Diabetes is one of the most frequently diagnosed medical conditions in United States, effecting an estimated 25.8% of children and adults nationwide (American Diabetes Association). Although more people are developing diabetes every year, trends indicate that people with diabetes are also living longer thanks in part to healthy lifestyle choices. In addition to physical activity levels, diet has a significant role to play in preventing and managing the disease. According to current research, Aloe Vera may be among the most beneficial foods for diabetics looking to regulate blood sugar levels naturally.
Aloe Vera: A Natural Treatment for Diabetes?
Aloe Vera has been used medicinally for centuries, but only recently studied as a treatment for diabetes. A number of promising studies have demonstrated the anti-diabetic effects of the inner gel of the Aloe leaf. While more extensive research is needed on human subjects, existing clinical trials are promising. One of the earliest studies involving a group of 3,167 diabetics supplemented their existing treatments with a natural remedy containing Aloe gel and Psyllium seed husks. In 94% of these patients, fasting blood glucose levels fell to normal levels within two months (1). In a more widely publicized study, Mahidol University scientists (Bankok) administered one tablespoon of 80% juice of Aloe Vera twice a day during 42 days to a group of thirty-six patients. Another thirty-six patients were given a carminative mixture containing no Aloe. By the end of the trail period, blood sugar levels in the Aloe treatment group were reduced to nearly half of their initial values with no adverse reactions reported (2).
Aloe Vera’s effectiveness may be due in part to the gel’s detoxifying properties. As a nutritional supplement, Aloe gel’s high fiber content and the presence of polysaccharides and glycoprotein are believed to help the body use glucose effectively and remove excess from the blood. Aloe is also thought to increase the body’s antioxidant defenses, often impaired in diabetics, as well as stimulate the production of insulin. Aloe also may improve vascular health, which is sometimes compromised in diabetic patients, dilating blood vessels and increasing circulation. Used topically, Aloe can provide anti-inflammatory relief and speed healing for diabetics prone to infection.
How Much Aloe?
There are many varieties of Aloe supplements to choose from to complement existing treatment. The most important consideration is the quality and concentration of the Aloe Vera, therefore it is essential to purchase the Aloe from a reputable vendor. Fresh Aloe gel has the advantage of being absorbed quickly by the body. Experts recommend starting with one teaspoon a day and gradually building up to three teaspoons, three times a day (see our article on harvesting fresh gel). Aloe Vera can also be found in concentrated gel cap form. One bottle of 100 2000mg gel caps will last over three months and can be purchased for less than $10. Aloe Vera juice is also widely available, though it is often mixed with other fruit juices reducing the potency. As always, it is wise to check with a physician before adding any new supplement to your diet and blood sugar levels should be monitored closely while undergoing a change in treatment.
Incorporating Aloe Into a Healthy Diet
Don’t go at it alone! If you plan on working aloe into your diabetes plan, go all out by including other foods in your diet and lifestyle changes in your life that will help keep your blood sugar levels where they should be. The American Diabetes Association lists leafy greens, beans, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, nuts, whole grains, berries, beans, fat-free yogurt and milk, and fish rich in Omega-3s as “Diabetes Superfoods,” so make sure those appear on your dinner menu along with aloe. Now that your grocery list is made, let’s talk lifestyle changes. Drinking plenty of water is important for diabetics. Creating and keeping an exercise routine (under the advisement of your doctor) should also improve a diabetic life. So keep in mind that while aloe can be of help to a you as a diabetic, it will be even more helpful if you combine it with other things that are good for you. Just make sure to keep extra tabs on your blood sugar levels throughout these changes to your life.
For more information on the studies mentioned above, visit:
1. Agarwal 0. P. Prevention of Atheromatous Heart Disease. Angiology. 1985;36: 485-92.
2. Bunyapraphatsara N, Yongchaiyudha S, Rungpitarangsi V, Chokechaijaroenporn O. Antidiabetic activity of aloe vera L. juice 11. Clinical trial in diabetes mellitus patients in combination with glibenclamide. Phytomedicine. 1996;3:245-248