In this day, having a chronic condition such as diabetes usually means taking medications. While there are many different types of medications there are also supplements for blood sugar control that work as well as medicine. The benefit of using supplements is the side effects are minimal when taken appropriately.
Supplements work in different ways, so choosing which one(s) wisely is important. In addition, the quality of the supplements makes a difference on how they work (click here for health care provider quality supplements). In some cases it may take trial and error to find the supplements that will help with blood sugar handling, but it is worth the effort.
Supplements for blood sugar control
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is an antioxidant used when blood sugar is gradually increasing as often seen when diagnosed with prediabetes. It prevents or delays the onset of diabetes by helping your cells pull the glucose from the blood stream. It also works well when there is tingling or numbness in the hands or toes, also known as neuropathy. For neuropathy, take alpha lipoic acid at the higher recommended dose for relief.
- Recommended dose is 600mg taken 1-3 times per day
Berberine is a compound found in food. It lowers glucose by decreasing how much sugar the liver produces, similar to the way metformin works. The added bonus to taking berberine is that it can also lower cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Recommended dose is 500mg taken 2-3 times daily
Chromium is a natural element useful for decreasing insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance (also known as prediabetes). It works best when there is a chromium deficiency which can be tested for. The best form of chromium is chromium piccolinate. However, with a history of liver or kidney dysfunction, chromium is not suggested.
- Recommeded dose is 250-1000mcg per day
The same cinnamon spice that makes everything nice is also powerful for managing blood sugar. Many studies show it useful for decreasing fasting glucose, triglycerides, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the one that causes the most controversy). While sprinkling cinnamon on everything you eat is not a bad idea (my dad used to put cinnamon in his coffee in effort to decrease his blood sugar), it likely won’t be enough to make any real change. The therapeutic benefits come from larger than the average sprinkle. The best type of cinnamon to use is ceylon cinnamon.
- Recommended amount is 1000-6000mg daily
Also known as ubiquinol, CoQ10 works similarly to some medications by improving the amount of insulin the pancreas is able to secrete. This supplement is also necessary if you are taking any type of statins because of elevated cholesterol, as statins rob the liver of the coQ10 needed for energy, cell growth, and maintenance.
- Recommended dose is 200mg per day
Magnesium is used for hundreds of processes in the body, thus it is often deficient. The role it plays in blood sugar management is to improve insulin sensitivity at the cellular level. This means that it is useful to help insulin “open the door” of the cell. This allows glucose to move from the blood into the cell where it will be used as an energy source. There are many different types of magnesium; my favorite is magnesium glycinate. This form can be taken orally without having an impact on the bowels (some other types of magnesium will keep you running to the bathroom). Aside from taking it orally, magnesium can also be absorbed through the skin, making Epsom salt baths or using magnesium oils another way to get magnesium.
- Recommended dose is 250-600mg per day, best taken at night as it can help to relax the body
Vitamin B12 is critical to take when taking metformin. Research shows that metformin decreases the absorption of vitamin B12. Long term deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to neuropathy, anemia, and depression among many other symptoms and conditions. Vitamin B12 can be taken by injection or under the tongue through tablets, lozenges, or liquid drops.
- Recommended dose is 1000mcg daily
Good ‘ole vitamin C found in oranges, strawberries, and bell pepper can help with lowering blood sugar. It specifically works to decrease your fasting blood sugar and after meal blood sugars. Vitamin C works best when taken with metformin. While you can eat foods with vitamin C in them, it would take special planning to make sure you get the amount of vitamin C you get from a supplement.
- Recommended dose is 1000mg daily
Also known as the sunshine vitamin, most people are deficient because we spend more time indoors than in decades past. Getting vitamin D tested with
your usual lab routine is always a good idea. Remember vitamin D is a hormone more so than a vitamin and works synergystically with the other hormones in the body (ahem insulin is also a hormone). Since these hormones work well together, it’s no surprise that having adequate vitamin D decreases insulin resistance. If your vitamin D is less than 60ng/dL it’s best to supplement or spend more time outdoors, as there are not a lot of foods with vitamin D.
- Recommended dose is 2000IU per day; if you know your lab results the amount of vitamin D needed can be calculated
Because our food is grown differently than many decades ago, much of our food has fewer nutrients. This sets us up for deficiencies even when we are eating our best. Although nutrients and food compounds can help with managing blood sugar at any part of development, the earlier you catch it and correct the deficiency the more likely you are to be able to make a difference.