Facts About Vitamins, Minerals And Herbal Supplements For People With Diabetes.
IT’S NOT UNUSUAL to hear people who have diabetes say, “I don’t want to take medicine.” Yet a lot of people with diabetes are taking dietary supplements, such as vitamins, minerals and herbs for extra help with their health problems. Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and Professor of Pharmacy Laura Shane-McWhorter knows just how common this is. In an article she wrote for the American Diabetes Association, she noted that in 2011, more than half of Americans with diabetes took some kind of supplement every day. This is a big increase from 2002, when only 1-in-4 people with diabetes were taking an herbal product each day.
Complementary And Alternative Medicine
Taking vitamins, minerals and herbs is part of an approach to health called Complementary and Alternative Medicine, or CAM by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). They define CAM as “a group of varied medical systems, practices, and products that are not usually part of ‘regular’ medicine.”
Regular medicine is the kind of medicine that most doctors, nurses, diabetes educators and pharmacists currently practice. Regular medicine is also known as Western medicine. The differences between CAM and regular medicine are not always clear.
There is lots of new research showing that some CAM practices are safe and effective. This has led to many of these practices being accepted by regular healthcare providers and the public. For example, it is now common for both CAM and regular healthcare providers to suggest yoga as a way to decrease stress. Integrative medicine is a practice that does just this: It blends alternative and complementary therapies and regular medicine so patients get the best of both worlds.
1 Understand why you are taking the supplement.
Do you know what the supplement is supposed to do for you? If it is one that claims to lower your blood glucose, do you know if it is helping? To find out, check your blood glucose level often when you are taking the supplement. Then cut down on the amount you take to see if it makes any difference. If you see that it doesn’t make any difference, there may be no need to keep taking it.
2 Tell your healthcare providers, including your pharmacist, what supplements you are taking.
Just like you tell your healthcare providers what medicines you take, you should also tell them what supplements and other over-the-counter medicines you take. Better yet, bring the bottles with you to your next office visit. Your healthcare provider may be able to tell you if it’s safe to take all of the different medicines together.
3 continue to take your prescribed medicine.
Do not stop taking your prescribed medicine when you start a new supplement. If you see your blood glucose levels are getting too low, contact your healthcare provider and discuss this before making any changes on your own.
4 Keep learning from trusted sources.
You may receive information about CAM in the mail or from friends and family. But, don’t trust everything you see and hear. Make sure the information you get is correct and safe.
5 There is also a lot of information available for free on the internet.
Check out nccam.nih.gov for useful information. You can also learn a lot by reading magazine or talking to your local pharmacist.
Herbs And Dietary Supplements
People take dietary supplements for many different reasons including:
- the belief that they can avoid the side effects of regular medicines
- the belief that they are natural.
It is important to know that although many supplements are natural, natural does not always mean safe. There are many plants that are natural, but are also poisonous. Some supplements may also interact with medicines you already take, prescribed or over-the-counter.
There is no government agency to make sure the supplements you take are safe, as there is for regular medicines. Prescription and over-the-counter medicines need to go through years of scientific research to prove they are safe and effective before they can be sold to you. Once on the market, the government regulates all prescription drugs to make sure the actual ingredients and amount stated on the label is what you receive.
Dietary supplements have no such regulation. There is no law that says the amount of the supplement needs to be stated on the bottle, and if it does list this, there is no guarantee that what it states is true.