The Ginseng Series - Diabetes
Diabetes mellitus, commonly known as diabetes is a group of metabolic diseases in which the body can not control the blood glucose levels over a prolonged period of time. Symptoms of diabetes include having to urinate frequently and increased thirst and hunger. If left untreated, these symptoms can lead to more severe problems and health complications.
There are two main forms of diabetes. ‘Type 1 diabetes’ is where the body has a total lack of insulin caused by the body’s immune system destroying all the cells that control and release insulin, eventually eliminating all production in the body. Insulin is important to help cells of the body absorb glucose for energy, in order to continue to function properly.
The other is ‘type 2 diabetes’ where the body fails to maintain the insulin levels in the correct way, referred to as insulin resistance. As it worsens, insulin production in the pancreas will decrease or stop altogether. This is insulin deficiency.
Many different parts of the ginseng plant have been shown to have anti-diabetic properties. Originally it was just believed that the root of the plant could yield health benefits, but since then the leaves and the berries have shown proven anti-diabetic benefits as well. This is because of the active ingredient ginsenoside being present in all parts of the plant, but the highest concentrations can still be found in the root which helps to explain the difference in anti-diabetic effects throughout the plant .
The antioxidant properties of ginseng could contribute towards protecting the pancreas and other tissues from oxidative stress caused by extremely high blood glucose levels during hyperglycemia. Its ability to regulate cholesterol and other blood lipids is an activity which is particularly beneficial in helping reduce the causes of type 2 diabetes and other metabolism .
The root has also been linked to increased insulin secretion by the pancreas cells and the target tissues that absorb glucose from the blood, aiding the regulation of blood glucose which is a key factor of diabetes. Ginseng enhances adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production which, at low levels, results in insulin deficiency within the body. Although this is not the only cause of decreased insulin production within cells, low ATP production in the mitochondria of cells is a primary cause .
Ginseng aids blood glucose concentrations by its modulating effect on digestion speed. Consumption of ginseng results in inhibiting gastric secretion and neuronal discharge frequency, resulting in the slower digestion of food and decreasing the rate at which carbohydrates are absorbed .
The combination of these different methods of helping to reduce and manage insulin resistance helps make ginseng a robust way of preventing the onset of diabetes, as well as managing symptoms in individuals who have diabetes.
Supplements to help insulin sensitivity
Alpha-Lipoic Acid - this antioxidant is naturally present in the body and neutralises harmful free radicals from exerting oxidative stress which has been linked to insulin resistance and the development of diabetes. It also has strong links with glucose oxidation, by increasing glucose uptake into muscle cells, preventing glucose-induced protein modification. This uptake helps modulate the glucose levels in the blood and uptake to the liver .
Omega 3 - the fatty acids present in fish oil and nuts are strongly linked to heart disease. The strong links between diabetes and heart disease means that the maintenance of a healthy heart aids in the prevention of developing diabetes. Research on omega 3 fatty acids has been linked to insulin resistance. The mechanics are not completely known but the likely explanation is due to the ability of omega 3 fatty acids to reduce triglycerides and suppress fat production in the liver, as well as aid the body in burning fat in adipose tissue.
Vitamin D - this fat soluble vitamin is absorbed through the diet and skin when exposed to ultraviolet rays from the sun. When exposed to the sun the body converts cholesterol derivatives into vitamin D. This reduction in cholesterol derivatives is one of the processes which can help to reduce the chances of developing diabetes. It is also believed to improve the body's sensitivity to insulin and regulate blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of insulin resistance .
Magnesium - this nutrient plays a crucial role in the secretion of insulin and the metabolism of blood glucose in the body. People suffering from type 2 diabetes often also experience magnesium deficiencies due to the increased loss through urine and decreased intake. This insufficient quantity of magnesium in the body has been linked to an increased risk of developing insulin resistance .
Green tea - the active ingredient within tea is polyphenols which exert strong antioxidant properties. These properties have been linked to improved heart health by reducing the oxidative stress experienced by blood cholesterol, and increased blood cholesterol has been tied to increased risks of type 2 diabetes. In addition to the improved heart health, flavonoids - a specific polyphenol abundant in green tea - have anti-diabetic effects and manage insulin levels .
In summary, ginseng has been used in ancient Asian medicine for thousands of years to treat many different ailments. The increasing depth and breadth of research has helped back up its claims to treat insulin related blood disease diabetes.
If you think you may have diabetes or any of the symptoms associated with the disease, we recommend you contact a medical professional.