A lot of people who have type 2 diabetes (T2D) aren’t aware of the condition’s complexity. In fact, there is a dependent relationship between the condition and an individual’s hormones, immune system, metabolism, and other bodily systems. In other words, these components have direct and equal effects on one another.
Diabetes is currently regarded as an inflammatory illness.1 That is to say, chronic inflammation is thought to be a catalyst for type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, resistance to insulin and high blood sugar can sustain and even exacerbate inflammation, creating a vicious cycle that leaves your body in turmoil.
Unfortunately, resistance to insulin and high blood sugar can sustain and even exacerbate inflammation, creating a vicious cycle that leaves your body in turmoil.
This bodily state can be concerning, as the low energy, lack of sleep, weight gain, poor digestion and circulation, and brain fog can aggravate the condition or even lead to further complications.
Food is, of course, medicine. And although consuming whole foods, rich in nourishing properties is a step in the right direction, individuals with type 2 diabetes experience elevated bodily strain, and so have higher nutritional requirements. Consistent supplementation with the right vitamins, nutrients, and plant extracts can be therapeutic in the sense that it will provide an individual’s body with higher levels of micronutrients. This, in turn, will help the body reestablish its equilibrium and begin the healing process.
It’s often hard to know where to begin, so I’ve compiled this list of six supplements that are known to help glucose regulation for those with type 2 diabetes and high blood sugar.
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin, but a lesser known fact is that this same substance is also a hormone, which the body uses to perform countless functions. This vitamin is important because it is the quarterback of bodily systems; every “play”–from immune activity to the uptake of calcium– relies on vitamin D to get the job done. Minimal levels of vitamin D can be dangerous, as depression, increased inflammation, cognitive decline, autoimmunity, osteoporosis, and cancer are linked to deficiencies.2-6 Similarly, low levels of vitamin D have also been consistently found in individuals with insufficient glucose regulation; however, research shows that vitamin D supplementation has improved diabetics’ glucose metabolic activity. 7
The effects of vitamin D supplementation are complemented by vitamin K2, which assists the blood-to-bone transfer of calcium. It is important to keep in mind that the dosage of these supplements is dependent upon the degree of the deficiency; however, 25,000 IU/week is typically a safe level for the average adult. As mentioned previously, vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin and can be absorbed through the skin as a result of sunlight exposure. That being said, it would take quite a bit of outdoor lounging to receive a substantial quantity. But worry not! Vitamin D is also accessible through foods such as cod liver oil, fatty fish, and foods with added vitamins. While these tactics are effective for those with less concerning deficiencies, individuals with diabetes and high blood sugar should definitely use supplementation instead or in addition to these methods. Supplementation in therapeutic quantities will better help support the body and maintain healthy vitamin D levels, which can fall anywhere between 50-80 nmol/L.8
Those who have had trouble sleeping will be quick to recognize this hormone. Melatonin is in charge of managing sleep cycles and is produced by the pineal gland. Melatonin levels should increase during evening hours, and individuals with T2D usually have insufficient levels of melatonin in circulation. This means that those with this condition may see bouts of insomnia.9
Supplementing melatonin to aid in sleep regulation is popular for those with and without T2D, but those with the condition may benefit a little bit more from adding melatonin supplements to their routines. Why? Well, unstable glucose management prompts the production of free radicals, which give way to cell damage and disease. Studies have placed melatonin as an actor against these free radicals, proposing that it becomes an anti-inflammatory hormone that reduces the creation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), a common free radical found in diabetics.10 Similar studies also suggest that pancreatic beta cells find protection under melatonin. This is an important detail, considering that pancreatic beta cells are known to produce insulin and are typically impaired by T2D’s progression through the body. Because it does aid in sleep regulation, melatonin should be taken in safe doses. A common 3-5mg before bed tends to do the trick for the average user.
The microorganisms that line the gut have a very large and significant impact on an individual’s well-being and overall health. When you hear the medical community discuss the “microbiome,” it is in reference to the group of microbiota that inhabits the digestive tract. While some specific species that make up the biome are healthy and actually beneficial to bodily function, others are hazardous to one’s health. These two classifications of microbes battle it out for the space and resources the gut has to offer.
The microbiome is sensitive, and so drastic changes in stress level or dietary habits can throw the biome off balance.
