Diabetes Supplements: Extra Help to Treat or Prevent
You're doing all the right things (from diet to exercise) to deal with diabetes—or avoid it in the first place. What else can you add to the mix? Consider these supplements.
Maybe you have diabetes—or your doctor has told you that you're at risk for it. If you've heard that news, you've probably sprung into action with a healthier diet and additional exercise. But you may be missing out on some extra help taming your blood sugar.
"Mother Nature's medicine cabinet gives us plants that repair and regenerate the cells that make insulin," says Suzy Cohen, R.Ph., a pharmacist and author of Diabetes Without Drugs. Ask your doctor about these nutritional supplements that show promise in treating or preventing diabetes (or its complications).
Treat Diabetes Complication with Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA)
This potent antioxidant may treat neuropathy, a common complication of diabetes that develops when high blood sugar damages delicate nerve endings. The result: stabbing, tingling, burning pain in the legs, feet, and hands. ALA may also help control blood sugar, possibly by lowering insulin levels and facilitating the transport of sugar into cells. "If I were to take only one supplement for diabetes, it would be ALA," says Cohen.
ALA is found in small amounts in some foods—spinach and meat, for example—but not enough to help. Studies show you need 600 to 1,200 milligrams a day, amounts that can only come from supplements.
Balance Blood Sugar With Chromium
For the body to function, each cell must "open its door" and allow sugar to enter. Chromium is the key that unlocks that door. Without it, sugar builds up in the blood. Foods that contain chromium include broccoli, dried beans, and whole grains. Chromium supplements can be helpful, especially for those with a deficiency. A common recommendation is 400 to 600 micrograms a day.
Reduce Glucose Spikes With Ginseng
Researchers have found that taking ginseng before a meal reduces blood sugar in people both with and without diabetes. In one study, people with type 2 diabetes who took 3 grams of American ginseng 40 minutes before eating 25 grams of sugar reduced their after-meal blood sugar levels by 20 percent. Talk with your doctor about the right dose for you.
Improve Insulin Resistance With Magnesium
Studies show that as magnesium intake goes up, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes goes down. And supplements of about 350 milligrams daily seem to improve insulin resistance and blood sugar control. Magnesium deficiency has also been associated with high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in people with diabetes. It's a good practice to have magnesium levels checked and make sure you're getting enough—as many as one in three people with diabetes don't.
Manage Diabetes Better With Milk Thistle
Studies show that silymarin, milk thistle's main compound, safely detoxifies the liver and can treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which contributes to diabetes. Silymarin may also help reverse chronic liver inflammation, a suspected cause of insulin resistance. Researchers saw a 20 percent drop in the fasting blood sugar of people with type 2 diabetes who took 200 milligrams of silymarin with their diabetes drug daily for 120 days. At the same time, their after-meal glucose spike was reduced by 37 percent—and they lost an average of 18 pounds. Talk with your doctor about the right dose for you.
Lower Risk of Diabetes Complications With Vitamin E
Vitamin E appears to reduce free radical damage, which causes some complications of diabetes—including heart disease and nerve damage. One study found that 1,200 IU daily greatly reduced the tendency of LDL cholesterol to create a buildup of fat and other debris on artery walls. You can't get such large amounts of E from diet, so experts recommend a supplement of 600 IU a day.
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