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Herbs, Vitamins, and More for Diabetes

Looking for more than traditional western medicine to treat your diabetes? Here are some suggestions, but remember to consult your doctor first.

Vitamins and Minerals

The ADA recommends vitamin and mineral supplements for people with diabetes only if they may be deficient in them. For example, a daily multivitamin may be particularly helpful for those with diabetes who are

  • Elderly
  • Pregnant or lactating
  • Vegetarians
  • On low-calorie diets

The benefit of megadoses of vitamins is highly uncertain, according to the ADA's January 2003 position statement.

But it is important for your diet to contain all the vitamins you need. "I find, for most of my patients, it's very difficult for them to eat in the way I would love them to," Geil says. "I have no problems with a multivitamin and mineral supplement."

As for minerals, chromium has been much touted as a complementary diabetes treatment. The body needs this mineral to regulate blood sugar, but the ADA says taking a chromium supplement wouldn't do most people with diabetes any good. Research shows that chromium supplements can help those who have too little chromium, but most don't have a deficiency.

What's more, Geil says, "It's very difficult to determine chromium deficiency from lab work. We just don't have good testing for it right now."

Beyond Blood Sugar

Martin Stevens, MD, a researcher at the University of Michigan, recently finished a study (also funded by NCCAM) of the effects of Reiki, a traditional Eastern healing art, on people suffering from painful diabetic neuropathy.

Reiki is similar to therapeutic touch, but it's not hands-on. It's based on the idea of manipulating energy fields that practitioners believe surround the body in order to relieve pain or cure illness.

At present, Stevens and his colleagues are analyzing data gathered in the study, and they hope to present results at next year's annual ADA meeting. "There is a suggestion that there was a benefit, at least in some of the patients," Stevens says.

He says he thinks that Reiki could, in theory, act on the brain's pain centers and alter one's perception of pain. That could be seen in imaging studies of the brain, using technology such as MRI or CAT scans.

"We can actually directly test that, and we propose to do that if this study proves to be positive," Stevens says.

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Reviewed on November 18, 2003

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