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Diabetes: Natural Medicinal Adjuncts to Therapy

by David S. Klein, M.D. FACA, FACPM

Our patients are eager to find physicians who are willing to discuss alternative methods to control disease, and diabetes is high on the list.

The use of non-prescription medications has been ignored or rejected by mainstream medical practitioners. As strange it may seem, to many physicians, medicines are only useful and effective as long as they are available only by prescription.  In fact, twice as much is spent on alternative medical care than is spent on ‘traditional’ medicine.

Presented here are a few basic interventions that are widely used by the medical communities abroad, used locally by the American Public, and only reluctantly by our American medical peers:

Almost 90% of diabetics are considered to have non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) and these ‘type 2 diabetics’ most often have high, rather than low, levels of serum insulin, suffering from insulin resistance syndrome.
A current report concludes that nearly one-fifth or 47 million Americans are at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes: criteria include: abdominal obesity, elevated triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure and high normal blood sugar.

This begs the question:  “What is it about our diet that causes obesity and diabetes?”

Nutraceutical Treatment of Diabetes

Diabetes begins as cellular insensitivity to insulin, where it takes high levels of insulin to transport glucose from the serum into the cell. With insulin resistance, levels of insulin increase to maintain 'normal' blood sugar, the other effects of insulin start to become problematic, including deposition of fat.

The increase in weight is observed because insulin directly stimulates the deposition of fat.  This is one factor that explains why weight gain generally precedes the blood sugar elevation. Simply, insulin levels climb, in an effort to maintain normal blood sugars, fat is deposited in the belly area, and weight climbs.  Insulin levels also modulate inflammation, and pain problems tend to worsen, including arthritis, Fibromyalgia, and cardiovascular/peripheral vascular disease.

As we age, the GI tract becomes far less efficient.  With diabetes, this efficiency deteriorates even more rapidly, and it takes a great deal more than the ‘recommended daily allowance (RDA)’ to ensure adequate levels of these important and inexpensive nutrients.  While we pay the greatest attention to the B-complex, it is becoming more and more obvious  that we have long overlooked the importance of Vitamin D-3, Vitamin K-2 and CoQ-10.  The cheap, poorly compounded commonly available OTC multivitamin/mineral complexes are entirely inadequate.


 Long ago, these minerals became depleted from our fields, and these trace elements are thereby deficient in the foods grown there.  Most important is restoration of zinc, selenium, magnesium, manganese, chromium and vanadium. These minerals act as enzyme co-factors and they function in the maintenance of protein structure.  Vanadium and chromium are directly necessary for insulin receptor function. Deficiencies here result in gradual weight gain, refractory to dietary ‘restriction.’

Zinc, manganese and magnesium are necessary for protein/enzyme production, cellular energy production and to maintain cellular integrity. Selenium is necessary for thyroid function.

Omega-3 fatty acid (fish oil) administration is an interesting, new intervention for the treatment and prevention of coronary artery disease (CAD), Alzheimer’s disease and Diabetes. Certain omega-3 fatty acids have biochemical properties that promote atherosclerotic plaque stability and thereby decrease the incidence of cardiac ischemia. Dosage requirement is between 2 and 3 grams per day, in divided doses.  The preferred cardiac ratio of 3:2 EPA/DHA. Patient should begin with 1000 mg per day, increase over a week or two to the desired daily dosage.

The real public health issue, as it pertains to fish, fish oil and fish oil products involves the contamination of the fish supply with mercury.  Mercury levels increase as fish size increases, due to bio-accumulation, so   fish oil products should be derived from small fish, not large predators.  Secondly, distilled oils are often free of mercury, PCB’s and other heavy metal contaminations, and better products will undergo multiple (5-7) distillations. Removing the mercury and the fish proteins that many patients find distasteful are extracted.

Alpha Lipoic Acid is becoming better appreciated for its’ effects in glycemic control and improves polyneuropathies associated with diabetes mellitus.

Blood sugars can be lowered with herbal products containing Gymnema Leaf Extract and Cinnamon Bark Extract.  These herbals need to be taken in sufficient dosage to be effective, so an understanding of dose-response and product potency is essential.

Curcumin treatment also significantly reduced macrophage infiltration of white adipose tissue, increased adipose tissue adiponectin production, and decreased hepatic nuclear factor-κB activity, hepatomegaly, and markers of hepatic inflammation.

David S. Klein, MD has practiced pain medicine for the past 27 years and is the author of over 50 published articles and textbook chapters and has lectured extensively. He is a member of the American Board of Anesthesiology, American Board of Pain Medicine, American Academy of Pain Management, American Board of Minimally Invasive Medicine & Surgery, and has Sub-Specialty Certification in Pain by the American Board of Anesthesiologists. Dr. Klein is presently the Medical Director of the Stages of Life Medical Institute in Longwood, Florida.