Complementary and Alternative Treatments for Diabetes

Dr. Loren Grossman, MD, FRCPC, FACP, Endocrinologist, talks about complementary and alternative treatments for Diabetes.

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Dr. Loren Grossman, MD, FRCPC, FACP, Endocrinologist, talks about complementary and alternative treatments for Diabetes.
Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Loren Grossman, MD, FRCPC, FACP, Endocrinologist

Duration: 3 minutes, 16 seconds

Despite our advances in the treatment of diabetes, many patients still don’t achieve target. Although many are comfortable with the traditional medications that we use to treat diabetes, many also seek alternatives. And there are alternatives in complementary and alternative medication.

Generally speaking, complementary medication means taking a non-traditional, non-Western medication in addition to those, while alternative medication means taking it instead of that.

So what’s the data with diabetes? Well there have been studies looking at a number of non-traditional, complementary medications for diabetes. Unfortunately many of them are of short duration, and not sufficiently powered to make clear conclusions that they are of benefit.

There are a number of health products that have been studied, particularly some at least for three months, and have been showing promise with at least a reduction in the A1-C of about five percent. And there’s a list of those available in the chapter on complementary and alternative medicine in the Canadian Diabetes Association Clinical Practice Guidelines.

I would like to stress that there are some that are more popular and commonly used for diabetes, such as chromium and vitamin D, and these have actually been studied in a little more detail, and unfortunately they have not been shown to be of benefit in the treatment of diabetes.

There are a number of other complementary and alternative therapies such as yoga, acupuncture and hands-on treatment such as chiropractic, massage etc. Unfortunately, many of these just don’t have studies specific to diabetes to be able to make comments whether they are of benefit or not. Some, such as acupuncture, have shown some promise in some of the complications of diabetes, such as gastroparesis or neuropathy, but again they’re very limited.

So we recommend that there are some natural health products that are showing promise for the treatment of diabetes and they should be explored further. There are some that have clearly been shown to be not of benefit, and the most important thing is that patients should be telling their healthcare providers if they are taking any of these natural healthcare products, because not only can some of them have side effects, but some of them may actually contain non-declared medicinal products.

The important thing is that many people think that because they’re natural health products, they’re natural, and they don’t have any side effects. And that’s not the case, many of them can have significant side effects or interactions with their other medications. So it is very important that people with diabetes let their healthcare provider know if they are taking any of these products.

For more information about complementary and alternative medicine for diabetes, speak to your physician, diabetes nurse educator or endocrinologist.

Presenter: Dr. Loren Grossman, Endocrinologist, Toronto, ON

Local Practitioners: Endocrinologist

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.