When it comes to taking care of your health, would you rather do it with prescription medication or a more natural option?
While prescription medications can be helpful, most people prefer natural alternatives if possible.
Supplements for diabetes are a popular topic in the health and wellness industry.
Before you decide to start taking a new supplement for your diabetes, you may want to consider what to look for and expect from taking supplements for diabetes.
What are diabetes supplements?
Diabetes supplements are manufactured nutritional products with ingredients that are meant to help improve your health. Many supplements for diabetes are marketed specifically toward diabetics, such as blood sugar support supplements.
However, supplements for diabetes can also include vitamins and minerals like vitamin D and magnesium, which can be taken by anyone regardless of whether they have diabetes.
Diabetes supplements aren’t meant to replace a healthy diet, but they can help fill in the gaps if your diet isn’t consistently well-balanced, or if you have a specific health concern you’re trying to improve.
Like all dietary supplements, supplements for diabetes aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. That means that any claims the manufacturer makes may not be scientifically proven through a systematic review of research studies.
Supplements for diabetes are ideal for people who don’t currently need medication to manage their diabetes, or for those on medication who also want to try dietary supplements.
You shouldn’t stop taking a prescription diabetes medication in order to try a supplement without discussing this with your healthcare provider first.
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What you should look for when choosing a supplement for diabetes
Not all dietary supplement manufacturers are created equally. Dosages listed on the bottle might not always match what’s actually in the product, which means you could be paying money for a supplement that doesn’t provide what it says.
When choosing a dietary supplement for diabetes, try to find a manufacturer who has a third party verify the ingredients and dosages to ensure accuracy. Some examples of supplement regulating agencies include NSF International, U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), or ConsumerLab.com.
Some other things you should consider when choosing a supplement for diabetes:
What does the research say?
Look at the active ingredients in supplements for diabetes and do a quick search to see if there are any scientific studies regarding those ingredients.
To access actual scientific studies from research journals, try adding “pubmed” at the end of your search, which will weed out less-reputable sources.
For example, you could do a Google search for “magnesium blood sugar pubmed” to see if there are any studies on the efficacy of magnesium for diabetes.
What is the cost when taken as recommended?
Dietary supplements can become costly. If you buy a bottle of 90 capsules but are supposed to take three capsules a day, then that bottle will last you one month.
You should also consider what types of results you expect from taking the supplement. If an expensive supplement doesn’t produce noticeable improvements in your health or blood test results, it probably isn’t worth continuing to take.
Does it interact with any medications I’m taking?
Certain medications interact with dietary supplements. If you’re taking prescription medication, be sure to ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist if the supplements for diabetes interact with them.
7 ways a diabetes supplement can improve your quality of life
1. They could reduce the risk of nutrient deficiencies and related symptoms
You may be at risk for certain nutrient deficiencies depending on your health conditions, medications, or lifestyle habits. For instance, taking metformin for diabetes can increase your risk of developing B12 deficiency.
Taking a B12 supplement could help counteract this risk and help you avoid the symptoms of a B12 deficiency which include fatigue and irritability.
2. Improve insulin sensitivity
Certain vitamins, minerals, and herbal ingredients may help lower blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar levels improve, you may notice you have more energy and less anxiety about your health. Improving your blood sugar also reduces your risk of developing diabetes complications.
Magnesium is a well-studied supplement for diabetes, though it’s not marketed specifically for diabetes. Many people can benefit from magnesium supplementation, not just those with diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes stems from insulin resistance, which is when your body doesn’t use insulin effectively. Magnesium supplementation can help improve insulin sensitivity, which means it can lower blood sugar levels.
People with diabetes tend to have lower magnesium levels in their blood compared to people without diabetes.
3. They may help fight inflammation
Type 2 diabetes and high blood sugar levels are associated with inflammation in your body. Chronic inflammation can lead to other health problems like heart disease and cancer.
Vitamin C is among the more popular antioxidants that you can take alone or as an ingredient in diabetes supplements.
According to a small study, vitamin C supplementation helped improve blood sugar and cholesterol among participants with type 2 diabetes.
4. Easing nerve damage (neuropathy) from diabetes
Diabetic neuropathy is a complication that can occur when you’ve had diabetes for a long time. Your risk for complications like neuropathy increases significantly if you have a history of having poorly-controlled blood sugar levels.
There isn’t a cure for neuropathy, so treatment aims to minimize the symptoms as much as possible.
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) has been studied for its ability to improve blood sugar levels and help with diabetic neuropathy. According to a review of studies, alpha-lipoic acid decreased neuropathy symptoms in patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
5. Reducing your risk of heart disease
Having diabetes increases your risk of heart disease. High blood sugar levels can cause hardening and narrowing of your arteries, and you’re more prone to having high cholesterol and triglyceride (blood fat) levels with diabetes.
Several supplements have been studied for their potential to improve your heart health. Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids (healthy fats) and has been shown to help reduce high triglyceride levels, which may help reduce your heart disease risk.
6. Increasing your energy level and your mood
The stress of managing your health can be tiring for anyone. Diabetes can be especially exhausting when you factor in frequent blood sugar checks, insulin injections, or dealing with chronic diabetes complications.
If you’re feeling tired often, it might be more than stress. Vitamin D deficiency is very common – about 40% of people are estimated to be deficient in vitamin D.
Vitamin D isn’t found naturally in many foods. This might be part of the reason vitamin D deficiency is so prevalent. Some of the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, bone pain, muscle weakness, and mood changes.
7. Supporting your mental health
Speaking of mood changes, vitamin D may be beneficial if you have depression. People with depression tend to have low levels of vitamin D in their blood.
This doesn’t prove that vitamin D deficiency causes depression. But it provides further evidence that vitamin D plays a role in your mood and mental health.
Low magnesium levels may predispose you to mental health issues like anxiety by lowering your tolerance to stress, which is another reason magnesium supplements may be beneficial.
Dietary supplements for diabetes can be a helpful addition to a healthy lifestyle with or without medication. Still, they shouldn’t be used in place of a medication that you’ve already been prescribed.
Supplements can offer vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients that can support your health by improving insulin resistance, promoting healthy blood sugar levels, reducing inflammation, and fighting fatigue.
Because the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate claims made by supplement manufacturers, you should research the active ingredients and see if there are scientific studies that suggest they could be helpful.