Friday, October 12, 2007

Sugar and spice

*Fair Warning: This is going to be a diabetes update. So if you hate listening to old people natter on about their health issues, now would be the time to make a run for it.

Forgive me, Body, for we have sinned. (Yes, we. This is, after all, mostly your fault.) It has been a month since my last confession. Since then, we have eaten any number of sweet things and carbs (though far fewer of them than we wanted). We had pizza twice and one big honkin' grinder that I still recall fondly. We gave in to the free latte and muffins at work last week. And we have again drifted away from regular testing, as we do not enjoy stabbing ourselves all that much. I am truly sorry, and I promise to resume testing and to stay away from the goodies. For your part, Body Dearest, you could try not to freak out when we backslide, OK? OK.

About the sugar

I finally went in for blood work in mid-September. My A1c was 7.7. For the uninitiated, normal is 4.0-6.0 and over 8.0 is big trouble. Measures of kidney function indicated "an elevated risk for diabetic neuropathy." Worse, it seems that if the sugar doesn't kill me, the cholesterol will. So now I need to work on that, too, and take Vytorin every day. The fun never ends.

Now, there are three main parts to lowering blood sugar: education, diet and ::shudder:: exercise. So I could (a.) read a lot and eat stuff or (b.) bounce around and sweat. I say Go with your strengths. That would be A. If that alone doesn't do the trick, I may actually have to join a gym. I'm not that desperate yet.

Here's the spice part

Following a bad experience with Avandamet, I have begun to pursue alternative and herbal options for controlling blood sugar.

There is a surprisingly long list of natural substances, spices and foods that are purported to work and that have been clinically tested for effectiveness, side effects and interactions. Prevention Magazine has one or another "diabetes cure" every issue, so it's a good place to start for ideas. One source I found particularly useful for followup is Alternative Cures That Really Work, by Ronald Hoffman, MD and Barry Fox, PhD. The book ranks each item for effectiveness, one to five stars. It also summarizes the studies done on the substances, gives dosages, and lists side effects and drug interactions.

Among the most familiar and accessible alternatives is cinnamon. I already had that in the pantry, and I like it, so that's where I started.

USDA studies have found that the water soluble components of cinnamon significantly reduce both blood sugars and cholesterol. It can be taken as ground spice or made into a tea. A quarter teaspoon of the ground spice is effective, but anything over half a teaspoon can be toxic over time.

Also on the lists of proven sugar and cholesterol regulators are oats and walnuts. So, every day for a month now my breakfast has consisted of oatmeal with the quarter teaspoon of cinnamon, an ounce of chopped walnuts, a few raisins for sweetness (only 5 or 6 - they're sugary)and low fat milk.

I really think this new breakfast regimen has helped. My morning testing levels are in the mid-140s now; that's still too high, but it's down significantly from 160s a month ago and 200s the month before that.

I am eating healthier overall, I make an effort to be more active, and I still take the metformin, so the "foodaceuticles" are obviously not the only factor in the lower numbers. Still, I'll take all the help I can get.

I'd also love to try prickly pear cactus, which is supposed to be extremely effective, but it is damned hard to come by in Indiana. Believe me, I've looked. Failing that, I may try adding fenugreek, another spice that scores well.

Mind you, I have run all this past my doctor. He has had training in herbal medicine and is sympathetic to my experiments, as long as I'm still taking prescribed meds too. Our goal is to reduce the amount of medication I need, not to replace it.

I suspect that a lot of what alternative treatments do is to give back a sense of control to the patient; they may work primarily by placebo effect. I'm OK with that. I'll take it over Avandia any day.

Links you might like
* Herbs, Vitamins, and More for Diabetes, WebMD
* Cinnamon May Help Treat Diabetes, CBS News
* Diabetes Mine (great blog)


Tammie Jean said...

My elderly neighbor invited me over for tea recently. She had many varities, and I chose the chamomile. She fixed it up for me, and then shook some cinnamon into it. "It's good for you!" she said. Maybe she read one of these reports? It tasted pretty good, actually :)

Good luck with everything... Sounds like it's not easy.

MyMaracas said...

Thanks for the tip, Tammie Jean! I'll have to try it in chamomile tea. Sounds like a nice change. Sounds like your neighbor is on top of things there.


Carly said...


Blogger is not accepting my comments, so I will try again. Ok, first of all, forgive me for not getting by as promised. I am on vacation with Alan for 3 weeks, and my blog jogging is suffering.

Second, thank you, thank you, thank you! I am going to do a diabetic cooking entry later this week, as I make my first attempt at making a sugar-free pumpkin pie. I also have a new recipe for Meatloaf I have created. I appreciate this entry with the links, as I try to learn new ways to healthier for us. :)

Don't worry too much about the slip up's, sometimes we have to feed the soul, and starve the diabetes. :) Hang in there. :) Drop by Ellipsis later this week if you like Meatloaf.

Hugs, Carly

MyMaracas said...

::perking up::

Pie? Meatloaf? Better believe I'll be watching for those, Carly. Glad you liked the links, and thanks for the support.