A lot of people are struggling to keep those blood sugar levels at a normal rate. High blood sugar levels, commonly known as hyperglycemia, can be discomforting. What makes blood sugar level unstable can be attributed to lack of sleep, skipping breakfast, lack of water in the body to name a few. A diet low in fiber and high in refined carbs or sugars and lack of exercise could also be a culprit. While it is true that diet is an effective way to manage sugar levels, some extra supplements could be also a very good additive to your health routine. Supplements to control blood sugar have been researched extensively, and several have been found to be beneficial.
7 Natural Blood Sugar Supplements
Aloe vera is used in herbal medicine for thousands of years due to its healing, rejuvenating and soothing properties. Preliminary research suggests that intake of aloe vera juice can help improve blood glucose levels, making it ideal in treating people with diabetes (1). It is said to decrease blood lipids in patients with abnormally high levels of these molecules in the blood and acute hepatitis; and decrease swelling and faster healing of wound injuries. When taken orally by mouth, aloe vera helps lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes and lower cholesterol (2). However, it may have side effects. Oral aloe can cause cramping and diarrhea; may cause electrolyte imbalances in the blood of people who ingest aloe for more than a few days; and can stain the colon, thus making it difficult to visualize the colon during a colonoscopy (3).
Berberine supplementation can be a promising method of natural blood sugar due to its ability to keep patients within a stable and healthy range. It is capable to both decrease high blood sugar and address low blood sugar (4). It is a blood sugar regulator because it can reverse insulin resistance and restore the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. Berberine is said to be as effective as first-line pharmaceutical treatments like metformin for lowering blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes, according to a seminal 2010 study (5). Supplementing with berberine may have some side effects. It can cause kernicterus, a rare type of brain damage that can occur in newborns who have severe jaundice, and so keep the newborns away from this supplement. In addition, researchers believe berberine can cross the placenta and might cause harm to the fetus, which pregnant women should be aware of (6).
A spice made from tree bark, cinnamon is touted for its potential medicinal properties. Research has suggested that cinnamon can help improve blood glucose levels and increase insulin sensitivity. A 2013 meta-analysis of 10 studies found that consuming cinnamon produced a “statistically significant” decrease in glucose, total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides and it also increased high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol (7). Many health experts claim that cinnamon contains properties that are beneficial for blood sugar regulation and treatment of type 2 diabetes. Something to watch out in taking cinnamon supplements is when you are pregnant or a child or you are taking medications that can affect the liver, such as paracetamol or statins (8).
Curcumin, found in turmeric, is the yellow or orange powder that gives curry powder its beautiful color. But curcumin is more than just an additive to your favorite curry dish. It is known to help one achieve a healthy state of mind and body. Because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, turmeric supplements may help with blood sugar management in people with type 2 diabetes. In a study, curcumin reduced blood sugar and cholesterol levels and prevented liver fat accumulation (9). A study where rats consumed curcumin had reduced liver fat on a high-fat diet compared to rats that are not consuming curcumin (10). However, curcumin may have some downside. It may make gallbladder problems worse; can cause stomach upset in some people; might lower testosterone levels and decrease sperm movement when taken by mouth; and is likely unsafe when taken by mouth in medicinal amounts during pregnancy (11).
The name “ginseng” is used to refer to both American (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) wherein both have similar chemical makeup. Several human studies show that American ginseng lowered blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes (12). Another study found that people with type 2 diabetes who took American ginseng before or together with a high sugar drink experienced less of an increase in blood glucose levels (13). Supplementing ginseng may also have some side effects. Panax ginseng may be unsafe when taken by mouth because it has some hormone-like effects that could be harmful with prolonged use. Other common side effects are trouble sleeping (insomnia), menstrual problems, breast pain, increased heart rate, high or low blood pressure, headache, loss of appetite, diarrhea, itching, rash, dizziness, mood changes, vaginal bleeding, and others (14).
Gymnema sylvestre is a woody climbing plant that grows in the tropical forests of central and southern India. This supplement has been used in connection with Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. It helps normalize blood sugar control in people with type 1 diabetes. Test tube and animal studies have found several mechanisms by which gymnema may help normalize blood sugar control in diabetics (15). In addition, it may stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin and help normalize blood sugar control in people with diabetes (16). Very high doses can lower blood sugar to harmful levels that may result to weakness, confusion, dizziness, and loss of muscle control. When taken on an empty stomach, gymnema can cause stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting (17).
Magnesium deficiency has been shown to directly influence the blood sugar control of type 2 diabetics. Elevated blood glucose levels increase the loss of magnesium in the urine, which, in turn, lowers blood levels of magnesium, and so it is important to get enough magnesium especially for people who have diabetes (18). Magnesium deficiency may interrupt the insulin secretion process, and also increase insulin resistance (19). According to a study conducted in Mexico, magnesium chloride supplements may lower blood sugar levels and counter insulin resistance (20). In a randomized double-blind controlled trial, oral magnesium supplementation restores serum magnesium levels, improving insulin sensitivity and metabolic control in type 2 diabetic patients with decreased serum magnesium levels (21). Diarrhea and stomach cramps may be experienced since it can have a laxative effect in some people (22).
Proper diet, regular exercise, enough sleep and healthy lifestyle help in blood sugar control. The supplements in the list can reinforce your body’s health to achieve a balance blood sugar level. Remember to always consult your doctor before making any major diet changes and to monitor symptoms that may need immediate medical attention.