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Moringa olifera Lam is a vegetable from the Brassica order. It is a small tree native to the sub-Himalayan region commonly used as a vegetable amongst the local people. Uniquely every part of the plant is edible; leaves, roots, seed, bark, fruit, flowers and the immature pods. Labelled as a superfood lately the Moringa has surged in its popularity and use.  Traditionally used as an Indian medicinal herb is usually found in tropical and subtropical countries, now most commonly found in both India and the Philippines but its cultivation has spread to other countries in Asia, Africa, Central America and the Caribbean islands.

Widely known for good health it has it is referred to as ‘the miracle tree’. For centuries it has been used for its anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, anti-hypertensive, anti-tumour, anti-oxidant, anti-pyretic, anti-ulcer, anti-epileptic, diuretic, cholesterol lowering, renal, anti-diabetic and liver protective actions. Due to these amazing abilities it has been used to treat a variety of ailments, such as skin infections, anaemia, anxiety, asthma, blackheads, blood impurities, bronchitis, catarrh, chest congestion, cholera and many other illnesses.

 

Densely packed with Nutrition

Moringa is claimed to be ‘the most nutrient-rich plant yet discovered’. The reason for this is because it is densely packed with nutrients. Most greens constitute 90% water and 10% nutrients, in comparison moringa leaves are 80% water and 20% nutrients. This includes many essential nutrients such as, vitamins (B6, C,B2, A) , minerals (iron, magnesium, zinc), proteins and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Leaves are most commonly used part of the plant for nutrition and traditional medicine use because they are rich in protein, mineral, beta-carotene and antioxidant compounds.

High in Antioxidants

Naturally the trees are able to withstand environmental stresses, diseases and attack from pests due to a defense mechanism gained from phytochemicals, which includes antioxidants and other defence compounds. This benefit is gained when consumed by people. The tree stores these phytochemical compounds in an inactive form. When chewed or crushed by an insect the compound is activated through enzymatic action and released, thus deterring the insect with a bitter or spicy taste.

In the human body these same compounds act a potent anti-inflammatory, useful for combating conditions like cancer, diabetes or arthritis which are associated with chronic inflammation. In addition to vitamin C and beta-carotene it also contains powerful antioxidants like, Quercetin and Chlorogenic acid. A state of constant inflammation contributes to improper functioning and processing by the body therefore reducing the body’s ability to recover and heal.

In one study participants with type 2 diabetes were given 8gms of moringa daily for two months found that their glucose levels decreased by 28%.

Health Benefits

  1.   Regulate blood sugar levels: Isocyanates present in the plant helps to lower blood sugar levels in diabetics.
  2.   Lowers cholesterol levels through its anti-inflammatory effects
  3.   Improves anaemia: 100gms moringa leaf contains 28gms of iron.
  4. Water purification: moringa seed powder can be used to clarify and purify water by lowering bacterial concentration, making it safe for drinking.
  5. Enhances lactation; traditionally used to increase milk production in mothers.

Moringa can be extremely useful to improve nutritional health. In particular if there are underlying conditions with chronic inflammation. There is proven evidence on its role in benefiting diabetes, lowering cholesterol and as a water purifier.

 

Bibliography

Health benefits of Moringa oleifera. Abdull Razis AF et al. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. (2014)

Cultivation, Genetic, Ethnopharmacology, Phytochemistry and Pharmacology of Moringa oleifera Leaves: An Overview.Leone A et al. Int J Mol Sci. (2015)

 

Diabetes is  life-long health condition where the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body is not able to use it properly. Left untreated, the high blood glucose levels affect many different organs and tissue consequently resulting in serious health complications. Blood glucose levels are regulated by a hormone known as insulin, which is produced by the pancreas in the body. Glucose comes from food that is digested and also produced by the liver. Insulin allows glucose to enter the body’s cells where it is used as fuel for the cell functions.  In diabetes the body is not able to utilize glucose properly and so it builds up in the blood. 

There are two main types of diabetes;

Type 1 diabetes, is the most common type of diabetes in childhood accounting for around 10% of all diabetes. It usually develops at any time before the age of 40yrs, but most often in childhood. In this type the pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin. Treatment is regular insulin therapy.

Type 2 diabetes, is usually found in people over the age of 40 yrs, but can develop earlier. It accounts for around 85-95% of diabetics. This type is characterised by insufficient insulin production, OR the body cells may react to it poorly. In the early stages the condition can be well managed by changes to life style and diet.

There is no cure for diabetes hence developing methods that help the body to regulate blood sugar levels efficiently is the most effective strategy. Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise are crucial lifestyle factors that can help to achieve this, but introducing additional supportive dietary changes can further assist in blood sugar control.

Diabetes &  Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar (ACV)  is derived from cider or freshly pressed apple juice. ACV is produced after a slow process spanning several weeks or months in which sugars are broken down. There is some evidence suggesting that consuming apple cider vinegar may be useful in helping people with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels. One study  on rats with or without diabetes demonstrated that ACV had a lowering effect on blood sugar levels, but also a positive impact on cholesterol.

