Vitamin D is one of the most important hormones in your body because it has such far-reaching effects in different organ systems. It regulates calcium and phosphorous absorption, which is very important for bone health. It also has effects on your immune system function – so when your levels get low in the winter, you get sick more often. Finally – it has effects as a pre-hormone to your sex steroids, which include testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. So if you’re low on Vitamin D and you optimize it by supplementation or getting more sun exposure, you can actually improve the health of your hormones.
The best way to know if you’re Vitamin D deficient is to get your blood tested. I recommend that you go to your doctor at least once a year to get the simple blood test to find out if you have sub-optimal levels. Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency can include things like Osteoporosis, Seasonal Affective Disorder, mood disorders (like anxiety and depression), and many other things. So make sure to get your blood tested and check your levels.
Supplementing with Vitamin D may not be the first thing you think of when you get a diagnosis of diabetes. But research has shown that it can actually help improve your hemoglobin A1c and your fasting blood glucose. So it’s actually quite important to supplement with it (if you’re low) because this can help you better manage your diabetes.
There are a number of supplements out there on the market that people are interested in taking because they’ve been implicated in diabetes treatment. Some of the common ones are: Chromium, Vanadate, Cinnamon, Nopalitos. These are all things that have been associated, even in some research, to reduce blood sugars. The trouble is that we don’t have a lot of research that shows that these are effective or safe. They may or may not be effective – we just don’t have enough research to answer that question. The most important thing is that we don’t have enough research to tell us if they’re safe – so we generally do not recommend these supplements for treating diabetes because we don’t want patients to be harmed and we just don’t know if they are safe or not.
Berberine is one of the best studied alternative treatments for diabetes. It's derived from plants like Golden Seal and Oregon Grape, and it's been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. One recent study in 2008 showed that Berberine was as effective as Metformin for lowering hemoglobin A1c and fasting glucose, but Berberine actually outperformed Metformin in the same study for lowering cholesterol and triglycerides.
Cinnamon is a spice found in many things like pumpkin spiced lattes and baked goods. But if you’re using it to help control your blood sugar, the amount found in these foods is not usually enough to make a difference. Most of the studies on cinnamon for diabetes have been with doses around 1, 3, or 6 grams. The only way you can really get this is through supplementation. But the science is actually mixed: for some people, it does help them reduce their blood sugar and fasting glucose but for others, it doesn’t make the same difference. And if you take too much, it can harm your kidneys. So if you’re going to try cinnamon as an adjuvant treatment for your diabetes, make sure you get the right dose and not to take too much. And don’t use it as a replacement for your mainstream medications.
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