One supplement in particular that has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of type 2 diabetes is inositol. This can be taken along with a healthy diet to help improve blood sugar levels.
There are four major areas that influence your diabetes—nutrition, exercise, medications, and stress. Without paying attention to these four areas, it may be really challenging to effectively manage blood sugar levels long term.
However, if you are already paying good attention to these, and you want that extra leg-up in blood sugar management, there may be supplements that can help.
One supplement in particular that has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of type 2 diabetes is inositol.
1. Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is an impairment in the way the body regulates and uses sugar (glucose) as a fuel. This long-term (chronic) condition results in too much sugar circulating in the bloodstream. Eventually, high blood sugar levels can lead to disorders of the circulatory, nervous and immune systems.
In type 2 diabetes, there are primarily two interrelated problems at work. Your pancreas does not produce enough insulin — a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into your cells — and cells respond poorly to insulin and take in less sugar.
Type 2 diabetes used to be known as adult-onset diabetes, but both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can begin during childhood and adulthood. Type 2 is more common in older adults, but the increase in the number of children with obesity has led to more cases of type 2 diabetes in younger people.
There’s no cure for type 2 diabetes, but losing weight, eating well and exercising can help you manage the disease. If diet and exercise aren’t enough to manage your blood sugar, you may also need diabetes medications or insulin therapy.
Signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes often develop slowly. In fact, you can be living with type 2 diabetes for years and not know it. When signs and symptoms are present, they may include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased hunger
- Unintended weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores
- Frequent infections
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Areas of darkened skin, usually in the armpits and neck
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you notice any signs or symptoms of type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is primarily the result of two interrelated problems:
Cells in muscle, fat and the liver become resistant to insulin. Because these cells don’t interact in a normal way with insulin, they don’t take in enough sugar.
The pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to manage blood sugar levels.
Exactly why this happens is unknown, but being overweight and inactive are key contributing factors.
How insulin works?
Insulin is a hormone that comes from the gland situated behind and below the stomach (pancreas). Insulin regulates how the body uses sugar in the following ways:
Sugar in the bloodstream triggers the pancreas to secrete insulin.
Insulin circulates in the bloodstream, enabling sugar to enter your cells.
The amount of sugar in your bloodstream drops.
In response to this drop, the pancreas releases less insulin.
The role of glucose
Glucose — a sugar — is a main source of energy for the cells that make up muscles and other tissues. The use and regulation of glucose includes the following:
Glucose comes from two major sources: food and your liver.
Glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream, where it enters cells with the help of insulin.
Your liver stores and makes glucose.
When your glucose levels are low, such as when you haven’t eaten in a while, the liver breaks down stored glycogen into glucose to keep your glucose level within a normal range.
In type 2 diabetes, this process doesn’t work well. Instead of moving into your cells, sugar builds up in your bloodstream. As blood sugar levels increase, the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas release more insulin. Eventually these cells become impaired and can’t make enough insulin to meet the body’s demands.
In the less common type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly destroys the beta cells, leaving the body with little to no insulin.
2. What is Inositol?
There is evidence to suggest that inositol helps insulin work more effectively—increasing insulin sensitivity. Many doctors prescribe it for insulin resistant conditions like PCOS, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
Some call it a B vitamin, but it is technically not a vitamin at all. It’s a type of carbohydrate that can be found in foods like whole grains, beans, nuts, and some fruits. The supplement helps you effectively take a larger dose at once than you may be able to find in your daily meals.
3. What is insulin resistance?
Inositol has been associated with improved insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a phenomenon that occurs when the body has produced too much of this hormone, and our cells stop responding to insulin as quickly.
Typically, after eating carbohydrates, our body produces insulin in response to the natural rise in blood glucose. However, if blood sugar has been consistently elevated, the body will produce more and more insulin to help bring blood sugar down.
Insulin works at the cellular level to let glucose into our cells and aids in using glucose for fuel. This is good news! We need insulin to survive, to feel energized, and use our food for fuel each day.
However, in the case of insulin resistance, the cells stop responding to insulin because it is always around. Thus, blood sugar cannot enter the cell or be used for energy. We end up with more blood glucose and insulin in our bloodstream as a result.
This is the mechanism in which inositol assists blood sugar management in type 2 diabetes. Inositol decreases glucose absorption in the intestines, which lowers blood sugar. It has been shown to decrease the amount of insulin in the bloodstream, effectively decreasing insulin resistance and improving insulin sensitivity.
4. Considerations for your health
Inositol supplementation is not recommended for all types of diabetes. It has primarily been studied in individuals with type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.
As always, discuss medication interactions and side effects with your doctor before beginning a new supplement. Some cases of overuse have experienced low blood sugar; you may be advised against this supplement if that is the case.