We’re all familiar with the sugar rush that you get after indulging in a particularly sweet meal or beverage. The brief sensation of energy and hyperactivity, followed by a sugar crash – a tired, lethargic sensation that makes you want to crawl into bed and fall asleep. If you know what we’re talking about, then you are aware of the up-and-down effect that sugar can have on our body’s energy levels, and just how much strain it can cause our body to simply achieve a balance.
Our bodies quite literally run on sugar; glucose is required for the survival of each and every cell and organ in our body. When we eat, our food is then broken down into glucose in the body, ready for absorption into our bloodstream. Insulin, which is a hormone produced in the pancreas, helps the body remove glucose from the bloodstream and transport it to the cells where it is either converted into energy to use now, or stored up for later use.
Eating too much sugar, or high-glycemic carbohydrates such as crackers, cakes, bread and cookies, causes a rapid influx of blood sugar. To compensate, the body needs to quickly provide a spike of insulin to be able to effectively deal with the sudden overbalance of glucose. As a result, this yo-yo effect leaves us feeling tired and irritable.
Keeping your blood sugar levels within a normal range is one of the most essential and important things that you can do for your overall health and wellness. The best way to do this is by eating a wholesome, healthy diet that is rich in low-glycemic foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and complex carbohydrates. And, including supplements that promote glucose balance in your diet will help too.
Scientists are regularly testing new supplements to determine their usefulness in lowering blood sugar. While glucose balancing supplements are beneficial for everybody, they can be particularly helpful to those who are suffering from prediabetes or diabetes, most notably type 2. Over time, those suffering with type 2 diabetes may find that taking certain supplements alongside their prescribed diabetes medication may lead to a decrease in dosage, although it’s important to be aware that most supplements are unable to replace medication completely.
Read on to learn more about ten supplements that may be able to lower your blood sugar levels.
Cinnamon supplements come in two different forms; they are either made from whole cinnamon powder, or an extract. There have been several studies that suggest taking cinnamon supplements can help to lower blood sugar levels and aid with diabetes control; it’s one of the best natural supplements to lower blood sugar.
People with prediabetes, which means that they have a fasting blood sugar level of 100-125mg/dl, took 250mg of cinnamon extract before eating breakfast and dinner for a three-month period in one study. As a result, they saw an 11-14% decrease in their fasting blood sugar levels, compared to control group participants who took a placebo.
Additionally, another three-month study found that people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes experienced the same decrease in blood sugar levels when taking either 120mg or 360mg of cinnamon extract before breakfast. And, their three-month average of blood sugar levels, known as hemoglobin A1C, decreased significantly.
The recommended dose of cinnamon extract as a supplement is 250mg, taken twice a day before mealtimes. If you’re taking a regular, non-extract cinnamon supplement, take 500mg twice daily, also before meals.
How it works: Cinnamon may support your body’s cells with a better response to insulin. As a result, this allows sugar into your cells and helps to lower sugar levels in the blood.
Magnesium is a super-important mineral, which is responsible for over three hundred chemical reactions in the body. So, it’s unsurprising that magnesium is also essential for the regulation of blood sugar, making it one of the best blood sugar supplement options.
Supplementation of magnesium can help to maintain insulin sensitivity and support a healthy level of glucose in the body.
Low magnesium levels in the blood have been found in 25-40% of people with type 2 diabetes and are more common in people who do not have their blood sugar under control. A review found that eight out of twelve studies suggested that giving magnesium supplements to healthy people, people with prediabetes, and people with type 2 diabetes for a period of 6-24 weeks helped reduce fasting blood sugar levels in all three, compared to placebo control groups.
For people with diabetes, the recommended dose of magnesium is around 250-350mg daily. It should always be taken with a meal to improve absorption into the bloodstream. You should also bear in mind that magnesium can interact with several medications, including certain antibiotics and diuretics, so always consult with your doctor before supplementing magnesium if you are on any prescribed medication.
How it works: Magnesium may support and maintain insulin sensitivity, since it’s an essential mineral for normal insulin secretion and insulin action in the body’s tissues.
#3. Vitamin D
There is a sure link between vitamin D levels in the body, and how able we are to effectively metabolize glucose. Those with high blood sugar are often also found to have low levels of this essential vitamin. Since Vitamin D supports insulin sensitivity, having enough of it in your body means that you will need to produce less insulin in order to correctly maintain your blood sugar levels. In fact, vitamin D deficiency is considered a particularly high risk factor for type 2 diabetes. As a result, vitamin D supplements are amongst the best natural remedies for diabetes type 2.
