Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in the endocrine system. It is becoming a severe threat to worldwide health. According to a report by the National Diabetes Statistics, 7.3 million people have diabetes (11.3% of the U.S. population), and 8.5 million people are undiagnosed. A report by the Indian Diabetes Federation also showcases surprising numbers, estimating a total of about 90 million diabetes patients by 2030. There are multiple medications and medical interventions available to manage and treat diabetes, but there is no report on total recovery from diabetes up to this date. In addition, drug-based treatments can cause adverse effects and are not often satisfactory. As a result, people are resorting to traditional systems of medicine and alternative therapies to prevent diabetes. Unlike conventional approaches to diabetes, alternative treatments are less likely to have side effects. Some examples are dietary supplements, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, and yoga therapies.
Regardless of diabetes type, patients must control their blood glucose levels. For example, doctors might prescribe a specific diet and exercise if pharmacological treatment fails to control blood glucose at the desired level. Such complementary and alternative methods for lowering blood glucose are encouraged to manage diabetes more efficiently and safely.
What is Alternative Treatment?
Alternative treatment is a treatment strategy that people can use instead of standard medical treatment or mainstream therapies. It is different from conventional Western medical practices. However, people should only perform them under the guidance of experts. Alternative treatment is a diverse field that includes acupuncture, chiropractic adjustment, hypnosis, reiki, exercise, yoga, and diet changes. A combination of Western medicine and alternative treatment offers substantial benefits to your health.
Some treatments, such as traditional Chinese medicine or ayurvedic healing, are also used in alternative therapies. However, they have either not been thoroughly tested in clinical trials or stand as unproven or disproven methods. On the other hand, some alternative treatments look appealing because they are simple, natural, and without side effects. In contrast, others can have detrimental or even life-threatening side effects. However, the choice to use alternative methods for diabetes management is yours.
Types of Alternative Treatment for Diabetes
Certain people with diabetes might benefit from alternative medicine and therapies that are not part of standard medical treatments. Some alternative treatments will work for diabetes, and others simply will not. But it’s essential to understand their limits, especially for managing diabetes. So, you should consult your doctor before receiving any alternative therapies.
Here are the most common alternative treatment approaches for diabetes:
Yoga is an alternative treatment paired with conventional medicine to help treat diabetes. It is a mind-body therapy that uses physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. A study shows that yoga effectively reduces blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, yoga practices play a role even in preventing diabetes or reversing it in prediabetic people. One hypothesis suggests that the noninvasive nature of yoga increases the number of insulin receptors in patients with diabetes. As a result, it reduces fasting insulin levels and normalises the insulin-to-glucose ratio.
Yoga improves insulin sensitivity or reduces insulin resistance by lowering levels of free fatty acids. Since diabetes shows a link with weight gain, practising yoga offers additional weight loss benefits. Yoga therapy reduces body fat mass, body fat percentage, waist-to-hip ratio, body mass index, and average body weight.
Massage therapy is a type of relaxation therapy in alternative treatments. A review study says that massaging at an insulin injection site increases serum insulin action, thereby reducing blood glucose levels in people with type 1 diabetes. Moreover, people did not report any adverse effects. Furthermore, receiving a massage for 10-30 minutes every two days helps normalise blood glucose and symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. Massage therapy also helps reduce anxiety, headaches, depression, work stress and anger.
The relaxing effect of massage controls stress hormones and permits the body to use insulin more effectively. In addition, a full-body massage can stimulate better blood flow. As a result, improved blood circulation helps prevent or control diabetic-related complications.
Acupuncture is a common diabetes treatment approach in china. It is not only effective in treating diabetes but also prevents and manages its complications. In addition, people consider acupuncturing the best alternative treatment for chronic pain. The therapeutic effect of acupuncture on the pancreas will boost insulin synthesis and increase the number of insulin receptors. As a result, the body accelerates glucose utilisation, resulting in low blood sugar.
A study analysed the efficacy and safety of acupuncture and related techniques in diabetes. As per the results, acupuncture shows an anti-obesity effect and reduces body weight by regulating hunger hormones. In addition, it suppresses insulin resistance and appetite to reduce food intake, possibly managing blood glucose levels. Moreover, acupuncture treatment combined with hypoglycemic drugs adjusts the levels of diabetes-related hormones. It mainly acts on melatonin, insulin, glucocorticoid, and epinephrine.
