Optimizing Sleep with Diabetes

If you are like a third of American adults, you are probably not getting enough sleep or quality sleep. When I was younger, I used to envy those who thrived on five hours of sleep (or claimed they did) but now, I wish I could sleep more so I can feel more vibrant during the day. If you have diabetes, proper rest is critical so in this blog, I’ll share evidence and tips on the importance of sleep in diabetes management.

Did you know that lack of sleep (less than seven hours per night) can have the following negative impacts:

  • Make you hungrier and more likely to reach for caloric foods that are high in sugar, fat and carbs. I remember the desperately needed pizza runs during college while studying/cramming through the night – which led to the “freshman 15”. Lack of sleep decreases hormones promoting satiety and/or increases hormones promoting hunger so you get a double whammy of eating more and not being satisfied.
  • Studies have shown the impact of sleep deprivation on Increased insulin resistance, thus raising your risk level for diabetes and making it harder to lose weight.
  • Sleep deprivation can Impair mood, performance and cognitive function. I am almost always in a funky mood after a poor night’s sleep so for me, lack of sleep is a depressant.

This study found the correlation between sleep disturbance leading to diabetes risk – and having diabetes can affect your ability to sleep for the following reasons:

  • The need for frequent urination caused by high blood sugar levels.
  • If your blood sugar is low, symptoms like dizziness and sweating can impact your sleep.
  • You may have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) which is a common sleep disorder in people with diabetes. This is a condition where your breathing repeatedly stops and starts throughout the night which leads to poor sleep quality. This study showed that OSA patients are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes while more than half of Type 2 diabetes patients suffer from OSA. If you don’t feel rested after sleep, you may want to discuss with your doctor about taking a sleep test. The therapeutic use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to help you breathe without interruption can have a tremendous impact on your sleep quality.
  • You may be suffering from insomnia which is associated with poor glycemic control as shown in this study.
  • You may have restless leg syndrome (RLS) where you have a constant need to move your legs which is particularly common at night which in turn makes it hard to fall/stay asleep. This study showed that blood glucose and HbA1c were significant predictors of RLS in patients with diabetes.
Ways to optimize sleep
  • Make sure you are adhering to a healthy diet that will keep your glucose levels stable throughout the night. Finish eating at least three hours before bedtime and avoid large meals late in the evening to minimize indigestion and higher blood sugar levels during sleep.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol within three hours of bedtime – it not only raises blood sugar levels but will keep you from falling into the deep sleep your body needs as indicated in this study.
  • If you are a coffee drinker, switch to decaf or herbal tea after lunch so any long-lasting effect of the caffeine doesn’t keep you up at night. I have no trouble metabolizing caffeine but noticed that it raises my glucose levels a bit so I stick to just one cup-a-joe to start my day.
  • Avoid nicotine – it’s not only a stimulant but chronic use has been shown to significantly impact sleep.
  • If you are a napper, have it early in the afternoon and keep it to under 30 minutes. Long naps can disrupt your sleep cycle and make it harder to fall asleep at bedtime.
  • Log in regular exercise (30 minutes a day) as it will improve your sleep but get it done at least three hours before bedtime so you don’t get a second wind from the exercise high.
  • Aim to always sleep in the dark as even the tiniest amount of artificial light can disrupt your circadian rhythm (your sleep and wake cycle) and production of melatonin (hormone that is produced by your body at night to promote deep sleep) as shown in this study. You can wear an eye mask or use blackout curtains to shut out any residual light.
  • Keep your room temperature cool (lower than 72 degrees). When you sleep, your body’s internal temperature drops to its lowest level, generally about four hours after you fall asleep. The cool environment is conducive to sleep as it mimics your body’s sleeping temperature.
  • Turn off the TV at least an hour before bed. The blue light from the device and the stimulation will make it harder for your body to relax and fall into sleep. If you’re like me and need your Netflix to de-stress after a long day, try blue light blocking glasses and/or a blue light filter. Here are some to try:

Blue Light Blocking Glasses

Blue Light Filter Screen Protector

  • If you find it hard to calm your mind from all the activities of the day, how about trying a guided meditation before bed? One to try is the Zen Garden Sleep Meditation available on the Apple Podcast channel which can be downloaded to your iPhone/iPad. I like this option as it allows me to listen to it on airplane mode with no WiFi or cell signals near me to disturb my sleep.

Sweet dreams!

Managing Mood with Diabetes

Managing diabetes is no easy task – it requires making concerted changes to your daily routine including diet (what to eat and avoid), exercising and moving more and eliminating bad habits (smoking, excess alcohol and disruptive sleep). These changes can be mentally draining and one of the reasons why people living with diabetes (Type 1 or 2) are at increased risk for anxiety, stress and depression.

So in this blog, I’ll share some evidence-based self-care tips to keep your spirits up while managing diabetes.

Aromatherapy

Essential oils have been widely used for centuries for managing stress, anxiety and depression and are effective due to their ability to access the area of the brain that impacts mood. Research indicates that smells are first processed by the olfactory bulb in the nose which has direct connections to the areas of the brain that are associated with emotion and memory (the amygdala and hippocampus). Also, this study demonstrated the efficacy of lavender oil on sleep quality, mood status and quality of life for participants with Type 2 diabetes. 

You can use a diffuser (they are widely available with many inexpensive options) with water and several drops of lavender oil. Here are some to try:

Diffuser:

Lavender essential oil:

Here are my top 10 essential oils for stress and anxiety.  https://community.wholistics.health/top-10-essential-oils-for-stress-and-anxiety/

Exercise

Consistent exercise is not only a cornerstone of diabetes management but physical and mental health are inextricably linked as each has an impact on the other. According to this study, 12 weeks of aerobic exercise training had significant effects on mental health, self-esteem, anxiety and insomnia of Type 2 diabetic patients. So it’s important to get moving – go for a vigorous walk, hike or find a team sport that you like to engage in. You need about 150 minutes of exercise a week so aim for 30 minutes 5-6 times a week.

Meditation

Meditation is the practice of focusing one’s mind for a period of time and being in the present moment. This is often done in silence but can include bells, chanting and music. There are many different forms of meditation (guided, transcendental, mindfulness, etc.) which I won’t go into here – what’s notable is that meditation has been clinically linked to improvements in psychological health which, in turn, affects physical health. This study showed that meditation can impact stress reduction, blood sugar control and blood pressure in diabetic patients and advocates meditation strategies as part of the lifestyle modification to improve patient wellbeing.  

