The twin cycle hypothesis of the etiology of type 2 diabetes. During long-term intake of more calories than are expended each day, any excess carbohydrate must undergo de novo lipogenesis, which particularly promotes fat accumulation in the liver. Because insulin stimulates de novo lipogenesis, individuals with a degree of insulin resistance (determined by family or lifestyle factors) will accumulate liver fat more readily than others because of higher plasma insulin levels. In turn, the increased liver fat will cause relative resistance to insulin suppression of hepatic glucose production. Over many years, a modest increase in fasting plasma glucose level will stimulate increased basal insulin secretion rates to maintain euglycemia. The consequent hyperinsulinemia will further increase the conversion of excess calories to liver fat. A cycle of hyperinsulinemia and blunted suppression of hepatic glucose production becomes established. Fatty liver leads to increased export of VLDL triacylglycerol (85), which will increase fat delivery to all tissues, including the islets. This process is further stimulated by elevated plasma glucose levels (85). Excess fatty acid availability in the pancreatic islet would be expected to impair the acute insulin secretion in response to ingested food, and at a certain level of fatty acid exposure, postprandial hyperglycemia will supervene. The hyperglycemia will further increase insulin secretion rates, with consequent enhancement of hepatic lipogenesis, spinning the liver cycle faster and driving the pancreas cycle. Eventually, the fatty acid and glucose inhibitory effects on the islets reach a trigger level that leads to a relatively sudden onset of clinical diabetes. Figure adapted with permission from Taylor (98).
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.
Alcohol: Alcohol can dangerously increase blood sugar and lead to liver toxicity. Research published in Annals of Internal Medicine found that there was a 43 percent increased incidence of diabetes associated with heavy consumption of alcohol, which is defined as three or more drinks per day. (8) Beer and sweet liquors are especially high in carbohydrates and should be avoided.
Type 2 diabetes results when the body is unable to produce the amount of insulin it needs to convert food into energy or when it is unable to use insulin appropriately. Sometimes the body is actually producing more insulin than is needed by a person to keep blood glucose in a normal range. Yet blood glucose remains high, because the body's cells are resistant to the effects of insulin. Physicians and scientists believe that type 2 diabetes is caused by many factors, including insufficient insulin and insulin resistance. They increasingly believe that the relative contribution each factor makes toward causing diabetes varies from person to person.
Metformin: The DPP study found that metformin, the safest first-line therapy for type 2 diabetes, may help delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in people with prediabetes. Participants who took the low-cost generic drug had a 31% reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to the control group (those not on metformin or intensive lifestyle intervention). Again, 15-year follow up data showed that 17% of those on metformin continued to have a significant reduction in type 2 progression. At this time, metformin (or any other medication, for that matter) is not currently FDA approved for prediabetes, and it is sometimes prescribed “off-label” by a healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider can give you more information and determine whether metformin is a good option for you.
Magnesium is high in green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, and grains, but we remove most beans and all grains from the diet of patients, which is why using magnesium as part of a natural remedy for diabetes can be beneficial. Low intracellular magnesium can cause insulin resistance. Dosing of up to 500 mg a day is fine, but higher than that may result in diarrhea in patients.
Beware of claims that seem too good to be true. Look for scientific-based sources of information. The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse collects resource information for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) Reference Collection, a service of the National Institutes of Health. To learn more about alternative therapies for diabetes treatment, contact the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Clearinghouse.
In 2003, ephedrine -- also known as ma huang -- became the first herbal stimulant ever banned by the FDA. It was a popular component of over-the-counter weight loss drugs. Ephedrine had some benefits, but it could cause far more harm, especially in high doses: insomnia (difficulty falling and staying asleep), high blood pressure, glaucoma, and urinary retention. This herbal supplement has also been associated with numerous cases of stroke.
Diabetes has grown to “epidemic” proportions, and the latest statistics revealed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that 30.3 million Americans have diabetes, including the 7.2 million people who weren’t even aware of it. Diabetes is affecting people of all ages, including 132,000 children and adolescents younger than 18 years old. (2)
Insulin therapy is taken by diabetics who have type 1 diabetes mellitus, or IDDM, i.e., insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. In this condition, body is not able to produce any insulin, therefore, it has to be administered externally. Patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus are either resistant to insulin or have relatively low insulin production, or both.
Maintaining normal blood sugar levels is necessary for the body’s overall health. Erratic blood sugar levels can affect the body’s ability to function normally and even lead to complications if left unchecked. Some herbs and spices found in nature do a tremendous job of naturally lowering blood sugar levels, making them a boon for diabetics and pre-diabetics. What’s more, being nature’s multi-taskers, herbs and spices also produce overall health benefits beyond just helping balance blood sugar.