Diabetes is one of the biggest drains on our society's resources-both financial and human. The total economic toll of diabetes in the United States alone is a staggering $100 billion-plus annually. In addition to earlier mortality rates, diabetes carries with it significant risks for serious complications, such as blindness, the need for dialysis, and limb amputation.
Diabetes is divided into two major categories: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is associated with complete destruction of the beta cells of the pancreas that manufacture the hormone insulin. Individuals with type 1 diabetes will require lifelong insulin to control blood sugar levels.
In type 2 diabetes, insulin levels are elevated, indicating a loss of sensitivity to insulin by the body's cells. Approximately 90 percent of individuals categorized as having type 2 diabetes are obese. When fat cells reach critical mass, it leads to their secreting compounds that block the action of insulin, leading to insulin resistance, prediabetes, and full-fledged type 2 diabetes. About 5 to 10 percent of all diabetics are type 1, the rest are type 2.
The Problem with Diabetes Medications
The research is clear-oral medications to treat type 2 diabetes do not alter the long-term progression of the disease. While the drugs are effective in the short term, they lose effectiveness in the long term. This begins a vicious cycle in which they are prescribed at higher dosages or in combination with other drugs, all of which leads to increased mortality. In a famous study conducted by the University Group Diabetes Program, the rate of death due to heart attack or stroke was 2.5 times greater in the group taking the hypoglycemic drug tolbutamide than the group controlling their diabetes by diet alone.
The newest class of oral diabetes drugs are the thiazolidinediones, such as Avandia (rosiglitazone), Actos (pioglitazone), and Rezulin (troglitazone). These drugs appear to be extremely dangerous. Rezulin was removed from the market because widespread deaths occurred due to liver failure, and the U.S. Senate report on Avandia indicates that it was responsible for 83,000 heart attacks.
The Need for Natural Medicine
The most effective treatment of diabetes, prediabetes, and other blood sugar problems requires the utilization of lifestyle, dietary, and nutritional supplement strategies rather than complete reliance on pharmaceutical interventions.
When used properly, the natural medicine approach to diabetes can do the following:
- Significantly reduce your risk for developing diabetes-even if many of your family members or ancestors are or were diabetic.
- Possibly reverse diabetes, even in many diabetics who are currently using insulin.
- Improve the sensitivity of cells to the action of insulin, thereby improving glucose tolerance and normalizing blood sugar.
- Promote weight loss and slow down or block the absorption of sugar from the intestinal tract.
- Effectively reduce the complications of diabetes, including heart disease and retinopathy.
- Improve the actions and reduce the side effects of drugs and insulin.
Specific natural products, including innovative formulas, are available to address each of these areas. Soluble fiber foods, such as oatmeal, and supplements have been shown to enhance blood sugar control, decrease insulin levels, and reduce the number of calories absorbed by the body. In dealing with some of the complications of diabetes, alpha-lipoic acid has been shown to be very effective in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy; it actually stimulates the regeneration of nerve fibers. Extracts of the herb Gymnema sylvestre or even common cinnamon have been shown to enhance glucose control, presumably by helping to increase the production or activity of insulin.
Michael T. Murray, ND, is the author of more than 30 books on natural health, including The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Third Edition. He is regarded as one of the world's top authorities on natural medicine, and is a sought-after lecturer and educator. Visit him online at doctormurray.com.
New Chapter CINNAMON FORCE helps manage blood sugar levels and supports healthful blood lipid levels.
Natural Factors WELLBETX PGX ULTRA MATRIX SOFTGELS PLUS MULBERRY combines PGX (a highly purified fiber complex) with mulberry and is designed to help lower the glycemic index of meals and reduce food cravings.
Enzymatic Therapy BLOOD SUGAR MANAGER contains standardized botanicals and nutrients, including Gymnema sylvestre and alpha-lipoic acid, that help your body more efficiently convert glucose to energy.