Diabetes is a chronic disease, which occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. This leads to an increased concentration of glucose in the blood (hyperglycaemia). Approximately 10% of people worldwide have diabetes and it has been projected to increase considerably. In 2012, 86 million in the US aged 20 and older had prediabetes; this up from 79 million in 2010. Nearly 1 in 4 Australians over the age of 25 years has either diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. In particular, people who have excess weight around their waist or abdomen area.
People with type 2 diabetes are more likely to suffer with health complications such as:
- Cardiovascular disease – they are 4x more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, interestingly 70% of Australians who die of heart disease were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes five years earlier.
- Impaired kidney function — type 2 diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure.
- Neurological disease — type 2 diabetes increases blood vessel and nerve damage which may lead to leg ulceration, neurological complications and amputation.
- Reduce life expectancy — this can be anywhere from 10 – 15 years.
- Diabetes also increases the risk of eye disease, poor oral health and erectile dysfunction.
- Fatty liver disease – most commonly caused from elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance.
Here are some great herbs that you can add to your food, take as a tea or as a herbal tincture or dried in a capsule to help regulate and promote healthy blood sugar levels.
This is a delicious spice that is easy to add to meals, snacks, juices and smoothies. Studies show that at just 1g per day it can improve blood glucose levels. Cinnamon has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine and has been shown to affect blood glucose and insulin signalling. Studies suggest that cinnamon is excellent for people with diabetes, lowering blood glucose, reducing “bad” cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol, and increasing insulin sensitivity.
Fenugreek seeds (Trigonella foenum graecum) are high in soluble fibre, which helps lower blood sugar by slowing down digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. These little seeds have shown to reduce blood sugar, cholesterol and reduce elevated insulin by improving its sensitivity. These seeds also help reduce the oxidative effect on the nerve tissue. One study found that a daily dose of 10g of fenugreek seeds soaked in hot water may be helpful in controlling type 2 diabetes.
And I don’t mean the candy licorice, I’m talking about the powdered root that comes from the licorice plant. You can buy this as a herbal tea (FYI it’s delicious), take as a liquid or take in capsule form. Studies show that licorice has the potential to reduce blood sugars, suppresses abdominal fat accumulation, protects against fatty liver infiltration that is caused from elevated blood sugar and reduces inflammation.
- Bitter Melon
Bitter melon is an Asian vegetable that is commonly used as a bitter green in many Asian dishes such as stir-fries, soups and stews, and it can also be made into smoothies and juices! Bitter melon may help reduce the incidence of insulin resistance and diabetes due to its ability to reduce elevated blood sugar levels. Studies also indicate that it may reduce the incidence of obesity and cancer.
The leaves of the Gymnema sylvestre plant contain gymnemic acids, which have been shown to slow the transport of glucose from the intestines to the bloodstream. This lowers the blood sugar and therefore the hemoglobin A1c. Gymnema also blocks the taste of sweetness, I remember trialling this one, taking a small amount of this herb then eating a sweet orange and it tasted like a lemon, a very strange sensation.
Some research also suggests that gymnema extract can help repair and regenerate the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.
Other nutrients that are helpful for regulating and supporting healthy blood sugar levels are magnesium and chromium.
Foods high in Magnesium – dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds
Foods high in Chromium – broccoli, green beans, oats, barley and tomatoes
If you are taking any medications or have any health conditions it is always best to seek professional advice before taking any herbal supplements. For more fantastic diabetes information on how to snack, reduce your incidence of Diabetes and how to Reboot with Diabetes.