Did you know that supplementing can help manage symptoms of diabetes?
We all know that a well-balanced low GI diet, regular movement and Insulin and other medications are the backbone of diabetes treatment, however, there are also claims that certain vitamins, minerals and supplements can also help control diabetes.
Before starting a new supplement routine, it is best to consult with your primary healthcare practitioner to discuss incorporating supplements into your daily routine.
Did you know that metformin, the most common medication for type 2 diabetes, inhibits the absorption of vitamin B12 in the intestines?
Many diabetics have low levels of vitamin B12, it is thought that up to 30% of people taking metformin have vitamin B12 deficiency. In type 1 diabetics there is an increased risk for developing pernicious anemia, which affects the absorption of vitamin B12 in the intestines. Vitamin B12 also helps the digestive system maintain steady sugar levels.
Vegetarians, those with pancreatitis or celiac disease and people on certain medications are more likely to suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency. Low levels of vitamin B12 can cause anemia, fatigue, muscle weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, difficulty concentrating and numbness or tingling in hands and feet.
If you think that you may be suffering from vitamin B12 deficiency, ask your doctor to refer you for a blood test to check blood levels. If lacking, daily supplements or an annual injection can help.
Like vitamin B12, metformin can also reduce the absorption of folic acid from the intestines.
Diabetics who become pregnant may be at an increased risk of having babies with birth defects if they do not adequately supplement with folic acid during pregnancy.
Female diabetics of childbearing age are advised to take 400 mcg of folate, also known as vitamin B9, daily. In addition to the prevention of certain birth defects, supplementation with folic acid may also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in diabetics, although research on this is limited.
It is common for diabetics to be deficient in vitamin D. This is because diabetic individuals are more likely to develop diseases that affect vitamin D production and absorption, such as intestinal, kidney and liver disease. Some medications may also affect the metabolism of vitamin D.
It has been shown that supplementing with vitamin D can help prevent death of the cells in your pancreas that make insulin. It also may increase insulin production and increase the bodies sensitivity to insulin, allowing improved blood glucose control in diabetics. Having good control over blood sugar levels reduces the side effects of diabetes and can improve blood circulation.
In diabetics, low levels of vitamin D increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, which can lead to heart attacks and stroke, and is the leading cause of death in diabetic individuals.
Vitamin D is produced by exposure to sunlight. It is also present in foods, such as fish oils. Many people do not get enough Vitamin D through sun exposure or diet, so supplementation can help.
Most studies recommend a daily supplementation of 4000 IU vitamin D to maintain a healthy blood level of 50 ng/mL. Supplementation of calcium, 1200 mg daily, is also recommended.
Magnesium is necessary for vitamin D function, for complexing, and to transport it around the body. While the scientific community is still mixed on whether diabetics should supplement with magnesium, magnesium is also needed for insulin activity as it facilitates the uptake of sugar into cells.
Like vitamin D, low magnesium is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, in addition to type 2 diabetes, nerve dysfunction and bone disorders. While many diabetics could be low in magnesium, the ratio of magnesium to calcium is also important. If the ratio is off balance it can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The number of studies available to safely advise magnesium supplementation is still limited, but there are new developments in this area that should be payed attention to.
Chromium: recent studies have suggested that chromium supplementation can improve the control of blood sugar levels in diabetics, however, studies on the safety of long-term chromium supplementation and combining it with other supplements are inconclusive.
Vitamins B6, C, E and H: Studies are still lacking in this area.
Herbal Medications: Some herbs claim to help control blood sugar levels.
Vanadyl: Has some insulin like properties and trials are currently underway to determine dose, safety and benefits
Banana leaf extract, berberine, gymnema, pterocarpus marsupium and purslane: These are plant-derived products used in Chinese and Indian medicine that may help control blood sugar levels. There are limited studies that indicate that these herbs can help, however, we do not know of any harm they may do. Berberine an example, may harm the liver and should not be used in combination with metformin.
Vitamins, minerals and supplements are medications, as they too play an important role in bodily functions. Excess of these supplements can be harmful.
It is important to follow your doctors advise when it comes to adding supplements to your diet, as drug interactions are possible and may be detrimental to your health. It is equally important to stick to drugs that are regulated, have a recommended dosage, and are supported by medical evidence.
If you are considering supplementation or are interested in checking to see if you are deficient in any essential vitamins or minerals, it is always a good idea to visit your doctor before taking any supplements.