But it doesn’t stop there. In addition to the many medications available on the market today, some natural methods of blood sugar control can be found in the vitamin supplement section of your local pharmacy. Here are seven such natural remedies that can help you manage diabetes and regulate your blood sugar levels.
Remember: Always check with your doctor and/or pharmacist before taking a supplement. Some supplements can interact with medications you may be taking.
Antioxidants are substances that prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals. Although they’re most noted for their ability to reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer, they also benefit those who have type 2 diabetes.
According to the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Biotechnology Information, antioxidants including vitamin C, a-lipoic acid and N-acetyl cysteine are all effective at reducing complications of diabetes.
In addition to the Five Fantastic Fruits for Diabetics, you can also find antioxidants in dried red beans, kidney, black and pinto beans, prunes, walnuts, pecans and russet potatoes. As always, make sure you aren’t allergic to any of these delicious foods before you eat up.
This particular mineral may help your body increase its sensitivity to insulin, which ultimately means you may not have to use as much insulin on a daily basis. Chromium is a metal that’s necessary in your body in small amounts. The easiest form of chromium to absorb is chromium picolinate, and like other forms, it works by helping your body’s own insulin production go further. Look for chromium to be found naturally in foods like broccoli, green beans, grape juice and more. These will provide trace amounts, but multi-vitamins or separate supplements are also available. Caution: Chromium might lower blood sugar levels too much if taken with diabetes medications.
3. Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is very similar to a vitamin. Every cell in your body consists of it, and it’s used by your cells for energy, for cell growth and for maintenance. Additionally, CoQ10 functions as an antioxidant and may have heart benefits. It may have the ability to improve HbA1c (also known as glycated hemoglobin) in diabetic patients, and may reduce complications of diabetes as well. CoQ10 pills are available in the vitamin section of most pharmacies. Caution: CoQ10 can interact with chemotherapy, blood pressure medication and certain blood thinners.
The plant fenugreek contains the amino acid 4-hydroxyisoleucine, which may aid in stimulating insulin secretion. It’s also known to reduce insulin resistance and may even reduce blood sugar levels.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health, declares it may be useful in lowering blood glucose levels as proven by a few small studies12.
Caution: Fenugreek may interact with certain diabetes medications and blood thinners.
5. Fish Oil
Fish oil is known for containing omega-3 fatty acids, which are found naturally in fish like mackerel, salmon, tuna, bluefish, herring, sardines and trout. Omega 3s are needed by your body and have benefits on your cholesterol and on your risk of heart disease. People who consume more omega 3s like those found in fish oil may be less likely to develop diabetes. Plus, those who consume fish oil may prevent the negative effects of diabetes such as cardiovascular disease and poor eyesight. Fish oil pills and liquid are readily available in most pharmacy aisles. Caution: Fish oil may interact with birth control pills, high blood pressure medications and blood thinners.
As a protein component derived from methionine and lysine, the amino acid L-carnitine may improve glycemic control when taken in combination with certain diabetes medications. A few clinical studies also show that it may be effective in treating nerve damage associated with diabetic neuropathy3. While not as common as traditional vitamins, L-Carnitine is still readily available in pill form in vitamin aisles and health food stores. Caution: L-Carnitine is known to interact with some blood thinning and thyroid medications.
Magnesium is a mineral needed by your bones and is found naturally in the body. It plays a role in more than 300 chemical reactions in the body, most notably an ability to prevent diabetic complications such as heart disease. Like fish oil, Magnesium is very accessible, as it is found in many high-fiber foods such as vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. It is also available in pill form as a supplement in most grocery and drug stores. Caution: Magnesium can interact with certain antibiotics, bone-loss medications, high blood pressure medications and muscle relaxants.
Taking any of these supplements doesn’t mean you can skip your insulin or other doctor-recommended medications. However, adding one or more may help your body naturally regulate your blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of some complications of diabetes. Always talk to your doctor before adding any supplements to your diet.
Want to know more? Find more helpful information and tips by visiting our “Treatment” section.
2Rawat AK, Korthikunta V, Gautam S, et al. 4-Hydroxyisoleucine improves insulin resistance by promoting mitochondrial biogenesis and act through AMPK and Akt dependent pathway. Fitoterapia. 2014;99:307-17.
3Head, Kathleen A D, Peripheral Neuropathy: Pathogenic Mechanisms and Alternative Therapies. Alternative Medicine Review, Vol. 11:4,December 2006.