Supplements to Prevent or Support Type 2 Diabetes
What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes? Put very simply, whereas people with type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin at all, people with type 2 diabetes, don’t use the insulin they have as well as they should which gets worse as the disease advances. So the type 1 diabetic does not have the insulin key to begin with, requiring insulin on a daily basis by injection, whereas the type 2 diabetic has the insulin key, but it doesn’t work very well, and unless said individual makes needed lifestyle changes, the insulin key doesn’t open the insulin lock and the person also ends up needing insulin injections. Another big difference is that type 1 diabetes is generally diagnosed in childhood or adolescence, as the individual is thought to be born with it, whereas type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed in the mid-40s and 50s as it occurs because of poor lifestyle issues. (Read that as preventable.)
Type 2 diabetes is an acquired impairment in the way the body regulates and uses sugar (glucose) that develops primarily because of poor eating and exercise habits. This long-term (chronic) condition results in too much sugar circulating in the bloodstream. Eventually, the high blood sugar levels can lead to other even more serious disorders in other systems including the:
- Circulatory system – atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease, heart failure, and strokes.
- Nervous system – Parkinson’s disease, Multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and peripheral neuropathies.
- Immune system – Rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroiditis, Celiac disease, and Graves’ disease.
Type 2 diabetes is treatable and even reversible. Clean eating and regular exercising are the places to start, but supplements can also really help. Here are my top recommendations for keeping healthy blood sugar levels or lowering them:
Berberine isn’t actually a specific herb, but rather a compound taken from the roots and stems of certain plants, including Goldenseal and Philodendron. Studies consistently show that Berberine significantly lowers fasting blood sugar levels as well as A1c’s (the glucose-hemoglobin part of the red blood cell that measures the percent of hemoglobin with sugar attached to it.) Since red blood cells live for approximately 90 days, the A1c test actually tells you what your blood sugar levels were for the past 90 days.
Berberine may also improve insulin sensitivity (that’s a good thing) and enhance sugar uptake from your blood into your muscles (also a good thing if you want to bulk up a bit) which also ends up lowering blood sugar.
Dose: A typical dose is 300–500 mg taken 2–3 times daily with major meals. If you experience diarrhea or constipation, lower the dose.
Note: Since Berberine can interact with certain medications, check with your doctor before taking this supplement.
2. Vitamin D
We have talked about the importance of vitamin D, and here it is again! It turns out that vitamin D deficiency is considered a potential risk factor for type 2 diabetes. In one study, 72% of participants with type 2 diabetes were deficient in vitamin D at the start of the study. 
After two months of taking a 4,500-IU supplement of vitamin D daily, both fasting blood sugar and A1C improved. In fact, 48% of participants had an A1C that showed good blood sugar control, compared to only 32% before the study. It appears that the vitamin D improved the function of pancreatic cells making insulin, thereby increasing the body’s responsiveness to insulin.
Magnesium is involved in normal insulin secretion as well as the insulin action in the body’s tissues. No surprise then that low blood levels of magnesium have also been observed in people with type 2 diabetes and are more common in those who don’t have their blood sugar under good control. In fact, 8 of 12 studies indicated that giving magnesium supplements for 6–24 weeks to healthy people or those with type 2 diabetes, or prediabetes, helped reduce fasting blood sugar levels, compared to a placebo. 
Dose: Recommended dose for people with diabetes is typically 250–350 mg daily. Taking magnesium with a meal improves absorption. Stay away from magnesium oxide, which increases the risk of diarrhea for most people. I like chelated magnesium citrate or magnesium L-threonate.
Note: Magnesium supplements may interact with several medications, such as some diuretics and antibiotics, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking it.
4. Gymnema Sylvestre
Gymnema sylvestre is an herb used for diabetes in the Ayurvedic tradition of India. The Hindu name for the plant — gurmar — means “sugar destroyer”. In one study, people with type 2 diabetes taking 400 mg of gymnema leaf extract daily for 18–20 months experienced a 29% decrease in fasting blood sugar. A1C decreased from 11.9% at the start of the study to 8.48%.
There is also research suggesting that Gymnema Sylvestre helps lower fasting blood sugar and A1C in type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes. Finally, it seems to reduce cravings for sweets by suppressing the sweet-taste sensation in your mouth. Bring it on!
The way that it works is to reduce the absorption of sugar in the gut by encouraging the uptake of sugar in the blood. Because it also works with type 1 diabetes, the assumption is that it also aids the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas.