One recent trial found that when adults with high fasting glucose levels were given Vitamin D3 supplements for one year, significant balancing of the glucose levels occurred. Another study gave participants with type 2 diabetes a daily supplement of Vitamin D for two months, at the end of which, improvements to both fasting blood sugar and A1C were improved. Additionally, 48% of participants showed good blood sugar control at the end of the study, compared to just over 30% at the beginning.
Before taking Vitamin D as a supplement, it’s a wise idea to request a blood test from your doctor, who can help you determine the right dosage for your individual needs. Bear in mind that Vitamin D may trigger reactions with certain prescription medications, so speak to your doctor about any potential interactions.
How it works: Vitamin D may work to improve the function of the pancreatic cells which create insulin. In addition, adequate levels of Vitamin D may also improve the body’s responsiveness to insulin.
A North American root that’s often used in herbal medicine, ginseng has been shown in several studies to help reduce blood sugar levels after eating a meal, when it is taken before or with the food. It has been shown to reduce the post-meal blood sugar levels of both healthy people and people with type 2 diabetes by around 20%, making it one of the best herbs for diabetes.
A study with participants diagnosed with type 2 diabetes found that when they took one gram of American ginseng forty minutes before each meal of the day for two months while continuing their regular diabetes treatment, their fasting blood sugar also decreased by around 10%, when compared to control groups.
To take ginseng to reduce blood sugar, have one gram up to two hours before eating a main meal. Bear in mind that taking it earlier than this could cause your blood sugar levels to drop too low. And, keep your daily dose to under 3g, as taking more does not appear to provide any additional health benefits.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that ginseng can interact with and decrease the effectiveness of blood thinning medications such as warfarin. If you are currently prescribed a blood thinning medication, it’s essential to speak with your doctor before supplementing ginseng. It may also stimulate your immune system, so seek medical advice first if you are taking any immunosuppressant drugs.
How it works: Ginseng supplements may improve your cells’ response to insulin, and improve secretion of insulin in your body.
The beneficial bacteria in our body interact and communicate with our cells, making them responsible for supporting a huge number of bodily functions. They are responsible for supporting metabolic, digestive, and immune health, while assisting with keeping our blood sugar levels within a normal range.
Additionally, damage caused to your gut bacteria by taking antibiotics, for example, is associated with a heightened risk of several diseases, which includes diabetes. Probiotic supplements contain beneficial bacteria and other microbes; therefore, they offer numerous benefits for your health and can be beneficial in improving how your body handles carbohydrates.
In fact, a review of seven different studies in people with type 2 diabetes found that those who took probiotic supplements for at least a two-month period experienced a 16mg/dl reduction in fasting blood sugar compared to control groups. And, taking probiotics that contained at least two different species of bacteria led to an even greater reduction in fasting blood sugar, with levels decreasing by a huge 35mg/dl.
To get the best effect, it’s recommended that you take a probiotic with more than one beneficial species. At the moment, it is not known if there is an ideal combination for diabetes. Additionally, bear in mind that while probiotics are unlikely to cause any harm, in certain rare circumstances they can lead to infections in people who suffer from significantly impaired immune systems.
How it works: Studies have suggested that probiotics may reduce blood sugar levels by acting as an anti-inflammatory and preventing essential, pancreatic insulin-producing cell destruction.
Berberine is a bitter-tasting compound that is taken from the roots and stems of certain plants, including phellodendron and goldenseal. A review of twenty-seven studies found that people with type 2 diabetes were able to reduce their fasting blood sugar by an average of 15mg/dl when taking berberine supplements combined with diet and lifestyle changes.
In addition, the review also suggested berberine as one of the most effective natural remedies for diabetes, since supplements taken alongside diabetes medication were able to cause a bigger blood sugar level decrease than the medication alone.
Typically, a dose of berberine is 300-500mg which is taken 2-3 times daily with main meals. Before taking, bear in mind that berberine can lead to digestive disturbances such as constipation, diarrhea, or increased gas, which can be improved by lowering the dose to 300mg. And, it may interact with certain prescription medications, so speak to your doctor beforehand.
How it works: Berberine may be able to improve insulin sensitivity, and enhance the uptake of sugar from your blood into the muscles, helping to improve energy and lower blood sugar levels.
#7. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is another natural substance that can be very helpful to those trying to lower their blood sugar levels. Studies have found that supplements in either capsule or juice form derived from this plant could reduce fasting blood sugar levels in people suffering from both prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. In fact, a review of nine studies in people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes found that taking aloe vera supplements over a period of 4-14 weeks was able to significantly decrease fasting blood sugar levels by almost 47mg/dl.
