Diabetes is a metabolic disorder with higher than normal blood glucose level or a hyperglycemic condition. It is a chronic condition that is untreatable but can be controlled. The only way to keep one’s diabetes under control is to maintain a normal blood glucose level. Uncontrolled long-term diabetes leads to several complex complications like nervous system disorder, kidney failure, progressive vision impairment due to retinal damage and many others. Today, considering the complex nature of this disorder, most people afflicted with diabetes opt for alternative treatment. This treatment is attractive as it helps to control diabetes effectively with very little side- effects and it focuses more on the prevention of the disease. In the following section Dr. Nita Sharma Das discusses some integrative treatments that have been proved scientifically to treat and prevent diabetes effectively.
Yoga is one of the most traditional medical treatment approaches for controlling and preventing several chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes. Yoga is not only effective in controlling the blood glucose level, but it also helps to improve pre-existing diabetic-related complications. Naturopath experts consider yoga as a supportive treatment that can help to limit the intake of diabetic medication along with any burden of side- effects. In addition, yoga provides a stress-relieving effect that assists in reducing blood glucose level.
Mental and physical stress stimulate the release of stress hormones that indirectly limit the functioning of insulin. This directly impacts the increase in blood glucose level. Almost a century ago, experts recommended massage therapy to diabetic patients not only for its relaxing effect but also because it improved the functioning of insulin. Massage therapy is also effective in improving blood circulation and also provides improvement in case of diabetic neuropathy. A research study proved that syncardial massage is successful in improving 56 per cent cases of diabetic neuropathy. Electromyographic testing also provides supportive evidence that massage can reduce the muscle tension, which is beneficial for diabetic patients.
In traditional Chinese medical system, acupuncture is one of the effective alternative therapeutic approaches to treat and control several chronic conditions, including diabetes. The benefits of acupuncture are not restricted to any single organ, but it is induced through multi-organs. Both experimental and clinical studies provide the evidence of the efficacy of acupuncture on diabetic patients. The complete mechanism of the action of acupuncture for treating diabetes is still undiscovered. The proposed mechanism of action involves activation of glucose-6-phosphate which, in turn, positively stimulates the functioning of the brain through the hypothalamus. In addition, acupuncture directly acts on the pancreas and thus enhances the production of insulin. Acupuncture also increases the use of glucose by the body and, in turn, lowers the blood sugar level. Other positive effects of acupuncture include the anti-obesity effect that helps to maintain optimum body weight.
Micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals play a vital role as a dietary supplement for our body. The support of basic cellular reactions such as co-enzymes and co-factors help in increasing the body metabolism. Today, there is evidence of their role in diabetes management. A few of the essential micronutrients that are used as dietary supplements are mentioned below:
Chromium: Helps in glucose metabolism. The daily recommended dose for chromium is low and to be maintained over 200 mg/day which can keep optimal blood sugar regulation. Chromium can increase the activity of insulin receptor. A precaution must be given to patients taking chromium supplement for hypoglycemia, and monitoring renal function.
Vanadium: There is not much evidence for the vanadium supplements studies done so far, although there is an animal study that suggests its potential benefits in type 1 diabetes.
Magnesium: The complications of diabetes, particularly retinopathy, are very much associated with Magnesium deficiency.
Nicotinamide: The patients who are newly diagnosed with diabetes can control it through effective supplementation of Nicotinamide. There is research evidence that proves that Nicotinamide treatment is very effective for women who develop Type 1 diabetes after puberty.
Vitamin E: Apart from its role in diabetes it primarily acts as an antioxidant.
Below are some other miscellaneous approaches to manage diabetes apart from the remedies mentioned above.
The essence of aromatherapy lies in the essential oils which when inhaled or used topically in a diluted state provides effective actions against symptoms from many diseases. There are a lot of complications associated with diabetes management that can be treated with aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is very effective against stress which stays primarily associated with a life-long chronic condition like diabetes. It is recommended to consult a diabetic healthcare team, before progressing towards any aromatherapy to help a diabetic person.
This is a therapeutic technique by which an instrument provides information about different psychological activities such as skin temperature or muscle tension. An evaluation was conducted for stress management in diabetic patients which resulted in a small but significant decrease in glycohemoglobin after 1 year of the evaluation period. A decrease in blood glucose level is also found in a controlled study of biofeedback-assisted relaxation therapy in type 1 diabetes.
This is so far recommended for the diabetes patients who are unable to do exercises. The co-administration of hot and cold water can help the muscle to relax and help to reduce the body weight and glucose level. Adequate caution must be taken while treating with hot water because neuropathic disorder associated with diabetes may not let the patient understand the burning sensation in some instances.
This involves treatment through colors. Through this treatment different colored lights are used for patients who are believed to be deficient in those particular colors. As per the concept of chromotherapy, the deficiency of orange and yellow colors in the body causes diabetes. This therapy can be conducted either by using light filtered through different colored glasses or by the using different colored water that is charged. Green light is also known to play an eminent role in controlling diabetes.
Medicinal herbs have a significant role in controlling blood sugar level and providing an effective anti-diabetic effect. A vast range of medicinal plants exceeding more than 1200 in number serve different anti-diabetic effects. Some medicinal plants provide symptomatic relief to diabetes-related complications and prevent further progression of the condition. Some herbal plants can also help to regenerate pancreatic beta cells that enhance insulin synthesis. Most of these herbal plants have potent antioxidant property and cholesterol-lowering effects. Both of these therapeutic properties assist to prevent diabetes-induced-complications.
- Fresh unripe fruit juice of Bitter melon. This fruit has mixed steroids containing phytochemicals that lower blood sugar.
- 15 g of Fenugreek seeds powder soaked in water provides effective result. Seeds contain fiber, nicotinic acid, alkaloid gonelline, and coumarin that provide glucose and lipid-lowering effect.
- 400 mg of Gurmar leaf extract acts as sugar blocker, as it increases the production of endogenous insulin.
- Neem Leaves extract can control diabetes. Phytochemicals present in this leaf such as flavonoid, quercetin phytochemicals improve peripheral glucose utilization by blocking the epinephrine action on glucose metabolism.
- Cinnamon powdered bark extract can control blood glucose level, as cinnamon provides ‘insulin-like’ effect by converting more glucose to glycogen by reducing the conversion of glycogen to glucose by decreasing the activity of glycogen synthase kinase 3β.
- Inner portion of the Aloe Vera leaves contains glucomannan. This water-soluble fiber present in leaves provides insulin-sensitizing effect and control diabetes.
There is a huge increase in the number of people resorting to alternative treatments these current days. Most patients with chronic diseases prefer to be treated with alternative therapies to prevent the harmful adverse effects of synthetic drugs and conventional treatments. Herbal therapies are the most sought-after treatment in diabetes as it helps to lower the glucose level for diabetes patients. The next highly effective treatment comes in the form of dietary supplements. These supplements provide tremendous action on glucose metabolism. Other forms of therapies like acupuncture, hydrotherapy, massage therapy, yoga, and chromotherapy are also practised in the healthcare professions in managing diabetes and associated complications.
Dr. Nita Sharma Das is a freelance medical writer and a Doctor of Naturopathy. She completed her PhD in Alternative Medicine. Her specialization and area of research include Herbal Medicine and Nutraceutical.