Medicinal Herbs and Plants
Traditionally, numerous herbs work for the treatment of diabetes. Also, certain medicinal plants show anti-diabetic effects and hypoglycemic actions. In addition, they provide symptomatic relief and prevent the secondary complication of diabetes. Over 400 traditional herbs are present in the alternative treatment field for diabetes. However, only a small number of these have scientific evidence and medicinal evaluation.
Some of the most studied and commonly used anti-diabetic herbs are:
Besides the intense aromatic properties, fenugreek is a remedy for diabetes, particularly in India. The presence of alkaloid gonelline, nicotinic acid, and coumarin contributes to fenugreek’s anti-diabetic potential. In addition, a study shows that drinking 15 g of powdered fenugreek seed soaked in water can reduce postprandial glucose levels. Postprandial means after a meal. At least 50% of fenugreek seeds contain fibre and may constitute another potential anti-diabetic mechanism.
Neem, also called Azadirachta indica, significantly decreases blood sugar levels and prevents glucose-induced hyperglycemia. If you are a diabetic patient, try to eat Neem leaves in their raw form, drink them in hot water or even as a powder. Aqueous extract of neem leaves contains quercetin, a flavonoid that increases glucose uptake. As a result, it promotes improved blood sugar control.
3. Bitter Melon
Bitter melon or Momordica charantia is a folk medicine for diabetes. Drinking its fresh juice or eating unripe fruit shows blood sugar lowering action. Bitter melon contains charanti, an active substance with anti-diabetic properties. It also includes an insulin-like compound known as polypeptide-p. These substances either work individually or together to help reduce blood sugar levels.
If you’re considering adding bitter melon to your diet, make sure you eat no more than two melons a day, as excessive consumption can cause mild abdominal pain or diarrhoea.
Gurmar or Gymnema Sylvestre is popularly known as a “Sugar blocker.” It enhances endogenous insulin production in your body and helps treat diabetes mellitus. A study shows that consuming 400 mg of Gymnema Sylvestre extract daily with oral hypoglycemic drugs reduces blood glucose. As a result, some diabetic patients could discontinue their conventional medicine and maintain their glucose level with gurmar alone.
Dietary supplements are preventive and treatment agents for type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Alternative treatments propose chromium, vanadium, magnesium, nicotinamide, and vitamin E supplements. People with diabetes may also have more antioxidant requirements. So, eating vitamin E supplements functions primarily as an antioxidant. In addition, nicotinamide supplementation works effectively for newly diagnosed diabetes.
Magnesium is one of the more common micronutrient deficiencies in diabetes. As a result, magnesium supplements prevent the complication of diabetes, retinopathy in particular. You may also use chromium and vanadium supplements to enhance insulin sensitivity. Consult your doctor before you include any of these supplements in your regime.
Individuals diagnosed with diabetes have to be on a proper diet. Having a healthy, carb moderated diet regimen is a standard recommendation for people with diabetes.
The first step in controlling diabetes is to limit simple carbs. Excessive consumption of carbohydrates can cause insulin problems. Eating foods that help keep blood sugar, insulin, and inflammation in check can significantly manage diabetes.
Despite popular beliefs, exercise belongs to alternative treatments. Health experts say that people with diabetes should set aside at least 30 minutes each day for regular exercise. Consistent workout sessions can help you lose weight and increase insulin sensitivity. As a result, the body’s cells can make good use of the sugar available in our bloodstream. In addition, exercising helps muscles use blood sugar for energy and muscle contraction. Effective exercise routines include weight training, brisk walking, running, biking, dancing, hiking, and swimming.
Walking is an exercise that anyone can do without training. It does not require going to the gym or exercising. If you own a pair of shoes and a safe place to walk, you can start walking. Studies show that walking can help people with type 2 diabetes lower their blood sugar and lose weight.
Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils. In aromatherapy, people with diabetes can inhale or apply diluted essential oil depending on the symptom. Essential oils can reduce the side effects of diabetes and help balance high blood sugar levels. In addition, the antioxidants in essential oils help reduce the risk of diabetes complications that result from oxidative stress.
Put 3-5 drops of essential oil on a cotton ball and hold it to the nose to use aromatherapy. Then, breathe slowly for 5 min. You can use Lavender, Eucalyptus, Juniper and Geranium oil. However, talk to your doctor before trying any aromatherapy.
