QUESTION:

My last HbA1c was 5.8. My doctor says I am not Diabetic, but my fasting morning, blood glucose is 165 mg/dl, but normal during the day. I eat a low carb diet, and hardly any sugar. Am I becoming a Diabetic?

ANSWER:
I am a Registered Nurse, who once worked at a major medical center, educated patients about Diabetes, and has since gone over to the Alternative/Holistic side, of the health care spectrum. I can tell you that even if your HbA1c (Hemoglobin A1c) is less than 6.0 (which is considered Diabetic), an HbA1c of 5.8 linked with fasting glucose readings of 165 mg/dl, are in the Diabetic range. Conventional medical thinking, is that if your glucose consistently greater than 120 mg/dl, you are Diabetic. Combined with a repeated A1c reading of 5.8 this indicates Diabetes.   You are right to be concerned.  The important thing to remember, is that there ARE things that can be done, to reverse this trend, and bring your HbA1c and fasting glucose levels down to normal levels, which will decrease your risk of damaging side effects of Diabetes.

HbA1c – Hemoglobin A1c
This refers to the amount of hemoglobin cells, that have glucose attached to them. Everyone has them in their blood. A person, who has consistently elevated glucose levels, will have higher levels of hemoglobin/glucose cells, in their blood. Since this type of hemoglobin has a life span, of approximately, 120 days, a HbA1c reading is a good indicator, of your glucose levels over the past two to three months.

Following is a more detailed explanation, of this concept:

http://www.healthline.com/galecontent/glycosylated-hemoglobin?utm_medium=ask&utm_source=smart&utm_campaign=article&utm_term=HbA1c&ask_return=HbA1c

Here is an excellent chart, showing the relationship between glucose levels and A1c levels:

http://www.rajeun.net/HbA1c_glucose.html

Note: A standard Fasting glucose is a reading, that is taken 8-12 hours after eating, should be within a range of 70 – 100 mg/dl (better would be 80 – 95 mg/dl). Lower than 70 mg/dl is considered in the Hypoglycemic range.

I have known many Diabetics over the years, and have observed, that in spite taking drugs, prescribed by their doctors, I have seen their disease progressively get worse.  Since I do not think drugs are the solution to living with Diabetes, I would like to recommend some natural alternatives, that can help you lower your blood sugar, as well as your HbA1c.

Lifestyle Changes

You say, that you eat low carb and hardly ever eat any sugar. GREAT! That is an excellent start. Listed below, are some basic suggestions, that you probably already know:
1. Eat a diet, that is lower in carbohydrates (carbs), with more vegetables and protein, with moderately sized portions. Do not eat excessive amounts of protein or fat. A good rule of thumb is to do your grocery shopping around the perimeter, of the grocery store. It is there, that you will find foods, in their most natural state, without the chemical additives and unnecessary added sugars.
2. Eat a diet, that is higher in complex carbohydrates – meaning higher in fiber type carbs. It takes longer for complex carbs to digest, which means the glucose, in those carbs, is released into the blood stream more slowly, and therefore, affects glucose levels less. Grains, in general are higher in carbohydrates, so decreasing intake of grains, will help lower your intake of carbs.
3. Avoid “High Fructose Corn Syrup” (HFCS) at ALL cost! This is controversial, to say the least, but recent studies have shown that HFCS is NOT the same as sugar, and is responsible for any number of conditions, leading to declining health. These include: obesity, diabetes, pancreatic cancer, heart attack, stroke, and atherosclerosis, to name a few. A little known fact, about HFCS: Within 60 minutes of ingesting it, it turns to triglycerides and adipose tissue, NOT blood glucose. HFCS will make you fat and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, by causing atherosclerosis.
Dr. Mercola has some very interesting information about HFCS. Check Parts 1 and 2:

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/01/02/highfructose-corn-syrup-alters-human-metabolism.aspx

The following link shows that the chemical structure, of HFCS is NOT the same as sugar, as claimed by the HFCS industry. There is a campaign to convince the public that HFCS is merely “corn sugar”. Don’t believe the commercials you see on TV and in magazines. It isn’t true.

http://hubpages.com/hub/High-fructose-corn-syrup-HFCS-bad-for-kids

4. Avoid all artificial sweeteners. These do not help with weight loss or decrease sugar cravings.  In fact, they have been linked to increased intake of fat and carbohydrates and weight gain.  Artificial sweeteners have also been linked to migraines, neurological brain damage, leading to Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, ADHD and brain cancer.  Here here are a couple links giving you more information, about the dangers of artificial sweeteners:

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/10/13/Artificial-Sweeteners-More-Dangerous-than-You-Ever-Imagined.aspx

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/07/31/aspartame-update.aspx

5. Exercise – increases the body’s ability to burn excess fat, and recently ingested carbs, before they are able to cause the blood glucose to become elevated.
6. Drink plenty of fluids. This helps to keep your body hydrated, but also helps to keep your blood volume up, which also helps to dilute the amount of glucose floating in the blood.

Herbal Solutions

An alternative way to maintain lower blood sugar level, is to take certain herbs. Below is a list of some of those herbs:

1. Cinnamon – This ingredient has been shown to triple insulin’s efficiency. A study published in 2009 found that cinnamon taken twice a day for 90 days improved hemoglobin A1C levels. Suggested doses range between one gram to three grams daily. Intakes greater than that can affect the ability of the blood to clot. An excellent source is: http://www.swansonvitamins.com/SW1025/ItemDetail?n=0
2. Astragalus – This is usually considered to be an immune system builder. However, it is gaining recognition as a blood sugar modulator, meaning it helps to maintain a blood sugar level, within normal limits, and doesn’t lower glucose levels to unsafe levels. Suggested dose is 250-500mg three times daily.
Suggested source: http://www.swansonvitamins.com/SW504/ItemDetail

3. Gymnema Sylvestre – Promotes healthy glucose metabolism. Suggested dose: 400mg 2-3 times daily before meals.  Gymnema has been shown to raise insulin levels in the body. In some cases it decreases the need for insulin. This diabetic herb is known to lower blood sugar levels, as well as triglycerides. It is a well known as the destroyer of sugar cravings, and can be effective for up to 3 hours.

