High blood sugar, also called hyperglycemia in the medical community, is a condition that affects people who suffer from both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
This condition occurs when blood sugar is higher than between 130 and 180 milligrams per deciliter and is often characterized by various symptoms, such as blurred vision, headaches, fatigue, issues concentrating, frequent urination, increased thirst, and more. High blood sugar typically occurs after not drinking or eating after 8 hours, also known as fasting blood sugar, or within two hours after eating, also known as after-meal blood sugar.
Chronic high blood sugar, or high blood sugar that constantly reoccurs, can eventually take a toll on the body, causing damage to the nerves, blood vessels, and organs, and in more severe cases, it can even cause your body to stop processing sugar altogether. This is known as hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome (HNNS), which can be fatal. That’s why it’s important for you to know how to lower high blood sugar levels.
Hyperglycemia is traditionally addressed with medication to help alleviate symptoms and prevent complications, however, research has found that there is also an abundance of natural supplements that help to lower blood sugar and benefit your overall health. In fact, according to this research, the following 10 supplements have been found to be effective at lowering blood sugar in those with diabetes, as well as those with pre-diabetes:[/vc_column_text]
1) Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that the body naturally makes when it is exposed to the sun, and it can also be found in many foods, such as oily fish, eggs, and nuts (1).
Vitamin D supports the body in many ways, and it may even help improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which helps keep blood sugar levels in check. This reduces the risk of insulin resistance, helps to manage sugar levels, and thus also the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (2). It may also help boost pancreatic cell function, which helps improve insulin production (3).
On the other hand, when the body is deficient in vitamin D, it is has been linked to a decrease in insulin secretion, insulin resistance, and an imbalance in glucose homeostasis, which increases the risk of developing into a type 2 diabetic.
However, various studies, including one involving more than 70 patients, show that Vitamin D supplementation may help improve the state of deficiency in normal individuals, as well as those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes (5).
During the study, patients who were deficient in Vitamin D were repleted with 4000 IU of Vitamin D3 over a period of 12 weeks, resulting in improved glycemic management and insulin sensitivity. (5).
Precautions/Safety: Vitamin D supplementation varies by person, and it may also interact with some medications, so it’s important that you seek medical advice before adding this supplement to your daily routine. Your doctor can run a blood test to determine if you are a candidate for supplementation (6).
Magnesium is a mineral found naturally in many foods, such as nuts, legumes, whole grains, some milk products, and fortified foods. The body needs Magnesium to carry out many important processes, including regulating blood sugar levels (7).
Magnesium is one of the best supplements to lower blood pressure. Reports show that people who consume a diet rich in magnesium on average have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes because magnesium helps the body better process sugars, which helps balance blood sugar levels (7). It may also help reduce the risk of insulin resistance, which can also lead to diabetes and other health problems (7).
In contrast, magnesium deficiency is often linked with type 2 diabetics (8). However, several studies show that magnesium supplements may be useful for improving insulin resistance, as well as fasting and after-meal glucose levels in non-diabetics. Magnesium also provides the same effects for people with diabetes, which can help them them to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and a better overall health.
In a study involving magnesium’s role in glucose metabolism in humans, 12 patients were administered magnesium supplementation. Eight clinical trials showed that supplementation with magnesium influences serum fasting glucose concentrations, while another five trials showed magnesium supplementation affected fasting insulin levels (9).
Other studies involving magnesium and insulin resistance show that there is an inverse correlation between plasma magnesium and insulin resistance in patients with type 2 diabetes as a result of intracellular fluctuations. Therefore, magnesium is needed for proper insulin signaling and glucose utilization, otherwise, metabolic changes in cellular magnesium may contribute to insulin resistance, which is dangerous for people with diabetes (10).
Precautions/Safety: Magnesium dietary supplements should not be consumed in doses higher than the recommended daily limit, which is 400 to 420 milligrams for men and 310 to 320 milligrams for women, unless prescribed by your doctor because it can cause various complications, including nausea, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and in even higher doses, cardiac arrest (11). It’s important to consult medical advice before making any changes that can affect your health.
3. Alpha-Lipoic Acid
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), which is produced in the liver, is a powerful antioxidant that studies suggest may help improve insulin sensitivity, as well as your cells’ ability to absorb sugar from your blood (12).
In an 8-week study, diabetic patients given a 300mg dose of ALA daily showed a significant decrease in fasting blood glucose, insulin resistance, and after-meal plasma glucose (13).
High blood sugar levels can also cause oxidative stress, or an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals, which can cause damage to the tissues (14). Research shows that ALA is also therapeutic for inflammatory pathways and oxidative stress triggered by high blood sugar and diabetes (14).
