Chromium plays a vital role in binding to and activating the insulin receptor on body cells, reducing insulin resistance. Supplemental chromium has been shown to lower blood sugar levels, lipids, A1C, and insulin in diabetic patients. It can also help decrease one’s appetite, particularly for sweets. A dosage from 200 mcg to 2,000 mcg a day is safe. Higher doses are unnecessary and can cause acute kidney failure.
In type 1 diabetes, the body produces none of the insulin that regulates our blood sugar levels. Very high glucose levels can damage the body's organs. Patients with type 2 diabetes, however, do produce insulin - just not enough to keep their glucose levels normal. Because I was fit and not overweight (obesity is a major risk factor in type 2 diabetes; however, a number of non-obese people, particularly members of south Asian communities, are also prone to it), my doctor told me I could control my condition with diet alone.
Several prediabetes interventions exist based on evidence from the landmark Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) study. The DPP study reported that moderate weight loss (5-7% of body weight, or ~10-15 lbs. for someone weighing 200 lbs.), counseling, and education on healthy eating and behavior reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58%. Data presented at the ADA 2014 conference showed that after 15 years of follow-up of the DPP study groups, the results were still encouraging: 27% of those in the original lifestyle group had a significant reduction in type 2 diabetes progression compared to the control group.
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
However, the observation that normalization of glucose in type 2 diabetes occurred within days after bariatric surgery, before substantial weight loss (15), led to the widespread belief that surgery itself brought about specific changes mediated through incretin hormone secretion (16,17). This reasoning overlooked the major change that follows bariatric surgery: an acute, profound decrease in calorie intake. Typically, those undergoing bariatric surgery have a mean body weight of ∼150 kg (15) and would therefore require a daily calorie intake of ∼13.4 MJ/day (3,200 kcal/day) for weight maintenance (18). This intake decreases precipitously at the time of surgery. The sudden reversal of traffic into fat stores brings about a profound change in intracellular concentration of fat metabolites. It is known that under hypocaloric conditions, fat is mobilized first from the liver and other ectopic sites rather than from visceral or subcutaneous fat stores (19). This process has been studied in detail during more moderate calorie restriction in type 2 diabetes over 8 weeks (20). Fasting plasma glucose was shown to be improved because of an 81% decrease in liver fat content and normalization of hepatic insulin sensitivity with no change in the insulin resistance of muscle.
During digestion, pancreatic beta cells release not only insulin, but in a much smaller amount, the hormone amylin, which helps mediate sharp rises in blood glucose levels following meals. Pramlintide (Symlin) is a new, synthetic form of amylin that may help improve blood glucose control for some type 1 and type 2 diabetic people who use insulin. Pramlintide has few side effects (nausea is the main one) but it adds another set of injections to a diabetic person's daily pharmaceutical routine, as it cannot be mixed in the same syringe with insulin.
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Some herbal diabetes products have turned out to be downright dangerous. In February 2000, the FDA recalled five Chinese herbal products after discovering that they contained various amounts of two prescription diabetes drugs, phenformin and glyburide. (The products are listed at www.fda.gov/oc/po/firmrecalls/Herbal.html.) Phenformin was withdrawn from the U.S. market 20 years ago after it caused serious side effects, including several deaths.
This class of drugs pulls double-duty. The medicine in this class, colesevelam, lowers cholesterol and reduces blood sugar levels. So it could be a good choice if you have diabetes and high cholesterol levels. And because these drugs are not absorbed in the blood stream, they may be the best choice for someone who also has liver problems and cannot take some of the other diabetes medicines. Side effects from bile acid sequestrants can include constipation and flatulence (gas).