Milk Thistle – A Natural Health Remedy for Diabetes?

With diabetes reaching epidemic proportions in the Western world sufferers will be heartened to learn that the herb Milk Thistle looks promising as a natural remedy to control Type 2 Diabetes. Shocking statistics show that the disease that usually develops in adults is now also being diagnosed in children.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when cells become insensitive to the glucose regulating hormone insulin or the pancreas does not produce enough. It is generally thought that the insulin insensitivity is present for some time before the insulin production fails although it may go unrecognized and undiagnosed.

As a result, glucose builds up in the blood eventually causing damage to the kidneys, heart, eyes and nerves. Triglycerides (blood fats) and cholesterol may be high too. Recent research on Milk Thistle shows that it can help control all three problems.

Benefits of Milk Thistle

Milk thistle, known to herbalists as Silymarin Marianum, is generally thought of as an antioxidant and a natural remedy for the liver but recent research has shown it can reduce fasting blood sugar levels. In a double blind clinical trial Type 2 Diabetics had a dramatic reduction in fasting blood sugar levels after they took 200 mg of Silymarin for 4 months. They also had a reduction in glycated hemoglobin which is another measure of blood sugar control.

Although the researchers suggest that larger studies are needed the Milk Thistle extract also significantly lowered blood levels of cholesterol, and triglycerides which remained unchanged in the control group. In another study a surprising result was that the treated patients lost weight.

The cause of type 2 diabetes is due to various lifestyle and dietary factors and many people have been able to control their symptoms with diet rather than drugs. In cases where diabetes was not being controlled well by diet or the drug glibenclamide Silymarin also reduced blood sugar levels significantly.

Bad fats & Insulin Insensitivity

Although obesity has been cited as a risk factor for developing diabetes the underlying cause is shown to be the damage caused to the cell structure by “bad fats” and the lack of good fats. What goes into and comes out of each body cell is largely regulated by the membrane surrounding it which is made up a variety of different fatty acids in a very precise ratio. When overheated and chemically altered (hydrogenated) “bad fats” are eaten they become incorporated into the membranes surrounding each cell and contribute to the insulin insensitivity.

By removing the bad fats from the diet and flooding the body with good fats especially omega 3 fatty acids many sufferers have been able to reverse diabetes in 7 – 12 months. Dr Gabriel Cousins at the Tree of Life Center has developed a program of entirely raw foods and green juices that can also cure diabetes in a short time.

The best general diet for diabetes involves eating a diet high that keep the blood sugar even. It helps to eat little and often choosing whole foods that are rich in fiber and low in sugar Eating complex carbohydrates with some protein helps to keep the blood sugar stable. Whole grains, beans and lentils with fresh vegetables are good. These foods release their sugars slowly. Cakes, cookies, and candy should be avoided as the sugar in them is absorbed fast and will trigger insulin.

Milk thistle contains a number of active substances called flavolignans but it is not known why it has these effects on blood sugar and blood fat regulation. Other natural health remedies that have been used for diabetes include cinnamon, Bitter Melon, Fenugreek, Gymnema Sylvestre and the mineral chromium.