Diabetics’ bodies do not properly utilize glucose, usually because they do not produce enough of the hormone insulin. Millions of people throughout the world suffer from the condition. In fact, the condition is becoming more prevalent, with more than 8 percent of the United States population living with diabetes. There are several variations of the disease, including Type 1 diabetes, which occurs in most people in childhood or in their young adulthood. These individuals must inject insulin their entire lives.
The majority of people with diabetes, roughly 75 percent, suffer from Type 2 diabetes, also known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes. This type is managed through diet and other lifestyle changes. Normally the body breaks down food into glucose. Insulin then stimulates cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream to be used for energy and then stimulates the liver to uptake any excess glucose for storage.
Typically, insulin is released following a person eats when his or her blood glucose levels rise. Levels fall during exercise. Owing to inadequate insulin, diabetics experience high levels of glucose in their blood. This causes a number of secondary conditions, including heart disease, blindness, strokes, impotence and nerve and kidney damage.
Diabetics often experience exhaustion, weight loss, muscle deterioration and increased thirst, hunger and urination.
Anyone can develop diabetes, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. However, there are a number of predisposing factors, including obesity, high triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, a sedentary lifestyle and being 45 or older. Women who experienced gestational diabetes while pregnant are often at risk of developing full-blown diabetes later in life. Native Americans, Latinos, African-Americans and Asian Americans are also more at risk.
The American Diabetes Association recommends a series of treatments for those with Type 2 diabetes, including dietary changes, exercise and various medications, many of which improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
However, critics of conventional diabetes therapy contend the treatment does not address the underlying condition, but rather serves as a cover-up of symptoms. They add that studies show Type 2 diabetes is largely a result of lifestyle, including improper diet and inadequate exercise, and suggest treatment should reflect that.
According to the U.S. government’s Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 69 percent of people with Type 2 diabetes do not exercise regularly, while 62 percent eat fewer than the recommended five daily servings of fruits and vegetables and 82 percent are overweight.
Meanwhile, many other studies show that diet changes and exercise are as effective, and in some cases more effective, in reversing Type 2 diabetes than drug therapy alone.
Alternative Approaches to Managing Diabetes
There are six basic components to managing diabetes naturally. These are sufficient hydration, reducing carbohydrate intake, eating whole, natural foods, taking certain vitamin and mineral supplements, get adequate sleep and sweeten foods only with stevia.
High blood sugar causes dehydration as the body attempts to flush excessive levels of glucose from the bloodstream. As a result, many diabetics suffer from constant thirst and the need to urinate. Keeping properly hydrated helps many diabetics prevent insulin resistance. Adults should drink a minimum of three quarts of water each day. They should also avoid alcohol, caffeine and fruit juice, as these exacerbate dehydration.
Cutting back on carbohydrate intake also helps a person manage diabetes by reducing fluctuations in blood glucose levels. Most people who reduce their carbohydrate intake experience healthy weight loss and less erratic blood sugar levels. Many breads and other grain products are rank high on the glycemic index, which means they tend to spike insulin levels.
Eating whole foods provides diabetics with better nutrition. This is important, as many diabetics lack proper nutrition. Such foods include fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, wild game, free range, grass-fed meat and goat’s milk.
Meanwhile, vitamin and mineral supplements are key components of managing diabetes naturally. Zinc, manganese and chromium are particularly helpful, as together they improve insulin production, boost energy and reduce cravings for sugar.
Table sugar is not the only sweetener that is harmful to diabetics. Even honey spikes insulin levels. The best sweetener, and some say the only safe sweetener, is stevia, which does not affect blood sugar levels.
Finally, diabetics require plenty of sleep, as much as 10 hours per night. Adequate sleep and decreased overall stress levels do wonders to help diabetics by preventing adrenal glands from excreting sugar into the bloodstream.
Tips for Natural Diabetes Management
- Eat according to the glycemic index. This will largely involve reducing carbohydrate intake, particularly when it comes to starchy foods.
- Start an exercise program. Along with decreasing body fat, which leads to steadier blood sugar levels, exercise improves insulin sensitivity.
- Increase your dietary fiber intake. High fiber foods and supplements improve the body’s tolerance of glucose.
- Begin consuming chromium and/or brewer’s yeast, both of which increase the body’s insulin sensitivity.
- Eat more fresh, organic produce for their high fiber and nutrition content. Berries are a particularly good fruit for diabetics, as they contain more fiber and much less sugar than other fruits.
- Consider taking yoga lessons. Yoga strengthens the pancreas, which is vital to insulin production, through its various breathing exercises and postures.
- Supplement your diet with magnesium, manganese, zinc, chromium and vitamins B, C and E, all of which reduce diabetes-related damage to the kidneys, eyes and nerves.
- Avoid cysteine, an amino acid. Some studies indicate cysteine interferes with sugar absorption by breaking down insulin.
- Quit smoking. Many people are surprised to learn that smoking increases the risk of developing diabetes. It does this by elevating blood glucose levels.
- Destress by meditating. Choose from among any number of types of meditation, including mindfulness, transcendental and focused awareness meditation.