Holistic Treatment of Diabetes

Never stop insulin therapy without consultation with a qualified herbalist and your medical doctor.

Dietary Modifications:

Dietary modification is fundamental to the treatment of diabetes. This disease is almost exclusively found in countries where the diet is highly refined and the fibre intake is low (ie. it is largely a product of the Western ‘civilised’ diet).

In principle the diet should consist of 40% complex carbohydrates, 40 % protein and 20% fats. There should be a total of 100 grams of fibre taken daily. There should be no refined sugars at all and the fat is strictly limited. Fruit juices should be kept to a minimum.

As well as a slow but steady reduction in weight down to a healthy sustainable level, following these dietary guidelines will lead to reduced post-prandial hyperglycaemia, increased tissue sensitivity to insulin, reduced plasma cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increased HDL fractions.

It is also recommended to avoid the addition of salt to the food and to avoid the use of saturated or hydrogenated fats.

Sample menu

Breakfast:

  • Whole oats 1 cup or Whole wheat bread 2 slices
  • Soft boiled egg
  • Skimmed milk 1 cup
  • Grapefruit 1
  • Butter (mixed 50:50 with olive oil) 2 pats

Lunch:

  • Whole wheat bread 2 slices
  • Kidney bean & rice casserole 1 cup or steamed / baked fish
  • Kale, cooked 1 cup
  • Cucumber & onion salad 1 cup
  • Potatoes, boiled, with skins 1 cup
  • Butter as before 3 pats

Dinner:

  • Lima beans 1 cup
  • Peas 3/4 cup
  • Tomatoes 1 small
  • Asparagus, steamed 1 cup
  • Squash 1 cup
  • Beef, roasted 100 g. or low fat vegetarian equivalent
  • Blackberries 3/4 cup
  • Snack Yoghurt, plain, low fat 1 cup
  • Fresh strawberries 1 cup
  • Whole wheat bread 2 slices
  • Butter (mixed in equal parts with olive oil) 2 pats

The best beverage is plain water or herbal teas. Coffee and black tea should be avoided because the caffeine will be detrimental to the micro-circulation. All soft drinks and pop should be avoided, even if they are ‘diet’ type because the sugar or the artificial sweetener are both harmful. Alcohol should be very strictly avoided because of its effect on the blood sugar.

In order to simplify the determination of insulin doses it is best to eat approximately the same amount of food at the same time each day.

Supplements to Aid in the Treatment of Diabetes

Chromium

Trivalent chromium (Cr3+) is also known as Glucose Tolerance Factor because it significantly enhances the action of insulin. It appears to act by binding with the cellular receptor sites for insulin and then strongly attracting insulin to these sites and aiding in the binding of insulin with the receptor site. A lack of chromium can lead to decreased sensitivity to insulin (insulin resistance) which can be the first step on the road to developing diabetes. As well as aiding insulin in its work, chromium also reduces the plasma levels of LDL’s and VLDL’s and raises HDL’s in the blood. In combination with niacin it is especially effective at lowering plasma cholesterol. It is interesting to note that exercise increases tissue chromium concentrations while the consumption of simple (refined) carbohydrates increases chromium excretion. A supplement of chromium chloride (200 mcg./day) or brewers yeast (9 grams (3 tablespoons) per day) is recommended for diabetes.

Vitamin B complex

Vitamins B3, B6 and B12 (niacin, pyridoxine & cyanocobalamin) are especially useful in reducing some of the neuropathies that so often occur with diabetes. All of the B vitamins are useful, however, and it is best to take them in the form of a high potency complex (100 mg. of each per day). B12 supplementation should be 1 mg./week.

Inositol

This B vitamin may also help with diabetic neuropathies through its ability to stabilize the integrity of the myelin sheath and to re-establish normal myo-inositol levels that are often depleted in diabetics because of its replacement with sorbitol.

Biotin

This B vitamin works synergistically with insulin and also increases the activity of glucokinase which is a liver enzyme that is required for glycolysis and which is frequently deficient in diabetics.

Both inositol and biotin are best taken in the form of B complex where they can act synergistically with all the other B vitamins.

Manganese

This mineral is an essential co-factor in glucose metabolism and diabetics have been shown to have only half the manganese levels found in non-diabetics. It is also involved in the activation of super oxide dismutase, a free radical fighter and powerful anti-oxidant. Manganese should be supplemented to 2.5 mg./day.

