Do your blood sugar levels concern you? Or has your doctor told you that you need to lower them? Is medication something that’s been suggested if things continue as they are? Or maybe you’re already on medication for your blood sugar issues and would like to explore other, more natural options. The question is: how can you prevent diabetes and/or lower your blood sugar levels? Today, we’ll get into how to lower blood sugar naturally.
How do you prevent diabetes?
If you’re at risk for diabetes, then you may be wondering how to avoid becoming diabetic. Let’s talk about some natural ways to lower sugar, how effective they are, and potential risks or concerns.
Does berberine lower blood sugar?
You may have heard of berberine. It is a bioactive compound that is extracted from a few different plants. It’s yellow in color and is often used as a dye. Berberine has long been used in Chinese medicine, and it’s been used to treat many different illnesses. For example, it’s shown to be effective in treating type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol). In fact, it helps treat these conditions without any serious side effects. If berberine does lower blood sugar levels, how exactly does it do this?
For all the science geeks in the house, berberine is taken in by the body and then transported into your bloodstream. It then travels into your body’s cells where it binds to different molecule targets, changing their functions. This is comparable to how pharmaceutical drugs work. One of the main things that berberine does inside the cells is to activate an enzyme called AMPK, or AMP-activated protein kinase. AMPK has sometimes been called a metabolic master switch. It’s found in many organs, including the brain, heart, kidney, muscle, liver, etc. This enzyme plays a large role in regulating metabolism.
Berberine works through multiple different mechanisms. It decreases insulin resistance, making insulin more effective. Berberine increases glycolysis, helping your body break down sugar inside its cells. It also decreases the production of sugar in the liver. Additionally, berberine slows the breakdown of carbohydrates while increasing the number of healthy bacteria in the gut. While berberine does lower blood sugar levels, there are other natural ways to lower your sugar too.
Ashwagandha for blood sugar
Ever heard of ashwagandha? It’s an evergreen shrub which grows in India, the Middle East and parts of Africa. The name itself comes from Sanskrit, meaning “smell of the horse.” Yes, its scent is not exactly something you’d wear on a date, but it’s also named that because of its potential ability to increase strength, i.e. horsepower. Get it?!
Ashwagandha is among the most important herbs in Ayurveda. This is a traditional form of alternative medicine that’s based on Indian principles of natural healing. Would you believe that its use can be traced back to 6,000 B.C.? It’s been used for things like: stress relief, increased energy and improved concentration.
There’s also evidence that ashwagandha is good for blood sugar, helping those with high blood sugar levels or diabetes. It helps diabetics by influencing the production of insulin, as well as insulin sensitivity. Ashwagandha can stimulate the secretion of insulin in your bloodstream and reduce sugar levels in your blood. It is especially helpful for those with type 2 diabetes. This is about 90% of all diabetic cases.
It is important to note that ashwagandha doesn’t have any major side effects, but it comes with a word of caution. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid it since it might cause miscarriage. It could also interfere with other prescribed medicines you might be taking, so always check with your doctor before taking anything, even an herb or supplement. Ashwagandha helps blood sugar levels decrease among other, natural ways to lower sugar.
Spices that lower blood sugar
There are many spices that lower blood sugar levels. Let’s take a look at how to lower blood sugar naturally with spices you may be familiar with:
- Aloe vera – the dried sap of an aloe vera plant has traditionally been used in Arabia for the treatment of diabetes. In fact, it’s been used for thousands of years for its healing properties. It contains more than 200 active substances, including: vitamins, minerals, enzymes and polysaccharides (which are a natural form of carbohydrates). Some studies show that aloe vera can help decrease blood glucose levels in those with type 2 diabetes. They may lower the absorption of sugar into the gastrointestinal tract after a meal, stimulating the breakdown of sugar, and preventing sugar production. It should be noted that taking aloe vera orally may cause blood sugar levels to crash if you’re taking additional medications. This is a serious condition called hypoglycemia. Aloe vera also has laxative effects, so it may lower the absorption and effectiveness of other oral medications.
- Cinnamon – while there are mixed studies on it, a few small studies show that cinnamon may improve blood sugar levels by lowering insulin resistance. Cinnamon is generally safe unless you have liver problems.
- Curcumin – this is the naturally occurring compound within a turmeric plant’s roots that give it a bright yellow color. This spice is commonly found in Asian food and curries. It’s long been recognized for its medicinal properties. Studies suggest that it can lower the level of glucose in the blood, in addition to other diabetes related conditions. Other research points to curcumin’s potential ability to stabilize blood sugar levels, while making diabetes more manageable. Regularly taking large amounts of curcumin could lead to liver problems. And if you suffer from gallbladder disease, then you should avoid curcumin or turmeric as it may worsen this condition.
- Ginseng – this is a commonly used Chinese medicine. It has anti-diabetic effects for those with type 2 diabetes. Ginsenosides (a natural pharmacological component found in ginseng) might help stabilize insulin and a hormone called glucagon (it’s formed in the pancreas which promotes the breakdown of glycogen to glucose in the liver) to maintain blood sugar levels. Ginseng may help manage diabetes by: regulating insulin secretion, regulating glucose uptake, reducing inflammation, and decreasing the effects of free radicals (unstable atoms that can damage cells, leading to illness and aging).
- Holy basil – this herb has traditionally been used in India for the management of diabetes. Studies suggest that holy basil may increase the secretion of insulin. Other data shows a positive effect on fasting blood sugar and blood sugar levels following a meal in those with type 2 diabetes.
- Milk thistle – this is a flowering herb that is native to Mediterranean countries. The primary active ingredient of milk thistle is called silymarin. It is an antioxidant taken from milk thistle seeds. In combination with traditional treatment, research suggests that it can help improve diabetes. Studies show lowered blood sugar levels and an improvement in cholesterol with type 2 diabetics. Researchers have also found that this herb improves insulin resistance which is a key part of type 2 diabetes.
There are many benefits from taking spices that lower blood sugar. These are strategies for natural ways to lower sugar should it become a problem for you. See my other blog posts for tips on other ways to do this. It’s important to keep in mind that herbs or supplements may have side effects even though they’re over the counter. They can also interfere with medication you’re already taking, so always check with your doctor if you’re considering supplementing.
How can you avoid becoming diabetic?