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Rosemarie D. Rose, MD
Managing Diabetes Integrating Natural Approaches
Steinmetz Integrative & Functional Medicine Center

Managing Diabetes Integrating Natural Approaches

Diabetes is a growing epidemic. Diabetes, defined as high, uncontrolled blood sugar levels, is linked to heart disease, kidney disease, vision loss, nerve damage, cancer and Alzheimer's disease over time. While type 2 diabetes in children and young adults was almost unheard of a quarter century ago, the disease is on the rise in alarming proportions. According to the American Diabetes Association, about one in every 400 children and adolescents has diabetes, and in 2010, 1.9 million new cases were diagnosed in people 20 years and older.

What's Causing This Rapid Increase?

No one knows for sure, but medical experts believe that lack of exercise, diets high in refined carbohydrates, the direct exposure to pesticides on our crops, the indirect exposure to pesticides in our food and water, and lack of enough fruits and vegetables in our diet may all play a role.

How Can I Manage My Diabetes?

While regular monitoring of blood sugar and keeping up with doctors' visits are important, the gold standard for treating most diseases starts with adhering to a healthy diet. For diabetics, it is important to educate yourself about the “glycemic index” of food. Foods with a high glycemic index raise your blood sugar very quickly and make it difficult for your body to keep up with the high blood sugar.

Foods with a low glycemic index raise it more slowly so your body can rid the blood of the high sugar and process it to be used for energy for your body. As a general guideline, diabetics should choose to eat whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and drink plenty of fresh water.

Exercise helps you burn up extra sugar and lose weight. As you lose pounds, your body's ability to use insulin improves. Find an activity you like and find a buddy to join you.

There are also “medical foods”, foods approved by the FDA, which offer a scientifically proven track record and can help moderate and manage blood sugar. They may contain supplements or herbs that are known to lower blood sugar. Some recommended supplements, depending on the patient, are chromium, vitamin C, biotin, B6, B12, vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, manganese and alpha lipoic acid.

Many herbs can also have a positive effect. They have been used by many cultures for hundreds of years. The most commonly used are bitter melon, Gymnema sylvestre, fenugreek, and cinnamon. We have seen excellent results with the use of medical food based treatments combined with a healthy, low glycemic diet program.

Adapting to a new lifestyle can be difficult for a patient, but they do not have to make such drastic changes alone. A nutritional counselor, even for a limited time, can help guide a patient through new patterns of diet and exercise, and be a strong source of encouragement and guidance.

If you or a member of your family is suffering from diabetes, there is hope for improvement and a possible cure with the right regimen of diet, exercise and supplements.

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