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Diabetes | July 11, 2018 | Author: Naturopath



Chances are you know someone who has diabetes—it might be a work college, friend or family member. In fact, 5.1% of Australians over the age of 18 have this chronic metabolic disorder and the risk only increases with age. Although there are different types of diabetes, the most common form is type 2 and is strongly associated with inactivity, obesity and poor diet. This is often good news, as it means you can prevent, treat or even reverse the condition with dietary and lifestyle changes.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus refers to a group of chronic diseases that cause high blood sugar (glucose) levels in the body. This can be due to defects in insulin production and/or function. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas when we eat food. This allows the sugar from the blood to move into cells to be used for energy. If the cells of the body are not using insulin well, or if the body is unable to make any or enough insulin, sugar builds up in the blood. Prolonged high blood sugars can lead to serious health problems that affect the heart, kidneys, nerves and eyes.

Diabetes symptoms

The symptoms can vary depending on the type and severity of the condition. In type 1 diabetes the symptoms usually come on suddenly and tend to be more severe. In type 2 diabetes there may not be any initial warning signs, but these may develop over time.

Diabetes symptomsSome common symptoms experienced by type 1 and type 2 diabetes include:

  • Excessive thirst and hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • The presence of ketones in the urine
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Frequent infections
  • Slow-healing sores


When there’s not enough available insulin for the body to utilise glucose, the body starts to break down muscle and fat as an alternative fuel source. As a result, this leads to the dangerous accumulation of dangerous chemicals in the blood and urine called ketones. Ketoacidosis is a serious condition that mainly occurs in type 1 diabetes which warrants immediate medical attention.

Types of Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes

Approximately one in every ten Australians with diabetes has type 1. It is classified as an autoimmune disorder because the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed and no longer manufacture insulin. There is no cure, but type 1 diabetes can be successfully managed with insulin injections, exercise and diet.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetesOften referred to as a ‘lifestyle disease’, 

type 2 diabetes is strongly associated with being overweight (especially around the tummy area), inactivity, and having high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes which usually affects people over the age of 40.


If blood sugar levels are elevated but not high enough to be classified as diabetes, this is usually referred to as pre-diabetes.

Gestational diabetes

Affecting a small percentage of pregnant women, gestational diabetes is when your blood sugars remain raised during pregnancy. This can increase the risk of the pregnancy, but usually after the baby is born the mother’s blood sugars return to normal.


Research shows that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with lifestyle changes. This includes:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating a balanced diet that’s low in processed foods
  • Regular exercise
  • Not smoking cigarettes


It is possible for people with type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes to reverse the condition if they adopt a strict diet, loose weight and exercise regularly. Type 1 diabetics need to be more careful in managing their symptoms to avoid dangerous fluctuations in their blood sugar levels.


People with type 1 diabetes need insulin to survive. Many people with gestational or type 2 diabetes may also require insulin or another type of medication to assist in healthy blood sugars levels. This results in carefully regulating the diet so that food intake is matched to insulin and activity levels. Diabetics may also self-monitor their blood sugar levels by regularly testing droplets of blood in a blood glucose meter.


DiabetesAny type of diabetic should pay careful attention to their diet.

The best dietary guidelines to follow would be that of a low glycaemic index diet. This involves eating carbohydrates that are slowly broken down and released into the blood stream.

This involves a wholefoods diet based on eating wholegrains, vegetables, lean protein and limited amounts of fruit.
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Avoid sweets, refined carbohydrates, alcohol and processed foods.


Keeping active and allowing time each day for exercise is key to staying healthy if you have diabetes. Exercise lowers your blood sugar level by moving sugar into your cells, where it's used for energy. Exercise also increases your sensitivity to insulin, which means your body needs less insulin to transport sugar to your cells.


Gymnema is a reputed herb in the Ayurvedic system of medicine. Clinical trials have shown that gymnema has positive effects on blood sugar homeostasis, controls sugar cravings, and promotes regeneration of the pancreas.
The herb exhibits a broad range of therapeutic effects and is an effective natural remedy for diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol levels and elevated triglycerides.

Bitter melon

Bitter melon is a climbing plant which has a bitter flavour and a warty texture that resembles a small cucumber. It contains key phytochemical constituents which help to lower blood sugars via several different mechanisms. Although evidence suggests possible beneficial effects of extracts of bitter melon and its active compounds in the prevention and control of diabetes, future clinical studies are needed to confirm this.


Several preclinical and clinical investigations have demonstrated that extracts of cinnamon species have antidiabetic activities. It was found that cinnamon extract mainly improved the insulin concentrations in the blood and pancreas.

CinnamonAn effective herb for insulin resistance, cinnamon also improves the sensitivity of the cells to insulin.

Data from different animal and human studies warrant continued investigations into the benefits of different cinnamon extracts supplementation on the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.

Check with a health professional

A sudden change in diet, exercise regime or taking herbal supplements may not be suitable for every diabetic—especially if you are taking certain medications. Before making any changes consult with your health practitioner first to see whether the changes are suitable for you.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Tiwari P, et al. Phytochemical and pharmacological properties of Gymnema sylvestre: an important medicinal plant. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:830285

Ota AUlrih NP. An Overview of Herbal Products and Secondary Metabolites Used for Management of Type Two Diabetes. Front Pharmacol. 2017 Jul 6;8:436

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