Vitamin C

The transport of vitamin C into the cells is facilitated by insulin and a lack of insulin leading to impaired vitamin utilization may be part of the reason for the capillary fragility seen in diabetics. It may also be responsible for the depressed immune function and high plasma cholesterol level common to diabetics. Vitamin C should be supplemented to bowel tolerance and it is especially important to take it in a form with bioflavonoids which further strengthen the capillary walls.

Vitamin E (d alpha tocopherol)

A deficiency of vitamin E results in free radical damage especially to the lining of the vascular system. Diabetics also seem to have a higher than usual requirement for vitamin E, perhaps to offset the damage done by the presence of so much glucose in the blood. Vitamin E promotes the formation of HDL’s, regulates platelet clotting that can be disrupted by diabetes, and regulates fatty acid metabolism. At least 400 iu daily is recommended.

Magnesium

In diabetics and especially those with retinopathy there is a significantly lower than normal magnesium level. Low magnesium levels appear to be an aetiological factor in the development of cardio-vascular disease as well. To correct deficiencies a supplement of 300 – 500 mg. per day is useful.

Zinc

This mineral is involved in virtually all aspects of insulin metabolism. – synthesis, secretions and utilisation. It has beneficial regulating functions in the immune system, protects against viral infection and specifically against beta islet cell destruction by auto-immunity in the pancreas. 25 – 30 mg. per day of zinc picnolate should be used.

Suggested Daily Doses of Supplements Useful in Diabetes:

Chromium chloride 200 mcg. OR
Brewers Yeast 9 grams
Vitamin B complex 100 mg of the major B vitamins
Vitamin C with bioflavonoids to bowel tolerance
Vitamin E 400 iu
Manganese 2.5 mg.
Magnesium 300 – 500 mg.
Zinc 25 – 30 mg.

Exercise

This is very important to help in weight loss and general fitness as well as to improve oxygen supply to the tissues which helps in maintaining tissue health.

Herbal Remedies for Diabetes

When treating diabetes with herbs the approach must be two fold. The secondary effects and complications of diabetes need to be treated from a symptomatic perspective and the underlying metabolic dysfunction also needs to be addressed.

The following herbs have a reputation for being effective in lowering blood sugar levels:

  • Vaccinium myrtillus (Bilberry) (leaves)
  • Potentilla aurea (Alpine Cinquefoil) (aerial parts)
  • Galega officinalis (Goat’s Rue) (aerial parts)
  • Syzygium/Eugenia jambolana (Jambul) (fruits)
  • Allium cepa (Onions) (bulb)
  • Allium sativa (Garlic) (bulb)
  • Geranium maculatum (Cranesbill) (whole herb)
  • Trigonella foenum-graecum (Fenugreek) (seeds)
  • Momordica charantia (Bitter Melon) (fruit)
  • Panax spp. (Ginseng) (roots)
  • Oplopanax horridum (Devils Club) (root bark)
  • Daucus carota (Wild Carrot/ Queen Anne’s Lace) (aerial parts & seeds)
  • Vinca spp. (Periwinkle) (aerial parts)
  • Iris versicolor (Blue Flag) (rhizome)
  • Arctium lappa (Burdock) (root)
  • Rhus aromatica (Sweet Sumach) (berries)

Through its tonic action on the pancreas, Glycyrrhiza glabra will also be helpful in regulating the blood sugar. For the treatment of secondary diabetic symptoms use herbs appropriate to the part affected. Crataegus oxycanthoides is almost always appropriate and others to consider include Ginkgo biloba, Equisetum arvense, Tilia europea, Achillea millefolium and Hydrastis canadensis.

Additional notes on Diabetes:

Co-enzyme Q10 may be helpful in regulating cellular metabolism and minimising free-radical damage to blood vessels.

Diabetes has been associated with a deficiency of vitamin B3 (Niacin) and a supplement of 2 – 3 g./day may be useful in reducing the requirement for insulin in both type I and type II diabetes. It is especially effective when combined with eicosapentanoic and gamma linolenic acids and with chromium.

A supplement of vanadium to 7 mg./day may be useful but use with caution because the therapeutic dose is close to the toxic dose.

Diabetics tend to accumulate iron in their body which is possibly one reason why they are prone to various infections. There is also a danger of developing hemosiderosis so iron supplements should be avoided.

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