The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey conducted in 1996 discovered that diabetics are 1.6 times more likely to use complementary anti-diabetic medications compared to their non-diabetic counterparts. In another national survey conducted from 1997 to 1998, it was shown that thirty-five percent of Type 2 diabetics used supplements to treat their condition.
With a growing number of diabetic supplement users, there are several questions that keep nagging the minds of the health care professionals and even diabetics themselves:
- are supplements able to affect blood sugar levels?
- do supplements taken in conjunction with anti-diabetic medications cause drug interactions?
- are herbal supplements safe for diabetic conditions
1. Niacin, also called nicotinic acid or nicotinate, is a common form of vitamin B3. The body uses this vitamin in the production of various sex hormones, and stress-related hormones in the adrenal glands, the gland located on the upper part of each kidney. Furthermore, it has also been shown to have significant uses in many medical conditions such as high cholesterol level, atherosclerosis… the hardening of the blood vessel walls, and osteoarthritis. However, there is one problem with the use of niacin by diabetics. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that niacin has the ability to raise the blood sugar level resulting in the development of hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia may cause an array of consequences: conditions such as increased frequency and excessive urination (polyuria), and excessive thirst and urge to drink large amounts of fluids to replace the water lost through excessive urination.
However, in worse cases, hyperglycemia may result in dizziness, nausea and vomiting, coma and even death.
2. Aloe is another natural supplement which may be taken for a number of conditions; aloe vera can help relieve indigestion, constipation, bladder infections, itchy skin, psoriasis and ulcerative colitis. However, as mentioned by Medline Plus, aloe supplementation may also cause hypoglycemia or low blood sugar levels. Anyone taking anti-diabetic medications must be extra cautious in the use of aloes since this may cause some additive hypoglycemic effect to their medication resulting in the development of overwhelming hypoglycemia. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- anxiety, and
- cold clammy skin
In the worst cases, it may result in coma.
3. American Ginseng is a herb usually used by both Type 2 diabetics and non-diabetics to help remove stress and boost the immune system. According to Medline Plus, this herbal supplement may be helpful in lowering blood sugar levels after meals in Type 2 diabetes. However, there is a special precaution with the use of American ginseng: adding this herbal supplement to the usual anti-diabetic medications may lower the blood sugar too much resulting in hypoglycemia.
Vitamins and minerals are essential for good health, but in excess some of them can do a lot of damage.