes care.
Taking supplements is another option available to those who are managing diabetes. These supplements, many of which are naturally occurring chemicals found in plants, help the body with a variety of diabetes-related symptoms. In some cases, supplements can amplify the effects of other diabetes treatments by making the body more sensitive to those treatments.
The key to leveraging supplements for diabetes care is understanding how they work. There are a wide variety of diabetes-related supplements available today, with each triggering a different effect on the body. Making an informed decision is important to ensure that supplements do not interfere with other treatments a patient is utilizing.
Here is some information that can assist you in determining which supplements may help you in your diabetes care.
Cinnamon is a spice derived from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree. Two main varieties exist — Ceylon Cinnamon and Cassia Cinnamon. The Ceylon variety is a better choice for supplements because it contains less coumarin, a toxin that can harm the body when taken in large doses.
Many report that taking cinnamon supplements has helped to lower their blood sugar levels. Cinnamon does not stimulate actual insulin production; however, it can help to improve insulin sensitivity. In essence, cinnamon supplements can help the body to regulate its own blood sugar levels more efficiently, preventing both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia from occurring.
Berberine is a naturally occurring chemical found in a variety of plants. It has been reported to help with the treatment of numerous medical conditions, including diarrhea, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. A wide variety of berberine supplements are available, targeting a number of conditions.
Berberine gained popularity as a diabetes supplement when it was shown to activate the longevity pathway AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase). Known as the “master switch” for the body’s metabolism, AMPK affects blood sugar levels. When AMPK is boosted, the body is triggered to transfer sugar from the blood to muscle tissues and other cells, thus reducing blood sugar levels.
Some have compared the effects of berberine to that of the pharmaceutical Metformin, which is one of the most frequently prescribed drugs for those with Type 2 diabetes. Metformin contains guanidine, a component found in the herb Galega officinalis, which has been used as a holistic treatment for hundreds of years. Both berberine and metformin impact blood glucose levels, but unlike berberine, metformin cannot be obtained without a doctor’s prescription.
Bitter melon supplements are derived from the bitter melon fruit, which has a long tradition of being used to treat diabetes. The fruit contains a molecule that reduces blood sugar levels by mimicking the work that insulin does to lower glucose in the blood. Some studies have shown that bitter melon supplements can help to suppress appetite and to lower post-meal blood sugar levels.
Diabetes patients who are interested in adding supplements to their treatment regimen should begin with thorough research. There are dozens of companies producing diabetes supplements, each with subtle variations. Focusing on supplements that have been subject to extensive clinical research is helpful for identifying those that will be safe and effective.
Diabetes patients should also consult with their doctor before beginning to take supplements since many of them, including cinnamon and berberine, can adversely interact with other medications. A doctor can advise you on the potential side effects that can result from taking supplements to assist with diabetes treatment, as well as any additional safeguards that should be employed. The best option is to take supplements that are doctor recommended.
– Ahmet Ergin, MD, FACE, CDCE, ECNU, is a leading endocrinologist with a particular interest and passion for diabetes care. He is also the founder of SugarMD. Dr. Ergin completed his fellowship training at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. SugarMD, which draws on the experience that Dr. Ergin obtained from working with thousands of patients, is 100 percent focused on purity, potency, and, most importantly, consumer outcomes. The herbs and vitamins used in all of the SugarMD products are backed by science, research, and studies.