Natural Strategies for Managing Diabetes
Diabetes is a very serious condition in that poor management of your blood sugar puts you at risk of developing many other serious conditions, such as heart and kidney disease. The good news is, however, issues of lifestyle can be your primary health management tools, meaning you have an immense amount of control over your condition. Smart choices in the realm of diet, exercise and stress management can keep blood sugar in check, along with proper use of any medications that may be required. If you are interested in a more holistic approach to controlling your diabetes, consider these strategies.
Stress management is crucial in managing diabetes on two fronts. First, on a physical level, high levels of stress hormones actually raise blood sugar levels. It can also damage heart health in various ways, such as constricting blood vessels, and given your increased risk for cardiovascular disease, you don’t want to add onto that. Secondly, high levels of stress make it more likely you will be lax in caring for yourself properly. You’ll feel less inclined to follow your proper diet, exercise regularly, and perform the other methods of self-care necessary to keep glucose levels in check. When we are stressed, we make poor choices regarding our health.
Practicing Mindful Eating
Mindful eating, which means paying closer attention to the act of eating itself, and naturally tuning into our body’s cues regarding satiety and hunger, has been shown to be as effective in managing blood sugar and promoting weight loss as traditional education regarding diabetes and nutrition, according to a study from Ohio State University that was published in 2012. Participants in the study were divided into two groups. One group received nutrition information that followed an established diabetes self-management program and the other group was trained in a mindful approach to food selection and eating. Participants in the mindful eating group were asked to tune into their bodies before eating, and to make conscious choices regarding how much food they were going to consume. They did not receive the same nutrition education, but naturally, were asked to consider whether food choices were healthful for someone with diabetes. The two groups experienced similar weight loss and significant drops in blood sugar after a three-month period.
Several natural supplements may help keep blood sugar levels in check. It is important you educate yourself about herbs and other natural treatments as some are not appropriate if you have certain medical conditions or take certain medications. Natural does not always automatically translate to safe.
Chromium may be helpful for aiding insulin in pulling glucose from the bloodstream into the cells. There has been a link between low levels of magnesium and type 2 diabetes, though it is not clear which comes first, but supplementing with this important mineral may help. The essential trace mineral vanadium may help control diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity. Antioxidant supplements may help treat diabetes as this condition has been linked with increased levels of free radicals, which can be kept in check by these substances. The most promising include vitamin E, selenium and zinc. Several herbs have been known to help treat diabetes and include bitter melon, fenugreek, gymnema, cinnamon and American ginseng.
There are several considerations for treating diabetes through natural means. First and foremost, no matter what treatments you use, regular monitoring of your blood sugar is essential, and it is important you regularly use blood glucose meters. If you start taking supplements that lower blood sugar, it is possible medications will need to be adjusted as the combination could cause levels to drop too low. While many people have been able to go off their medication after employing natural means of treatment, this is not something you should ever do without talking to your doctor first. It is also important to know not all treatments work for all people, so you may need to experiment with different methods.
Ashley Andrews is a San Diego-based freelance writer who blogs on a wide range of green living, business, health and technology topics.