Diabetes mellitus is a disorder characterized by elevations in blood sugar levels. There are two major categories:Type 1 and Type 2.Type 1 diabetes is associated with complete destruction of the cells in the pancreas that manufacture insulin. Individuals with Type 1 diabetes will require lifelong insulin for the control of blood sugar levels. In Type 2 diabetes insulin levels are typically elevated indicating a loss of sensitivity to insulin by the cells of the body. More than 90% of the 17 million American with diabetes have Type 2.
Diabetes is a serious disease because it is associated with an increased risk of life threatening complications such as a heart attack, stroke, or kidney disease. Overall, the risk for death among people with diabetes for these catastrophic complications is about 4 times that of people without diabetes. In addition to an earlier death, diabetes carries with it significant risks for serious complications such as blindness, the need for dialysis, and limb amputation.
Can natural medicine help people with diabetes?
Absolutely, in fact the most effective treatment of diabetes and other blood sugar problems requires the utilization of key lifestyle, dietary, and nutritional supplement strategies. When used properly, the natural medicine approach to diabetes can:
- Significantly reduce the risk for developing diabetes – even if many of your family members or ancestors are or were diabetic.
- Possibly reverse Type 2 diabetes.
- Improve the sensitivity of cells to the action of insulin thereby improving glucose tolerance and normalizing blood sugar.
- Promote weight loss and slow down or block the absorption of sugar from the intestinal tract.
- Effectively reduce the complications of diabetes including heart disease and retinopathy.
- Improve the actions of drugs and insulin while at the same time reducing their side effects.
The book How to Prevent and Treat Diabetes with Natural Medicine that I coauthored with Dr. Michael Lyon, MD, provides clear guidance for anyone with diabetes or concerned about developing it.
What specific natural products do you recommend to help improve blood sugar control?
Along with Dr. Lyon and Natural Factors, I have created the WellBetX™ product line – a family of nutritional and herbal products designed to address special nutritional needs of people with diabetes. The WellBetX products are designed to be used in conjunction with proper dietary, lifestyle, and medical treatment of diabetes. WellBetX is not designed to “treat” diabetes, instead it is designed to support the proper utilization of blood glucose and insulin as well as deal with some of the nutritional challenges and deficiencies that many diabetics suffer from. The various WellBetX products are designed to impact one or all of the following goals:
- Reduce after meal elevations in blood sugar levels.
- Provide optimal nutrient status.
- Improve insulin function and sensitivity.
- Prevent nutritional and oxidative stress.
The WellBetX product line consists of the following formulas:
- PGX™ with Mulberry – A proprietary fiber blend with remarkable properties along with a special extract of mulberry leaves.
- WelBetX Revolutionary Appetite Control & Glucose Balance with PGX™ – A delicious way to improve blood sugar levels and promoting satiety.
- WellBetX Complete Multi for Glucose Balance.
- WellBetX Complete Multi for Glucose – Balance a high potency formula that provides optimal levels of nutrients to support people with diabetes.
- Herbal Glucose Balance – A unique formula of herbal extracts with scientific support for their role in promoting human health.
- RxOmega-3 Factors A pharmaceutical grade fish oil that provides over 600 mg omega-3 fatty acids per capsule.
- Vitamin E – 400 IU of natural Vitamin E
- Alpha-lipoic Acid – 200 mg of “nature’s perfect antioxidant.”
What is PGX™?
PGX (short for PolyGlycopleX) is a unique blend of selected, highly viscous soluble fibers. Fiber supplements have been
shown to enhance blood sugar control, decrease insulin levels, and reduce the number of calories absorbed by the body. When taken with water before meals, PGX binds to the water in the stomach and small intestine to form a gelatinous, viscous mass which not only slows down the absorption of glucose, but also induces a sense of satiety (fullness) and reduces the absorption of calories.
While other soluble fiber complexes have been shown to produce similar effects, unfortunately, the dosage required is often difficult to achieve and impractical to take (e.g. 20 grams or more vs 3 grams of PGX. In contrast, because of the synergistic effect of the proprietary blend of soluble fibers in PGX, it is able to produce results at a dosage as low as 3 grams per day.
Clinical studies with PGX have displayed an ability to lower after meal blood glucose by approximately 20 to 70% and improve blood sugar control and stability that is unequalled by any drug or natural health product.1,2
Why is it important to achieve optimal nutritional status?
