Diet and Nutrition

Dietary Supplements for Diabetes

Dietary Supplements for Diabetes

Key Takeaways

  • The occurrence of diabetes happens when the pancreas releases little or no insulin or when the body is unable to properly respond back to insulin.
  • Currently, there is no cure for diabetes. The best option for people with diabetes is to manage not to increase their blood sugar levels more than the normal range.
  • Dietary supplements are basically vitamins, minerals, or herbs that can be orally taken. They provide an additional benefit for individuals who have certain health problems including diabetes.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder, which involves a problem with the hormone called insulin. The pancreas, which is situated behind the stomach, releases insulin to help the body store and then later use sugar and fat from the food we eat. The occurrence of diabetes happens when the pancreas releases little or no insulin or when the body is unable to properly respond back to insulin. Currently, there is no cure for diabetes. The best option for people with diabetes is to manage not to increase their blood sugar levels more than the normal range.

Diabetes is termed as a group of chronic diseases, which tend to affect the rate of metabolism in the body. It is the way our body uses the food we eat for the production of energy and for growth. There are millions of people across the globe who are suffering from this chronic illness, and if it is not managed properly, it can lead to other serious life-threatening complications.

Conventional medications for diabetes along with changes in one's diet and lifestyle can lead to the prevention of the rise of blood sugar levels and would help manage as well as control other health complications of diabetes. Numerous studies have been conducted regarding the use of dietary supplements for diabetes to check if they can help in managing the disease on a long-term basis.

Dietary Supplements

There are various dietary supplements available in different forms. They include vitamins, minerals, and herbs. Dietary supplements are available in the form of tablets, capsules, powder, liquid, softgels, or gelcaps. They are sold at a number of retailers, which would include grocery stores, pharmacies, online websites, and food stores. 

Dietary supplements are basically vitamins, minerals, or herbs that can be orally taken. They provide an additional benefit for individuals who have certain health problems including diabetes. So far, there are no proven pieces of evidence to demonstrate that the combination of diabetes and dietary supplements can help treat the disease. However, certain ongoing studies emphasize the minerals chromium and magnesium saying that both are somewhere linked to control blood sugar levels in the body.

Types of Dietary Supplements

The following are main types of dietary supplements available for diabetes:

  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Herbal supplements
  • Fatty acids
  • Other supplements

Chromium

Chromium is one of the essential trace minerals available in many foods. If one has too little chromium in the diet, then the body is unable to efficiently use glucose. There have been studies that have found few or no benefits of chromium supplements for diabetic patients.

Chromium supplements are also known to cause side effects such as pain and bloating of the stomach. There are also a few cases of kidney damage and certain skin reactions if the supplement is taken in larger quantities. 

Magnesium

People who have problems with their insulin levels are often known to have low levels of magnesium. There are still no confirmatory studies that can say that magnesium dietary supplements would help relieve or reduce the symptoms of diabetes.

Herbal Supplements

There has been strong evidence backing that herbal supplements have proven to be beneficial in controlling diabetes and its complications. Cinnamon, aloe vera, fenugreek, and sweet potatoes are supplements that have been regarded as effective herbal dietary supplements.

Side Effects and Drug Interactions

Dietary supplements may seem safe or mild since they are mostly natural. However, there can be serious cases of side effects or drug interactions while taking certain dietary supplements. Supplements such as aloe vera or vanadium can lead to excessive bleeding during the course of surgery or can also interact with anesthetics.

Other dietary supplements also tend to interact with certain medications. It is said that St. John’s wort is known to have multiple drug interactions. Hence, it should be avoided while taking other medications. The doctor would be the best person to guide on which dietary supplements can be taken based on one's medical history and other health risks.

Also, certain dietary supplements are known to be contaminated by adding other substances other than those mentioned on the label of the packaging.

Deciding to Go with Dietary Supplements

There is no evidence yet to prove whether the intake of vitamins or mineral supplements can benefit people who are suffering from type 2 diabetes. The first step is to speak with your doctor before deciding whether or not to mix these dietary supplements with diabetes medications. They can guide on the pros and cons of the dietary supplements. They can also do a thorough check if any supplements you take would interact with any diabetes medications. Always make sure to inform your doctor in advance before you start taking any dietary supplements.

