If you have been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, it is of utmost importance that you take action and create some strategies for managing diabetes.
Not only will taking care of your diabetes help you manage unpleasant symptoms, but it will also help prevent some serious negative consequences.
When diabetes is not managed correctly, the risk of long-term morbidity and risk of mortality increases.
Why take care of your diabetes?
That is some serious stuff, right there. Unmanaged diabetes leads to a much higher risk of developing both microvascular (small blood vessel) and macrovascular (large blood vessel) complications.
These include peripheral neuropathy, which causes weakness, numbness, and pain in the hands and/or the feet.
Nephropathy (kidney disease) can also occur, which is when the kidneys are affected. You can also experience ophthalmic abnormalities once the eye has been affected.
There is also a higher risk of complications of diabetes, such as cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and therefore, higher risk of stroke and heart attack.
Studies have demonstrated that improving control over your blood sugar levels leads to less dependence upon healthcare and fewer costs related to this (insulin therapy, medications, etc.).
Proactive treatment can delay or even prevent several of the complications related to diabetes. Early treatment leads to a better quality of life and less health care costs related to type 2 diabetes.
It is also essential to have good glycemic control if you are pregnant (gestational diabetes). There is reliable evidence out there to show that the fetus of a mom with diabetes is at higher risk of significant short-term morbidity in utero as well as once that fetus becomes a newborn baby.
There is also a higher risk for that baby to develop diabetes and other chronic diseases once they are an adult. The risk of all these things happening is higher in mothers who had diabetes before pregnancy.
Aside from the problems that can occur with high blood sugar levels, severe hypoglycemia can happen as well.
How can you make a plan to manage your diabetes?
When you are making a diabetes self-management plan, like most things in life, it is easier to do with others rather than all by yourself.
Work with your health care provider to develop the management plan that is best for you.
Whether it is a Medical Doctor, a Naturopathic Doctor, a dietician, a certified diabetes educator, or a nutritionist, all these people are knowledgeable and should be able to help you create a suitable plan.
So what does a good diabetes management program involve? It will certainly include a meal plan and a physical activity plan.
It will also include supplements for you to take. It is also important to take your prescribed medications as necessary and implement continuous glucose monitoring.
Any good plan starts with goal setting. Goal setting is more effective when it is set using the SMART method. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.
How can you set and stick to goals for your blood sugar level?
One important measure for blood sugar level is what’s called fasting blood glucose. This is the amount of glucose in your serum before consuming a meal.
Fasting blood glucose in an average healthy person is around 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L). For those with diabetes, a good fasting blood glucose level to aim for is between 4.0 and 7.0 mmol/L.
Another way of measuring blood sugar is by looking at what’s called postprandial blood glucose. This is the amount of sugar in your serum two hours after eating.
This value should be between 5.0 and 10.0. If your HbA1c targets are not being met, however, you’ll want to aim for 5.0 to 8.0 postprandial blood glucose.
What is HbA1c? This is yet another way to measure blood sugar, but this value shows your blood sugar status over a more extended period of time. Your target HbA1c should be 7.0% or less.
How lifestyle affects diabetes
How can a healthy diet and lifestyle prevent diabetes?
There are actually several healthy diets that are equally effective and reliable for preventing type 2 diabetes mellitus.
In fact, the Mediterranean Diet, as well as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH Diet), are associated with a 20% reduced risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes in the future.
Researchers have also noticed that the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is 1.6 to 2 times lower in vegetarians compared to the general population, even when accounting for differences in Body Mass Index (BMI for short).
Clinical intervention trials showed that vegetarian diets lead to increased weight loss and a stronger effect on lowering blood sugar levels and cholesterol.
A vegetarian diet was also associated with less of a need for blood sugar-lowering medications. All this is compared to a standard low-calorie diet in those with type 2 diabetes.
There was even a more significant reduction in visceral (organ) fat and lower oxidative stress markers compared to the omnivorous low-calorie diet.
The beauty of vegetarian diets is that they are sustainable in the long term. In fact, the American Diabetes Association has said that well-planned vegetarian diets are healthy, provide you with all the nutrition you need, and can be beneficial in the prevention and treatment of many illnesses, including diabetes.
Exercise also plays an essential role in diabetes management. A study published in the Journal of Medical Science researched the effects of a 12-week exercise program, on type 2 diabetic patients.
Their results found that the exercise program improved glucose utilization and tolerance, cardiorespiratory fitness, blood pressure, and QOL as well as depression status in patients with T2DM.
