Herb Feature

Herb Feature


Did you know that in Australia, over 1 million people have been diagnosed with Diabetes Mellitis (DM) and that by 2020 that number will rise to over 3 million if the current rates of incidence continue? So, what is diabetes and why should we care? There are two types of diabetes mellitis which involve blood sugar control: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 DM is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system destroys the Beta Cells of the pancreas and the body can no longer produce the hormone Insulin, resulting in uncontrolled elevations in blood sugar while the cells of the body that need insulin to get the glucose inside are starved! The most common form, however, is type 2 DM which is actually caused by Insulin Resistance: Insulin is no longer very effective at reducing blood sugar so the pancreas pumps out more and more in order to reduce the elevated circulating glucose. Eventually the pancreas can “burn out” as it can no longer keep up with the body’s demands. Type 2 Diabetes is closely associated with obesity and physical inactivity, as the excess of body fat (particularly abdominal fat or VAT: Visceral Adipose Tissue) requires more and more Insulin to bind to the Insulin Receptors in the fat cells. This is probably the greatest threat to our health and longevity this century. So, what can we do to prevent it?

Enter our heroic herb of the month: Gymnema Sylvestre! Gymnema is called Gurmar in Ayurvedic medicine which means “sugar destroyer”. It gets the name from its amazing ability to reduce the presence of sugar in the urine of people with diabetes and another remarkable effect: it suppresses the sweet taste receptors on the tongue. Anyone who’s tried the liquid extract directly on the tongue can attest to this: sweet things no longer taste sweet! To me, liquorice tastes like cheese and chocolate tastes like soap… yuck! This effect is not noticed with tablets, but the hypoglycaemic affects of Gymnema have been researched in both pharmacological studies and clinical trials. Gymnema preparations have been shown to – regulate blood sugar and increase the activity of insulin dependant pathways, reduce post-prandial (after food) glucose elevation, reduce body weight and food intake, and to reduce total cholesterol, triglycerides (blood fats), and insulin requirements. Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics can benefit from taking Gymnema but they of course need to monitor their blood glucose as they may need to adjust their medication. Talk to your Naturopath today about high quality Gymnema extracts!

Gymnema needs to be taken for a longer period of time, with studies showing increasing benefits after taking it for 12 weeks to 20 months. This may be because it seems to have a regenerative effect on the pancreatic beta cells: in type 2 diabetic patients, fasting and post-eating insulin levels were improved. This is an incredible finding and gives hope to many people who have developed diabetes or those who may develop it in the future. Gymnema is one of many plants that can improve blood sugar regulation, but it also seems to have an amazing ability to improve pancreas function directly.  Why is it so important to regulate our blood sugar? If glucose levels are high in the blood for an extended time, glucose sticks on to the proteins of our body cells and tissues, causing them to function abnormally. This can lead to heart disease, cataracts, macular degeneration (damage to your retina leading to blindness), nerve damage, and damage to the blood vessels of the extremities, particularly the legs and feet.

Gymnema can be combined with other herbs such as cinnamon and bitter melon, along with nutrients such as chromium, magnesium and B-vitamins. Omega 3 fatty acids are also important as well as lifestyle changes. If we want to prevent or improve our blood sugar, we also need to be eating less total carbohydrates, avoiding sugar, consuming adequate protein along with large amounts of both soluble and insoluble fibre, and the addition of healthy fats and, of course appropriate exercise! Even if you have a family history of diabetes, preventing the development of this disease is quite achievable. You have a huge influence on your genetic expression with your dietary and lifestyle choices, and you can largely determine which genes you express: instead of inflammatory proteins, I encourage you to make choices that promote health, healing and happiness. It’s time for us to shape our destiny into a healthier, happier and more optimistic future by looking after our bodies; the incredible vessels that we’ve been blessed with to carry us around! So, destroy the sugar and embrace your future today!

David Peirce is a practicing Naturopath/ Herbalist.

Bachelor of Health Science - Complementary Medicine

Contact: 07 4032 0038

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