Dose: The suggested dose is 200 mg of Gymnema Sylvestre leaf extract twice a day with meals. If you are taking insulin, be sure to check with your doctor since it does enhance the blood sugar effects of insulin.
Note: If you are taking insulin, be sure to check with your doctor since it does enhance the blood sugar effects of insulin.
Most Americans suffer from a leaky gut and do not realize it. Damage to your gut bacteria — which can be caused by taking antibiotics, eating genetically engineered foods that attack the barriers in the gut along with the glyphosate that is sprayed on GMO crops — is associated with an increased risk of several diseases, including diabetes. 
Studies funded by consumer-oriented organizations, such as The Institute for Responsible Technology and The Environmental Working Group, have found an alarming number of connections between GMOs and health problems, including intestinal damage, inflammation, higher rates of disease, and even death. Thank goodness we have probiotics, which are basically good bacteria that will fight the bad bacteria in our guts, and hopefully win. 
In a review of seven studies involving people with type 2 diabetes, those taking probiotics for at least two months had a significant decrease in fasting blood sugar and in A1c’s compared to those on a placebo. It appears that the probiotics work in decreasing blood sugar because they reduce inflammation and in so doing, prevent the destruction of the pancreatic cells that make insulin.
Dose: Try a probiotic with more than one beneficial species, such as a combination of L. acidophilus, B. bifidum and L. rhamnosus. We don’t really know whether or not diabetes requires a special mix of microbes, but we do know that probiotics help.
Note: According to my doctor colleagues, the only time aprobiotic is likely to have a negative impact, is in a person with a severely impaired immune system.
6. Aloe Vera
Believe it or not, aloe vera may also help to lower blood sugar according to the research.
People who had fasting blood sugar above 200 mg/dl before taking aloe experienced significant benefits.  It isn’t clear how the aloe vera works. The theory is that it stimulates insulin production in pancreatic cells, but several other mechanisms could be at play as well.
Dose: The best dose and form are unknown. Common doses tested in studies include 1,000 mg daily in capsules or 2 tablespoons (30 ml) daily of aloe juice in split doses.
Note: Since it can interact with some medications, be conservative and check with your doctor. It should never be taken with the heart medicine digoxin. 
7. Alpha-Lipoic Acid
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a vitamin-like compound and powerful antioxidant produced in your liver and found in some foods, such as spinach, broccoli and red meat. When people with type 2 diabetes took 300, 600, 900 or 1,200 mg of ALA alongside their usual diabetes treatment for six months, fasting blood sugar and A1C decreased more as the dose increased.  ALA may also protect against oxidative damage caused by high blood sugar.
Dose: Generally a 600–1,200 mg daily dose is recommended taken in divided doses before meals.
Note: The only contraindication is for those taking thyroid medication. Also avoid very large doses of ALA if you have vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency or struggle with alcoholism
Chromium deficiency reduces your body’s ability to use carbs and convert them into sugar for energy. This can raise your insulin needs.  In a review of 25 studies, chromium supplements reduced A1C’s and fasting blood sugar. There is even some evidence that suggests that chromium may help lower blood sugar in people with type 1 diabetes. It seems to work by enhancing the effects of insulin or supporting the activity of pancreatic cells that produce insulin.
Dose: A typical dose is 200 mcg per day, but doses up to 1,000 mcg per day have been tested in people with diabetes and may be more effective. The chromium picolinate form appears to be absorbed best.
Note: Drugs prescribed for heartburn (ant-acids) can reduce chromium absorption.
 National Library of Medicine, Glycemic and oxidative status of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus following oral administration of alpha-lipoic acid: a randomized double-blinded placebo-controlled study, 2012
Dr. Renae Norton specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. Located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Call 513-205-6543 to schedule an appointment or fill out our online contact form for someone to call you to discuss your concerns. Tele-therapy sessions available. Individual and family sessions also available.
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Materials contained on this site are made available solely for educational purposes and as part of an effort to raise general awareness of the psychological treatments available to individuals with health issues. These materials are not intended to be, and are not a substitute for, direct professional medical or psychological care based on your individual condition and circumstances. Dr. J. Renae Norton does not diagnose or treat medical conditions. While this site may contain descriptions of pharmacological, psychiatric and psychological treatments, such descriptions and any related materials should not be used to diagnose or treat a mental health problem without consulting a qualified mental health care provider. You are advised to consult your medical health provider about your personal questions or concerns.