Further studies have also concluded that a lifestyle incorporating aerobic exercise and/or PA that complies with the guidelines of being of moderate intensity for at least 30 min on 3–5 days per week, is associated with improved insulin sensitivity and glycaemic control.
The reality is that diabetes is on the rise worldwide. Scientists have said that this is due to the sedentary, non-active lifestyle and the higher intake of processed foods so prevalent in today’s society.
What lifestyle changes can you make to control your diabetes better?
First things first. Make sure you are taking your prescribed diabetes medications as necessary.
It is also important that you are monitoring your blood glucose levels. Otherwise, how can you really know how well (or not well) your diabetes is being managed? Unless you are tracking your blood glucose, you won’t know which therapies are working and which are not.
An important lifestyle change to make is to change your diet. You’ll want to ensure you are not overconsuming carbohydrates, especially those high on the Glycemic Index. One of the first recommendations that patients with diabetes normally get is to go on low-carbohydrate diets.
You will also want to exercise in order to help manage your diabetes. In general, moderate to intense physical activity should be part of your routine three to five times per week. If you smoke cigarettes, quitting smoking is a lifestyle change that will have an enormous impact on your diabetes management as well.
You will also want to manage any diabetes-related complications that may come up. Whether they are acute or chronic problems, they need to be tracked, managed, and communicated to your health care provider.
If you have not been diagnosed with diabetes, but think you may be at risk of developing this condition or have prediabetes, you may want to consider starting on a diabetes prevention program incorporating these lifestyle changes.
How easy is it to make lifestyle changes that help you manage your diabetes?
Making lifestyle changes to manage diabetes is not always easy. I am not going to lie to you about this.
Diabetes management requires hard work. However, it is easier to manage it now rather than once it’s gone too far, and you have several chronic complications.
Changing your diet, exercising, and quitting smoking will certainly be the most difficult part. These involve larger life changes and creation as well as maintenance of habits that may not be so easy to keep.
The simplest lifestyle changes to make will be to make sure you are taking your medications and supplements. Making these changes requires minimal effort, so why not do it?
Natural ways to manage diabetes
How can natural remedies help you to manage your diabetes?
There are several different natural ways to manage diabetes. They operate using different mechanisms of action in order to help manage symptoms and/or treat the root cause of diabetes.
If you’re unsure of what the symptoms of diabetes are, it’s important you familiarize yourself with diabetes warning signs.
- Momordica charantia, commonly known as bitter melon, is one such remedy. Bitter melon works by leading to improvements in symptoms and values that are actually quite similar to the improvements seen when using conventional diabetes medication glibenclamide.
Bitter melon helps to decrease fasting blood glucose, HbA1c, and two-hour postprandial blood glucose. It also helps to reduce the symptom of polyuria, which is increased urinary frequency.
Bitter melon also reduces polydipsia (constant thirst), polyphagia (constant hunger), nocturia (the need to urinate during the night), and weight loss, which is a common concern among those with type 2 diabetes.
- Alpha-lipoic acid is another natural remedy that can be used to help in the management of diabetes.
Alpha-lipoic acid can lead to significant improvement in pain, numbness, peripheral nerve conductance, sensory symptoms, decreased nerve fiber degeneration, and improved neuropathy and endoneurial function.
However, alpha-lipoic acid does not just help with nerve-related symptoms. It has also been found to reduce markers of oxidative stress and to inhibit copper and iron-mediated oxidative damage. Alpha-lipoic acid is also effective at lowering blood sugar levels.
- Cinnamon isn’t just a tasty spice. It’s also medicinal, particularly in the management of diabetes! In patients with HbA1c higher than 7.0, it can help to significantly lower fasting blood glucose levels. It is also helpful in managing cholesterol levels of those with diabetes.
Cinnamon has been shown to reduce total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol), and triglycerides. It also helps to increase high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (“good” cholesterol).
- Chromium is a micromineral that is often used in the management of diabetes. Chromium works by helping to lower fasting blood glucose levels.
- Gymnema Sylvestre is a herb that helps with the regeneration and repair of the beta cells of the pancreas. These are the cells that produce insulin in a healthy person.
Beta cells may have difficulty with this in someone with insulin resistance or insulin sensitivity. When beta cells in someone with diabetes are repaired, this raises serum insulin levels, which is normally difficult to do in a patient with diabetes.
Gymnema Sylvestre also reduces blood glucose. It is also good at helping patients to the point where they can decrease the dose of their conventional diabetes medications.
