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What is Diabetes?

Diabetes also known as diabetes mellitus is a funny sounding disease but it has meaning from ancient Greek times referring to “siphon” or passing too much water. Past civilizations knew of its existence, observing how ants were attracted to some people’s sweet urine.1 Diabetes is more prevalent today. Discover the early signs, symptoms, and treatments for diabetes. Learn of blood sugar lowering tips, healthy eating, and supplements.

Diabetes and Increased Blood Glucose Levels

Diabetes is when the pancreas is unable to produce the hormone insulin or when the body can not effectively use insulin. This hormone is critical for the human body to transform glucose into energy resulting in increased blood glucose levels.2

How Diabetes Affects People in the US

According to the American Diabetes Association, over 30 million Americans or 9% of the US population has diabetes; with 7 million of the affected population as undiagnosed. There are over 1.5 million new cases each year and the disease is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States.3

Types and Facts About Diabetes

There are 3 main types of diabetes that occur:4

  1. Type 1,
  2. Type 2, and
  3. Gestational diabetes

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas halts insulin production resulting in an autoimmune response. This form of the disease is common in children and young adults and is about 5% of all diabetes cases. There is no current prevention of type 1 diabetes and daily insulin treatment is vital for survival.

Type 2 diabetes is the more common, preventable form of the disease. The body’s inability to effectively utilize insulin causes rising blood glucose or sugar levels. The health implications of high blood sugar levels include heart and kidney disease and or vision loss.

Gestational diabetes happens during pregnancy only but puts you and your baby at future risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

How Do You Get Diabetes?

The precise cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown. For type 2 diabetes, in pre-diabetes the body cells are more resistant to insulin. Why this occurs is unknown. However, diabetes develops due to numerous health and genetic factors including5:

  • Obesity,
  • Age,
  • Family history, and
  • Race

Early Warning Signs of Diabetes

The signs and symptoms of diabetes are common. However, you can have symptoms go unnoticed in the early stage. To avoid complications early education and awareness is important. According to the American Diabetes Association6, the following are common symptoms and signs of diabetes:

  • Frequent urination
  • Feeling thirsty
  • Feeling hungry
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Slow healing wounds
  • Weight loss
  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands or feet

When to Seek Medical Attention for Diabetes-Related Signs

If you notice any diabetes symptoms, contact your doctor. The earlier diabetes is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin.

Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar

Low blood glucose or sugar displays multiple symptoms with varying degrees of severity. WebMD7 classifies three degrees of symptoms:

  1. Mild Low Blood Sugar – When sugar levels read under 70 mg/dl, symptoms include: rapid heart rate, blurry vision, dizziness, headache, hunger, nausea, weakness, shaking, and sweating.
  2. Moderate Low Blood Sugar – When blood sugar is under 40 mg/dl, symptoms are: difficulty concentrating, confusion, irritability, slurred speech, twitching, unsteadiness, and exaggerated emotions.
  3. Severe Low Blood Sugar – Blood sugar under 20 mg/dl, results in seizures, coma, stroke, and death.

How to Lower Your Blood Sugar Naturally

The main course of effective treatment of diabetes is to control the blood sugar (glucose) levels through medication and natural methods. Proper self-care includes:

1. Food – The diabetic diet is not a single diet or way of eating. Please work with a registered dietitian to eat right for you. There are different kinds of “eating patterns” as described by the American Diabetes Association (ADA), “An eating pattern is a term used to describe the foods or groups of foods that a person chooses to eat on a daily basis over time.”8

  • Low Fat Eating – Reducing fat consumption while eating more fruits, vegetables, and lean protein to lower body weight can be helpful but not always improve blood sugars.
  • Low Carb Eating includes proteins and non starchy vegetables while reducing high process carbs and grains.
  • Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) – eating is effective for reducing high blood pressure. High sodium foods, red meat, sweets and sugars are avoided. DASH is healthy eating of more vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, poultry, fish and reduced fat dairy products.
  • Mediterranean eating pattern is based on seasonal, local plant products with olive oil as the primary fat. Mediterranean eating can lower weight and improve blood sugar levels.
  • Vegan eating is a plant diet with little or no meat animal products. Vegans have lower risks of obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

The ADA recommends 50-60% carbs, 12-20% protein and 30% or less fat. A healthy diet, regardless of diabetic reasons will have dramatic effects on your overall wellness and health.