Researchers also looked at how carbohydrates affected blood sugar levels in 3 groups of participants who had type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, or neither condition. Typically, high carbohydrate foods will cause a spike in blood sugar levels immediately after eating. They gave all 3 groups less than half an ounce of ACV after a carbohydrate rich meal and compared it to consumption of a placebo drink. Results showed a significant reduction in blood sugar levels after taking ACV.  Another study  compared ACV and water in patients with type 2 diabetes. They found that drinking 2 tablespoons of  ACV along with a cheese snack before bedtime was sufficient lower blood sugar levels significantly the following morning.

It is thought that acetic acid found in ACV may play a role in slowing down the conversion of complex carbohydrates into sugar in the bloodstream. Thus providing more time for sugar to be removed from the bloodstream and allowing more constant blood sugar levels and limit spikes.

Diabetes & Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a well know spice made from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum trees. For thousands of years it has been highly prized for its medicinal properties. Scientific research has confirmed  its many health benefits. It has shown a potential role in the treatment of blood sugar control, as well as some associated symptoms. Research on blood sugar control is mixed and in the early stages and most studies have been very small, therefore more research is needed.

A 2003 study compared the effects of a daily intake of 1, 3, and 6 grams (g) of cinnamon with a group that received a placebo for 40 days. All three levels reduced blood sugar levels and cholesterol, which were observed even after 20 days after stopping cinnamon intake.

In a  2016 study of 25 people gave particiapnts 1 g of cinnamon for 12 weeks. They found that there was a reduction in fasting blood sugar levels, which may be beneficial for people with poorly controlled diabetes. However an earlier study in 2013 had a different result. The study, which used a more reliable method, and 70 participants found that 1 g of cinnamon per day for 30 days and 60 days offered no improvements in blood sugar levels.

A 2016 analysis published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics looked at 11 studies of cinnamon in the treatment of diabetes. All 11 produced some reductions in fasting blood sugar levels. Studies that measured HbA1C levels also achieved modest reductions, but only four studies achieved reductions in line with the American Diabetes Association’s treatment goals suggesting that cinnamon may be a useful treatment tool, but not a replacement for conventional diabetes treatments.

Summary

Despite the lack of, or mixed reports for people with type 2 diabetes it would be safe to consider consuming diluted ACV, 1-2 tablespoon in a large glass of water before bedtime to provide some benefit to blood sugar levels.

There is no research that suggests cinnamon negatively affects blood sugar, meaning that is safe to use for people who are looking for alternative diabetes treatment options. Cinnamon can be taken as a supplement to conventional diabetes medication should start small, with about 1 g per day (about ¼ to ½ teaspoon).

It is important for people to note that ACV or cinnamon should not be considered a quick fix or complete treatment for diabetes. Eating a diet low in carbohydrates, high in fiber, regular exercise, multivitamins, essential fatty acids  and complementary therapies to reduce stress and maximize body function will additionally help in diabetes control.

Electroacupuncture (EA) may be the answer to improving regulation of blood sugar levels in overweight and obese women. New research published in the FASEB Journal reported that scientists found that a single bout of (EA) activated the sympathetic and partly the parasympatheric nervous system which increased whole-body glucose uptake, an important consideration in the treatment of insulin resistance or prediabetes.

Researchers measured blood sugar levels in 21 women with and without polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) during and after 45min of EA compared to the same number in a control group. PCOS is a common hormonal disorder, but also associated with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. The results showed improvement in both groups of women, suggesting a potential benefit for women with PCOS. In a second experiment they also investigated its effects in rats who received autonomic receptor blockers. They found EA caused muscle contractions which in turn activated the autonomic nervous system (responsible for blood sugar regulation), despite the receptor blockers. Previous studies have found that EA in rats1, 2  enhanced insulin sensitivity and lowered blood sugar levels.

EA is believed to be used as far back at the early 1800s, while others attribute it to Japanese scientists trying to improve bone fracture healing in 1940s or  pain control by the Chinese in the 1958.  As with traditional acupuncture in EA needles are inserted in the same way on specific points. Two needles are selected which are then attached to a pair of clips connected to a device that generates continuous electric pulses. The frequency and intensity of the pulses are adjusted according to the condition being treated. In this way several pairs of needles can be simultaneously stimulated for duration up to 30 min. People usually experience a light tingling sensation due to the electrical current.

Advantages of using EA are;

  • The current stimulates a larger area than the needle on its own, thus requiring less precision needling.
  • It can be used without needle insertion, commonly known as TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation).

EA is considered to be particularly useful in conditions where there is stagnation or accumulation of Qi. In Chinese medicine Qi is a life energy that flows throughout the body and essential for good health.  Persistent chronic pain is associated with Qi accumulation and the effectiveness of EA has been reported to be particularly useful. This is supported by research evidence that electrical stimulation of acupuncture points activates the release of endorphins, thus lowering blood pressure and heart rate.

Research on EA in stroke has shown positive effects in cognition and quality of life.  When compared to manual acupuncture, EA is more effective in relieving spasticity in stroke. Other conditions that may benefit include; neurological conditions, fibromyalgia, nausea caused by cancer drugs and post operative pain control.

Treatment with (EA) should be avoided in those with a pacemakers as it may disrupt the electrical impulses. For similar reasons, it should not be used over the heart. Careful assessment should be carried out before treating people with a history of seizures and epilepsy.