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Holistic diet

A combination of natural foods, combined with low glycemic carbohydrates and helpful supplements can reduce the effects of diabetes.
■ B y D r L e o w C h e e S e n G , F e L Lo w o F B r i t i S h i n S t i t U t e o F h o m e o pAt h y

approach to diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is an inability within

the body to metabolise carbohydrates, resulting from inadequate production or utilisation of insulin. Because diabetes patients cannot properly process glucose – a sugar the body uses for energy – this glucose stays in the blood, causing blood glucose levels to rise while the cells within the body are starved for glucose. Diabetes can lead to higher risks of contracting various infections and other problems like retinopathy and maladies affecting the nerves, heart and kidneys. patients too often end up feeling drained due to a deficiency in energy levels because of low glucose consumption by cells. worse, much of the common advice to prevent or reduce diabetes symptoms and risks don’t actually seem to make much sense. “you should eat high-fibre foods, do more exercise, improve and protect with alpha-lipoic acid and use capsaicin ointment” – but how does all this actually help?
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“While eating carbohydrates increases the need for insulin to keep blood sugar levels normal, diets high in carbohydrates do not necessarily increase the risk of diabetes.”

Dietary confusion
Confusion in relation to such advice may arise because a lot of people often misunderstand the relationship between eating carbohydrates and diabetes. while eating carbohydrates increases the need for insulin to keep blood sugar levels normal, diets high in carbohydrates do not necessarily increase the risk of diabetes. in most instances, consuming carbohydrate-containing foods – whether high in sugar or starch – just temporarily increases blood sugar and insulin levels, which later fall back to normal levels. it is the constantly high consumption of certain carbohydrates that could cause an imbalance or mismatch in insulin levels. research shows that people who consume large amounts of foods with high glycemic indices are at higher risk of contracting diabetes. But, eating a diet high in carbohydrate-rich foods – with low glycemic indices – is instead associated with low risk of diabetes. Such healthy foods include oats, beans and fruits – which have low glycemic indices and high carbohydrate content – a due mostly to the healthpromoting effects of soluble fibre.

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h o L i S t i C D i e t A p p r o A C h to D i A B e t e S

Helpful diet changes
With this better understanding of glycemic indices, it should now make sense why people with diabetes must cut intake of sugar from snacks and processed food, and replace these with high-fibre whole foods. This dietary change can be achieved through higher intake of leafy green vegetables, granola and fruits. It is further clinically proven people with high-fibre

diets experience significant reduction in total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. High-fibre supplements such as psyllium, gum gum (beans), pectin (fruits), oat and glucomannan have also shown improved glucose tolerance in some studies. In short, the diabetes patient should have a high fibre diet focusing on fruits, vegetables, seeds and oats and whole-grain products.

mineral supplements
there is a wide variety of supplements that can help improve the health of a diabetes patient. these include essential nutrients like chromium, magnesium, alpha lipoic acid, evening primrose oil, glycomannan, vitamin e, vitamin e, vitamins B, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and more. Chromium-rich brewer’s yeast, amounting to 9g daily is recommended in the treatment of diabetes. Chromium also helps healthy people, although one such report found chromium useful only when accompanied by 100mg niacin. Chromium may further reduce total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides. magnesium helps insulin production in elderly people. Diabetes-induced damages to the eyes are more likely to occur in magnesium-deficient people. the American Diabetes Association reported that there is a strong association between magnesium deficiency and insulin residence but didn’t say definitely that magnesium deficiency is a risk factor. the British medical Journal recommends that people with diabetes and normal kidney function supplement diets with 200-600mg of magnesium daily. Further, people with diabetes tend to be zinc-deficient and this can lead to impaired immune functions. the zinc is largely lost through urine and supplementation
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can result in increased glycosylation to improve health and also increase the lifespan of blood cells.

Natural supplements
Alpha lipoic acid is a powerful natural antioxidant. Clinical trials have found that supplementing 6001200mg of lipoic acid per day improves insulin sensitivity and the symptoms of diabetes neuropathy. in other clinical trials, supplementation with 600mg of alpha lipoic acid per day for 18 months was found to have slowed the progression of kidney damage in patients with diabetes. Also, daily supplements of 4g of evening primrose oil for six months has been found to help improve nerve functions and relieve the pain symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. Kanjac root (amorphophallus konjac) has high level of water-soluble dietary fibre known as glucomannan. Glucomannan delays stomach emptying, leading to more gradual absorption of dietary sugar. this effect can reduce the elevation of blood sugar levels in people with diabetes and overall diabetic control is improved with glucomannan-enriched diets. to control blood sugar, 500-700mg of glucomannan per 100 calories in diet has been used successfully.

Diabetes is developed in persons with low levels of vitamin e and supplementation has been found to result in improved glucose tolerance among diabetes patients. Vitamin e also helps improve glucose tolerance among the elderly, even without diabetes. three months or more of supplementation may be required for the benefits to become apparent, with consumption of at least 900 iU of vitamin e daily. Vitamin e supplementation is said to further protect against diabetic retinopathy and neuropathy – serious complications of diabetes involving the eyes and kidneys – through no long-term trials in human have confirmed such preliminary evidence. Vitamin C reduces glycosylation and lowers sorbitol among diabetes patients. Sorbitol is a sugar that accumulates and damages the eyes, nerves and kidney of diabetes patients. Vitamin C also helps glucose tolerance – supplementing 500mg twice daily for a year has significantly reduced urinary protein loss in people with diabetes. Urinary protein loss is associated with poor prognosis in diabetes. the American Dietician Society has reported that vitamin B1 levels have been found to be low among diabetes patients. A clinical trial conducted with consumption of 10mg of vitamin B1 per day for four weeks reported reduced blood sugar among diabetes patients. Vitamin B6 supplement helps diabetes patients with nerve damage. Such supplements have also improved glucose tolerance in women with diabetes caused by pregnancy and effective for glucose intolerance induced by birth control pills. A total of 1,800mg per day of a special form of vitamin B6 – pyridoxine alphaketoglutarate – has improved glucose tolerance

dramatically in clinical research. the effect of vitamin B6 can be enhanced with vitamin B12, especially among diabetic neuropathy patients, in 12 weeks. Biotin, a vitamin supplement, is also able to help to control diabetes. in a clinical research, 16mg of biotin per day for a week found the glucose level in participants – while they were fasting – dropped by 50%. Similar results have been reported using 9mg per day for two months in people with diabetes. in addition, biotin is able to reduce pain from diabetic nerve damage. while the CoQ10 is needed for normal blood sugar metabolism, supplementing with 100mg per day of CoQ10 per day for three months neither improved glucose control nor reduced the need for insulin. the importance of CoQ10 supplementation for people with diabetes remains an unresolved issue, through some medical professionals recommend approximately 5mg per day as a way to protect against possible effects associated with diabetes-induced depletion. there are many other supplements that can help diabetes patients – these include fish oil, L-carnitine, zinc, vitamin D, inositol, taurine, vanadium, fructooligosaccharides and manganese.

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