How about this 20-minute guided meditation to reduce anxiety and stress:

Music

Are you aware that music therapy has been shown to improve outcomes in diabetes patients? In this study, music-assisted relaxation and music therapy showed significant changes in systolic blood pressure, and anxiety and stress levels in both Type 1 and 2 diabetic patients. Here are some beautiful relaxing tunes to bring you inner calm and joy:

Routine

Having a regular routine to get your day off to a good start each morning can help you make the necessary changes and create healthy habits to manage diabetes. Studies have shown the importance of a routine to gradually incorporate lifestyle changes that will be sustainable for the long-term.  Routines can actually help you better manage stress and anxiety as this study found.

So, focus on things that you can control and make a list of things you typically do in a day. Include the tasks that are needed to support your health like exercise, prepping for meals, and shopping for groceries, and make it a priority on your list. Then experiment with the times of the day that make you most compliant (for example, I am 99% more likely to stick with an exercise regimen if I work out in the morning) and plan these activities around these times. Last but not least, a well-established routine takes time so give yourself some grace if you don’t complete all the key tasks each day. There’s always tomorrow…

Yoga

Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual ancient Indian practice which is designed to promote physical and mental well-being. The well-established benefits of yoga practice are accelerating its growth and it has now become mainstream. This study showed the benefits of yoga practice in improving the stress response by our sympathetic nervous system (which controls our fight or flight behavior).

Yoga is also effective in improving physiological markers of health with this study showing the impact of a yoga protocol on total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides reduction in Type 2 diabetic participants. What’s not to like about yoga? If you are like me and don’t have much patience, start with a short practice and build up from there. How about this 10 minute yoga to try:

It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider if you are struggling with mental health issues so that appropriate care options can be discussed. Remember that you are in charge of your life so speak up and ask for help.

Best Exercises for Diabetes & Pre-Diabetes

If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, you’ve probably heard from your physician about the importance of a good diet and regular exercise. Consistent body movement (which goes beyond walking to the fridge) will help boost energy, better manage blood sugar levels, reduce insulin needs, manage stress, improve your mood and promote better sleep. If you’re like me and have glucose management issues, the temptation to sit on the couch after a long day is often overcome by my uplifted mood and energy level after a brisk walk or workout.

So here are some of the best exercises to engage in.

Aerobic dance

Dancing not only provides a physical workout but boosts your memory with the mental work required to remember steps and sequences. Have you tried Zumba? It’s a form of dance that’s a fun way to increase physical activity, lower blood sugar and reduce stress. In this study, a 16-week Zumba dance class program improved markers of health and fitness in Type 2 diabetic or overweight women. Here’s a beginner 20-minute Zumba workout to try: 

Cycling

Did you know that diabetes is a predictor for osteoarthritis? In this study, the findings showed a strong correlation between Type 2 diabetes and development of severe osteoarthritis. Another common risk with diabetes is diabetic neuropathy which damages nerves causing joint pain. So for those with joint pain, choosing low impact exercise like cycling can help you get the movement without straining your joints. If you have a bike and a decent path around the neighborhood, this is a fun exercise to enjoy with a partner. I prefer to ride on flat roads and gradually increase the length of time on the bike but if you’re up for the challenge, try a hill or two! Here are 10 popular bike trails in North Carolina: https://www.visitnc.com/story/hVVj/popular-north-carolina-bike-trails-cycling-routes    

Pilates

Pilates is a form of exercise that is performed on a mat (or equipment) to promote muscular strength, stability, endurance and low-impact flexibility. According to this study, 12 weeks of Pilates training improved glycemic control in older women with Type 2 diabetes. The beauty of Pilates is that you don’t need any fancy equipment to get the benefits and you can do this at home in the comfort of your living room. Here’s a 25-minute beginner workout to try:

Swimming

This is one of the most joint-friendly activities with maximum aerobic benefit as it works your heart, lungs and muscle without putting pressure on your joints. This study demonstrated the reduction in HbA1c levels in patients with Type 2 diabetes after 8-12 weeks of aquatic exercise. So whether it’s freestyle, backstroke, breast stroke, water aerobics or jogging in place, find a pool nearby and jump in!

Tai Chi

This centuries-old Chinese martial art utilizes slow, flowing exercises with movement, meditation and rhythmic breathing. This analysis of 14 research studies showed that Tai Chi can effectively reduce blood glucose and HbA1c markers in Type 2 patients with diabetes. New to Tai Chi? How about this 15-minute sunrise Tai Chi (or whenever you are up) to start your day?

Walking

You may have heard that being sedentary is as bad as smoking for your health. One of my favorite activities is walking as it can be done just about anywhere and the only equipment required is a good pair of sneakers. In this analysis of 81 studies, there was a strong correlation between physical activity and decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes. All subtypes of physical activity were beneficial whether it was vigorous or low intensity. The Standards of Medical Care of Diabetes recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. So aim for 30 minutes of brisk walking 5-6 times per week and bring a pet or a friend along for company. If you are walking on the treadmill, find a good Netflix show to indulge in – I’ve often walked over an hour on the treadmill because I was so engrossed in the show that I didn’t realize how time had passed!

Weightlifting

Resistance training and other strengthening exercises help build muscle mass but also increase the number of calories burned. According to this study, 10 weeks of resistance training has shown to increase resting metabolic rate and reduce visceral fat, resting blood pressure and HbA1c. Don’t have weights at home or have a desire to venture out to the gym?  No problem – resistance bands are also effective in improving glycemic control according to this study. I have a set of these at home – they come in a set and are easy to carry when traveling.

Yoga

Yoga is one of the perfect exercises for diabetes. It incorporates fluid body movements to build flexibility, strength and balance while lowering stress and improving mental function. This study demonstrated the feasibility of yoga as a complementary therapy with significant reductions in HbA1c and improved blood glucose and psychosocial factors in patients with Type 2. You don’t have to pay for a class or join a gym to enjoy yoga as there are a plethora of free options. Here is one of my favorite channels:

Mastering Diabetes Naturally

I have been listening to the Food Matters Total Wellness Summit online and one of the interviews was with the two authors of the New York Times bestselling book Mastering Diabetes. Cyrus Khambatta and Robby Barbaro have degrees in nutritional biochemistry and public health (respectively) and are both Type 1 diabetics with firsthand experience on the nutrition protocol they researched and found to be optimal for reversing insulin resistance.

Based on their research, the authors promote a primarily plant-based diet with emphasis on whole foods with nominal good fats.

