Friday, July 6, 2012

Type 2 Diabetes Treatment: Medications and Natural Alternatives

  In the United States, the national health care expenses on diabetes total $105 billion annually. Perhaps some of that money should be spent on natural alternatives instead of more medication.

  Typically, doctors will point to exercise and diet as the first priorities in treating diabetes. Patients should be encouraged to know that losing 10 percent of body weight can improve glycemic control and reduce lipid and blood pressure.

  In fact, one study has shown that diet can actually reverse type 2 diabetes. Dr. Roy Taylor of Newcastle  Magnetic Resonance Centre in England directed this study of an ultra-low-calorie diet, which decreased liver and pancreatic fat and boosted beta cell function.

  However, his study only included a small sample of the population and required a diet of only 600  calories. Before attempting such a restrictive diet, patients need to talk to their doctor. But it does show  that diet changes can make a big difference when it comes to treating diabetes.

  Lifestyle changes, however, may not be enough. Many patients require oral medication to control their blood sugar. Sulfonylureas, biguanides, thiazolidinediones and meglitinides all work in different ways to control blood sugar. Combining pills may further reduce blood sugar, but can put patients at risk for hypoglycemia.

  Over time, many oral drugs have been known to lose effectiveness, causing patients to change
medications or add insulin to their treatment. Some patients change treatment plans after learning
about the risks involved with the medications they have been prescribed.

  An example of a medication where the risks may outweigh the benefits is a thiazolidinedione known as Actos (pioglitazone). It's one of the most popular diabetes drugs of all time, but the side effects of Actos have been known to cause vision, bone and liver problems.

  The medication can also cause heart failure and increases the risk for bladder cancer by 80 percent or more. Thousands of patients have filed Actos bladder cancer lawsuits.

  It's important for patients who take Actos to watch for the symptoms of bladder cancer: blood in the urine, pain when urinating and an increased need to urinate.

In addition to medication, people with diabetes may want to explore some natural alternatives:

Coccinia indica (ivy gourd from India) possesses insulin mimetic properties.

American Ginseng (herb) can decrease fasting blood glucose and HbA1C.

Momordica charantia (tropical vegetable) can have acute effects on blood glucose.

Nopa (cactus) affects intestinal glucose and can decrease fasting glucose and insulin levels.

L-caritine-(amino acid) affects insulin sensitivity and can enhance glucose uptake and storage.

Gymnema sylvestre (herb from Ayurveda) can improve glycemic control.

Aloe vera (dessert plant) can decrease fasting blood glucose and HbA1C.

Vanadium (mineral) acts as an insulin mimetic.

Chromium and cinnamon may improve insulin sensitivity.

Acupuncture can act on the pancreas to enhance insulin synthesis.

  Hydrotherapy. Using hot tubs on a regular basis helps increase the blood flow to the skeletal muscles.

  All of these natural alternatives warrant further studies to show the extent of their usefulness. Patients should check with their doctor about medication and alternative therapy options.

Alanna Ritchie is a writer for Drugwatch.com. An English major, she is an accomplished technical and creative writer.

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