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Natural Remedies: Diabetes

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that is the result of a problem with the production or processing of the hormone Insulin. Insulin controls the amount of sugar that is in the blood as well as the rate that it is absorbed into your cells. The body's cells use this sugar as energy to function; In diabetics the insulin builds up instead of entering the cells causing the sugar to build up into the bloodstream. This high level is known as hyperglycemia and it is dangerous to the body, causing damage to organs and blood vessels.

There are 2 types of Diabetes: Type 1 or Insulin dependent diabetes and Type 2 or non-Insulin dependent diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which at a fairly early age the body is unable to produce Insulin because the immune system destroys the Insulin producing cells in the pancreas. This type of Diabetes effects about 10 % of the population and can only be managed through the injection or inhalation of insulin to reduce the levels of sugar in the blood.

Type 2 Diabetes is much more common, affecting about 90 % of Diabetes sufferers. In this type of Diabetes the pancreas produce a small amount of insulin, but not enough of it to fuel the body. This type of diabetes usually has an onset of later on in life and usually the person has secondary issues such as being overweight, being Latino, African American, and Native Americans. Usually this form is managed by oral medications, weight loss and dietary management, along with exercise.

What is Insulin?

Insulin is the internal secretion of the pancreas formed by groups of cells called the islets of Langerhans. It is the hormone needed to enable glucose to enter the cells and provide energy. Insulin is also important in keeping blood glucose levels within the acceptable limits.

How is Human Insulin Prepared?

According to the International Diabetes Foundation: "Since the landmark discovery of insulin by Frederick Banting and Charles Best in 1922, huge steps have been made in research and development regarding its preparation. Early preparations of insulin were purified quite crudely from pancreas tissue extracted from animals - either pigs or cattle. Today, insulin is mostly made biosynthetically by recombinant DNA technology or 'genetic engineering. "

Animal insulin

"Until the 1980s, all insulin was extracted from the pancreases of cattle and pigs. The sequence of amino acids (the building blocks that make up the protein) is slightly different in insulin from the different species. Compared to human insulin, porcine (pork) insulin has one different amino acid and bovine (beef) insulin three different amino acids. These very slight differences do not affect the way in which the insulin works inside the human body. Pork insulin is structurally closer to human insulin than is beef insulin. These days, animal insulin are made from highly purified pancreas extracts and are marketed as 'natural' insulin."

Human insulin

Human insulin is not prepared from human pancreas tissue. Rather than being extracted from human pancreases, commercially available human insulin is manufactured through recombinant DNA technology, in which the gene for making human insulin is transferred into simple cells such as bacteria or bakerís yeast. The insulin made by those cells is identical to insulin made by the human pancreas. Unlike animal insulin, recombinant DNA human insulin can be made in unlimited supply, since they do not depend on the supply of bovine and porcine pancreases.

Analogue insulin

Analogues are altered molecular versions of a natural substance (in this case insulin). They have been used in many therapies where hormone treatment is needed. The natural hormone is changed slightly, by rearranging the position of amino acids within the molecule (rather like changing the position of beads on a necklace). The insulin molecule is modified so as to give it a more desirable activity profile, thereby making it more convenient to use. These molecularly engineered hormones more closely mimic normal insulin secretion than do traditional insulin.

Types of Insulin

Manufactured insulin comes in several types that differ in the way in which they act inside the body. Each type differs in three ways:

  1. Onset: the length of time after injection that the insulin begins to work
  2. Peak: the length of time after injection that the insulin takes to reach its maximum effectiveness
  3. Duration: the length of time that the insulin remains effective

The four basic types of insulin and their respective onset, peak and duration are as follows:

  1. Rapid-acting: begins to work after 15 minutes, peaks in 30 to 90 minutes, and has a duration of three to four hours.
  2. Short-acting: begins to work in 30 to 60 minutes, peaks in two to three hours, and has a duration of three to six hours.
  3. Intermediate-acting: begins to work in 90 minutes to six hours, peaks in four to 14 hours, and has a duration of up to 24 hours.
  4. Long-acting: begins to work in six to 14 hours and remains effective for 24 to 36 hours.

Many people with diabetes use combinations of theses different types of insulin to better control and manage their condition.

Is there a cure?

Sort of ; there have been clinical trials where researchers have performed a procedure called islet transplantation. In islet transplantation, islets (Insulin Producing cells) are taken from the pancreas of a deceased organ donor. The islets are purified, processed, and transferred into another person. Once implanted, the beta cells in these islets begin to make and release insulin.

The hope is that this procedure will become perfected so as to avoid any rejection by the immune system and allow the islet cells produce Insulin and either reduce or eliminate the need for Insulin. This procedure is still in the clinical phases, but there is a real possibility that this, or stem cells will actually "cure" diabetes one day.

Natural medicine:

There are many other ways to help bring blood sugar under control. Some people with severe Type-1 or Insulin dependent diabetes may gain better control over their disease, but may not be able to eliminate Insulin totally. People with Type 2 Diabetes can get their weight under control, eat foods that are low on the glycemic index and also try some of these natural remedies.

For Controlling Blood sugar:

Exercise, Omega-3 fish oil, Vitamins B, C, and E taken Daily. Fenugreek which is high in soluble fiber, and has many active compounds in it that will help increase the good cholesterol, which is important because Diabetics are particularly susceptible to heart disease. Any food that is very high in soluble fiber like beans helps avoid the spikes and dips Diabetics experience when the eat. Cinnamon is another spice that helps keep blood sugar levels more stable, just 1/4 of a teaspoon sprinkled in your food is all you need every day.

Several Indian spices have also shown promise in lowering blood sugar or keeping blood sugar stable. Bitter Gourd has shown shown the amazing ability to lower blood sugar by half by eating just 2 teaspoons. Black tea is another export from India that has shown significant anti-diabetic activity, and you can add the bitter gourd powder or the cinnamon to it. If you are concerned about the caffeine, you can get the decaffeinated type without ruining the blood sugar controlling properties.

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