Here are the highlights:

  • Key contributing factors for diabetes in the western world, especially for Type 2 diabetes:
    • There is a lot of misinformation and also too much information that is conflicting which breeds apathy for the consumer and lack of motivation to make changes. It’s important to note that both forms of diabetes (Type 1 or 2) are unified by insulin resistance.
    • The American living environment is not set up for success – we have too many options at restaurants and easy access to unhealthy fast food. The bulk of grocery stores are dominated by packaged and processed foods and this has become the norm for the American public. That is why heart disease, diabetes and cancer are growing exponentially. Also, healthy food requires HARD work and it’s much easier for us to grab fast, processed junk food.
    • Food matters and is the biggest problem as we are so far away from the norm of what a healthy diet should be.
  • The authors found, when conducting research on how to create and reverse insulin resistance in rats, they needed to be fed a high saturated diet. It was not sugar (glucose, fructose, sucrose) but fat, particularly saturated fat. This really surprised me as I’ve always thought that sugar was the culprit in diabetes. And here’s why…

  • When dietary fat gets eaten, the triglycerides (the fat molecule) is broken down by enzymes secreted by the liver or pancreas to liberate fatty acids. These fatty acids get absorbed by the small intestine and then go into the blood into particles called chylomicrons. These chylomicron particles deliver dietary lipids to adipose tissues which is the enzymatically and mechanically safe place to store the fat where it can be used after days, weeks, or months.  However, with higher and more regular amounts of fat eaten in the standard western diet, there is no more room in the adipose tissue to store the fat so it pushes it to the liver and muscle for storage. The muscle and liver are designed only to store small amounts of fat and oxidize the fat when needed. Eating too much saturated fat overwhelms the cells in the liver and muscle tissue so as a protective mechanism, they respond by blocking the fat, glucose and amino acids that are coming in. And this is where insulin resistance starts.

  • Insulin is the master anabolic hormone which means it assists in the body’s building process. When insulin is present, it sends the signal to replicate and take up energy from the blood. If you slow down the effectiveness of insulin, you will also slow down the rate at which the fuel gets into the tissues. This slowdown or blocking of insulin is a self-protective mechanism set up by the liver and muscle to deal with the excess fat that is in the body. So, as soon as the insulin resistance mechanism is initiated inside the liver and muscle, it makes it hard for carbohydrates to be utilized as a fuel. For example, if you eat a ketogenic, high fat, low carb diet and then have a banana, the muscle and liver will reject the glucose from the banana as it is still working on oxidizing the fats it has stored. As a result of this, glucose from the banana cannot exit the blood easily and accumulates in higher concentrations. So, for an insulin resistance person on a classic high fat diet (Atkins, keto, Paleo), it’s not abnormal for their glucose reading to shoot up past 200 upon eating a banana. The banana is labeled as the culprit but really it’s the fat that the body cannot process.

  • Insulin resistance is caused by the accumulation of excess saturated fat in tissues that are not mechanically or enzymatically designed to store large quantities of fat.

  • Overweight people have a high propensity for insulin resistance and diabetes because they have a lot of stored fat.

  • Fat has gotten a bad rap in some dietary circles and it’s important to note that not all fats are created equal. Fat is essential for regulating hormones, for brain health and satiety but certain fats are better than others.

  • There are 3 main classes of fat:
    • Trans fats come from partially hydrogenated oils and are created from a chemical hydrogenation process to turn the oil into a more shelf-stable solid. There is ample evidence now that trans fats increase atherosclerosis and risk of diabetes. Products that contain trans fats include cakes, pies, cookies, biscuits, breakfast sandwiches, crackers, microwave popcorn, cream filled candies, doughnuts, ready-to-use dough, dairy and non-dairy creamers and vegetable shortening. It’s best to avoid any type of trans fat but it’s in so many products so read the label carefully.
    • Saturated fat is known to be the biggest culprit in insulin resistance because it is very abundant in the western diet; mainly in red meat, white meat, dairy, cheese, coconut oil, medium chain triglycerides oil (from coconuts) and plant-based foods like avocados, nuts and seeds, and olives. It’s safer than trans fat but we eat way too much of it. In the old days, it was hard work to get nuts from trees and out of their shells. Now you can buy giant packages of shelled, roasted nuts for easy snacking from your recliner. The same goes for meat – the mechanization of the industry has made it way too easy for us to buy and consume it. And factory farmed meat has a high omega-9 to omega-3 fatty acids ratio so the balance is way off compared to grass fed meat.  
    • Unsaturated fats – Mono-Unsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA) and Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) – have missing hydrogens in their structure due to one or more carbon-carbon double bonds and have a different biological function than saturated fats. These fats are signaling molecules and not used for energy. They regulate the fluidity of the membrane and as a result, MUFAs and PUFAs can actually improve insulin sensitivity. A meta-analysis study showed that substituting 10% of calories of saturated fat with MUFA/PUFA can drop cholesterol by 25 points. Still, it’s not recommended to consume these fats in high quantities either.

The quantity of fat in your diet has a big influence on promoting insulin resistance. When you become insulin resistant, you increase the overall chronic disease risk including diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s and heart disease.

  • There’s been a lot of good press and research about the Mediterranean diet; but that doesn’t give you the license to eat tons of olive oil. Remember that olive oil is still ‘mechanically processed through extraction’ so it is ideal to eat the olives and less of the oil.

  • One recommendation is to lower overall oil/fat intake no matter what type it is. The authors claim that less oil/fat over time will make you more metabolically flexible. Biomarkers like post-meal glucose, triglycerides, blood pressure and HbA1c can be lowered just by limiting oil/fat consumption.

  • Aim to eat less animal fat and more fat from a natural source in its whole form. There are only so many olives, avocados or coconuts you can eat but it’s easy to drench olive oil, avocado oil and coconut cream into drinks and dishes.

  • If you take out the fat, can you add more carbs and fruit? Yes, because fat inhibits glucose uptake so lowering it will enable carbs to be metabolized more readily. But remember that the type of carbs you eat are also important.

  • There are four classes of food that contain carbs and can be eaten in a low fat environment: fruits, starchy veggies (potatoes, yams, squashes), legumes (beans, peas, lentils), and whole grains (quinoa, oat, millet, sorghum, faroe, buckwheat). In general, eat whole carbohydrates NOT refined foods.

  • As for juicing, stick to greens and herbs so you can get the nutrients without eating excess fiber. Fruit should be eaten in whole form.

  • There is ample research on lowering the risk of diabetes with fruit consumption but it must be eaten in its whole form.

So, in summary, “eat the rainbow”, stick to whole foods with minimal processing, and reduce saturated fat intake. Sounds simple right? If you have insulin resistance or bordering on it, this could be the right strategy for you.

For more details, check out their book, Mastering Diabetes.

