"What is interesting is that some patients retain beta cell function for over 50 years," he said. "And, it seems if you retain some, that's a lot better." So, for Darkes to still have some functioning beta cells would not be impossible, but it wouldn't eliminate the disease, Von Herrath said. "Depending on how many beta cells he has, maybe his form of type 1 diabetes was not very severe."
Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors help control blood sugar levels by preventing the digestion of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates include starchy foods like potatoes and corn. They also include most grains (bread, rice, crackers, cereal) and sugary sweets. The two medicines in this group are acarbose and miglitol. These medicines may cause bloating, nausea, diarrhea, and flatulence (gas).
Type 1 diabetes is commonly called “juvenile diabetes” because it tends to develop at a younger age, typically before a person turns 20 years old. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The damage to the pancreatic cells leads to a reduced ability or complete inability to create insulin. Some of the common causes that trigger this autoimmune response may include a virus, genetically modified organisms, heavy metals, vaccines, or foods like wheat, cow’s milk and soy. (4)
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If you have type 2 diabetes and your body mass index (BMI) is greater than 35, you may be a candidate for weight-loss surgery (bariatric surgery). Blood sugar levels return to normal in 55 to 95 percent of people with diabetes, depending on the procedure performed. Surgeries that bypass a portion of the small intestine have more of an effect on blood sugar levels than do other weight-loss surgeries.
Magnesium is a mineral found naturally in foods such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains and in nutritional supplements. Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions. It helps regulate blood sugar levels and is needed for normal muscle and nerve function, heart rhythm, immune function, blood pressure, and for bone health.
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Talking to a counselor or therapist may help you cope with the lifestyle changes that come with a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. You may find encouragement and understanding in a type 2 diabetes support group. Although support groups aren't for everyone, they can be good sources of information. Group members often know about the latest treatments and tend to share their own experiences or helpful information, such as where to find carbohydrate counts for your favorite takeout restaurant. If you're interested, your doctor may be able to recommend a group in your area.
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.
Second, all minerals and vitamins should be taken in the most absorbable, bioactive forms. This makes the product a little more expensive, but there is a huge difference in the body’s ability to absorb and metabolize different forms of nutrients. I recommend Pure Encapsulations’ Polyphenol Nutrients to my patients, as part of a natural home remedies protocol for diabetes.
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Herbal medicine has been an integral part of TCM for more than 2,000 years. Many herbal formulations have been developed and are used in the treatment of diabetes. The Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic), which dates from the Han Dynasty 206 B.C.–220 A.D., listed 13 herbal formulations, 9 of which were patent medicines including pills, powders, plasters, and tinctures.12 The sources of Chinese remedies are varied and include plants, minerals, and animal parts.3
If you are interested in trying a natural treatment in addition to standard treatment, be sure do so only under the close supervision of your physician. If diabetes is not properly controlled, the consequences can be life-threatening. Also, inform your physician about any herbs, supplements, or natural treatments you are using, because some may interact with the medications you are taking and result in hypoglycemia unless properly coordinated.
Another factor to consider when determining when to take your diabetes medicines is how well you can follow the regimen your doctor recommends. For any drugs to be effective, you have to take them. Ideally, your medication schedule should be incorporated into your daily routine; only having to remember to take your diabetes pills once a day may make things easier for you. Not much evidence is available that taking saxagliptin and glipizide at different times will provide a better blood-glucose-lowering effect. The most important thing is to take them regularly and without missing any doses. In addition to taking the diabetes medicines you’ve been prescribed, other ways to help improve your blood glucose levels are to engage in healthy lifestyle habits, such as regular physical activity and a healthy diet.
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
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.