If you have diabetes, taking certain supplements is of utmost importance. This is because diabetes is a nutritional wasting disease. Elevated blood sugar levels cause excessive urination. In fact, diabetes mellitus is taken from two Greek words meaning “to pass through” and “honey,” referring to excessive glucose-laden urination.
In addition, high blood sugar overwhelms the kidneys’ capacity to reabsorb glucose as well as all water-soluble nutrients. Elevated blood sugar levels essentially act like an osmotic diuretic, washing out virtually everything.
Every time blood sugar rises and urination increases, patients with diabetes lose water, magnesium, zinc, B12, B6, folic acid, and many other nutrients. Although water is replaced by drinking, nothing is done to replenish the water-soluble nutrients that are also swept out.
It’s important to realize that maintaining your blood sugar control alone won’t solve the problem. Although good glucose control reduces urinary losses of micronutrients as well as other stresses caused by diabetes, it does not eliminate them. Even under good control, there are regular periods of high blood sugar.
Incredibly, most experts specializing in diabetes make no attempt whatsoever to replace lost nutrients, leaving their patients to suffer the inevitable consequences of nutritional deficiencies.
A second reason nutritional supplements are essential is that certain nutrients work to support your body’s ability to use insulin, which can help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
At a minimum, everyone with diabetes should be taking a high-quality vitamin and mineral supplement every day. In addition to a multivitamin, the following nutrients can help replenish nutrients lost and also help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Many are included in multivitamins, but not always at sufficient dosages. If your multi comes up short, supplement with additional doses of the specific nutrients until you’re taking the recommended amount.
Here are the best supplements for diabetes:
Vitamins B6 and B12 are water-soluble and therefore vulnerable to loss via excessive urination caused by diabetes. This leads to increased homocysteine levels and dramatically increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Low levels of B6 can cause glucose intolerance, depression, cracked lips, and dry skin. A B12 deficiency may have no obvious symptoms at first, but over time it can produce mental disturbances, anemia, and impaired nerve function. A lack of folic acid may bring on depression, forgetfulness, insomnia, irritability, and fatigue.
Vitamins B6 and B12 also support nerve health, which is critical for addressing conditions such as diabetic neuropathy. Biotin is another B-complex vitamin that is necessary for both metabolism and growth. Biotin is also involved in the manufacture and utilization of protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
Recommended dosage: 75 mg of B6, 150 mcg of B12, and 300 mcg of biotin daily
Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant, which makes it vulnerable to urinary losses as well as poor cellular uptake. Vitamin C lowers levels of sorbitol, the sugar that can collect in and damage cells in the eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Severe vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy, which leads to bleeding gums, bruising, and poor wound healing. Furthermore, lack of vitamin C is linked with susceptibility to infection.
Recommended dosage: At least 1,000 mg daily
Vitamin D turns on genes that boost production of antimicrobial peptides called cathelicidins, which destroy viruses, bacteria, and other germs. Because people with diabetes are more prone to infections due to diabetic ulcers and periodontal disease, making sure your body has optimal levels of this fat-soluble vitamin is important.
Recommended dosage: At least 2,000 IU (as cholecalciferol or D3) daily
Vitamin E is the body’s premier fat-soluble antioxidant. It supports healthy blood sugar levels and protects blood vessels and nerves from free radical damage, which is accelerated by diabetes. Studies have shown that high doses of supplemental vitamin E may even reverse damage to nerves caused by diabetes and protect against diabetic cataracts and atherosclerosis.
Recommended dosage: At least 200 IU daily
Note: When taking vitamin E, take only the natural form of it. You can tell it’s natural if it’s listed as d-alpha-tocopherol or d-alpha-tocopheryl. Synthetic vitamin E is listed as dl-alpha-tocopherol or dl-alpha tocopheryl (note the “l”).
Magnesium is a mineral crucial for energy production and protein synthesis, cellular replication and DNA production. Magnesium has also been shown to decrease insulin resistance.
However, excessive urination washes out magnesium. Low magnesium levels are present in 25 percent of people with diabetes, and even those with levels considered to be “high” for diabetics don’t reach the average levels of the non-diabetic population.