Metabolic Dysfunction and How It Can Cause Diabetes and Chronic Diseases

I listened to another fascinating (albeit long) podcast on the Broken Brain series on how out-of-control blood sugar can cause belly fat, brain fog and chronic disease. Dr. Casey Means was the guest and she is a Stanford-trained doctor and associate editor of the International Journal of Disease Reversal and Prevention. Her mission is to reverse the epidemic of preventable chronic disease by empowering individuals with personalized tools (i.e. continuous glucose monitors – CGM) that promote sustainable dietary and lifestyle choices. As a pre-diabetic myself, I have been using some of these tools to monitor how my body responds to my diet and activities of daily living. I was quite shocked at what I learned from a month’s use of a CGM and if this blog speaks to you, it may be something you may want to discuss with your doctor.


Here are the highlights from the podcast:

  • We make energy from converting sugar and fat and this metabolic process is a core fundamental pathway of every cell in the human body. At optimal function, we have good memory, physical health, skin, etc. However, over time when we eat a lot of carbs and sugar and junk food, our cells get numb to the constant insulin release and this forces our body to release even more insulin to get the glucose into our cells. This leads to what is known as ‘insulin resistance’ and metabolic dysfunction eventually causing diseases like Type 2 diabetes.

  • Dr. Means emphasizes that many chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s, fatigue, depression, polycystic ovarian syndrome, high blood pressure or heart disease are all related to metabolic health.

  • We are eating 100X more sugar per person than we did 150 years ago. In the US in the 1850s, Americans ate about 2 pounds of sugar per year vs. 200+ pounds per year we consume today. Our bodies are not designed to process all this sugar so it stores it as fat. In addition, chronic stress, lack of sleep and sedentary lifestyle also translate into mitochondrial cells not functioning well. Today, 88% of Americans are not metabolically healthy and we need to change our behaviors and choices to control this epidemic.

  • If you ask people if they eat healthily, many will say yes (including me) but we don’t know how our body responds to these healthy foods unless we can measure and track it. For example, they did a study with a group of people by giving them oatmeal – considered a healthy food. The glucose levels for some of those that ate oatmeal approached diabetic levels while for others, it didn’t. Everyone responds differently so we need to measure and track individually and not just follow some guideline telling us what’s a healthy food vs. not.

  • Continuous glucose spiking throughout the day generates inflammation and glycation (which promotes aging). The huge insulin surge that accompanies the glucose spike means the glucose will soon crash, drain you of energy and also stop you from burning fat. Every time you eat, your insulin levels go up. So if you eat 6X a day which is recommended by some fitness coaches, you are causing glucose spikes 6X a day which elevate insulin levels and puts a block on any fat burning as you will be using the glucose instead. Over time, this leads to the development of visceral organ and belly fat.

  • Fasting is good for metabolic health because insulin will remain low so your body will use the stored glucose and then burn body fat. We have become metabolically rigid by keeping insulin high all the time. Our ancestors went through periods of feast and famine with ease because they were metabolically flexible. That’s how our bodies are designed and we need to train our body to keep our glucose and insulin down.

  • Dr. Means also advocates that if we are fasting, we need to stop eating early. Eating carbs late at night is associated with insomnia and messes with our melatonin release. Also, our glucose levels will bounce around all night which keeps our body temperature elevated. We fall into DEEP sleep when our body temperature drops. If we have to eat later in the day, try to go for a walk before or after the meal.

  • Sleep is very important for metabolic flexibility. One night of poor sleep can promote insulin resistance. In a study conducted on young men, 4 nights of poor sleep (less than 5 hours) showed markers of pre-insulin resistance.

  • We need to choose foods that don’t spike our glucose levels. This doesn’t mean we need to eat a ketogenic or a low carbohydrate diet. We just need to know what combination of carbs works for our body. A banana can spike glucose for some people and not for others. A study conducted in the Journal of Cell showed that a group given the exact same diet responded differently: that’s because genetics, microbiome composition, baseline insulin sensitivity, visceral fat, exercise, and sleep all differ from person to person. A good choice for you isn’t a good choice for others. I felt vindicated in listening to this – I kept telling friends/family that I can’t just have a bowl of veggie bean soup for lunch without feeling super hungry shortly thereafter. Well, my CGM gave me the truth – my glucose shot up with a lunchtime meal of a bowl of bean soup.

  • A single blood prick or glucose measurement is not sufficient as it’s only a single point in time measurement. However, a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is highly beneficial because it provides us with instantaneous feedback throughout the day on how our body responds which empowers us to make decisions. Dr. Means suggests a CGM for a month to get a sense of what works for your body and then do it again in six months. I did mine for a month and was amazed at how combining certain foods did/did not impact glucose and when and how I ate them made such a difference. It also allowed me to choose foods and combinations to avoid glucose crashes with subsequent hunger pangs, cravings. For example, I found out that after a healthy meal of scallops and a large salad, I was able to enjoy a double scoop of ice cream for dessert with only a moderate increase in my glucose level.
  • Dr. Means also suggests we eat lots of veggies and include those that are higher carbs like carrots and sweet potatoes but do it judiciously and train your body to use and process these carbs. If you completely exclude carbs from your diet, your body cannot be trained to process them – that’s why people that come off a strict ketogenic diet often gain back their weight.

  • Note on COVID: Covid absolutely discriminates against people with metabolic dysfunction and as we soon discovered, there is increased risk of mortality for those with diabetes, heart disease and obesity. We need to have significant public health investment towards rapidly improving metabolic health if we want long-term, positive outcomes with Covid.

  • What are the mechanisms for Covid?
    • High blood pressure impairs our immune function and also immune cells are stunted and cannot move properly when glucose is in the body.
    • People with diabetes have an upregulation of the ACE2 receptor and this is how the virus gets into the cells.
    • Lung fluid has more sugar in people with diabetes and that makes viral replication easier.
    • Inflammation is high in people with diabetes, obesity and heart disease and this upregulates the cytokines. And it’s this immune response to Covid that kills people.  If your cytokines are already elevated, when the virus is added, it is a compounded effect that makes the response more deadly and exaggerated.

  • In conclusion, we desperately need disease reversal programs AND coaching programs to manage metabolic health.

If you’d like to listen to the full podcast, click here:

Podcast: How Out of Control Blood Sugar Can Cause Belly Fat, Brain Fog, and Chronic Disease

If you’d like to try using a CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitoring) device, please consult your physician.

