"All Natural" Alternatives

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"All Natural" Alternatives

Question: How can I know if an alternative or herbal therapy is safe for use with diabetes? Thanks, Ann

Answer:

Dear Ann,

There are numerous complementary and alternative approaches to medical care that have been used for centuries in non westernized parts of the world to treat medical conditions such as diabetes. Complimentary medicine refers to therapies that are used along with conventional medicine. Alternative medicine refers to therapies that are used in the place of conventional medicine. Together they are referred to as CAM Therapies.

The focus of conventional medicine is on “evidence-based” therapies that are based on a doctors’ clinical experience and scientific evidence that is gathered in clinical trials. And, although CAM therapies have been used throughout the centuries, many of them have not been researched in clinical trials to demonstrate their effectiveness.

The National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine is an organization that supports research in the use of complimentary and alternative products, and seeks to integrate scientifically proven complementary and alternative practices into conventional medicine. As evidence from studies accumulates, showing the benefits of some CAM therapies, more and more practices that were once considered “non conventional” are entering into mainstream medicine . . . BUT, not all forms of CAM stand up to the test of clinical trials.

When exploring CAM therapies it is important to consider the pros and cons, the cost, and most importantly their SAFETY in use. In her book “Diabetes Self-Managements Hidden Secrets of Natural Healing: Using foods, supplements, and more to slow or even reverse the complications of Diabetes” Diana Guthrie, PhD, ARNP, FAAN, FAADE, CDE, BC-ADM, AHN-BC, CHTP, suggests the following:

Do your research. Find out as much as you can about any practice or therapy you would like to try, and consider the arguments of skeptics and believers.

Talk to your health-care provider about the practice or product you would like to try.

If you intend to change your diet significantly, talk to a registered dietitian who can help you determine how it may affect your blood glucose.

Talk to your pharmacist, to find out how herbal products and dietary supplements work, and how they may interact with prescription or non prescription drugs.

Make sure the CAM practitioner you have chosen has the appropriate license or certification to practice.

Monitor your blood glucose levels closely.

Carry a source of carbohydrate with you at all times.

Do NOT substitute complimentary medical practices for conventional treatment. This is UNSAFE use of CAM.

Keep your conventional health-care provider informed about your use of CAM therapies.

Watch out for unrealistic promises . . . if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

“Natural” doesn’t necessarily mean “safe.”

Watch out for claims based on a single scientific study . . . as a single study almost never proves anything.

Avoid practitioners who are secretive about their methods, or suggest a government or medical community conspiracy against their product.

Don’t take megadoses of any dietary supplement, including vitamins and minerals, unless you do so under the supervision of a physician.

Pay attention to how you feel. Don’t ignore the signals that your body is sending. If it feels wrong, it probably is.

 

Recommended Resources:

“Diabetes Self-Managements Hidden Secrets of Natural Healing: Using foods, supplements, and more to slow or even reverse the complications of Diabetes” by Diana Guthrie, PhD, ARNP, FAAN, FAADE, CDE, BC-ADM, AHN-BC, CHTP (available on Amazon.com)

The National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine: http://nccam.nih.gov/