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Five blood sugar control supplements

July 7, 2017 (Updated: November 21, 2018)
Lily Moran

Type 2 diabetes affects more than 30 million people in this country. Another 8 million are thought to have it but aren’t diagnosed. So, let’s talk diabetes defense. In addition to today’s many pharmaceuticals, Nature offers us some potentially game-changing, highly effective blood sugar managers.

These time-tested natural allies can help you wean yourself off of a nasty sugar habit and get your blood sugar numbers back under control quickly, safely and with little-to-no risk of unwanted side effects.

Gymnema sylvestre

This plant has been used for thousands of years in India and Asia to balance blood sugar and reduce cravings. It’s Hindi name, gurmar, tells it like it is.

It means “destroyer of sugar.”

Strong stuff. How’s that work?

Chewing gymnema leaves or using a gymnema-infused chewing gum appears to paralyze the tongue’s receptors of sweet and bitter tastes. So when sugar hits, there’s either no sweet taste, or better yet, a bad taste. Makes it very unlikely you’ll take another bite of that donut.

But the most effective way to get a measureable, controlled amount of gymnema into your system at the moment is in capsule, powdered form. The tongue-numbing sensation is less pronounced, but the craving for sugar that undoes so many diabetics is still kept at bay.

The mechanism?

It happens in the mouth and in the intestine. Gymnema contains an acid with a molecular structure very similar to that of sugar. These molecules know where our glucose taste receptors are—the ones that give us the satisfying sugar-sweet taste. Like laser-guided micro-missiles, they bind to glucose receptors before glucose gets there. With nowhere to dock, glucose molecules fall apart and get washed away.

As a major health bonus, gymnema also appears to increase the amount of insulin in the body, and can help regrow pancreatic beta cells—the cells that produce insulin.

If you want to try a supplement, look for one with 400 mg of gymnema.

Berberine

This plant extract is another veteran diabetes battler. In the days before insulin could be synthesized to use in treatment, it was the go-to miracle-maker for people with diabetes.

It works by stimulating glucose uptake in our cells, which lowers our blood sugar—by as much as a whopping 57 percent, according to one study.

For extra beneficial effect, berberine also reduces glucose production in the liver, which also keeps blood levels from spiking. As if that weren’t enough, this multi-talented herb helps get insulin delivered to insulin-resistant cells.

Bravo, berberine—safe, natural, and proven just as effective as Metformin, the widely used Big Pharma diabetes drug—which comes with a side of nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, and diarrhea.

The recommended dose of a berberine supplement is 1,000 mg a day.

Chromium

Chromium is a recommended supplement that raises a few eyebrows.

“Wait, isn’t that what they make shiny car parts with? We can eat metal?”

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Well, yes to both questions.

Chromium is an essential mineral that’s required for healthy blood sugar levels—and hardly anyone, diabetic or not, gets enough of it. This is extra important for diabetic people, who require more chromium than healthy folks.

We can use the car parts metaphor and call chromium the trucks that help transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells throughout the body, where they help make the fuel we need.

Studies of rats on a chromium-deficient diet showed a rapid increase in blood glucose levels—a likely sign of impending diabetes. Studies of humans saw similar results. A chromium supplement brought blood glucose levels down by 57 percent vs people taking a placebo.

Bonus: evidence that chromium helps in weight loss, always helpful for managing diabetes.

In a supplement, look for 400 mg/day of either chromium dinicocysteinate or chromium picolinate.

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA)

The antioxidant increases our body’s ability to use our own insulin to lower blood sugar. Studies have indicated that ALA may also help reduce the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy—nerve damage experienced as the pain, burning, tingling, and numbness that can be caused by diabetes.

In Europe, ALA is commonly used to provide relief from those troubling symptoms. It’s also one of (so far) only a handful of substances that appear to prevent diabetes. We’ll keep following the promising research and let you know the result.

Curcumin

On that upbeat note, welcome curcumin to the diabetes prevention lineup. In one study, this incredible multi-tasking herb proved 100 percent successful at preventing prediabetic adult patients from worsening into type 2 diabetes.

I repeat: one study hit the holy-grail level of 100 percent diabetes prevention success.

This is monumental. Let’s hope more studies do the same.

Curcumin powder contains 3–4 percent of a polyphenol that has already achieved superstar health status in hundreds of studies of hundreds of disease conditions.

It’s been linked to more than 600 potential health benefits. Research strongly suggests that curcumin alone is as effective as 14 different, widely prescribed, man-made medications—with zero side effects.

How does curcumin work?

It acts as a supercharged antioxidant, meaning it doesn’t just stop dangerous free radicals from doing their damage—it also makes our internal arsenal of antioxidant mechanisms super-powerful. And it works to reduce inflammation, wherever in the body it might occur. That’s an invaluable benefit—chronic inflammation is now considered the cause of nearly every major disease condition we know, including diabetes.

Researchers and health givers are head over heels in love with this amazing, ancient healer. Of course we are—a safe, effective, easily accessible diabetes prevention treatment would be a godsend. Not least because unlike so many prescription meds, it’s totally affordable. Its turmeric parent grows easily, and in many climates. No high-tech labs or highly paid specialists are required. It was healing long before labs and specialists even existed.

A dosage of 500 to 1,500 mg/day appears to be effective in many studies, but the amount can vary depending on overall health. Consult with your doctor.

If you’re interested in trying curcumin or any of the other top five blood sugar supplements you’ve read about, your doctor always should advise what’s best for you. Always consult with him or her before making any changes.

References

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