Blood Sugar Balance
Ellen Kamhi, Ph.D. R.N. THE NATURAL NURSE
These terms have become 'buzzwords' in the weight loss industry, but there is a lot of confusion about what they actually mean. In addition, as with most 'systems and rules' about weight loss, it still boils down to the same basic message- eat a lot of whole, natural foods and stay away from the processed and junk foods! The index offers a comparison of the insulin effect of different foods. The Glycemic Index is determined by the amount of insulin released in response to consuming 100 grams of a specific food. The Glycemic Load takes water and fiber content into account. This is usually a more realistic number in terms of how the body actually uses food that is consumed. For example, watermelon has a high glycemic index , but a low glycemic load- because, a lot of watermelon would have to be eaten in order to get 100 grams, due to the high water and fiber content. The effect of a given food will vary depending on factors other than the glycemic index. These include other foods that were eaten at the same time, how the food is prepared, and how an individual metabolizes the food. Scientific research is divided in terms of the usefulness of the glycemic index as a parameter for choosing foods that lead to weight loss. Paying attention to the glycemic index of various foods can be helpful in reducing the consumption of processed and junk food, since they are the worst offenders in the high glycemic index category.. However, a study in the October 2005 Journal of Nutrition concluded that lowering the glycemic index and the glycemic load did not provide any added benefits to focusing on an overall healthy diet and exercise in terms of promoting weight loss.
High fiber foods contain complex carbohydrates , which are low on the glycemic index. These kinds of foods lower blood glucose levels and diminish hunger. In addition, a high-fiber diet increases the number of insulin receptor sites on the cells, making them more sensitive to insulin. This allows the pancreas to produce less insulin to achieve the same glucose-lowering effect. Chia seeds and glucomannan offer high quality fiber, rich in Omega 3 acids, that can increase a feeling of fullness, while helping to lower the glycemic load.
Several herbs can be useful to help lower blood sugar levels. Gymnema sylvestre has been traditionally used in the ancient Indian healing system called Ayurveda, to treat sugar control problems including diabetes. The Hindi name for gymnema, 'gurmar' translates to 'sugar destroyer', which describes the herb's ability to block and decrease the desire for sweet taste. Gymnema, and components extracted from the herb, such as Gymnemic acid have been studied for a variety of sugar balancing effects. The ability of gymnema to lower blood sugar was published in medical journals in 1930. Blood sugar levels may be controlled through several mechanisms, including Gymnema's ability to raise insulin levels by helping to regenerate pancreas cells. In addition, gymnema helps cells absorb glucose, and slows the liver's glucose production. Studies have shown gymnema's effectiveness for weight loss by measuring changes in body weight, body mass index(BMI), lipid profiles, serum leptin levels and blood sugar levels, especially when gymnema is combined with chromium and hydroxycitric acid(a compound found in Garcinia cambogia). Gymnema has other positive effects including acting as an antimicrobial agent. Typical doses range from 1-2 grams in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to 300-800 mg per day standardized for 25% gymnemic acids. Cautions: Although few adverse effects have been reported , people with diabetes or other blood sugar regulation issues should consult with their health care practitioner before using gynmena. Since it is so effective at lowering blood sugar, the combined effect of the herb along with blood sugar lowering drugs may cause hypoglycemia.
Bitter melon(Momordica charantia), also called Cerese, is a prolific vine that produces a lantern-like orange flower and a very bitter fruit. The fruit is commonly used medicinally in all areas of the world where it grows. Science has uncovered a variety of constituents in momordica that have blood- sugar lowering effects, including steroidal saponins and insulin-like peptides. The extract of Bitter melon has been found to lower blood sugar, and has been studied for its anti diabetic effects. Experiments on obese rats fed dried Bitter melon found that they lost body fat more efficiently than un-supplemented rats. Human trials examined the use of Bitter melon along with blood sugar reducing pharmaceutical drugs, such as metformin, and have found that the addition of bitter melon increases the blood sugar lowering action of the drug.
Cinnamon is a spice that has been used since ancient times for its favor, aroma, and medicinal actions. A study in the journal Diabetes supports the use of cinnamon to help balance blood sugar.
Fenugreek seeds help lower blood sugar due to their high fiber content, which slows down carbohydrate digestion and absorption. Fenugreek may also stimulate insulin production and improve blood sugar balance.
Chinese ginseng has been used for centuries in TCM ( Traditional Chinese Medicine) for diabetes and related blood sugar disturbances. Studies have investigated this herb's ability to induce insulin release by the pancreas and to enhance insulin absorption by cells. American Ginseng has also showed promise for its blood sugar modulating effects.