2. Exercise is a required regular activity in a healthy, self-managed, diabetic lifestyle. There are certain risks and precautions to be aware of. The Mayo Clinic recommends using a blood sugar monitor 30 minutes before exercise and adhering to the following guidelines:9

  • 13.9 mmol/L or higher is caution and your blood glucose is too high. Test urine ketones before exercise or risk ketoacidosis (a serious condition).
  • 5.6 – 13.9 mmol/L is good to workout zone.
  • Less than 5.6 mmol/L is low blood sugar and requires eating 15 to 30 grams of carbs before exercise.

Stop exercise if you feel weak and dizzy and at 3.9 mmol/L or less. Post workout your blood sugar may be low for hours.

3. Mindfulness – Mind body therapies are helpful for many ailments including diabetes. A program created by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at University of Massachusetts Medical Center uses mindfulness meditation and Hatha yoga as a clinical program.10

Blood Sugar Support Supplements

There are various support ingredients that can help control blood sugars. Listed below is an informative overview for each of these key supplement ingredients11:

1. Gymnema

  • What is Gymnema? Gymnema is a plant used to reduce blood sugar in Ayurvedic medicine.
  • Benefits of Gymnema. The main plant is used for diabetes control but also can aid in stomach ailments.
  • Why Gymnema is Used in Supplements. This ingredient limits your ability to detect sweet tastes. In Hindu, this is gurmar which is known as the “sugar destroyer.”
  • Where does Gymnema Naturally Occur in Nature? This woody, climbing plant is located in parts of India, Africa, and Asia.

2. Cinnamon

  • What is Cinnamon? A spice derived from cinnamon plant bark.
  • Benefits of Cinnamon. For centuries, cinnamon has been used for gastro ailments and dysmenorrhea. It can be used in diabetes but more research is warranted.
  • Why Cinnamon is Used in Supplements. Cinnamon has gastrointestinal (GI) properties and is used to fight microorganisms.
  • Where does Cinnamon Naturally Occur in Nature? Cinnamon plants naturally grow in Sri Lanka, southeastern India, Indonesia, South America, and the West Indies.

3. Chromium

  • What is Chromium? Chromium is a mineral found in some foods. Chromium picolinate aids insulin in carbohydrate metabolism.
  • Benefits of Chromium. Use of the mineral can treat chromium deficiency and aid in lowering cholesterol, diabetes, or weight loss.
  • Why Chromium is Used in Supplements? It is often used as a mineral supplement or herbal supplement.
  • Where does Chromium Naturally Occur in Nature? Dietary sources of chromium are: brewer's yeast, liver, potatoes with skin, beef, vegetables, and cheese.

4. Fenugreek

  • What is Fenugreek? A plant with possible health properties, though not yet FDA approved.
  • Benefits of Fenugreek. Fenugreek is used in alternative medicine for reducing blood glucose levels after a meal. It is also used for other ailments including: heartburn, gout, upset stomach, and weight loss.
  • Why Fenugreek is Used in Supplements? It is used in herbal supplements and thought to promote digestion, induce labour, and reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics, although the evidence for these effects is lacking. Fenugreek is also thought to increase breast milk supply in nursing mothers too.
  • Where does Fenugreek Naturally Occur in Nature? The plant is an annual herb growing a few feet tall with seed pods and is indigenous to the Mediterranean and grown widely in Europe and Asia.

5. Vanadyl Sulfate

  • What is Vanadyl Sulfate? Vanadyl is a mineral occurring in foods or supplements and exhibits insulin-like effects.
  • Benefits of Vanadyl Sulfate. It used and may help diabetics to: lower blood sugar, or treat anemia, edema, TB, or heart disease.
  • Why Vanadyl Sulfate is Used in Supplements? It is used to prevent Vanadyl deficiency.
  • Where does Vanadyl Sulfate Naturally Occur in Nature? This substance, though rarely found in nature is a natural trace mineral.

Healthy diets, regular exercise, and key ingredients that support blood sugar levels are all great informative tips that can support and help with Diabetes awareness and health. Remember, diabetes has no real early warning signs and can slowly progress, all Americans need to have regular exams for early treatment. If you think a loved one or you are at risk to diabetes make sure to speak with a trusted and certified medical healthcare professional. *The above information does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should be used as informational insight only.

Great Resources for Additional Diabetes Help

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