About four-fifths of 40-60 year olds are either overweight, take insufficient exercise or drink too much alcohol. The bad news for health policy is that more such people are being identified as being pre-diabetic. The good news is that four-fifths of cases of type 2 diabetes could be delayed or prevented through making lifestyle and dietary changes.
Pre-diabetes is classified as increase in blood glucose levels to higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Measurements of fasting plasma glucose (6.0 – 6.9 mmol/l) and glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c (43 – 47 mmol/mol) are used to identify poor control of blood glucose levels.
Seven million people are estimated to have pre-diabetes and thus at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Each year 5% to 10% of people with pre-diabetes develop type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease with life-threatening complications.
The good news is that if you are pre-diabetic and you act now, you could stop type 2 diabetes in its tracks. The risk of developing diabetes is minimised by catching the condition early as pre-diabetic signs can precede full-blown type 2 diabetes by many years.
You can, therefore, make changes that significantly improve glucose control. This requires better diet and lifestyle. And that can be effectively combined with treatment using herbal medicine. It is estimated that about 80% of cases of type 2 diabetes could be delayed or prevented through making these changes.
The early control of blood glucose stops the need for drugs, and the dangers of long-term complications such as heart and kidney disease, blindness and nerve damage, leading to amputations.
The key to treatment is to increase insulin production and then the response to insulin. Weight loss is a very crucial part of lifestyle changes needed to achieve this. Losing >5% can reduce low level inflammation and insulin demand, and increase insulin response.
Diet changes should include less saturated fat intake, more fibre, no refined carbohydrates, plenty of vegetables and low fruit, as well as moderate protein intake including more nuts, which also curb the risk of diabetes development. Exercise of at least 30 minutes for five times a week starting with gentle walking is very important as are good sleep patterns which aid weight loss.
Treatment with herbal medicines enhances the benefits of these vital life style changes. A group of herbs which are particularly beneficial are spices such as ginger, garlic, cinnamon, turmeric and capsicum. These reduce inflammation and help balance blood glucose. Other effective herbs in controlling blood glucose include Gymnema, Fennel, Liquorice, Goat ’s rue, Ginseng and Baical skullcap.
A Medical Herbalist will select the best of these glucose-controlling herbs for each individual and combine them with others to improve liver function, lower cholesterol, improve vascular function and reduce inflammation. They will advise which nutritional supplements are necessary for balancing blood glucose. These include chromium, magnesium, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B, vitamin D and zinc which are very important for normalising glucose levels.
Combining crucial life style changes with herbal medicine treatment provides a real opportunity to reverse poor control of blood glucose and prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. This will avert long term health problems and improve the chances of continued good health and well being.