Glucose in Our Body

Glucose is nothing but sugar in our body. In certain labels, it is also referred to as dextrose. The blood glucose in the body, which is less than 70 mg/dl is considered to be low blood glucose and can lead to certain issues. Low blood glucose in the body is also called as hypoglycemia. You may experience certain symptoms when there is a sudden dip in the glucose levels of the body. Some of the symptoms of hypoglycemia include the following:

  • Weakness
  • Feeling tired
  • Confusion
  • Excessive sweating and body shaking
  • Easily irritated
  • Hunger pangs
  • Pale skin
  • Increased heart rate
  • Lack of body coordination

If you are suffering from low glucose levels in the body, then follow the below steps:

  1. Rest for at least 15 minutes and then check your blood glucose level again. If it is still low, then eat or drink something that should be equal to 15 grams of carbohydrates.
  2. If the next main meal is an hour away, then you would need to eat one more carbohydrate choice of snack to maintain your glucose level and avoid it from going low.
  3. Check with the doctor if you are unsure of the sudden dip of glucose level since he may recommend certain medications for your condition.

Table sugar consists of one molecule of glucose and another of fructose. Hence, when it is broken down in the stomach, only half of it is immediately available as glucose. Fruit juices such as orange juice mostly contain fructose, which makes them not a good option for a quick treatment of serious hypoglycemia since it takes a lot of time to raise the blood sugar levels. If there are mild lows, then this long gap would not be vital. But in cases when the low is severe, then one would want to go in for carbohydrates that work faster and are readily available. One would need to choose high glycemic foods to raise the blood sugar levels.

Glucose comes from the food we eat and serves to be a very important source of energy for the body. Carbohydrates, which are available in foods such as potatoes, rice, bread, cereals, veggies, and fruits are a good source of glucose. Once you eat these foods, glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream and travels to the body’s cells.

Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas. It helps the cells to use glucose for the production of energy. If you tend to eat more than the required amount of glucose in your body, then the body stores it in the liver and muscles or it can change it into fat and later used for energy whenever required. Without enough of glucose, the body cannot perform its normal functions. Thus, it is quite important to treat low blood sugar levels to prevent further complications.

Glucose Tablets

Glucose tablets are also sold under the brand name called as BD Glucose or Dex4 and are mostly used for treating low blood sugar or glucose in the body. These glucose tablets are basically simple sugar or monosaccharides. Taking these tablets can lead to a rise in the glucose levels in the blood. Moreover, it works really quick. However, avoid taking these tablets if you are allergic to any of their components or if you are unable to swallow the tablets. Glucose tablets break down very quickly and reach the blood, which is quite similar to 100 percent glucose. For this reason, it is regarded as the best choice for raising the blood glucose levels when an individual experiences hypoglycemia.

Inform the doctor if you have the following conditions before you start taking glucose tablets:

  • If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant
  • If you are breastfeeding
  • If you are currently taking prescription or non-prescription medication and any kind of herbal or dietary supplements
  • If you have certain food and drug allergies

Glucose tablets contain 4 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates, which are mainly in the form of dextrose or glucose. Apart from this, the tablets also contain other ingredients such as coloring agent, flavor, preservatives, and binding agents.

Availability

Glucose tablets can be purchased online and in pharmacies.

Dosage and Use

Glucose tablets should be taken as directed by the doctor. You can also check the label for more instructions and exact dosing. Chew the tablet properly before swallowing it. If the reaction continues, then you can take another dose after 10 minutes. You can retake the dose as required for low blood glucose reactions. If you miss a dose, then contact your doctor right away.

Glucose tablets are also available without the need of a prescription. It is essential to check how many grams are there in each tablet before taking them. You should aim at taking 15-20 grams of carbohydrates. After taking the glucose tablet, wait for 15 minutes. You can take 3-4 glucose tablets to make up for low blood sugar level. This amount can be adjusted based on the individual's body weight and age. However, the label on the glucose tablet would also provide how many grams consist of each tablet. After taking the glucose tablets, test your blood sugar level again. If your blood sugar is not going up, then take another 15 grams of glucose tablets. This process should be repeated until your blood sugar level starts to increase.

There are no tablets in the market that currently indicate 15 grams in one glucose tablet, which is why you would need to take 4-5 glucose tablets if they are 3-4 grams each accordingly. The glucose tablets should be stored at room temperature and should not be refrigerated. The bottle cap should also be tightly closed.

When to Take Glucose Tablets

Taking glucose tablets can help normalize the level of blood sugar in your body. You can take glucose tablets if you notice the following hypoglycemia symptoms:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Blurry vision
  • Skin turning pale
  • Headache that tends to get worse
  • Fatigue even at rest
  • Hunger
  • Drowsiness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sleeping difficulty
  • Tingling sensations in the skin
  • Body shaking
  • Trouble in concentrating or confused
  • Seizure
  • Loss of consciousness

Warning

Currently, there are no reported side effects from the use of glucose tablets. However, they should only be taken when then there is a dip in the blood sugar levels. Do not take extra tablets to avoid having other health problems. Check the expiry date of the bottle before purchasing the tablets. Also, check for the gram content on each tablet to avoid overdosing.