The earliest oral diabetes drugs were the sulfonylureas. These work by stimulating the pancreas to produce more insulin. The oldest of these drugs still on the market is chlorpropamide (Diabinese), which has been used for more than 50 years. The second-generation sulfonylureas are taken once or twice a day. They include glipizide (Glucotrol, Glucotrol XL), glyburide (Micronase, DiaBeta, Glynase), and glimepiride (Amaryl).
Recent global increase in diabetes, especially type II diabetes, is a product of the global obesity epidemic and attendant increase in Metabolic syndrome. In turn this has fueled an increase in surgical intervention in the form of Bariatric surgery. Diabetes reversal often follows sustained weight loss and indeed a 2014 Cochrane review of such surgeries found diabetes improvement in 5 randomized clinical trials (4). However, depending on the country and insurance plans, such weight loss surgery can be costly. They're also not risk-free with risks varying greatly depending on the person's overall health profile and age as well as skill and experience of the surgeon.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, and unlike type 1 diabetes, it usually occurs in people over the age of 40, especially those who are overweight. Type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance, which means that the hormone insulin is being released, but a person doesn’t respond to it appropriately. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that’s caused by high blood sugar. The body can keep up for a period of time by producing more insulin, but over time the insulin receptor sites burn out. Eventually, diabetes can affect nearly every system in the body, impacting your energy, digestion, weight, sleep, vision and more. (5)
Known as gurmar, or “sugar destroyer,” in Aryuvedic medicine, Gymnema has consistently shown benefits in patients with diabetes. The most active part of Gymnema seems to be gymnemic acids, and many products list the percentage each capsule contains. Analyses of the herb for diabetes have shown it may be helpful in lowering high blood sugar levels. It can delay glucose absorption from the intestine. It was shown to regenerate pancreatic tissues, allowing more insulin to be produced, and help regulate insulin secretion. It also increases the utilization of glucose by the cell, reducing insulin resistance and decreasing appetite, especially for sweets. I usually use it in capsules, or in liquid form in some patients. Due to Gymnema having a very similar shape to glucose, it can fit into the taste bud receptors for sugar; it thus has unbelievable power to actually prevent the taste of sweets in the mouth for up to 1.5 hours. When I have a patient who is still struggling to not eat cake and cookies and so forth at parties or celebrations (or just in general), I will give her a tincture of Gymnema sylvestre. This is one of my favorite herbs for diabetes. In capsule form doses of 400 to 2,400 mg a day are recommended.
First, speak with your doctor — you should not start relying on plants or stop your medicines on your own. You’ll need to work closely with your diabetes health-care provider, and you’ll need to do some research and monitor yourself. Still, millions of people are using plant medicines, and a number of them have written to Diabetes Self-Management to tell us that they’re working.
Meanwhile, American Diabetes Scientist Zhen Gu, PhD, a professor in the Joint University of North Carolina/North Carolina State University Department of Biomedical Engineering, is working to develop a “smart insulin” patch that imitates the body's beta cells by both sensing blood glucose levels and releasing insulin using a nanotechnology that leverages bioengineering, biochemistry and materials science.
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Swift urges RDs to be informed and stay up-to-date as complementary and alternative medicine data evolves. Use a “whole systems, whole person” approach to health and healing. The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health is a good place to start. “They have an outstanding program on diabetes care that’s multidisciplinary and integrative,” Swift says. You also can receive continuing education credits for attending.
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Benari, an Ashkenazi Jew, doesn’t fall into that category. But Cummings and other bariatric experts I spoke to said that surgery should be a possible option for any person whose diabetes isn’t improving. Cummings himself is currently working on a clinical trial in India of bariatric patients with BMIs as low as 25. And he expects similar trials will come down the pipeline.
I bring this up because sleep apnea increases a person’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Also, sleep-disordered breathing is also related to proper nutrition throughout life. And perhaps most importantly, the first line of defense in catching sleep-disordered breathing in patients early, are dentists. This is another area where dentists must get involved if we want to tackle the issue of pervasive type 2 diabetes with any success.