In addition, participants who had blood sugar above 200mg/dl before taking part experienced even stronger benefits at the end of the study. And, there have been several animal studies that suggest aloe is able to stimulate insulin production in pancreatic cells, although this is yet to be confirmed.
While the best dosage of aloe vera for reducing blood sugar levels is not yet known, common doses tested in successful studies tend to be either 1,000mg taken daily in capsule form, or 30ml of aloe juice divided into doses throughout the day.
Bear in mind that aloe can interact with a number of medications, so talk to your doctor before supplementing with it if you are or expect to be taking any prescription medication.
How it works: Scientists are not yet sure of exactly how and why aloe is able to reduce blood sugar, but studies have suggested that it can stimulate the production of insulin in pancreatic cells, in addition to other mechanisms.
In the Ayurvedic tradition of India, Gymnema sylvestre is a herb that’s commonly used for the treatment of diabetes. In fact, the Hindu name for the plant, gurmar, translates to ‘sugar destroyer’.
Studies have shown that it’s effective for reducing fasting blood sugar levels, with one study of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes finding that taking 400mg of gymnema leaf extract daily led to an almost 30% decrease in fasting blood sugar. Additionally, further research suggests that this herb may be effective in reducing fasting blood sugar and A1C in type 1 diabetes patients. It may also be useful for reducing sweet cravings by suppressing the sensation of sweet tastes in your mouth.
It’s recommended to take a 200mg dose of gymnema extract twice per day, with meals, to experience the best effects. Bear in mind that this supplement can enhance the blood sugar effects of insulin, so it’s important to consult with your doctor before taking it if you are currently taking insulin injections. If may also interact with blood levels of certain prescription drugs.
How it works: Gymnema may reduce sugar absorption in the gut and promote the uptake of sugar from your blood by cells. It’s also suspected, but not yet confirmed, that gymnema may be able to somehow aid insulin-producing pancreatic cells.
#9. Alpa-Lipoic Acid
Alpa-Lipoic acid is a fat- and water-soluble antioxidant which addresses free radicals in the body and supports healthy tissues and organs. In addition, it supports the conversion of glucose into energy in the body’s cells, and is effective for maintaining insulin sensitivity.
It is naturally produced in your liver and you can also find it in certain foods, including broccoli, spinach and red meats. Studies have shown that when people with type 2 diabetes supplemented with an increasing dose of 300, 600, 900 to 1200mg of ALA alongside regular diabetes treatment for six months, their fasting blood sugar decreased.
Generally, doses are 600-1200mg which is divided and taken daily before main meals. Bear in mind that ALA may interact with certain drugs prescribed for the treatment of hyperthyroid disease. If you have vitamin B1 deficiency or struggle with alcohol addiction, it’s best to avoid very large doses of ALA. Speak to your doctor if you are concerned about taking this supplement.
How it works: ALA may be able to improve sensitivity of insulin, and boost cells’ uptake of sugar from the bloodstream. Bear in mind that it can take a few weeks to months to experience these effects. In addition, ALA may also be able to protect against oxidative damage caused by high blood sugar.
Chromium is essential for proper metabolism, but studies have also shown it to be effective in lowering blood sugar levels. When taken consistently, this trace mineral has been found to have a positive effect on maintaining healthy blood sugar.
Being deficient in chromium reduces your body’s ability to use carbohydrates, which are converted into sugar for energy. As a result, this raises your body’s need for insulin, and causes a blood sugar imbalance. In a review of 25 studies, chromium supplements were able to reduce A1C by around 0.6% in people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, alongside causing an average decrease in fasting blood sugar levels of around 20mg/dl.
In addition, there is some evidence to suggest that chromium may also be useful in reducing blood sugar in those with type 1 diabetes.
Typically, dosage is 200mcg per day, although doses up to 1000mcg daily have been tested and found effective in patients with diabetes. For the best absorption, choose the chromium picolinate form. Bear in mind that certain prescription drugs, including those prescribed for heartburn, can reduce the absorption of chromium into the body.
How it works: Chromium may be able to enhance both insulin performance and insulin-producing pancreatic cell activity.
Many supplements, including ginseng, cinnamon, magnesium, vitamin D, probiotics and certain plant compounds, make superb natural remedies for lowering blood sugar. Before taking any of these supplements, bear in mind that you may experience differing results to what studies have found, based on a range of factors such as your diabetes status, supplement quality, and the period of time that you supplement for.
You should always discuss taking any supplements with your doctor beforehand, particularly if you are currently taking any diabetes treatments or other prescription medication that may lead to interactions. It’s wise to try one new supplement at a time and monitor your blood sugar regularly to follow any improvements or changes over time.
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