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Are Herbal Supplements a Safer Alternative for Treating Diabetes?

Did you know that there were 382 million people worldwide who had diabetes in 2013? The incidence of type 2 diabetes are said to be increasing in every country.  It was even estimated that this number may even reach up to 592 million by 2035 according to the IDF Diabetes Atlas. So, where do you think is your lifestyle taking you?

The projected numbers are telling us that diabetes is a reality that will be experienced by many if we are not careful. And if you remain lenient about the problem, kidney failure, blindness, and amputation are just few of the bad news in store for you.

Lifestyle changes is the key to avoiding or lessening the blow of the problem. But, nature also provides a wide range of choices when it comes to managing the condition. Herbal supplements are touted to be a good way to regulate sugar levels, maintain a healthy insulin production, and alleviate some damages caused by diabetes.

But, how can these help you? What are the components, and how do they act to improve the condition? Are they safe? What are your precautions when taking herbal supplements? These are the questions every discerning consumer must ask. With the increasing popularity of herbal supplements, it is good to know what you are in for should you decide to include this in your treatment regimen.

Herbal supplements is a type of alternative or complementary medicine that is also known as dietary supplements. But, these should not be considered as a substitute for food or even replace a meal. According to Lyn Baillif, coordinator of Diabetes Education of St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, approximately 22% of people with diabetes are taking herbal supplements.

But you shouldn’t just jump into the badwagon, because it is important that you also know what you are taking. Remember, just because it worked for someone, doesn’t readily mean it will also be effective for you. Knowing the ingredients and what it does will allow you to be more alert about how safe it might be for you.

When it comes to herbal or dietary supplements, the manufacturers don’t have to prove the safety or effectiveness of the supplements. It is only after the products are sold can the FDA perform its regulations. Therefore, it is good to know the important herbal or natural components that can improve or prevent diabetes so that you can make an informed decision.

Components usually found in dietary supplements for diabetes:

Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA)

ALA is a fat soluble antioxidant that is known to reduce the effects of oxidative stress. Studies also show that it lowers insulin resistance in individuals who have type 2 diabetes, and it can also decrease blood sugar levels. However, high levels of ALA in supplements can also cause gastrointestinal problems.

Magnesium

This mineral is often low in most diabetics especially when they are taking drugs for their high blood sugar or diuretic drugs (given for diabetic complications like high blood pressure). When you have very little of this in your system, your body’s ability to use insulin can be affected. But, studies also show that getting more than the recommended amounts don’t provide much benefit either.

To know exactly about the levels inside your body, it is important to ask your doctor about it. It is not advised to take more of it on your own.

Chromium

This is called a trace mineral because only very little amount of this is needed for human health. It is known to improve blood sugar levels in individuals who are in their prediabetic stage and those who have type 1 and type 2 diabetes. If your chromium levels are low, your can’t use glucose more efficiently.

It is also important to be cautious about chromium supplements because this can cause bloating and stomach pain. Skin and muscular problems have also been reported when in it is overdosed.  The recommended dose ranges from 200-1,000 micrograms in the form of chromium picolinate.

Fish oil supplements

A recent study that was done in the University of Eastern Finland, called the Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study, showed that high levels of serum long chain omega-3 fatty acids from fish or fish oils reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. http://www.best-multivitamins-guide.com/articles/omega-3-supplements/ Fish oils supplements can be a good adjunct therapy for diabetes.

Bitter Melon

As the name imply, this vegetable is indeed bitter but it has a number of medicinal uses. Usually, it is pounded until the juices are extracted for the person to drink. There are animal studies which shows that  bitter melon can help in stimulating growth of pancreatic beta cells. These are the cells that are responsible for producing insulin. This can be particularly helpful for those insulin-dependent individuals because these cells are often subjected to burn out, and in time, may no longer produce insulin.

Green Tea

This beverage is much loved for its array of health benefits, one of which is lowering blood sugar levels. Its component, EGCG, is responsible for reducing oxidative stress which is associated with diabetes. It was also found that it slows sugar absorption after a meal, preventing peak levels. Green tea is also known to aid the progression of type 1 diabetes.

Milk Thistle

This is a plant where the upper portion and the seeds are used for medicinal purposes. Its Sylimarin component is known to lower blood sugar levels in individuals who have type 2 diabetes. It also battles the effects of oxidative stress which can ultimately lead to diabetes. There are also studies which suggest that Sylimarin can also help in regulating blood sugar levels. Further, it can improve diabetes by treating insulin resistance.

Banaba extract

It prevents an increase in blood sugar levels. This was proven by a study done in 1996 where significantly reduced blood sugar levesl in participants who are taking the extract for two weeks.

Gymnema

There is a preliminary research done that adding gymnema to diabetes drugs you are taking will help in lowering blood sugar and HbA1c levels for type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It has to be taken for 20 months to achieve the desired effect. But, more human trials are still to be conducted on this matter.

What to remember before taking herbal supplements for diabetes:

  • Always inform your physician if you want to take herbal medications. Even though they may be marketed to be safe or natural, they can also create interactions with your anti-diabetic drugs. Some may hamper its effects, while others may even counter it. Therefore, inform your doctor about it so that you can be kept in the clear. This will also create a coordinated treatment regimen.

  • Many supplements are not tested on pregnant mothers, lactating moms, or children. Therefore, extra caution should be given. Do not just drink anything or give your child anything without running this through with your doctor.

  • Herbal supplements can also act similar to prescription medications, therefore you should also take its effects just like the latter. The difference between the two is that herbal supplements may contain a lot of components whose effectiveness and safety have yet to be proven.

  • Select your herbal supplement brand wisely. They may not undergo FDA testing, but there are also brands that test their product independently. These products are more likely to give you the exact components listed on their label. This is your consolation since these matters are not required with food supplements.

  • Never substitute herbal supplements or your anti-diabetic drugs with proper dieting and regular exercise.

So, are herbal supplements a safer alternative for diabetes treatment? There are a number of components that may have been shown to lower blood sugar levels. However, you must take these information with a grain of salt for the fact that more research is needed on herbal supplements. But, there are also brands that also keep their safety and efficacy on top of the list. You just have to scrutinize the ones on the market more so that you give yourself the safest one available. But, still inform your physician about it first.

A reliable herbal supplement for diabetes that has been carefully tested and improved to deliver safe and effective care is Xtend Life Systemic Care. Many brands can promise you a natural treatment, but only a few actually mean it. So never give your health second best, therefore choose the one that proves quality.

Image Source: nlm.nih.gov

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