4. Turmeric - Powerful antioxidant, that also is helpful for maintaining healthy glucose levels. Turmeric is also well known for treating cancer, cardiovascular, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

5. Milk Thistle – The jury is still out, on the specific reason this works, but it has been found to help lower blood glucose levels, as well as triglycerides.

6. Mulberry Leaf Extract – Helps maintain healthy blood glucose levels, and supports cardiovascular health.

7. Herbal Combination – Cinnamon, Gymnema, Mulberry Complex:

http://www.swansonvitamins.com/Search?keyword=Cinnamon&doSearch=true&ntt=&n=0&ntk=Level1

8.  Fenugreek – Has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels. Blood sugar levels tend to remain more stable and improves glucose tolerance and excretion of glucose in the urine.

Cardiovascular Risk

A word about Diabetes and cardiovascular risk. When the blood glucose remains high – as with Diabetes – the blood eventually passes through the liver, which produces higher levels of triglycerides (sticky fats), in the blood. These elevated triglycerides are what cause atherosclerosis or fatty deposits on the lining of blood vessels.  Several things happen, when atherosclerosis occurs:
1. Blood vessels become narrower, which puts additional strain on the heart, when it has to pump harder, to move blood through the body. This increases blood pressure.
2. The fatty deposits decrease the elasticity, causing a stiffening, of the blood vessel walls, which are normally “springy”. This allows for pooling of blood (in the nooks and crannies, of the fatty deposits. Since the blood vessels aren’t as springy, the blood sits in these crevasses and begins to clot. Eventually, the clots increase in size, and break off, moving to the lungs, blood vessels around the heart and/or brain, causing either a pulmonary embolism, heart attack or stroke. The blood clot can also pass through the heart, and travel to the lower extremity, causing a DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis. Diabetics are twice as likely to develop DVTs, as other people.
3. The buildup of fatty deposits, from elevated triglycerides, also affects the tiny vessels, in the extremities, organs and eyes, leading to decreased blood supply to these area. When the blood supply is decreased, it can lead to death of these tissues and nerves supplying these tissues. This is the reason, that it is common, for Diabetics to develop sores, on their feet and legs, which leads to loss of limbs, as well as painful Peripheral Neuropathy. It can also lead to loss of vision and organ failure.

To minimize your risk, of having vascular damage, which leads to sores, that won’t heal, as well as blindness and organ failure, there are herbs, that you can take.  Here is a list of some, that people have used with great success. Please note: Since many of these herbs open up the blood vessels, to increase blood flow, they also lower blood pressure. Therefore, proceed with caution, if you have low or “normal” blood pressure, are on blood pressure medications.  You can still take these, just make sure you monitor your blood pressure, and if it becomes too low (less than 115/60) decrease your dose. If you are on blood pressure medication, check with your doctor, about decreasing that dose.

1.  L-Arginine –  A vasodilator – opens blood vessels, and reduces blood vessel stiffness, to make them more elastic.  Standard dosing is 500mg one to two times daily.

2.  Niacin – Lowers triglycerides and cholesterol. Studies have shown a decrease in incidence of heart attack, as well. Many complain of “flushing”, which is not dangerous, but merely a result, of increased blood flow, due to vasodilation or opening of the blood vessels.  It is possible to get “Flush Free” Niacin, which eliminates the discomfort, of flushing.

3.  Horse Chestnut – It has been used as a traditional remedy to improve leg vein health. It tones and protects blood vessels and may be helpful in ankle edema related to poor venous return, and is also helpful, for some, with chronic neuralgia or lower extremity nerve pain. It has also been found helpful, for leg ulcers and frostbite, and can be taken internally, as well as applied topically, in the form of a lotion, ointment or oil.

http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-horse-chestnut.html

4.  Nattokinase – http://www.swansonvitamins.com/SWU419/ItemDetail?n=0

Nattokinase has been used in Japan, for centuries, to support healthy blood flow, thereby promoting circulatory and cardiovascular health. It decreases the ability, of the blood to be sticky, thereby decreasing the risk of atherosclerosis, or fat and plaque sticking to the inside, of the blood vessels, making them smaller, and increasing the risk of clot formation. When the diameter, of blood vessels is decreased, it also increases the risk of high blood pressure and heart attack.

Because nattokinase, tends to “thin the blood”, if you are taking a baby aspirin or regular aspirin daily, you should not continue taking the aspirin, with nattokinase, as this would increase your risk of bleeding internally.  Also, do not take, this if you are taking daily doses of Coumadin.

Dosing, for nattokinase can be anywhere from 50-200 mg. This is best taken, with water, first thing in the morning, two hours before eating.  It is also sold by “Fibrinolytic Units”.  100 mg. equals 2000 Fibrinolytic Units.

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SO . . . as you probably are already aware, it is extremely important to start sooner, rather than later, to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and HbA1c levels. Do not wait, for your doctor, to tell you, that you are a Diabetic . . . start now!

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER

The information, herein, has not been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration and is not approved to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.  The information, posted here, is the opinion of the author, is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional.  You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment. You should consult with a health care professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem.