Living Well With Type 1 Diabetes | Nutritional Medicine

I treat many type 1 diabetic patients in my practice. It’s a tough disease that takes an emotional and physical toll on patients and their families. Diabetes requires constant diligence and frequent monitoring of blood sugar levels.

What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus or insulin-dependent diabetes, is an autoimmune disease that most often affects children and young adults. It accounts for only 5% of all diabetes cases.

With type 1 diabetes the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Insulin is necessary to process the sugar from foods so the cells can use it for energy. To survive, a type 1 diabetic must have supplementation with synthetic insulin, either by multiple daily injections or insulin pump devices.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes include:

  •  Rapid weight loss, despite increased hunger
  •  Extreme thirst
  •  Increased urination
  •  Severe fatigue
  •  Blurred vision
  •  Cuts or bruises that are slow to heal

Anyone experiencing one or more of these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.

Researching a type 1 diabetes cure

Currently there’s a great deal of money and research being invested into the search for a “cure” for diabetes. Two avenues of research are listed below.

1) Islet cell transportation — With this technique, insulin producing cells are harvested from a deceased donor. Traditionally, these cells are then implanted into the diabetic patient’s liver. Generally the procedure is done twice, using local anesthetic. It is believed this procedure could help patients who have more that one hypo (hypoglycemia) each year.

Islet cell transplantation can improve blood glucose control, improve sensitivity to hypoglycemia symptoms, and reduce or eliminate the need for insulin injections.

However, as with any invasive procedure, there is a risk of bleeding and blood clots. Also the transplanted islets may not function as expected. There are also risks from the medications that must be taken to suppress rejection of the cells.

2) Pancreas Transplantation – Currently pancreas transplants are risky and have very low success rates.

These two treatments are not viable options for most diabetic type 1 patients. Consequently, most people regulate their glucose levels either with insulin injections or with an insulin pump.

Nutrition and diabetes

Fortunately, there are a number of holistic alternative treatments that can improve the symptoms of the disease as well as the secondary conditions.

Supplements for diabetes

There are many minerals, herbs, and vitamins that can help your body control glucose levels. You’ll find a few listed below.

Studies show that Magnesium can assist with diabetes management. Besides helping maintain muscle and nerve control, magnesium is essential for proper immune system function. This is important for diabetics since all forms of diabetes are autoimmune diseases.Magnesium also plays a role in balancing blood glucose.

Food sources of magnesium include almonds, fish (especially mackerel), avocados, and bananas. Dark leafy greens like raw spinach, kale, and Romaine lettuce also contain magnesium.

In the diabetic community, greens are known as “free foods”. These means they are extremely low in carbohydrates. Most dietitians recommend diabetic patients follow a carb-controlled diet. So you can safely fill up on leafy greens, while you help control your glucose.

Generally, Americans do not get the recommended amount of magnesium from diet alone. Additional magnesium can be obtained from high quality nutritional supplements.

Not all forms of magnesium are created equal

Magnesium supplements come in a variety of forms. Some are better absorbed by the body than others. According to the National Institute of Health, “Studies have found that magnesium in the aspartate, citrate, lactate and chloride forms is absorbed more completely and is more bioavailable than magnesium oxide and magnesium sulfate.” You can buy a professional grade of magnesium citrate here.  

Another way to get a therapeutic dose of magnesium is to take an Epsom salt bath.
Add one cup of Epsom salt to a full tub of warm water, and you have a relaxing recipe for glucose control!

Epsom salts contain magnesium sulfate which will be absorbed through the skin during the bath. Although not quite as bioavailable as other forms, an Epsom salt bath certainly ranks high on the comfort scale!

Chromium picolinate and diabetes control

Chromium is another mineral that can assist glucose control. Chromium is trace mineral, found in many fresh foods, including oats, barley, green beans, cheeses, and hard tap water. Inadequate levels of chromium keep the body from being able to use glucose effectively. Our bodies also use chromium for healthy digestion. Only small doses are needed, and nutritional supplements often found in the form of chromium picolinate can insure that you receive an adequate supply.

The common household spice that can help lower blood glucose

Cinnamon increases glucose metabolism in the body. Therefore cinnamon can increase insulin sensitivity and help lower glucose levels. Usually the effects generally don’t last more than a couple hours, and can lead to low blood sugar levels. We recommended you don’t add large amounts of cinnamon to your diet without your physician’s supervision. Low blood sugar can be dangerous if not treated immediately.

Eastern medicine may provide relief

Some diabetic patients have found help through acupuncture and Chinese herbs prescribed by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners. The results of these treatments vary from person to person, but have been reported to help with the effects from secondary diseases related to type 1 diabetes.

These common secondary diseases include high blood pressure, hypothyroidism, depression, eye/retina conditions and nerve damage.

Take charge of your health

Type 1 diabetes management is never simple, but nutritional supplements can help you manage the disease more comfortably. You can find all of the supplements featured in the article on our site. You’ll also find a good selection of professional grade diabetic multivitamins. These are the same supplements that have helped many of our patients regain control over their diabetes.

While the cure for diabetes is still on the horizon, nutritional medicine can help you take charge of the disease. Living with type 1 diabetes can mean living well!

*Please remember, It is important to talk to your physician or endocrinologist or registered dietician before starting any supplements or holistic treatments. Type 1 diabetes management is a very delicate balance that is different for each individual.