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.

• The vegetable/fruit called bitter melon, bitter gourd, or karela seems to stop insulin resistance. It gets glucose into cells. You can cook with it (many Chinese recipes incorporate this ingredient), eat it raw, or juice it. You can get it at Asian markets or farmers’ markets, or sometimes in supermarkets. It can also be taken as capsules or a tea.
Trick (important): Cut down on sweets, and if you can, cut them out entirely for a couple months. I still eat ice cream about once a week, and know people who are losing weight on this diet while eating ice cream almost every day. But this probably won’t be the case for everyone. Better to severely restrict sweets for the first few months, and then gradually reintroduce.
The first hint that type 2 diabetes is a fully reversible syndrome came from bariatric surgery. Almost a quarter century ago, Pories et al. (12) demonstrated that blood glucose levels normalized in obese people with type 2 diabetes undergoing bariatric surgery and that 10 years later, almost 90% remained free of diabetes. The phenomenon was more recently tested in a randomized prospective study comparing gastric banding with intensive medical therapy for type 2 diabetes (13). This least invasive type of surgery was most suitable for the randomized study, although it was associated with lower rates of diabetes reversal than other procedures. Mean fasting plasma glucose fell to normal levels in the surgically treated group but declined only modestly in the intensive medical treatment group despite oral agents and insulin (Fig. 1) (13). Remission of diabetes was related to the degree of weight loss rather than to group allocation and was achieved in 73% of the surgical group and 13% of the intensive medical treatment group because surgery was more effective in achieving weight loss as previously described (14). Type 2 diabetes can be reversed by applying a surgical procedure that diminishes fat mass.
Trick (important): Cut down on sweets, and if you can, cut them out entirely for a couple months. I still eat ice cream about once a week, and know people who are losing weight on this diet while eating ice cream almost every day. But this probably won’t be the case for everyone. Better to severely restrict sweets for the first few months, and then gradually reintroduce.
To the extent that you can do these five things, you can reverse diabetes yourself! Diabetes is not a difficult disease to prevent or reverse because it's not really an affliction that "strikes" you randomly. It is merely the biological effect of following certain lifestyle (bad foods, no exercise) that can be reversed in virtually anyone, sometimes in just a few days.
Before making any fiber recommendations, Dean has her patients tested for “pancreatic insufficiency.” She believes people with pancreatic insufficiency should be given digestive enzymes along with fiber, “otherwise the fiber will just bloat them up, and they’ll be quite unhappy,” she says. Dean uses a glucomannan fiber supplement for her patients with type 2 diabetes.

As of this writing, new and exciting research is being done to prevent and cure Diabetes. JDRF Australia is working on a cure that aims to allow the body to produce insulin and for the body to stop attacking its own B-cells. Another cure that is being worked on is enhancing the survival of B-cells so that they can be transplanted to diagnosed patients. In terms of prevention, since testing can now be done for an individual’s genetic risk, diet modifications have been found to delay the onset of diabetes to at least five years.
There are many promising studies suggesting chromium supplementation may be effective, but they are far from conclusive. For example, a small study published in the journal Diabetes Care compared the diabetes medication sulfonylurea taken with 1,000 mcg of chromium to sulfonylurea taken with a placebo. After 6 months, people who did not take chromium had a significant increase in body weight, body fat, and abdominal fat, whereas people taking the chromium had significant improvements in insulin sensitivity.
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.

