Natural Remedies for High Blood Sugar
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According to the 2018 Journal of Diabetes, 26.2% of adults with diabetes reported using some type of dietary supplementation in the past year. Many people with diabetes or prediabetes are in search of natural alternatives for blood sugar management. Fully understanding the facts around blood sugar management supplements is imperative before introducing them to the body. This warrants a closer look to be well informed about if there is true science behind a product’s claims and natural remedies available as alternatives to these supplements.
Good reason for caution
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires manufacturers to exercise safety regulations to protect the process of manufacturing, packaging, labeling and storage of dietary supplements. However, they do not use strict measures to evaluate dietary supplements because some marketing claims are impossible to be scientifically proven. Dietary supplements can also potentially interact with prescription medications; therefore, it is critical to consult with your physician or health care provider before starting any sort of supplementation.
The truth about blood sugar supplements
There are a number of supplements people take to manage their blood sugar levels, but is there solid evidence to support their claims? If you are looking for a trusted reference for searching supplements that have been reviewed by Consumer Lab, visit their website at consumerlab.com for valuable information (there is a membership fee).
Natural alternatives for blood sugar supplements
Aloe vera is a cactus-like plant that has spurred interest in treating diabetes. Speculation exists surrounding leaves of the aloe vera plant potentially stimulating pancreatic beta cells to lower blood sugar. The fiber content of the plant may also play a role in lowering blood glucose. In 2016, a review of clinical studies published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found adults with diabetes and prediabetes taking oral doses of aloe vera gel powder, extract, crushed raw leaves and juice showed reduction in their fasting blood sugar levels by 30-46.6 mg/dL and the hemoglobin A1C, or their average blood sugar levels over the previous two to three months, by 0.41% to 1.05%, in as little as 4-14 weeks. Side effects may include stomach irritation and possible drug interaction. While there may be some promise in the use of aloe for diabetes and prediabetes, a deeper understanding of how it works and what forms or doses recommended are needed.
Specifically cassia cinnamon has been extensively studied with mixed results. Some of the reasons that it may lower blood sugar include how it:
- Increases insulin sensitivity
- Forms stored glucose (glycogen)
- Delays stomach emptying
In 2013 a review of clinical studies published in Annals of Family Medicine showed a drop in fasting blood glucose by 25 mg/dL and a minimal decrease in A1C when subjects took capsules versus the powder form of cinnamon. Side effects may include possible drug interactions and liver toxicity. Most studies conducted on the health benefits of cinnamon have been small and warrant further research.
Fenugreek is a seed used as a spice and is part of the legume family along with peanuts, chickpeas and green peas. Studies show fenugreek can:
- Slow carbohydrate absorption
- Increase insulin release
- Delay stomach emptying
Some of the research looked at patients with type 2 diabetes over the course of three years who mixed 5-100 grams of powdered fenugreek seeds into one or two meals per day. This 2016 study recorded in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology resulted in the reduction of lower fasting glucose by 15 mg/dL, post meal glucose by 23 mg/dL and A1C by 1.16%. Side effects may include upset stomach and possible drug interactions. However, more research is needed to determine if fenugreek taken as a dietary supplement is effective for those with diabetes or prediabetes.
Flaxseed contains soluble fiber and a plant-based form of the omega-3 fatty acid (ALA) and can be consumed in whole, ground and oil forms. While it is mainly used for weight loss, constipation and heart disease protection, its soluble fiber slows the absorption of sugar and stomach emptying. The ALA contains disease fighting antioxidants and may help insulin work more efficiently in the body. Mixed research results exist but according to a review of 25 clinical trials published in 2018, consuming whole flaxseeds may significantly lower fasting glucose but not A1C levels. The most common side effect found in these studies was stomach irritation.
While natural blood sugar regulating remedies are still being researched and studied, these alternatives to supplementation are certainly a breath of fresh air. Keep in mind that not all dietary supplements are safe or effective in managing blood sugar levels. This is why it is important for those with diabetes and prediabetes who are considering taking dietary supplements to first consult with their physician who understands their health profile best.
To schedule a one-on-one consultation or learn more about Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit cooperclinicnutrition.com or call 972.560.2655.
Article provided by Elana Paddock, RDN, LD, CDCES and Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.