5 Surprising Superfoods to Fight Diabetes

I hope you’ve read my earlier blogs on superfoods to fight diabetes/pre-diabetes. It’s good to know that there are many options out there to establish a healthy eating plan to control blood sugar/insulin and manage weight. Here are five more ordinary superfoods that are extraordinary for staving off/managing Types 2 diabetes. And even if you are not a pre-diabetic/diabetic, you can easily incorporate these key elements into your daily diet for a healthy lifestyle.

Dark Chocolate

Good news if you are a chocolate fan! Did you know that consumption of dark chocolate which is rich in flavonoids can improve your mood and add antioxidants while providing you with a satisfying and appetite-suppressing treat? In a recent study, parameters of lipid and glucose metabolism (cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides, waist circumference) improved after six months of daily intake of dark chocolate. Cocoa, the key ingredient in chocolate, contains antioxidant flavonoids which means they can reduce inflammation, keep arteries healthy and fight aging by preventing cellular damage. Comparatively, dark chocolate has more antioxidant capacity, polyphenols and flavonoids than any other fruit tested including blueberries and acai berries. 

But before you go running to the candy aisle, remember that dark chocolate should be 70% cocoa or higher and when possible, opt for sugar-free versions. Here are my sugar-free favorites – I always stock these and have them handy when I need a ‘treat’ or to fix a sweet craving. 

Garlic and Onions

Garlic and onions contain the key component allicin, a sulfur compound that gives the strong odor, taste and teary eyes. Allicin is known for its antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal and antioxidant properties. Onions also contain the antioxidant quercetin to fend off allergies, reduce inflammation and even fight cancer.

Traditionally, vegetables in the allium family have been recommended for heart disease and stroke (i.e. high cholesterol and blood pressure), but these superfoods are also noted to affect the insulin signaling pathway of diabetes. That means it can have a profound effect on lowering blood sugar, reducing triglycerides, improving insulin sensitivity and the circulatory and digestive system.

This study showed the effect of garlic on reducing the lipid profile and glucose parameters in patients with diabetes, while this study showed that the consumption of onion improved glucose and insulin resistance in breast cancer patients.

If you want to maximize the nutrient content with allium vegetables but don’t want to chase away vampires or people, how about trying some fermented black garlic? The fermentation process changes the taste of garlic (makes it sweeter) but also increases the nutrients and makes them more bioavailable. I remember over 20 years ago when my parents were given a gift of a jar of fermented black garlic for health and wellness and couldn’t figure out why someone would ‘gift’ this. If I knew then what I know now…

Here are several to try:

For cooking and eating with meals:

If you prefer to supplement:

Matcha Green Tea

Besides water, tea is the number one popular drink around the world, and green tea is well known as a health-conscious choice with diabetes prevention as one of the inherent benefits. If you like green tea, consider the Japanese matcha green tea. Matcha is a more concentrated form of green tea and has:

  • 3-10X more antioxidants than green tea (depending on the quality of tea) and up to 30X more antioxidant activity than blueberries.
  • 2X the amount of catechins (EGCG) which have been shown to have a positive impact on weight loss (body weight, BMI, LDL cholesterol).
  • 10X the amount of polyphenols which reduce oxidative stress and relax blood vessels which lower blood pressure thereby reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
  • 10X the amount of L-theanine, an amino acid which promotes a calming effect
  • Vitamin C, B-Complex, and zinc for immune support
  • Chlorophyll to oxygenate your blood and revitalize cells, improving detoxification and weight control

This study shows that consuming matcha daily can enhance fat oxidation and thermogenesis.

Studies have been published on the benefits of green tea for control of diabetic parameters.

Here are several brands to try – look for organic if possible and check if it’s been tested for pesticides and contamination:

Seaweed

If you are a fan of sushi rolls with nori (seaweed), you’re in luck. Seaweed is a rich source of protein and is very low in calories. If you are vegetarian or vegan, seaweed has enough protein and minerals to replace meat and fish. Seaweed is heart healthy with vitamins (including K, B9/folate) to reduce homocysteine levels and prevent calcium build-up in the body. It also contains fiber, natural iodine (for healthy thyroid function) and a carotenoid compound with antioxidant effects called fucoxanthin to help the body burn fat. This study showed that seaweed consumption lowered glucose and insulin response with a carbohydrate meal. 

You can find nori sheets at almost any supermarket nowadays. Have you tried making your own California rolls? Here is the brand I buy and a sushi bamboo roller if you want to DIY. 

Red Wine

If you love wine like me, good news! A glass of red wine a day can actually help keep blood sugar levels under control, along with a healthy, low glycemic diet. Red wine contains polyphenols from the grape skins that helps modulate peaks and valleys in glucose levels.

This study showed that moderate red wine consumption significantly lowered blood pressure levels and increased good cholesterol (HDL) levels in people with diabetes. This study supports the beneficial effect of polyphenols on insulin resistance and on cardiovascular risk factors.  Remember, this applies to moderate wine drinking – which means one glass (5 oz.) for women and no more than two for men. If you are like me and cannot just have one glass, forgo the alcohol altogether (which I had to do) and opt for other superfood choices.

Surprising Ways to Help Fight Diabetes

In my first blog of this series, I wrote about common herbs and spices for fighting diabetes. Here, I will highlight ordinary superfoods that are quite extraordinary for controlling glucose, insulin and staving off/managing Types 2 diabetes.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Did you know that drinking some apple cider vinegar before meals and at bedtime has been shown to lower post-meal glucose levels by 34%? Vinegar slows the absorption of carbohydrates into the blood or slows the breakdown of starches into sugars. The study also showed that vinegar increases insulin sensitivity, similar to metformin, a common diabetes drug. This study showed that consuming vinegar at bedtime reduced fasting blood glucose in the morning. This is great news for me as I tend to have a higher faster blood glucose level in the morning.

Top Tip: I love to add a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar to my morning cup of water (8oz) with a flavored electrolyte tablet or to my sparkling water (I’m a fan of Pellegrino) at mealtimes – it’s actually quite delicious. 

Here are a couple that have been independently tested and verified for acetic acid content:

Avocados

Avocados are a fruit that are a great source of healthy monounsaturated fat and vitamins (like folate), minerals (potassium) and antioxidants (lutein, zeaxanthin).

The beauty of healthy fats is that they can help stabilize your blood sugar and insulin while keeping you satiated longer. The oleic acid, the monounsaturated fat in avocados can also help lower LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol).

Top Tip: My favorite way to consume avocado is in my morning shake but how about an avocado-topped salad for lunch or as part of your evening meal?