- Finally, Coccinia cordifolia is a herb known for its hypoglycemic actions. Compared to placebo, Coccinia cordifolia significantly decreases fasting blood glucose, postprandial glucose, and HbA1c.
How effective are natural remedies for managing diabetes?
Each natural remedy has a different level of effectiveness in managing diabetes. Momordica charantia leads to a 0.22% greater reduction in HbA1c when compared to glibenclamide and metformin.
Cinnamon can lower HbA1c by 0.83% compared with usual diabetes care. Cinnamon is also able to reduce fasting blood glucose by 24.59 mg/dL. It helps to reduce total cholesterol by 15.60 mg/dL, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) by 9.42 mg/dL, and triglycerides by 29.59 mg/dL.
Cinnamon also raises high-density lipoprotein (“good” cholesterol) by 1.66 mg/dL. Studies have shown that chromium is able to lower fasting blood glucose by -0.95 compared to placebo.
Gymnema sylvestre has been shown to reduce fasting blood glucose by 29%. It has also been known to lower HbA1c from an average of 11.91 to 8.48%.
Coccinia cordifolia lowers fasting blood glucose by 16%. It also has been shown to lower postprandial blood glucose by 18%. A study showed that it was also able to lower HbA1c from 6.7 to 6.1.
What are the best natural remedies for diabetes?
Taking into consideration all of the information above, the best natural remedies for diabetes include Momordica charantia, alpha-lipoic acid, cinnamon, chromium, Gymnema Sylvestre, and Coccinia cordifolia.
Best supplements for managing diabetes
What are the best supplements for a person with diabetes?
The best supplements for managing diabetes have a broad spectrum of minerals and nutrients. You want to make sure there is a clinically significant dose of the key ingredients.
You also want high-quality ingredients. You definitely want to be putting natural ingredients into your body.
After all, that is likely one of the reasons you turned to a supplement (rather than a pharmaceutical drug) in the first place.
But guess what? An ingredient, even in its ideal dose, is useless if it isn’t in the right form!
You want a highly bioavailable form of each supplement ingredient. This way, your body will actually absorb what you are putting into it. Not only are you getting more benefits from a highly bioavailable product, but you are actually getting more bang for your buck.
You will need less of the product to have more of a therapeutic effect.
When you are shopping around for diabetes management supplements, you’ll want to make sure you get a product that contains ingredients that have been scientifically proven to have clear benefits specifically for diabetes.
Transparency is important. You want to know what you are getting when you spend your hard-earned money on a diabetes management supplement. This is why you want to get your product from a company that provides clear information about their laboratory testing.
You also want a supplement from a company that complies with government groups, such as the Food and Drug Administration (the FDA).
You want to see that they clearly list their ingredients. As much as you want transparency when it comes to laboratory testing, it is equally important to have transparency in labeling.
Have a look at customer ratings. You want to make sure you get a product that is highly rated. It is always nice to see when a company uses third-party software to make sure that reviews only come from actual customers.
You also want to obtain a diabetes management supplement from a company that provides excellent customer service and has a money-back guarantee.
Compliance, compliance, compliance. This is how a supplement company ensures quality. You will want to keep an eye out for supplements that are manufactured within the United States. If the company uses Food and Drug Administration-audited facilities for their manufacture, then that is even better.
What results can you expect to see when taking supplements to manage your diabetes?
It is possible that supplements can have improvements similar to what is seen with glibenclamide.
Good supplements can help to lower fasting blood sugar levels, postprandial blood glucose, and HbA1c. They can also help to lower total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglycerides. They can even increase high-density lipoprotein levels, which is not an easy feat.
How can you choose which supplements are right to manage your diabetes?
It’s time to see your health care practitioner and take dietary supplements right from diabetes onset.
It is especially important to seek care if you are experiencing any difficulty managing your blood glucose levels, either fasting or postprandial or if your AbA1c is higher than 7.0.
It may also be time to seek care if you do not have diabetes but have insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance.
If your cholesterol levels are off (i.e., total cholesterol, triglycerides, or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol are high, or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol is low), then you will want to choose a supplement containing cinnamon.
If you are experiencing symptoms such as polyuria, polydipsia, polyphagia, weight loss, or nocturia, then a supplement with Momordica charantia is probably right for you.
If you are experiencing nerve-related diabetic symptoms (such as pain, numbness, sensory symptoms, paresthesias, and/or peripheral nerve conductance issues), then you would likely see the most effect from alpha-lipoic acid.