Other potential threats to the microbiome include
- Prescription drugs
- Environmental exposures
In individuals with T2D, chronic inflammation is increased due to the imbalance of microbes in the gut. The unhealthy class of microbes impede insulin sensitivities and thus, affect the glucose metabolism.11
Research shows that supplementing probiotics–strains of healthy bacteria in concentrated doses–has the potential to decrease inflammation and oxidative stress, aid in the repair of digestion, and increase insulin sensitivity. This, overall, will rebuild the glucose metabolism. One thing to note: There is a probiotic hierarchy, so some strains are more beneficial to others.
It’s important that you discuss probiotic supplementation with your functional medicine doctor, and together, come up with a list of the bacterial strains that will best assist your situation.
4. Alpha-Lipoic Acid
Many other diseases–cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders, and neuropathy– are a looming and ever-increasing risk factor for those with diabetes. T2D hinders an individual’s blood flow because it minimizes the creation of nitric oxide in vascular tissue. This, as a result, negatively affects cardiovascular flexibility. That’s where alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) comes in. This antioxidant, known as the “universal antioxidant,” is a powerful actor with insulin-like and anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers have found that using ALA supplementation can improve one’s sensitivity to insulin and reduce certain diabetic complications like neuropathy and cardiovascular disease.12-13
As well as supplementation, ALA is also present in foods such as broccoli, green peas, spinach, brussels sprouts, tomato, rice bran, and a cow’s organ meat. High-quality supplements, however, are better for therapeutic doses in quantities ranging from 600-1000 mg/day.
Many of the processes in the body are reliant upon magnesium, a mineral that takes part in over 300 bodily reactions including the metabolism of ATP, which is responsible for storing energy in your cells. Although this is one of the most important components to your bodily function and the fourth most plentiful mineral found within the body, deficiencies are becoming increasingly common due to a rise in low-nutrition diets and crop-growing soil, which has reduced magnesium content.15
The body needs magnesium in order for it to control muscle contractions, blood pressure, cardiovascular function, vascular tone, nerve transmission, and neuromuscular communication. Additionally, in order for the body to properly metabolize insulin and glucose, it needs to utilize magnesium. That being said, it’s clear how magnesium deficiencies can be a typical side effect of T2D.14 Deficiencies should be monitored and addressed, as insufficient magnesium levels can lead to the development of chronic illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, migraines, and ADHD.16 Beyond supplementation, it is easy to find magnesium in food sources such as cooked spinach and Swiss chard, dark chocolate, almonds, pumpkin seeds, avocado, figs, and bananas. The safe, recommended dose is 300-600 mg/ day, and since it is often used as a muscle relaxer, individuals typically prefer to take it at night.
Berberine, although natural, is not necessarily produced in the body. It is, in fact, a plant alkaloid and is found in the bark, stem, roots, and rhizomes of plants like goldenseal, barberry, Oregon grape, goldthread, tree turmeric, and philodendron. The supplementation of berberine is a high-potency extract from plants like the ones listed above and has been used in a lot of traditional Eastern medical fields for centuries. Individuals with T2D can benefit from berberine’s strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.17 It is true that berberine by itself is considered an aid to the glucose metabolism, but it can also produce significant effects in the form of Metformin or other medications taken orally. Other advantages include its ability to decrease LDL and triglyceride levels and raise HDL cholesterol as well as its tendency to enhance blood pressure levels.18
A closing note about supplements
Undoubtedly, using supplements to rebalance the body and restore health can be therapeutic and extremely beneficial; however, it is important to adhere to a few rules that will ensure your safety should you decide to add supplementation to your daily routine.
First and foremost, make sure to talk to a functional medicine practitioner who can recommend supplements that will help your unique situation, history, blood work, and symptoms.
A significant portion of doctors in the traditional medical field have not received the training or education necessary to understand the biochemical makeup of vitamins and plant-based nutraceuticals, so a trained functional medicine doctor is going to be your best source of information.
Second, it is crucial that you purchase well-known, pharmaceutical-grade brands. Consumer watch groups have, countless times, discovered that major stores like Walgreens, Target, and GNC do not sell high-quality supplements. Oftentimes, the supplements sold in these stores are mislabeled. When speaking to your functional medicine doctor, make sure he or she can recommend brands that have passed the test when it comes to quality.
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