Today’s No. 1 prescribed pharmaceutical for noninsulin-dependent diabetes (type 2 diabetes) is Metformin, which lowers abnormally high levels of blood sugar. Since the medicine is metabolized in the kidneys, however, it’s been known to impair the organs' functionality with continued use. Metformin might also cause abnormally low levels of blood glucose or a dangerous buildup of lactic acid in the blood. If these issues are of concern to you, discuss with your doctor more natural ways of controlling glucose in the blood.
After eating a meal that contains carbohydrates (pasta, bread, chips, potatoes, pie, cookies, etc.) healthy bodies naturally secrete a hormone called insulin, which moves sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream into the cells for conversion to energy. The cells of people with impaired glucose metabolism, however, are not sensitive to insulin and consequently will not accept glucose efficiently, creating an undesirable rise in the level of circulating blood sugar.
The mineral chromium opens glucose receptor sites, like a key unlocks a door. Insulin can now do its job and usher glucose straight inside the cell. For diabetes blood sugar control, consider supplementing your diet with up to 200 mcg of chromium, three times per day. Take chromium with foods that contain vitamin C (orange juice, strawberries, green peppers) to enhance absorption, but not with milk, which impedes it. A related—and highly desirable—benefit of chromium is its ability to reduce cravings for sugar, since the cells are now satisfied with what they’re being fed.
The same spice that heightens the taste and smell of apple pie can also help lower blood sugar. Much like chromium, cinnamon enables insulin to transport glucose past less-than-welcoming receptor sites and into the cells where it will be put to good use. In “YOU: Staying Young,” Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz recommend a mere one-half teaspoon per day to increase insulin receptivity by 50 percent or more. Sprinkling cinnamon on oatmeal, stirring it in cottage cheese or flavoring hot tea are three easy ways to add more spice to your life.
This Ayurvedic herb native to India works differently than chromium and cinnamon. Rather than sensitizing insulin receptor sites, gymnema sylvestre inhibits at least some of the starches and sugars in a meal from ever being absorbed in the intestines. Instead, they’re simply passed along as waste. Health experts caution that gymnema sylvestre likely will not replace Metformin entirely, though. Still, 150 mg twice a day can possibly lower the effective dosage needed to keep blood sugar at a healthy level.
Hate the idea of a low-carb diet? Then fenugreek is your herb, since it can turn the foods you enjoy most into a “slow carb” meal. In fact, a unique supplement made from fenugreek called FenuLife retards the release of sugar into the bloodstream better than most soluble fibers. Take 1 gram of FenuLife for every 50 grams of carbohydrates, and you’ll lower the glycemic index (GI) of that food by 6 units, according to the manufacturer. Look for FenuLife in retail health food stores or at SwansonVitamins.com.
Exercise and Diet
A 30-minute walk after dinner will help move sugar from blood into the cells, giving you more energy for the rest of the evening. The results will be measurable with your glucose meter an hour after you return home.
Eat a diet full of fiber, too, emphasizing foods like apples, beans, nuts, oatmeal and whole grains. If you’re currently using Metformin, don’t stop taking it without first consulting a doctor who knows your medical history.