The person with diabetes has higher requirements for many nutrients. Clinical studies have shown that supplementation with key nutrients can improve blood sugar control as well as help prevent or reduce the development of the major complications of diabetes. Furthermore, taking a multiple vitamin and mineral supplement has also been shown to boost immune function and reduce infections in diabetics. The WellBetX Complete Multi for Glucose Balance is designed specifically to provide key levels of vitamins and minerals for individuals with diabetes.
What herbal extracts have been shown to be useful in diabetes?
The two most active herbal extracts are Gymnema sylvestre and Bitter Melon. Gymnema extracts have been shown to enhance glucose control presumably through helping to increase the production or activity of insulin.3 Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia) on the other hand has been shown to contain an insulin-like substance that promotes improved blood sugar control.4 Other herbal extracts useful are American Ginseng, Fenugreek, Milk Thistle, and Yacon Leaf.
What is Alpha-Lipoic Acid and why is important for diabetics?
One of the critical goals in nutritionally supporting individuals with diabetes is to flood the body with a high level of antioxidant compounds to counteract the negative effects of free radicals and pro-oxidants. In addition to taking a high potency multiple it is important to take additional Vitamin E (400 to 800 IU) and 400 to 600 mg of Alphalipoic
acid – a vitamin-like substance that is often described as “nature’s perfect antioxidant.” Unlike Vitamin E which is primarily fat-soluble and Vitamin C which is water soluble, alpha-lipoic acid can quench either water or fat soluble free radicals both inside the cell and outside in the intracellular spaces. Alpha-lipoic acid has been shown to lead to
an improvement in blood sugar metabolism, improves blood flow to peripheral nerves, and actually stimulates the regeneration of nerve fibers. 5,6
Knowledge and awareness are the greatest allies for people with diabetes. An individual with diabetes who makes a strong commitment to learning about their condition and who accepts the lead role in a carefully supervised blood sugar monitoring program greatly improves the likelihood that they will lead a long and healthy life.
At the present time, individuals with Type 1 diabetes absolutely require conventional treatment with the hormone insulin. We consider this approach consistent with natural medicine – after all, the goal is simply to provide the body with a critical natural hormone. When using the natural products that impact blood sugar control, the Type 1 diabetics will need to work closely with their physician and adjust insulin dosages accordingly.
In individuals with Type 2 diabetes, when blood sugar levels cannot be controlled satisfactorily with weight loss, exercise and diet therapy; oral antihyperglycemic agents or, when necessary, insulin are utilized for additional support. Just as in the individual with Type 1 diabetes, the Type 2 individual on these drugs will need to work with their physician in adjusting the dosage of any medications. The difference however, is the goal in Type 2 diabetes is to achieve satisfactory blood sugar control without the aid of drugs. In fact, in most cases of Type 2 diabetes there can be a complete reversal of the disease.
1. Brand-Miller JC, Atkinson FS, Gahler RJ, et al. Effects of PGX, a novel functional fibre, on acute and delayed postprandial glycaemia. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010 Dec;64(12):1488-93.
2. Jenkins AL, Kacinik V, Lyon MR, Wolever TMS. Reduction of postprandial glycemia by the novel viscous polysaccharide PGX in a dose-dependent manner, independent of food form. J Am Coll Nutr 2010;29(2):92-98.
3. Baskaran K, Ahamath BK, Shanmugasundaram KR, Shanmugasundaram ERB. Antidiabetic effect of a leaf extract from Gymnema sylvestre in noninsulin dependent diabetes mellitus patients. J Ethnopharmacol 1990; 30: 295–305.
4. Srivastava Y, Venkatakrishna-Bhatt H, Verma Y et al. Antidiabetic and adaptogenic properties of Momordica charantia extract. An experimental and clinical evaluation. Phytotherapy Res 1993; 7: 285–289.
5. Reljanovic M, Reichel G, Rett K, et al.Treatment of diabetic polyneuropathy with the antioxidant thioctic acid (alpha-lipoic acid): a two year multicenter randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial (ALADIN II). Alpha Lipoic Acid in Diabetic Neuropathy. Free Radic Res 1999;31:171-9.
6. Jacob S, Ruus P, Hermann R,Tritschler HJ, et al. Oral administration of RAC-alpha-lipoic acid modulates insulin sensitivity in patients with Type-2 diabetes
mellitus: a placebo-controlled pilot trial. Free Radic Biol Med 1999;27:309-14