As magnesium levels decrease, glucose control deteriorates because magnesium is essential to normal carbohydrate metabolism. Low levels are associated with diabetic retinopathy, and diabetics with the lowest magnesium levels have the greatest risk of going blind. Low magnesium is also associated with high blood pressure and vasospasm (constriction of blood vessels) as well as cardiovascular disease. Magnesium is involved in glucose transfer across cell membranes and improves insulin sensitivity and glucose control. It also helps decrease oxidative stress.
Recommended dosage: 500–1,000 mg daily
Berberine is, by far, one of the best supplements for diabetes. It is a plant alkaloid that targets AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which is a very basic and ancient regulator of metabolism present in all animals and plants. AMPK stimulates the uptake of glucose into the cells, improves insulin sensitivity, and reduces glucose production in the liver, which is in overdrive in diabetic patients.
Recommended dosage: 1,500 mg daily, in divided doses
Vanadyl sulfate is a stable, inorganic form of vanadium, a unique trace mineral found in foods such as mushrooms and shellfish. It has an insulin-like effect in the body, stimulating glucose uptake and its oxidation in the cells. More specifically, it has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c, and reduce insulin requirements in people with type 1 diabetes.
There are hundreds of studies—some dating back more than 20 years—that demonstrate vanadyl sulfate’s profound benefits for managing diabetes and controlling blood sugar. In one study, people with type 2 diabetes took 50 mg of vanadyl sulfate twice a day for four weeks, followed by a placebo for four weeks. They were found to have a 20 percent reduction in average fasting blood sugar, which lasted well into the placebo period after the mineral was discontinued.
In another study, patients received 100 mg of vanadyl sulfate for three weeks. Overall, patients experienced less insulin resistance and greater glucose uptake.
Recommended dosage: 100 mg daily
Chromium is a trace mineral found in brewer’s yeast, potato skins, oysters, nuts, and liver. It is essential for protein, carbohydrate, and fat metabolism, but also plays a key role in blood sugar control.
Chromium is a powerful therapy for diabetes thanks to its ability to improve the action of insulin and to help move glucose (and other nutrients) into the cells.
In one study, 180 people with type 2 diabetes were divided into three groups and given supplements containing 100 mcg chromium, 500 mcg chromium, or a placebo, twice a day. No other changes were made in their medications, diets, or activity levels. When their blood glucose levels were tested after four months, the patients taking chromium had reductions in blood sugar, insulin, cholesterol, and hemoglobin A1c.
In another double-blind clinical trial, researchers divided 26 young, healthy people into two groups; one received 220 mcg of chromium while the other was given a placebo. At the end of 90 days, those who exhibited signs of insulin resistance experienced a significant reduction in their blood sugar levels.
Recommended dosage: 200–500 mcg of chromium picolinate daily
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a plant that Americans generally consider to be a weed, yet Europeans and Asians love to eat. But purslane has a health benefit that everyone can appreciate—its ability to help lower blood sugar naturally.
A patented purslane extract (Portusana) has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, enhance glucose uptake into the cells, and slow the transport of glucose from the intestines into the blood.
Recommended dosage: 180 mg daily
Gymnema sylvestre is an extract from the leaves of a climbing plant native to the forests of central and south India. The leaves of the plant contain gymnemic acids, which have been shown to slow the transport of glucose from the intestines to the bloodstream. This, in turn, helps the body maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
In one clinical trial, 22 people with type 2 diabetes who were taking oral diabetes drugs also took 400 mg of Gymnema sylvestre extract (as GS4) daily. Participants experienced significant reductions in blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c and glycosylated plasma protein levels. More remarkably, at the end of the 18-month study, the participants were able to reduce their drug dosages, and five of the study subjects were able to effectively maintain normal blood sugar levels with the GS4 alone.
In another study, researchers gave 27 people with type 1 diabetes 400 mg of Gymnema sylvestre extract (GS4) daily. After 10 to 12 months, Gymnema sylvestre extract conferred a number of benefits, including reductions in fasting blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c, and glycosylated plasma protein levels. Insulin requirements were also reduced.
Recommended dosage: 400 mg daily
Pterocarpus marsupium (also known as Indian kino tree extract) is an extract from the bark and wood of a tree with a long history of use in Ayurveda, the traditional medicinal system of India. It contains flavonoids (epicatechin and pterostilbene) that promote insulin sensitivity, improve the body’s ability to transport sugar from the bloodstream into the cells, and help maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Recommended dosage: 450 mg of a standardized extract daily