Alternative: “I’m a fat-atarian,” says DeLaney, who tells her patients to avoid low-fat foods. She encourages them to eat whole-fat dairy products, egg yolks, butter, olive oil, and avocado. “Restoring healthful fats to our diets as well as eliminating trans fats and all refined oils that help deplete our fat and vitamin stores will help nourish the body and reduce the need for diabetes medication.”
The role of physical activity must be considered. Increased levels of daily activity bring about decreases in liver fat stores (43), and a single bout of exercise substantially decreases both de novo lipogenesis (39) and plasma VLDL (92). Several studies demonstrated that calorie control combined with exercise is much more successful than calorie restriction alone (93). However, exercise programs alone produce no weight loss for overweight middle-aged people (94). The necessary initial major loss of body weight demands a substantial reduction in energy intake. After weight loss, steady weight is most effectively achieved by a combination of dietary restriction and physical activity. Both aerobic and resistance exercise are effective (95). The critical factor is sustainability.
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.
The above herbs do not appear to increase insulin levels, but rather enhance carbohydrate utilization.15 Patients should have their type of diabetes and any other diagnoses confirmed before initiating any herbal treatment. In addition, one should first ascertain the credibility of the herbal therapist by inquiring about where and for how long the person received training and about membership in herbal associations such as the American Herbalists Guild. To become members, herbalists must submit three letters of reference from other professional herbalists, a description of their training, and an account of at least 4 years of experience working with medicinal herbs. As part of their training, TCM practitioners learn about the proper use of herbals.
In type 2 diabetes, even though insulin resistance is what leads to the condition, injections of insulin are not the first resort. Instead, other drugs are used to help boost insulin production and the body’s regulation of it. Insulin resistance occurs when the body’s cells don’t respond properly to insulin, which is a hormone made in the pancreas that’s responsible for ferrying glucose to cells for energy.
You’ll give yourself insulin shots using a needle and syringe. You will draw up your dose of insulin from the vial, or bottle, into the syringe. Insulin works fastest when you inject it in your belly, but you should rotate spots where you inject insulin. Other injection spots include your thigh, buttocks, or upper arm. Some people with diabetes who take insulin need two to four shots a day to reach their blood glucose targets. Others can take a single shot.
Another study published in the same journal, however, examined the effect of chromium on glycemic control in insulin-dependent people with type 2 diabetes. People were given either 500 or 1,000 mcg a day of chromium or a placebo for six months. There was no significant difference in glycosylated hemoglobin, body mass index, blood pressure, or insulin requirements across the three groups.
The study, published in Diabetes Care, measured C-peptide, which is produced at the same time and in the same quantities as the insulin that regulates our blood sugar. By measuring C-peptide levels in blood or in urine, scientists can tell how much insulin a person is producing themselves, even if they are taking insulin injections as treatment. The team studied 1,549 people with Type 1 diabetes from Exeter, England and Tayside, Scotland in the UNITED study.
A. A couple of factors determine the optimal timing of medicine doses. Some drugs, such as rapid-acting insulin, are usually taken just before meals, and others must be taken on an empty stomach or with food. The way a drug works in the body, as well as the time it takes to start working and the duration of its action, may also determine the best time to take a medicine. Glipizide begins working in approximately 30 minutes to an hour. Since this drug increases insulin secretion, it is recommended that you take it before meals to reduce the risk of hypoglycemic episodes. If you take it only once a day, it’s best to do so prior to the largest meal of the day, or with breakfast. Saxagliptin starts working within hours and only achieves peak concentrations in the body after several hours. Saxagliptin, and other agents in the dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitor class, prevent the breakdown of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide (GLP) in response to the extra glucose in your blood after you eat, which increases the body’s insulin production. Although concentrations of GLP and other similar hormones are higher after eating, they are also released throughout the day under normal circumstances. So saxagliptin and other DPP-4 inhibitors can be taken without regard to meals.

Effect of an 8-week very-low-calorie diet in type 2 diabetes on arginine-induced maximal insulin secretion (A), first phase insulin response to a 2.8 mmol/L increase in plasma glucose (B), and pancreas triacylglycerol (TG) content (C). For comparison, data for a matched nondiabetic control group are shown as ○. Replotted with permission from Lim et al. (21).


Purdue and the IU School of Medicine collaborated on this patented work through the National Institute of Health T32 Indiana Bioengineering Interdisciplinary Training for Diabetes Research Program. The research was also supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship; the Indiana University School of Medicine Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases Pilot and Feasibility Program; and donations from the McKinley Family Foundation.
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Joseph, you should talk with your doctor or diabetes educator about this. In general, you can take metformin with most herbs, but your case might be different, and you might not need to. You might have to experiment. The same with insulin, although you have to be more careful there — in all cases you should work with your doctor or diabetes educator.
The above two rules are the only dietary rules you need to maintain ideal weight for the rest of your life, assuming you apply common sense and avoid extremes. The diet works by building in regular periods of insulin relief, keeping your body from becoming resistant to insulin. Following these two rules, you will maintain your weight and health by never entering the vicious cycle of increasing insulin resistance.
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