Friday, April 27, 2012

The Road to an Herbal Treatment

My insulin requirements are slowly coming down from the debauchery of last weekend. After a week on a strict diet, my fast acting dose is back to 1u per 30g carb and my long acting is finally coming down from 8u per day. Before the trip I was down to 4u a day thanks largely (as far as I can tell) to the Nopal Cactus supplements. I hope to be back to that number by the end of next week (assuming I can continue to refuse all temptation--lets be realistic here--most temptation).

This little hiccup reminds me of why I started pursuing alternative treatments for diabetes in the first place. Four months ago, after a holiday season full of poor choices (and a whole lot of fun to match) my blood sugars were less than admirable, my A1C was climbing, and my insulin intake was up up up! I got back on my normal diet routine and hit the gym with more vigor but still could not get things to return to the way they had been at the end of Summer. For the first time since my diagnosis, I couldn’t eat a snack (10-20g of carb) without taking insulin. I had to face reality, my honeymoon period was ending. Whatever function my beta cells had left was spent. My immune system had won the pancreatic war. My insulin needs were going to rise and rise until 100% of my insulin came from a funny looking pen filled with clear liquid. I had no choice but to accept it.

That certainly doesn’t sound like me.

It was around that same time that a friend of mine started working the supplements section at Whole Foods. One day she told me about a customer coming in and buying loads and loads of cinnamon. She claimed to be a Type 1 and claimed to be off insulin shots completely. I was skeptical of course (and still am--I have met more than one diabetic in my life who didn’t even know which kind of diabetes they had--don‘t even get me started on diabetes education in this country). But I looked into it and sure enough cinnamon has a compound in it called MHCP that mimics insulin and opens your cells to glucose.

So we did some research on the effective dose, the type of cinnamon (powder or extract) and I bought myself a couple bottles. I had no delusions about cinnamon curing a disease that’s been plaguing people since ancient Greece (although many ancient cultures claimed to have found effective herbal treatments). All I wanted was to get back to where I had been before the final pancreatic decline. And wouldn’t you know, things began to get a little easier to control.

A door was opened. I was on a mission to find more alternative treatments. With my friends help, I came across more potential glucose tamers. Gymnema Sylvestre. Bitter Melon. Octea. Ginseng. Fenugreek. Chromium Polynicotinate (I actually have to give props to my grandma on this one, she had me on this supplement the second I was diagnosed). And of course Nopal Cactus.

At the beginning of January I was using 12u of slow acting insulin a day and 1u per 15g carb of fast at each meal. I put myself on a strict diet clad with super foods and started taking 2 tsps cinnamon a day (I have almost tripled that dose now), 500mg Bitter Melon, 400mg Gymnema, and 3 drops Octea. By the end of two weeks I was down to 4u of long term and 1u per 60g carbs.

So there is something to this herbalist witch craft after all.

The experiments continue. I have no dreams of being off insulin completely (ok I do, all the time). But if I can find a supplement regiment that is affordable and allows me to hand over fewer of my paychecks to Big Pharmaceutical, then I will be happy. And of course, I will do everything I can to share my findings with others (who are willing to use their own bodies as laboratories).

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