Coffee

If you’re a fan of coffee like me, there’s good news! A recent study from UCLA showed that drinking as much as four cups of coffee daily can decrease the risk of developing Type-2 diabetes by more than 50%. This is due to the raised levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) in the blood which reduces the risk of diabetes. But too much coffee can also give you the jitters, crash your adrenals and prevent you from getting good sleep – so how do you strike the right balance? This study showed that decaf coffee and tea had a similar effect on diabetes reduction so now you can imbibe coffee more freely.

Remember to buy organic and sustainably grown coffee that is free of pesticides and environmentally sound if possible. Check out this list of the best organic coffee brands and their fair trade rating: https://www.littlecoffeeplace.com/organic-coffee-beans

Top Tip: I like to add some nut milk creamer or an MCT/ghee-based creamer to kick it up a notch – it’s like drinking dessert! Here are a couple to try:

Nuts and Seeds

In one of my previous anti-cancer blogs, I highlighted nuts as a superfood loaded with bioavailable active compounds that impact the cellular processes involved in cancer cell development and growth. Nuts are the perfect snack for just about everyone – they come with ample plant protein and healthy fats to keep you satiated, reduce cravings and keep blood sugar in check. All varieties of nuts have a low glycemic index score (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, cashews, macadamias, brazil). Nuts are full of minerals like iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, zinc and selenium. They are also a good source of potassium, magnesium and fiber. Check out my blog on these superfoods and recommendations.

Top Tip: Sprinkle nuts on your morning cereal or munch on them during the day as a health snack. They’re surprisingly filling! And don’t forget to include seeds as part of your diet too – check out my blog on types to try.

Olives

Numerous studies have shown that olive oil, rich in monounsaturated fat, has numerous ︎health︎ benefits. It’s also been well researched that people consuming the Mediterranean diet where olive oil is used regularly in lieu of other fats have much lower rates of heart disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer, and asthma. This study showed that a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil reduces the risk of Type 2 Diabetes by almost 50% compared to a standard low fat diet. Olive oil helps lower triglyceride levels and improve adiponectin levels. Adiponectin regulates sugar and fat metabolism, improves insulin sensitivity and exhibits anti-inflammatory properties on the lining of the blood vessel walls. Low blood levels of adiponectin is a risk factor for metabolic syndrome and pre-diabetes.  

Top Tip: When purchasing olive oil, it’s important to purchase in small quantities to maintain freshness during consumption. Also, make sure it’s not contaminated/adulterated with other oils. How can you tell? Here are three Extra Virgin OIive Oils that have been independently tested and verified:

Cautionary note: Unless you are taking olive oil baths or feeding an army, if you buy this, you may want to spread the love and share with others before the oil goes rancid. The problem is you won’t necessarily smell anything different so it’s really hard to know what you are actually consuming after six months from press date have passed.

Wild Caught Fish, Grass-fed Meat and Free-range Poultry

Naturally-raised meat that is antibiotic and hormone free and eats what it was born to eat (like grass and bugs) contains the highest amount of nutrients with higher health omega 3 fat content and other essential fatty acids. On the other hand, commercially raised meats are fed corn, soy, grains, discarded candy and even minced up meat (yes – it’s cannibalistic).  The same goes for farmed fish – they are raised in containment and are pumped with antibiotics to prevent disease.

The saying “you are what you eat” is the same for animals. If you eat meat and fish that are fed unnatural food and drugs, you will be eating unnatural food and drugs.

Top Tip: Opt for grass-fed beef, wild caught fish like salmon, and free range, organic poultry and eggs. And yes, it’s more expensive but remember, we should all aim to eat less non-plant based protein sources, so double-up on the veg and take a “less is more” approach. It should be condi-meat!

Dr. Daniel Amen Podcast Review: Memory Rescue – How to Stop Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Dr. Daniel Amen is one of the leading authorities on brain health – he is a physician, founder of Amen Clinics and BrainMD, a double board-certified psychiatrist and nine-time New York Times bestselling author.  I found this podcast easy to listen to with great tips from his Memory Rescue book (published in 2018) on how to take control of your brain.

Here are the key highlights:

