Glucose is the primary source of fuel for the trillions of cells in our body. Too much glucose in the blood, however, can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes which in turn can induce a litany of health problems including excess weight, cardiovascular changes, damage to kidneys, nerves, and eyes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
While there really is no substitute for dietary control of blood sugar – healthy glucose levels can’t be maintained by popping some herbs with an ice cream cone! – there are some botanicals that can support your dietary efforts so that you get out of the chronically high blood sugar danger zone more effectively and/or help you to maintain stable blood sugar levels as you fine tune your dietary changes for lasting results.
Compounds from the leaves and root of Gymnema have demonstrated a benefit in lowering blood sugar levels in both insulin-dependent (type 1) and non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetics. It may exert this effect through healing the beta cells in the pancreas (where insulin is made) but more research is needed to confirm this. Gymnema has also been shown to help modulate the immune system, lower inflammation, and support healthy blood lipid levels.
Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) has a traditional use in regulating blood glucose in non-insulin dependent diabetes. It appears that it normalizes blood sugar and blood lipids through actions on the liver and the pancreas, but as with Gymnema, more research is needed to elucidate the mechanisms of action in the body. It has also demonstrated anti-oxidant, anti-viral, and liver protective benefits.
There are many combination products available to assist you on your diet and lifestyle quest towards steady, healthy blood sugar levels. Many contain a combination of herbs and/or nutrients so it is best to review the options with your ND to ensure that the most appropriate formula is chosen for you, your current concerns, and your ultimate health goals.