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Diabetes Alternative and Home Remedies

For people with diabetes, alternative and home remedies can sometimes provide some relief from diabetes-related issues.

Eating healthy foods can be a good home remedy for diabetes. [© Shutterstock, 2010]
© Shutterstock, 2010
Eating healthy foods can be a good home remedy for diabetes.

Diabetes Alternative and Home Remedies

For people with diabetes, alternative and home remedies can sometimes provide some relief from diabetes-related issues. The use of alternative remedies is a growing trend and acupuncture, biofeedback and dietary supplements are remedies that some claim to have a positive affect on blood glucose levels and other complications of diabetes. According to the Pharmacy Times as many as 66 percent of diabetics use some form of complementary products. Many do not have the scientific evidence needed to prove they are actually effective in controlling the disease. Some, however, have shown positive effects in small studies. It is important for diabetics considering these therapies to weigh the risks and benefits and develop a plan in cooperation with their doctor.

Acupuncture for Diabetes

During acupuncture, the practitioner places small needles into certain points of the body that are said to correspond with various body systems and organs. Some believe that these needles possibly trigger the release of natural pain killing compounds in the body. In diabetes, it is also sometimes used to attempt to relieve that pain of the nerve damage occasionally caused by the disease.

Biofeedback for Diabetes

Biofeedback involves using a machine to monitor stress responses and help a person control the bodys reactions to stress. The concept behind this treatment is that once a person becomes aware of the bodys reactions, such as tensing muscles, it is easier to control them and become more relaxed. The American Diabetes Association has supported a study that concluded that biofeedback and other relaxation techniques may help those with diabetes manage their glucose levels, as well as reduce anxiety and improve their mental health. These relaxation techniques are especially of interest to diabetics because the stress hormone, cortisol, can hinder the bodys reaction to insulin.

Minerals for Controlling Diabetes

Necessary elements such as chromium and magnesium sometimes leak into the urine of those diabetics with kidney disease. Supplementing these elements can help to increase insulin sensitivity. Studies on magnesium have shown it may decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, though the results of these studies have been mixed. Chromium may also have the added benefit of lowering glucose levels. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) stresses that care should be taken when supplementing with chromium since studies have found mixed results on the benefits of chromium and it can cause blood glucose levels to become too low. High doses can also cause kidney damage.

Studies into the advantages of the mineral vanadium are in the beginning stages. The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse reports that recent studies have shown vanadium to increase insulin sensitivity to a small extent; however, the mechanism, side effects and safe dosages have not yet been determined.

Plants and Herbs for Diabetes Treatment

Plant and herb derivatives are a popular form of home therapies. For diabetes, fenugreek, ginseng, Coccinia indica, aloe vera juice, and Gymnema sylvestre have been shown to decrease glucose levels. Cinnamon has decreased serum glucose levels, as well as cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, reducing a diabetics risk of cardiovascular disease. Carnitine is thought to increase the insulin sensitivity of the bodys cells, enabling them to process blood glucose more efficiently. One important thing to consider when dealing with plants and herbs, is that they are living organisms. Therefore, the makeup varies from species to species, and even from plant to plant. For example, there are several types of plants that are called ginseng. Even amongst the most commonly used type American ginseng the concentration of the component responsible for lowering glucose varies widely from plant to plant.

Antioxidants for Diabetes Treatment

A final type of supplement that has shown some effects is the antioxidant. Alpha-lipoic acid, or ALA, is an anti-oxidant found in foods like spinach, broccoli, liver and potatoes. It has been shown in some studies to increase blood flow to the nerves and can aid diabetics with relieving pain and numbness from diabetic neuropathy by increasing the bodys insulin sensitivity. Since the affect of this increased sensitivity may mean lowered blood sugar levels, it is important for diabetics who use this supplement to closely monitor their blood glucose levels.

Another group of antioxidants, called polyphenols, can possibly have a benefit to diabetics. These compounds are found in dark chocolate and certain teas and may help vascular health and improve insulin sensitivity. NCCAM stresses that the affects of these antioxidants on diabetics are still being studied.

Conventional Care Still Essential for Diabetes

Complications of untreated diabetes can be serious, or even fatal. While certain alternative treatments can be helpful to some, they can be ineffective or even harmful to others. Also, there is no legislation to standardize supplements and the FDA has no authority over herbal and dietary supplements. It is imperative that diabetes alternative therapies are pursued in cooperation with and careful monitoring by a doctor.

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