  • Alzheimer’s disease is expected to quadruple in the next 35 years. What most people don’t realize is that this disease starts decades before symptoms appear. Based on imaging studies, a 59-year-old woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s most likely had negative changes to her brain in her twenties. There is also no known cure on the horizon and it is estimated that 50% of people 85 or older will be diagnosed with it.  This may be a cause for people not wanting longevity in their life!   
  • Depression has increased by 400% since 1987 and it now affects 50 million Americans. It is also a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
  • Another risk factor is diabetes. A study showed that 50% of the US is either diabetic or pre-diabetic due to poor diet. Two studies have shown that as your weight goes up, the physical size and the function of your brain goes down. With 2/3 of Americans overweight, including 1/3 obese, it is the biggest brain drain in the US and now considered a national security crisis. Up to 70% of people signing up for the military are now rejected because of their weight problems. 
  • What’s important to note is that diabetes/obesity, depression and Alzheimer’s are not separate disorders but different expressions of the same unhealthy lifestyle.
  • Dr. Amen scanned his own brain at the age of 37 and noticed damage; he played football in high school, had meningitis, and poor sleep with unhealthy habits. This spurred him to develop the brain program – 20 years later, his brain scan looks like a healthy 37-year-old. 
  • Dr. Amen is a fan of brain imaging (SPECT) – his philosophy is that you need to look because imaging will show you if your brain is healthy, injured, over or under-active or has Alzheimer’s. At his Amen clinics, the first thing they do is look at your brain scans.  The imaging looks at blood flow and brain activity to get a view of how well your brain is functioning.
  • He developed a pneumonic (BRIGHT MINDS) for his Memory Rescue book and it’s as follows:
    • B is for blood flow – low blood flow is a key predictor of Alzheimer’s and anything that damages the blood vessels will damage the hippocampus. Tips: Limit caffeine and treat high blood pressure, keep your heart healthy and be physically active. Eat foods like chili peppers, beets and ginkgo biloba to increase blood flow. Brisk physical exercise is also a must as is hyperbaric oxygen therapy which can be used to increase blood flow to the brain.  
    • R is for retirement and aging – the older you get, the more serious you need to be about keeping the brain healthy. Your brain can become less active with age but with the right plan, you can slow or even reverse the aging process. Avoid factors that accelerate aging; avoid being lonely, being in a job that does not require new learning or not challenging your brain. When your brain stops learning, it starts dying. To slow aging, it’s important to be socially connected, engage in lifelong learning and stay physically and mentally active. Dr. Amen also advocates taking vitamins (multi and C) 
    • I is for Inflammation – chronic inflammation is like a low-level fire destroying your organs and this increases dementia. At his clinic, he measures the C-reactive protein (level of inflammation) and Omega-3 levels. Symptoms like joint pain, rosacea and gum disease are all indicators of inflammation which will lead to memory loss. He recommends eating more Omega-3s (oily fish), and cooking with spices like turmeric. In a new study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the hippocampus was found to be healthier in people with the highest omega 3 levels.
    • G is for genetics – having a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s is a wake-up call, not a death sentence. If you think you are at risk, early screening is essential and be serious about prevention as soon as possible. Losing your memory and independence is hard and expensive. Alzheimer’s causes a build-up of toxic plaque in the brain and it’s been shown that vitamin D, blueberries, sage, turmeric and green tea can decrease plaque.
    • H is for head trauma – head injuries are a major cause of depression, addiction disorders and memory problems. A study showed that one third of people that played football had lasting brain damage. Head trauma affects the front part of the brain which affects focus and decision making. On Dr. Amen’s memory rescue program, 80% of NFL players showed improvement in blood flow, memory, attention, mood and sleep. In his podcast he shares case studies of an NFL player and a pro surfer, and their brain scans before and after the Memory Rescue program – it is quite impressive and worth a look.
    • T is for toxins and a common cause of memory loss in aging. Smoking (tobacco and marijuana), mold exposure, carbon monoxide exposure, cancer chemotherapy, radiation and heavy metals (mercury, aluminum and lead) will all lower blood flow to the brain. Lead is still found in 60% of lipstick and lead is also in airplane fuel. Dr. Amen recommends limiting exposure to toxins, buying organics and reading labels (Say NO to phthalates, parabens and aluminum). What goes on your body goes in your body and affects your brain. You need to support your organs of detoxification: kidneys – drink plenty of water;  gut – eat plenty of good fiber; liver – eat lots of brassicas (cruciferous vegetables) like broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts to support detoxification; skin – sweat and do saunas. A recent study has shown that people who took the most saunas had the lowest risk of memory problems.
    • M is for mental health – chronic stress, emotional trauma, grief and depression are associated with lasting memory problems. It is critical to get this treated. For example,  ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) affects 10% of the adult population. American Journal of Psychiatry studies indicated that nutraceuticals are a low-cost option that should be considered like Omega 3, saffron and SAMe (involved in the formation, activation, or breakdown of other chemicals in the body, including hormones, proteins, phospholipids, and certain drugs.) In addition, exercise, meditation, hypnosis and a vegetable-rich diet can help your overall mental health.
    • I is for immunity and infections – if you struggle with memory, infectious diseases need to be explored. Dr. Amen suggests keeping vitamin D levels optimal, taking probiotics and eating anti-viral foods like garlic.
    • N is for neurohormone deficiencies – without healthy hormones, you will be tired and foggy and your hippocampus will be smaller and weaker. A healthy testosterone for both men and women will improve mood. Optimal thyroid levels give you energy and mental clarity. The hormone DHEA helps to fight aging, and the right level and balance of estrogen and progesterone helps with blood flow. Dr. Amen suggests that you get tested annually once you reach your 40s to keep hormones strong. Avoid hormone disruptors like pesticides, BPAs, phthalates and parabens.
    • D is for diabesity which is being diabetic, overweight or both. As weight goes up, size and function of the brain goes down. Remember that the excess fat in your body is not innocuous; it disrupts hormones, stores toxins and increases inflammation. When obesity is combined with diabetes, the risk is worse as high blood sugar levels can damage your blood vessels. 
    • S is for sleep – 60 million Americans have sleep-related issues and chronic insomnia, while use of sleeping pills and sleep apnea all increase risk of memory problems. You need adequate deep sleep to provide the opportunity for the brain to clean itself – when sleep is disrupted, trash doesn’t get taken out and builds up in your brain. Dr. Amen suggests that to sleep better, make the room cooler, darker and quieter. He also advocates use of magnesium, melatonin and 5-HTP to promote better sleep.
  • Dr. Amen’s 5 diet rules for the brain: 1. Eat high-quality calories (and too many); 2. Eat clean protein at every meal to balance blood sugar; 3. Focus on healthy fats including nuts, seeds and avocados; 4. Eat smart carbs that do not raise blood sugar like those found in colorful fruits and veggies. Stay away from bread, pasta, potatoes and rice as they are pro-inflammatory; 5. Liberally use spices and seasonings like pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, turmeric, and garlic to keep the brain healthy.

Here is Dr. Amen’s podcast on Youtube:

5 Natural Approaches for Managing Diabetes

In the United States, an estimated 30 million adults live with diabetes. This chronic illness can take a toll on individuals and families, with frequent doctor’s visits, medication costs, and dietary restrictions. Still, there are a number of natural remedies that can assist people with diabetes with the daily management of their condition. Nutritional supplements and mind-body practices hold promise for helping individuals with diabetes stay on track and even reduce symptom severity.

This article details five natural, research-based remedies for individuals with diabetes. Below you’ll find information on the benefits of two dietary components: cinnamon and fiber, as well as the mind-body practices of Qi Gong, acupuncture, and yoga. Continue reading to learn about the simple steps you can take toward the prevention and management of diabetes.

Nutrition and Dietary Supplements

Nutritional supplements are a common approach to the natural prevention and management of a number of conditions, and diabetes is no exception. While there are a variety of dietary recommendations for diabetes, the following two have significant research backing.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a household spice that has demonstrated efficacy for a number of healthconditions. Cinnamon boasts benefits across the metabolic spectrum, including increased insulin sensitivity, decreased inflammation, and improved glucose levels and body weight. The metabolic syndrome is a collection of risk factors that increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (among other conditions); addressing these factors is important for preventing and managing diabetes.

Cinnamon: Potential Role in the Prevention of Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome, and Type 2 Diabetes

Fiber

Dietary fiber is an important component of a healthy diet; it contributes to bowel health, lowers cholesterol, and aids in weight management. Dietary fiber is especially important for individuals with diabetes, given the role of overweight and obesity in type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, fiber can help control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, and may also play a preventive role for those at risk of developing the disease.

Beneficial Effects of High Dietary Fiber Intake in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

Mind and Body Practices

The term “mind-body medicine” encompasses a wide variety of techniques that address the mind and body as a holistic system of dynamic interactions. These approaches are based on the notion that the brain, the body, and behavior interact with one another to inform mental and physical health outcomes. Three promising mind-body approaches for diabetes management are qi gong, acupuncture, and yoga.

