Blood sugar disorders.

Blood sugar swings may cause circulatory, heart and kidney problems. It is therefore very important that you should try and maintain a level sugar balance.

A healthy diet, exercise and herbal medicine can, in most cases, prevent blood sugar swings, Low glycaemic index (GI) foods are important because they take longer to break down to the simple sugars that can be used by the body, and therefore blood sugar levels can be maintained more evenly, avoiding the sudden highs produced by the intake of high GI foods. This diet will reduce blood fats and help with weight loss.

To give an example we can compare 500 calories worth of chickpeas with 500 calories worth of baked potatoes – at first sight these would both appear to provide the same weight gain, but the potato has a high GI and the chickpeas have a low GI – the potatoes are low in protein and fibre, the chickpeas are high in protein and fibre, and both have different forms of starch. With the potatoes, 95% of the starch is transformed into glucose which quickly and easily goes through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream, resulting in high insulin release and then storage in the form of fat. When chickpeas are eaten only 30% of the starch is transformed into glucose because of its different chemical makeup, so there is only a low insulin response and little fat storage – so the potatoes (high GI) cause weight gain through fat storage and the chickpeas (low GI) do not.

Useful foods include:

  • Garlic – up to 6 raw cloves a day are beneficial to the pancreas, helping to balance glucose. It is rich in germanium, often used as a supplement for sugar control by nutritionists.
  • Fenugreek and coriander– used as tea or culinary spices  - have good reputations as hypoglycaemic agents
  • Cedar berries – from Juniperus monosperma, and Gymnema sylvestris have been used for improved sugar control.
  • Cinnamon – one teaspoonful daily may be helpful in sugar control
  • Apricots and apples – are the best fruit; all fruit are good in moderation - no more than 2-3 pieces of fruit daily
  • Carbohydrate free snacks are useful such as nuts and seeds
  • High protein foods such as soya, meat., dairy, nuts, fish
  • High fibre foods with a moderate amount of fat should be eaten at each meal as this slows down sugar release
  • For sweet tastes try the herbs stevia and liquorice. Although liquorice should not be used if you have high blood pressure. Both of these can be used in cooking and in tea and coffee.
  • Seaweeds are good sugar balancers
  • Vegetables, especially high fibre vegetables
  • Wholegrains – such as quinoa, millet, barley, and oats. Oats are especially good as they can slow the rate of sugar metabolism. Use wheat and rice with caution (high GI) and try avoiding them if symptoms don’t go. When grains are refined they lose most of their nutritional value, including minerals such as chromium, zinc and manganese which have all been identified as controlling blood sugar.
  • Chlorophyll - is important in nutrient uptake and cell repair, and this can be obtained from green leafy vegetables, wheat and barley grass and algae.
  • Oils containing gamma linoleic acid regulate insulin and protect against diabetic heart, kidney and eye damage; these, together with omega 3 oils help clean the arteries. Flax or linseeds are one of the best sources of linoleic and omega 3 fatty acids, and it is better to soak or grind the seeds rather than use the oil as the oil goes rancid very quickly.
  • Gamma linoleic acid can also be found in evening primrose, borage and blackcurrant seed oils.

Foods that should be avoided include;

  • Refined sugar and products
  • Other refined foods such as white flour and white rice
  • Processed foods
  • Red meat, tea, coffee, alcohol and other stimulants, together with stress, cause a rise in blood sugar due to adrenalin and corticosteroid release. These should be at least reduced if not eliminated from your diet.

Relaxation and exercise can reduce blood sugar levels by themselves. All measures to improve circulation are very important – exercise, hot and cold showers, skin brushing, and spices such as cayenne, ginger and garlic.

Finally, although there is a lot you can do by yourself, it is worth remembering that we are all individuals, and as such what is right for you will not be the same for everyone. It is therefore worth seeking specialist help for your blood sugar control problem from myself or another herbalist.