Diabetes mellitus, according to the Mayo Clinic's disease definition page (1) is a group of diseases that all affect how your body processes the sugars that come from you diet. Commonly referred to as glucose, the sugar in your blood literally feeds all of your cells. Blood sugar is your body's energy source, and without it, even your brain cells starve. The sugar in your blood does not just come from sugary foods. Your body processes sugar naturally from carbohydrates of all kinds, including grains, vegetables and fruits.
When someone is diagnosed with diabetes, it means that their body is no longer processing sugars properly. Their blood levels of glucose have become unnaturally -- even dangerously -- high. High levels of blood sugar, if left untreated, can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney damage, blindness, ulcers, infections, gangrene and even premature death.
Diabetes is becoming epidemic
If you have been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you are not alone. According to the Harvard School of Public Health's online magazine The Nutrition Source (2), 24 million people in the United States have this serious condition, and as many as 6 million of those don't even know they have it. And, if the rate of new cases continues at the present pace, by the year 2050, 48 million Americans will have diabetes. Furthermore, the magazines states, diabetes is already the leading cause of blindness and kidney failure among adults.
Standard medical treatment
Insulin, at the time of its discovery, was considered a wonder drug. So little was known about diabetes at the time, and people were dying from the disease. But, as with many medications, even as insulin saved lives, it brought its own bag of side effects, some of them as life threatening as the disease itself.
Is there another option?
Wouldn't it be better if the ravages of high blood sugar levels could be addressed as a part of overall good health, rather than simply as an illness in need of drug treatment? Recent studies have revealed that many foods have blood sugar-stabilizing effects. Here are six of them:
- Cinnamon - We all recognize this happy, holiday spice, but did you know that cinnamon can regulate blood sugar in people with diabetes? A study published by the American Diabetes Association's journal, Diabetes Care (3), showed that, after 40 days of use, cinnamon lowered blood sugar levels in the test participants by as much as 26 percent.
- Fenugreek seeds - Fenugreek is a tangy spice that some people say tastes a bit like licorice. Toasted and added to salads or cereal, or taken in powdered form, fenugreek can lower blood glucose levels. Fenugreek is also a blood thinner, so care should be taken if you also use blood-thinning medications like warfarin or aspirin.
- Ginseng - American ginseng, as reported in the eCAM-published study "Ginseng on Hyperglycemia: Effects and Mechanisms," (4) can lower both fasting and post-meal blood glucose levels. How ginseng works is not completely clear, but early studies suggest that the herb increases insulin production and slows the death of pancreatic beta-cells. The ginseng root can be taken as a supplement, or it can be added to the diet as tea. Also a blood thinner, ginseng should be taken with care by people on blood-thinning medications or those with autoimmune disease.
- Broccoli - Chromium has been shown to help stabilize blood sugar, and with a single serving of broccoli packing, according to the World's Healthiest Foods (5), 53 percent of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) of chromium, it's one of the best natural sources. Broccoli is also high in fiber, which makes it a win-win for people trying to reverse diabetes.
- Oatmeal - Fiber is high on the list of natural blood-glucose stabilizing substances, and whole oats pack 16 grams of fiber into a single cup. Oats are also high in magnesium. A dry quarter of a cup has over 17 percent of the DRI.
- Peanuts - Peanuts and peanut butter have been proven to lower blood sugar levels. Stabilizing your blood sugar protects the pancreas from being overworked and also staves off hunger. Other nuts have the same effect, but peanuts are easy to add to your diet. Toss some over your cereal in the morning or have a PB&J on whole wheat for lunch.