Type 2 Diabetes and Complementary Therapies

A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can be devastating – or it can be empowering, suggests Leann Olansky, MD, a physician in Cleveland Clinic’s Endocrinology & Metabolism Institute.

“With diabetes, you can do something to help yourself,” Dr. Olansky says. “Changing your lifestyle, eating a healthy diet and reducing your stress are all good ways to begin taking better care of yourself.”

Supplementing Your Program

Not much research has been done on alternative therapies for diabetes, “which may be because the changes from them are small, so it can be hard to measure the effects the same way we’d measure the effects from medications,” Dr. Olansky says.

But that’s no reason to rule them out, she says. In addition to taking prescription medications, many type 2 diabetes patients may benefit from alternative therapies and supplements. But, cautions Dr. Olansky, “always talk to your doctor first about what you’re taking and the amount because of possible drug interactions with prescribed medications.”

What might you consider? Many traditional herbs and spices have anti-inflammatory properties that may be helpful to patients in the early stages of type 2 diabetes. Dr. Olansky says some evidence shows that adding cinnamon and turmeric to a healthy diet can be beneficial. Chromium supplements also can a make a difference if there’s a deficiency, but be careful because high amounts can be toxic. She also recommends daily fish oil supplements or eating fish three times a week.

Vitamin D is another important supplement. “Many people are vitamin D deficient without realizing it, particularly in northern states such as Ohio,” Dr. Olansky says. “Low levels of vitamin D put you at risk for heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer, infection, high blood pressure and maybe diabetes.”

Get Moving

Exercise such as yoga is another important component of treating diabetes.

“Even if you don’t lose any weight, muscles will use glucose, and the cardiovascular effects will help control blood sugar levels, in addition to helping reduce stress,” Dr. Olansky says. “I think we need to pay more attention to how diabetes affects the brain. Anything that will reduce stress and have a calming effect is good.”

The bottom line, according to Dr. Olansky? Investigate alternative therapies, over-the-counter supplements and exercise options — but be sure to talk to your doctor before making any changes.

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