Qi Gong

Derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine, Qi Gong consists of movements and exercises designed to engage the body and relax the mind. In a randomized controlled study, a 12-week Qi Gong intervention for patients with Type 2 diabetes produced significant decreases in the fasting glucose levels of participants. Moreover, patients made progress in improving both HbA1C and insulin resistance. While Qi Gong is an effective complementary approach for diabetes management, the practice has also demonstrated effectiveness in relieving stress, improving immune system functioning, and alleviating chronic pain syndromes.

Effects of Qigong on Glucose Control in Type 2 Diabetes

Acupuncture

Acupuncture, like Qi Gong, is a practice derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine. This technique involves manipulation by a professional acupuncturist, who places tiny needles at different points on the body to treat a wide range of conditions. Clinical research on acupuncture suggests an anti-obesity effect, which is beneficial for improving overall health and metabolic functioning. For individuals with diabetes, acupuncture may also alleviate pain, reduce sugar levels, and even improve pancreatic functioning.

Role of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Insulin Resistance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Yoga

Yoga is one of the most common and well-known mind-body practices. Originating in India, yoga utilizes physical postures, breathing, and meditation with the goal of balancing the body and the mind. Yoga has been shown to be beneficial for the management of diabetes, mainly through its anti-stress and relaxation components. These factors can reduce blood glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and minimize the risk of complications related to type 2 diabetes.

Therapeutic Role of Yoga in Type 2 Diabetes


 
If you or someone you love is struggling to manage their diabetes, these five natural remedies may be a great adjunct to traditional medical care. These techniques can be combined, so you can try each and determine what works best for you. Additionally, the mind-body practices discussed have benefits that extend far beyond diabetes management, so you might notice more comprehensive improvements to both your physical and mental health!

Whether you decide to try these nutritional modifications or participate in a mind-body practice, we’d love to hear about your experience. We encourage you to share your suggestions and experience with managing diabetes in our forum. If you’d like to learn more about any of the methods discussed in this post, refer to the additional resources guide below for further reading.

Additional Resources

Article contributed by Olivia Weidner

 
 

12 Superfood Spices and Herbs that Fight Diabetes

In the first of a multi-part series, I’m going to share strategies to fight or prevent Type 2 diabetes. In this blog, I’ll highlight the anti-diabetic activity of some common herbs and spices that have been more widely studied. The major effects noted were a reduction in hyperglycemia, reduction in hyperlipidemia, and regulation of insulin secretion.  

Here is the list along with easy ways to incorporate these superfoods into your diet:

Anise – Anise seeds are rich in phenolic compounds like apigenin and luteolin and have been shown to possess potent anti-oxidative and diabetic properties. I rarely use this herb for cooking but prefer to consume it in a tea form – here’s one to try:

Basil – The high polyphenol and flavonoids content showed a strong positive correlation for slowing the digestion of carbohydrates and delaying glucose absorption, resulting in a smaller and slower rise in blood glucose levels. I love using fresh basil on pasta, with tomatoes and on salads – it’s easy to grow at home but even easier to buy in the store.  

Bay leavesThis study showed that participants consuming 1-3 grams of bay leaves over 30 days significantly reduced serum glucose (up to 26%), decreased LDL cholesterol (up to 40%), increased HDL cholesterol (up to 29%) and decreased triglycerides (up to 34%) with no significant changes in the placebo group. To make it palatable, they were given ground up bay leaves in capsules. You can purchase ground bay leaves in stores or online but I prefer to add whole bay leaves liberally into soups, stocks and stews. 

Black pepper – According to this study, black pepper is one of the spices that showed considerable aldose reductase inhibiting activity. These aldose reductive inhibitors reduce secondary complications induced by diabetes, particularly in eye and neural tissues where glucose uptake is not insulin-dependent. There are currently drugs on the market that are sold as aldose reductive inhibitors but others have been pulled from clinical studies due to serious side effects. So, how about making black pepper as a standard part of your anti-diabetes regimen?

Cinnamon – In this study, consumption of 120mg/day was associated with a statistically significant decrease in levels of fasting glucose, total cholesterol, triglyceride levels and an increase in HDL (good) cholesterol. If you like cinnamon, you can sprinkle it into your tea, coffee, fruit or shake. Cinnamon supplements are widely available. Check out this link for some recommendations.

CloveThis study conducted on healthy and pre-diabetic participants showed that clove extract (250mg/day) showed statistically significant reductions in mean postprandial glucose levels in both groups. I like this extract as an easy way to get my dose in: 

Fenugreek – Fenugreek is considered one of the oldest medicinal plants and its health-promoting effects have been cited in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. Preclinical and clinical research have outlined the pharmaceutical uses of fenugreek as antidiabetic, antihyperlipidemic, anti-obesity, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, among other pharmacological effects. If fenugreek is something you are not familiar with or don’t use often, try a tea like this one.

Ginger – Based on 10 studies with a total of 490 individuals, use of ginger showed a significant beneficial effect on glucose control and insulin sensitivity. One of my favorite ways to have ginger is in the fermented form as the fermentation process makes the ginger’s active components even more bio-available. Here’s one to try:

Lemon balm – Melissa officinalis (lemon balm) is a great source of antioxidants like flavonols and flavonoids. This study showed that lemon balm is safe and effective in the improvement of lipid profile, glycemic control and reduction of inflammation. I like to take lemon balm as an extract in the evening but you can drink it as a tea. Here are some to try:

Paprika – Capsaicin found in paprika has anti-obesity and appetite-suppressing properties. This study highlights how chili pepper consumption like paprika can reduce body weight and explains the potential mechanisms of its anti-obesity effects. So sprinkle some paprika or capsaicin containing hot sauces to spice up your meals!

RosemaryThis study showed that participants drinking rosemary tea for 90 days not only showed statistically decreased body mass index and waist-hip ratios but also decreased insulin resistance, HbA1C, and free radical damage of lipids. I like rosemary but not enough to put it in many of my dishes. Here’s a tea to try:

TurmericCurcumin is the bioactive compound present in turmeric and has demonstrated various pharmacological and biological effects that include antioxidant, hypoglycemic, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory properties among others. Studies have shown that curcumin extract delays diabetes development and decreases insulin resistance. This review highlights the studies conducted on curcumin supplementation in Type 2 diabetes and the possible mechanisms of action. Tumeric has become so popular that it is everywhere. I like the fermented turmeric as it is more bioavailable. I also add a pinch of black pepper to increase the potency of curcumin. Here is a powder form to try:

If you prefer to take curcumin supplements, check out these three:

So spice up your health to prevent and fight diabetes with these superfoods! If you are not much of a cook, opt for teas and liquid extracts. Otherwise, you can try them in supplement form. I prefer to have most of my spices in food and shakes and then drink the rest in a tea form.