Precautions/Safety: Recommended ALA doses range between 200 to 800 milligrams daily; however, pregnant women should avoid taking ALA until they have received authorization from their doctor. (15). If you are currently taking oral diabetes medication or insulin, ALA may also help lower your dose (15). Always seek medical advice before adding a new supplement to your daily routine.
The mineral chromium is naturally found in various foods, such as meat, vegetables, and whole-grain based products, and it is needed by the human body in small amounts to help people improve insulin activity, normalize glucose levels, and support other bodily functions (16).
Studies show that people without diabetes have higher blood levels of chromium as compared to people with type 2 diabetes (17). However, the same study shows that taking supplements containing 200 to 1,000 mcg of chromium picolinate a day has been found to improve blood glucose management.
Precautions/Safety: Chromium supplements have not been known to cause adverse health effects; however, it can interact with certain medications. Therefore, if you are taking medications, be sure to consult with your doctor to be sure it advisable (16).
Probiotics are a great natural remedy for diabetes. Probiotic supplements contain helpful bacteria and yeasts that provide many health benefits for the body, such as helping to reduce inflammation and to help beta cells in the pancreas that are responsible for releasing insulin. Both processes are important to help decrease blood sugar levels (17).
They also help promote a healthy gut, which helps people with diabetes to avoid other potential health issues.
In a study involving newly diagnosed patients with type 2 diabetes, probiotics were shown to help reduce insulin resistance and inflammation in participants as compared to the placebo group (19).
During the study, the probiotics group was given multi-strain probiotics two times a day, further suggesting that probiotics that contain more than one strain of bacteria may have an even greater effect on decreasing type 2 diabetes in high-risk individuals. Also, probiotics help people with diabetes to help manage their condition (19).
Precautions/Safety: Probiotics are generally considered safe for consumption; however, there may be a risk of harmful effects in individuals with severe sickness or those with compromised immune systems. (20). Some probiotic products may also contain contaminants, which can cause serious health risks, so be sure to read the label.
Some studies show that cinnamon supplements work to lower blood sugar and regulate diabetes in type 2 diabetics (21).
However, one study involving 52 poorly controlled type 2 diabetics showed that it may be most effective at reducing fasting plasma glucose, and that when used in combination with traditional medications to treat type 2 diabetes, may also help make the therapy more effective and able to lower blood sugar (22).
During the study, patients received two grams of cinnamon each day for 12 weeks, resulting in a significant reduction in hemoglobin A1C, which is a form of hemoglobin that many sugars in the bloodstream, including glucose, spontaneously bind to, as compared to the placebo group (22).
Precautions/Safety: Cinnamon supplements are derived from either cinnamon extract or whole cinnamon powder, and the recommended dosage for each will vary, depending on the type of supplement. For instance, cinnamon extract is highly concentrated; therefore, the recommended dosage for cinnamon in the extract form is usually half the recommended dose for supplements containing cinnamon powder (23).
Furthermore, supplements containing cassia cinnamon contain a compound called coumarin, which may harm your liver in high amounts (23). It also has anticoagulant qualities, which can hinder your blood from clotting during injury, especially if you are taking anticoagulant medicines (23). Be sure to seek medical advice before adding any supplements for diabetes into your diet.
7. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera supplements are typically made from the nectar of the leaves of the aloe vera plant, which has been shown to may help lower A1C and fasting blood sugar in those with type 2 diabetes, as well as those with prediabetes (24).
One study showed that after receiving aloe leaf extract orally for 21 days, diabetic animals had an improvement in glucose metabolism, decreased oxidative damage in the brain, and reduced tissue damage from diabetes (25).
In another study, 72 participants with prediabetes were given 2 capsules of 300mg and 500mg pure powder aloe vera each day for 8 weeks, which were taken after breakfast and then again after dinner (25). After 4 weeks, the study found that fasting glucose blood levels in the participants had greatly decreased and decreased even more by the end of the eighth week as compared to the placebo group who had no change (25).
Precautions/Safety: The inner part of the aloe vera plant leaf causes laxative effects; therefore, taking it orally may interact with certain medications (26). It may also cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea in some individuals. If you are taking glucose-lowering medication for diabetes, it may also lower blood glucose levels, so be sure to consult your doctor first (26).
Research shows that ginseng may help decrease after-meal blood sugar in both diabetic and non-diabetic individuals by improving the cells’ response to secretion of insulin, thus increasing insulin in the body (27).
