Of diabetes, natural remedies

When managing blood sugar levels becomes a daily battle that tests one’s will and wits, a little help on the side certainly helps.

Herbs, spices, botanicals, Chinese herbs, fish oil therapy, chromium picolinate — the list can be endless, not to mention the innumerable diabetes “supplements” available over the counter.

Complementary and alternative medicines for diabetes are immensely popular among diabetics.

In the West, about one-third of the patients adopt these as an adjunct to their regular medication to manage diabetes. Many of these complementary medicines have proven glycaemic control properties.

But often, these are not clinically validated or well documented and some safety concerns remain.

Word of caution

Doctors caution that anything natural is not necessarily safe and not every natural product may produce the same effect in another individual, especially when diabetes patients are on multiple prescription medications for various associated problems.

Treatment goals

A 50-year-old diabetes patient firmly believes that his blood sugar levels are fairly well regulated only because of the host of botanicals that he has incorporated into his daily routine, along with his prescription medications for diabetes and blood pressure.

He starts the day with gooseberries taken on empty stomach along with some turmeric. During the day, he also has a couple of raw ‘kovakka’ ( Coccinia indica), a glass of bitter gourd juice, or water boiled with fenugreek.

His diet is regulated, he goes for walks, and his doctor doesn’t mind as long as he meets the treatment goals, he says.

“It is a fact that most of our patients have a lot of these plant-based medicines on the side such as gooseberry, bitter gourd, neem, cinnamon, fenugreek, or aloe vera, many of which have proven blood-sugar lowering properties. Fenugreek, for one, has a mechanical action very similar to that of the anti-diabetic drug Acarbose. But we do not know a lot about these botanicals, the active ingredients in them and their long-term effect on other organs. We do not know whether there should be a specific dosage that should not be exceeded or if it can adversely interact with the other drugs that the patient may be taking,” says Mathew Thomas, a senior consulting physician.

The indiscriminate use of some of these glucose-lowering botanicals, along with prescription diabetes drugs, may produce episodes of hypoglycaemia.

Some elements could be harmless or may not be effective, but it is important that the patient keeps his physician regularly updated about the natural “remedies” he is trying out.

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Printable version | Jun 11, 2021 9:05:27 PM |

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