The Drawbacks of Alternative Treatments
The alternative treatments contain minimal scientific research. As a result, the evidence is limited, and most people are sceptical about the reliability of alternative medicine for diabetes. In addition, methods that have worked for some people don’t work for others. The standard medical approach is quick and easy, but alternative treatment requires long term commitment and is not helpful in emergency cases. Alternative techniques depend on natural products and how they interact with and heal your body. As a result, the core healing process might take more extended periods.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration did not approve most herbal supplements. So, as with anything, do your research and ask for professional references before taking chances with your health.
Alternative treatments do not aim to cure diabetes but instead take a holistic and natural approach to help a person’s body function better. You can pair these techniques with standard treatments to reap long term benefits. Proper diabetes treatment is crucial. If left untreated, it can cause chronically high blood sugar levels and undesirable health consequences. Alternative therapies, including lifestyle changes, diets, and regular exercise, are enough to keep diabetes under control for some people. However, talk to your doctor to find which treatment strategies are best for you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What is the best alternative for diabetes?
A. The best alternative treatment for diabetes is a balanced diet, exercise, yoga, and low carb food. In addition, dietary supplements like chromium, magnesium, vanadium, nicotinamide, and vitamin E help manage diabetes satisfactorily. Other potential alternative treatments for diabetes include acupuncture, hydrotherapy, massage therapy, and Chromotherapy.
Q. Can diabetics be cured naturally?
A. Diabetes is a lifelong condition. Type 1 diabetes lacks a permanent cure, but you can reverse type 2 diabetes with a healthy diet, exercise, a healthy weight, and an overall healthy lifestyle. In addition, natural medicines are an excellent way to complement your diabetes treatment.
Q. Is there a natural substitute for insulin?
A. Plant-based therapies use specific herbs to improve insulin sensitivity. Aloe vera, bilberry extract, bitter melon, cinnamon, fenugreek, ginger, and okra are some examples that show anti-diabetic properties. These foods boost the beta cells of the pancreas to produce insulin.
Q. How can I lower my blood sugar quickly without insulin?
A. Exercising is a fast, effective way to lower blood sugar. During exercise, the muscle contraction directs the cells to take up glucose for energy, resulting in lower blood sugar. This reduced sugar range lasts for 24 hours or more after you’ve exercised. You can also drink more water or unsweetened fluids to help your kidneys flush the excess sugar from your body through urination.
Q. What drink lowers blood sugar?
A. Drinks like karela juice, methi water, and green tea may help in reducing sugar levels. For example, a glassful of karela juice in the morning provides an active substance known as charantin, a blood-glucose-lowering agent. Likewise, fenugreek seeds soaked in hot water or methi dana water work by regulating the absorption of carbohydrates and sugar.
Q. What is natural insulin?
A. Natural insulin is the insulin released from your pancreas. The pancreas has specialised areas called Langerhans’ islets that produce insulin. However, natural foods like red cabbage, aloe vera, bilberry extract, bitter melon, cinnamon, fenugreek, ginger, and okra stimulate insulin synthesis.
Q. Is Turmeric Good for diabetes?
A. Turmeric contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that help reduce sugar levels. In addition, turmeric is low-carb, so adding it to the diet will not cause a blood sugar spike. Therefore, for managing diabetes, a dosing range of 150 mg to 250 mg of turmeric per day should suffice.
Q. What foods can reverse diabetes?
A. Foods which do not contain simple carbohydrates can help reverse diabetes. Examples are non-starchy vegetables, leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, cinnamon, and turmeric. It would help if you also focused on eating foods with a low glycemic index.
Q. Can Apple cider vinegar lower blood sugar immediately?
A. Taking 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before bedtime can reduce your morning fasting sugar levels. And some people experience short term improvement in blood glucose levels 30 minutes after consuming the ACV. However, the research is still ongoing to back it up.
Q. What can I take instead of insulin?
A. There are non-insulin injectables for people with diabetes. You can also take natural supplements instead of insulin if the diabetes is not severe. Supplements can be magnesium, omega-3 acids, vitamin c and vitamin d, and selenium. In addition, drugs like sulfonylureas improve insulin secretion into the blood by the pancreas.