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Metabolic Syndrome and Type II Diabetes: Part 2


Metabolic Syndrome and Type II Diabetes an Alternative Medical Approach. Part 2

So let’s move on now and talk about some herbs which are going to very specifically deal with insulin and deal with sugar metabolism and help the patient in this sugar management crises category. The first place to start is with the herb Gymnema.


Gymnema has a common name in India called the sugar destroyer. The name comes from the curious ability that Gymnema has to block the reception of sweet taste in the mouth. If you were to suck on a Gymnema tablet for sixty seconds and then swallow it and then put something sweet in your mouth you would be unable to detect the sweetness. Sometimes we do this with our patients just to show them how powerful this herb really is.  Sugar just feels like sand in your mouth and that sand just melts. One of the problems in dealing with patients with blood sugar issues is reducing their cravings for sweets and trying to reduce their appetite. Gymnema helps to reduce the cravings for carbs, candies and sweets over a period of two to three weeks.

How it Works

Perhaps Gymnema is exerting this influence because it is interacting with the endocrine cells in the small intestine that I discussed in part one of this blog. We know from the science that those cells under the influence of certain plant based molecules produce hormones that regulate our appetite. They improve our satiety or how full we feel when we are eating. And they also regulate our desire to eat and our appetite. Gymnema has this fantastic ability and it may be easily traced back to this particular aspect of intestinal endocrine cells.

In this sugar management crises category, it is most likely that I have had our patient on a 21 day detoxification/purification program.  At the end of this program it is a challenge for the patient to go off into the world and be more in control of their diet. One of the strategies that I employ is to use the herbal Gymnema throughout the three weeks of the purification program.  It takes about two to three weeks to reduce the sweet cravings. By the time a patient completes the program, they have done an enormous amount of really good work and they are in a really good place. They have most likely lost a lot of weight and they are feeling fabulous. If they stop the program they will probably be afflicted with the cravings to go back to eating the things that they previously enjoyed. Using the Gymnema herb in the program will not only help regulate their blood sugar control as I’ll describe but it will also help decrease those cravings. That alone can be an incredibly significant event in that patient’s journey back to full health.

Gymnema Extract

The MediHerb Gymnema herbal product just contains a Gymnema extract. It is just a single herb. It is standardized to contain just gymnemic acids, which are one of the key active ingredients. The suggested dose is one tablet before each meal. If the patient will take it 20 to 30 minutes before each meal it will have a more significant effect. It will have a more significant effect because it is thought that the Gymnema herb is activating the cells that line the small intestine so that they don’t take up glucose so freely. If we go back to our conversation about endocrine cells, maybe some of the Gymnema actives are interacting with those receptors to regulate the gastro intestinal tract. That is best done before eating so our digestive tract is primed and ready for the food.

Clinical Studies

There are a number of clinical studies that have been done on Gymnema. The clinical studies that have been done have looked at the improvements in glycemic control in all of the different scenarios that our patients might experience. Even Type I diabetes and Type II diabetes have been clinically trialed. The outcomes of these trials show that it is long term use that drives the therapy. The best results were achieved over one to two years. Some patients may be impatient and want a faster level of action but many of these types of patients have taken a whole lifetime to get to this position and it is unreasonable for them to think that they can undo all of that damage in such a short amount of time. The natural repair mechanisms in the body that help resolve these issues often take a longer time to act then a patient desires. Dosing is important and should range between 2 – 6 tablets per day depending on where the patient is starting. It is a goal to reduce the amount to two tablets each day. Looking at blood levels of blood glucose and insulin makes it easy to track success and change dosage.

Improving the Function of the Pancreas

One of the hallmarks of Gymnema herbal therapy is a decrease in fasting blood glucose so it is having a significant impact on improving the healthy functioning of the pancreas. There are corollaries to that so if you get less fasting blood glucose you will see less glycosylated hemoglobin which is a very important parameter to keep track of.

In the studies that were done long term, it showed that Gymnema had a trophic effect on pancreatic beta cells. The way that gets measured is by looking at some of the byproducts of the production of insulin. When insulin gets produced in the pancreas it is a big peptide that gets cleaved in half. One half becomes insulin and one half becomes C-Peptide. C stands for connecting. C-Peptide has got some very specific physiologic functions that don’t have much to do with blood sugar regulation. If you can measure C-Peptide you are in fact measuring the amount of insulin being produced. For patients that are Type I diabetic it is very difficult to discern the two, exogenous and endogenous insulin. So in patients where Gymnema has been given over a long period of time levels of C-Peptide begin to increase and that is a key marker for an improvement of insulin from the beta cells. It is important to be using an herbal that is not enterically coated because of the necessary interaction of the herb and the endocrine cells that line the intestine. That is one good reason that we use the MediHerb product line because of their astute understanding of these issues.

This is Part 2 in a 3 part series on sugar management, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. I will segue this into a discussion on osteoarthritis and cardiovascular relationships to the bitter receptors and other supportive herbals for those conditions.

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