In a study examining the effects of ginseng supplementation on individuals with type 2 diabetes and impaired glucose intolerance, participants were given 0.96 to 13.5 grams of a blend of ginseng extracts per day for 4-20 weeks (27).
After, the trial period, the results showed that ginseng supplementation lowered insulin resistance in individuals with type 2 diabetes and improved fasting glucose in both nondiabetic and diabetic patients (27), (28).
Ginseng should also not be taken with other medications, such as over the counter drugs or prescribed medications, diabetes medication, immunosuppressants, and more, and it may also interact with some vitamins (30). It can also cause allergic reactions for people with sensitivities, such as hives, swelling in the lips, tongue, or throat, or difficulty breathing.
Gymnema is an ancient Ayurvedic herb that may help people decrease the uptake of sugar in the gut, as well as increase cells’ absorption of sugar from the blood, and it may also aid insulin-producing cells in the pancreas due to the gymnemic acids found in the plant (31).
In fact, a study conducted on diabetic rats showed that after being administered 3.4 mg of gymnemic acids, the test subjects’ blood glucose levels decreased by up to 60% within 6 hours after the administration, while an administration of 13.4 mg of gymnemic acids increased plasma insulin levels in the rats (32).
Another study conducted on 22 patients showed that GS4 extracted from the leaves of the plant may help significantly reduce blood glucose, glycohemoglobin, or the hemoglobin to which glucose is bound, and glycosylated plasma proteins in those with diabetes (34).
During the study, the patients received a 400-milligram dose of GS4 each day as a supplement to traditional oral diabetic medication for 18 to 20 months, after which time 5 patients were able to sustain their blood glucose homeostasis solely with GS4, and other patients were able to reduce their traditional medication usage, suggesting that GS4 supplementation may help regenerate or repair beta cells in individuals with type 2 diabetes (34).
Precautions/Safety: Gynmnea doses vary from individual to individual, depending on your health, as well as other conditions, so be sure to consult your doctor first who can recommend the proper dosage for you (35). Gymnema may also interact with certain medications, such as insulin and other diabetic medications, which may cause your blood sugar to become too low; therefore, if you are taking medication for diabetes, you should also consult your doctor before taking Gymnema to ensure it is safe (35).
Berberine, which is a unique chemical found in goldenseal, Oregon grape, European barberry, and various other plants, has been used throughout Chinese history for its medicinal effects and is believed to help people manage blood sugar by reducing insulin sensitivity and improving the absorption of sugar from the blood that is then transported into the muscles (36).
In a trial involving 36 patients who were newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, random patients were given 0.5 grams of berberine for 3 months, after which time they experienced a significant decrease in after-meal blood glucose, fasting glucose, and hemoglobin A1C similar to those who were given the oral diabetes medication metformin (36).
Meanwhile, another study conducted on 48 patients with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes showed that after being supplemented with berberine for 3 months, within one week of the trial and up until the end, patients experienced a progressive decrease in fasting blood glucose and after-meal glucose (36).
Precautions/Safety: Berberine doses will vary by person; however, the typical recommended dose for diabetics is 0.9 to 1.5 grams a day split into various doses throughout the day for up to 4 months (37).
If you are taking certain medications, such as cyclosporine and liver changing medications, such as lovastatin, it is not recommended that you take berberine while on these medications because it can hinder the effects of the medication or increase the effects or side effects of the drug (37). Therefore, if you are taking any medications, be sure to consult with your doctor before taking berberine to ensure it is safe for you.
Overall, supplements and vitamins for diabetes that are backed by science are generally considered safe for consumption by people who are looking to lower blood sugar levels, diabetic or not. However, the supplement dose will vary by the type of supplement, your specific condition, and your deficiency, which can be safely determined by your doctor through blood tests.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes and are looking to participate in nutritional supplement therapy, it is not generally recommended that you rely on the supplements alone for treatment, but instead use them in conjunction with your doctor’s prescribed medication therapy regimen to help complement or boost the results. However, after regular use, blood sugar supplements may help lower your medicine dose and, in some cases, as per your doctor’s orders, even eliminate the use of prescribed medication altogether.
As with any dietary supplement, some supplements may cause side effects in some individuals, especially if you have a preexisting condition, and they may also interact with certain medications, which can hinder or worsen their effects, so it is always recommended that you consult with your doctor before taking any dietary supplement.
If you are pregnant or nursing, you should never take dietary supplements without the authorization of a doctor because they can cause detrimental effects on your growing child. Certain supplements are also not recommended for children, so if you are considering starting your child on supplement therapy, be sure to consult with your child’s doctor first to be sure it is safe.