Three blood sugar control supplements

Posted: Jul 07, 2017 6:00 AM
This is not just for diabetics. Unbalanced blood sugar levels and too much sugar consumption in general can significantly increase the risk of developing diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease. That means keeping blood glucose levels balanced can be a life-sustaining, even life-saving, practice—for diabetics and healthy people alike. But
hidden sugar is ubiquitous in the Standard American Diet (SAD). Most people have little clue as to how much they consume—and crave—until guess when? When The Craving hits. Yes, “Craving” gets the scary-movie-title treatment. It’s that bad. Let’s look at reasons why. Then at how some newly appreciated blood sugar managers—gymnema, berberine, and chromium—can rush in to battle sugar cravings and help you conquer them.

What if your “guilty” carbohydrate cravings aren’t guilty?

You had to have that donut. You couldn’t resist the craving, and you didn’t. When we know it’s bad, and do it anyway, we feel not so good about ourselves. “I’m weak… I have no will power…” Dear reader, there’s nothing more anti-health than a negative self-opinion. So don’t beat yourself up. Because imbalances in the brain chemicals that manage your moods—hormones and neurotransmitters—are to blame for at least 70–80 percent of your cravings. So it’s not just an idea you’re battling—“I shouldn’t eat this. ” It’s much more powerful—it’s your brain and body running the show, sending strong chemical messages. Here’s the scenario.

A craving is born

A healthy diet keeps your blood glucose pretty level through the day. No striking highs or lows. It takes just one glucose spike to set off a chain reaction:
  1. You have a high carb or high sugar meal, drink, or snack.
  2. Your bloodstream is quickly flooded with glucose (sugar).
  3. Your body responds with an insulin surge.
  4. This sends your blood sugar levels crashing below optimal levels. Your brain, which depends on sugar for its energy, senses a threat.
  5. This causes your stress hormones, such as cortisol, to call for more carbs or sugar right away to make sure your brain doesn’t run low on fuel.
That’s The Craving. Note well: this is pure autonomous nervous system business. You can’t override it. You can’t tell it what to do. It tells you what to do. Up to a point.

Not helpless, not guilty

We can’t stop the signal, as I said. But knowing why it’s happening—and knowing that it’s essentially a false alarm—is a powerful deterrent to giving in and grabbing the donut.

Knowledge is power

So we know we don’t need that donut. We also know that a high sugar or carb indulgence will kick off the same craving again. We know we can say “no. ” It doesn’t take “will power,” just common health sense.

You’ll get by with a little help from your friends

I don’t mean to make this sound easy. It isn’t. So I’ve chosen a few tried and true helpers that can help you make good sugar choices. Gymnemna sylvestre has been used for thousands of years in India and Asia to balance blood sugar. It has an uncanny ability to reduce sugar cravings—so effectively that its Hindi name, gurmar, means “destroyer of sugar. ” Chewing gymnema leaves appears to paralyze the tongue’s receptors of sweet and bitter tastes. So when that sugar hits, there’s no sweet taste, and often a bad taste. Hardly satisfying. But you won’t be chewing the leaves. In supplement form, gymnema contains an acid that has a molecular structure very similar to that of sugar. It’s thought that these molecules “take over” the taste receptors that glucose (sugar) would ordinarily dock with. It happens in the mouth and also in the intestine. There’s nowhere for glucose molecules to dock. Gymnema takes up all the usual parking spaces. Bingo! Sugar absorption in the intestine decreases. That’s more than a little help. It’s huge. As a bonus, gymnema also appears to increase the amount of insulin in the body and has been shown to help regrow pancreatic beta cells—the cells that produce insulin. If you want to try a supplement, look for one with 400 mg of gymnema.
Berberine is another old-timer that keeps on being amazing. Back before insulin treatment was available, it was the go-to miracle-maker for people with diabetes. It works by stimulating the uptake of glucose (sugar) in your cells, which lowers your blood sugar—by as much as a whopping 57 percent, according to one study. For extra beneficial effect, berberine also reduces glucose production in the liver, while at the same time increasing insulin sensitivity. Result? A safe, natural diabetes battler that's proven just as effective as Metformin, one of the most widely used Big Pharma diabetes meds (despite the nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, and diarrhea it brings on). I recommend a supplement that delivers just one gram of berberine (1,000 mg) a day. When I recommend a chromium supplement to help with blood sugar control, many of my patients are surprised. “Dr. Connealy, isn’t that what they make shiny car parts with? We can swallow metal?” Well, yes to both questions. Chromium is an essential trace mineral that’s required for healthy blood sugar levels—and nearly every patient I see isn’t getting enough of it. Especially my diabetic patients, who require more than my healthy patients. Chromium helps transport blood sugars from the bloodstream into cells throughout your body, where they become the fuel that turns fats, carbohydrates, and proteins into energy. I think we can agree that’s pretty essential. Evidence includes studies of rats fed a chromium-deficient diet. A rapid increase in blood glucose levels was clear—a signature sign of impending diabetes. Studies of humans saw similar results. Bonus: there’s evidence that chromium helps in weight loss, always a helpful in managing diabetes. In a supplement?Look for 400 mg/day of either chromium dinicocysteinate or chromium picolinate.

Practice safe eating—and living

Finally, remember that no supplement can overcome a diet filled with doughnuts, pasta, and ice cream. Even if one of these supplements helps you suppress those carbohyrate cravings, a healthy diet of nutrient-dense foods and moderate daily exercise are what win the day. And, as always, consult with your doctor before experimenting with any new supplements. Take good care.