By David Blyweiss, M.D.
I just ran across an interesting statistic from the University of Michigan. It turns out that more than 25 million Americans could be aging twice as fast as the rest of us.1
Could you be one of the statistics?
Well, if you suffer from diabetes, it’s quite possible. Diabetes is a tough disease that can damage the kidneys, lead to numbness in the extremities, and boost the odds of heart disease.
But now it seems poorly controlled diabetes can also double the odds you’ll develop other age-related problems. These problems could be cognitive impairment, incontinence, falls, dizziness, vision problems and pain. And they can affect you as early as in your 50s!
The best way to control diabetes—and avoid getting old before your time—is by taking a natural approach.
Whether you need medication to help regulate your blood sugar levels or not, I recommend a 3-pronged approach to managing diabetes:
- watch your diet
- keep a healthy body weight
- take targeted supplements
Watch What You Eat. Junk food is bad news for everybody, but especially for those with diabetes. But there is good news. Nature has provided healthy and flavorful foods to prevent and treat diabetes.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables will help satisfy the body’s nutritional needs while providing a tasty alternative to junk food. But what about carbohydrates?
You can enjoy carbs if they are complex. Simple carbohydrates like white flour and white sugar cause your blood sugar to spike. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are digested more slowly and help keep your blood sugar on a more even keel.
Also, adding more protein to your diet is another good strategy. People who don’t have a handle on their diabetes may have increased protein requirements. Lean meats, poultry, fish and egg whites are terrific sources of protein and should be included in every meal.
It’s also smart to limit sweets and alcohol (that glass of wine turns into sugar in your body). Plus, eating 5 to 6 small meals daily will also help regulate your blood sugar and prevent spikes and dips.
Lose Weight. Maintaining a healthy weight improves the cells’ response to insulin.
A National Institutes of Health study found a combination of diet and exercise cuts the risk of developing diabetes by 58%.2
Just don’t cut calories too severely and never skip meals. Your best bet is to work with a nutritionist to make sure you maintain healthy blood sugar levels while dropping the weight.
It’s also important to exercise for an hour a day, 5 days a week. You might want to try walking or biking as a way to get started.
Exercise classes at your local gym or YMCA can also be a great way to burn excess calories. Resistance training or weight lifting is another good option.
Just be aware that different types of exercise affect blood sugar differently. For example, aerobic exercise lowers blood sugar immediately. Weight lifting, however, may affect your blood sugar many hours later. As long as you are eating every few hours, this shouldn’t become a problem.
Get Some Supplemental Help. There are many herbs that can also help you control your blood sugar and boost insulin sensitivity. Here are some I’ve found to be especially effective:
|Alpha Lipoic Acid||Nerve pain||600-800 mg/day||In one trial, ALA improved insulin sensitivity 27%. Other studies show a decrease in nerve pain, numbness, and burning.3|
|Bilberry||Protects eyes and nerves||80 to 120 mg twice daily||Bilberries help prevent damage to tiny blood vessels that can result in nerve pain and retinopathy (damage to the eye’s retina).|
|Chromium||Lowers blood sugar||200 mcg daily||This trace mineral enhances insulin and may help normalize blood sugar.|
|Ginseng||Lowers blood sugar||1,000-3,000 mg. daily||Slows carbohydrate absorption, increases cells’ ability to use glucose and increases insulin secretion from the pancreas.|
|Gymnema Sylvestre||Lowers blood sugar||200-250 mg twice a day||Known as the “sugar destroyer,” this herb boosts the enzymes that help cells use glucose while reducing cravings for sweets.|
|Magnesium||Lowers blood sugar||250-350 mg daily||Enhances insulin secretion and helps insulin transfer glucose into cells. Without sufficient magnesium, glucose and insulin build up in the blood, causing various types of tissue damage.|
Adopting this 3-pronged approach not only helps regulate your blood sugar levels on a daily basis, it just might help prevent growing old before your time.
- Cigolle C. Geriatric Conditions Develop in Middle-Aged Adults with Diabetes. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2011;26: 272-279.
- Pan XR. Effects of diet and exercise in preventing NIDDM in people with impaired glucose tolerance. The Da Qing IGT and Diabetes Study. Diabetes Care. 1997;20:53.7-544.
- Gianturco V. Impact of therapy with alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) on the oxidative stress in the controlled NIDDM: a possible preventive way against the organ dysfunction? Archives in Gerontology and Geriatrics. 2009;49 Suppl 1: 129-133.