Milk thistle is an herb that has been used since ancient times for many different ailments and is considered a tonic for the liver. The most studied extract from milk thistle is called silymarin, which is a compound that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is these properties that may make milk thistle a great herb for people with diabetes.
One of my patients, aged 58, had an initial hemoglobin A1c of 7.2%. She was taking oral hypoglycemic agents, statins, and proton pump inhibitors—the basic treatment for every diabetes diagnosis. The patient was 28 lbs overweight and worked long hours. She didn’t exercise, mostly ate a processed food diet, and was sleep deprived. The patient had a family history of diabetes, and ultimately her lifestyle expressed her genetic tendencies.
When evaluating patients with a chronic illness such as diabetes, TCM practitioners take a detailed, multi-system case history and supplement this information with observations that give information about the state of the patient’s health. These observations include the shape, color, and coating of the tongue; the color and expression of the face; the odor of the breath and body; and the strength, rhythm, and quality of the pulse. Many practitioners will palpate along meridians to detect points of tenderness that may indicate a blockage in the flow of Qi at that point.6
If you have gestational diabetes, you should first try to control your blood glucose level by making healthy food choices and getting regular physical activity. If you can’t reach your blood glucose target, your health care team will talk with you about diabetes medicines, such as insulin or the diabetes pill metformin, that may be safe for you to take during pregnancy. Your health care team may start you on diabetes medicines right away if your blood glucose is very high.
In diabetes, either the pancreas makes insufficient levels of insulin so cells absorb glucose poorly or cells themselves become insulin resistant and thus unable to absorb glucose despite adequate insulin levels. Both types of change increase blood sugar levels above normal. Parsed this way, type I and type II diabetes overlap some but also differ.
One easy way to increase your fat content and quit snacking is to begin your meal by eating an avocado. I and others I know have used this trick to easily quit snacking. Avocados protect you from one of the reasons some dietary research wrongly claims that high-fat diets are bad for you: the danger of gorging yourself on delicious, fatty foods. With plain avocados, there is little danger of gorging. Another danger is clogging your arteries and giving yourself heart disease. But it’s been amply shown that the blame for that falls squarely on trans fats, like margarine. If you see any product with the words “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated” in the list of ingredients, put it back, it’s a trans fat. On the other hand, any fat that comes directly from an animal or plant is not a trans fat and can be safely consumed.