Natural Strategies for Blood Sugar Control

No one was more surprised than me when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during my first pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is a temporary form of diabetes in which the hormones of pregnancy impair insulin’s ability to lower blood sugar. The diagnosis was a blessing in disguise because it led me to meet with a diabetic nutritionist to learn about how to keep a food log, introduced me to the glycemic index of foods, how to eat a Type 2 diabetic diet, and how to check my blood sugar after meals. The education I got about my body and about the hidden sugar content in foods was priceless and benefits me today.

I found out that a single piece of pizza would put my blood sugar over the limit. I had not thought of pizza as a sweet food, but pizza sauce has sugar in it and the crust becomes sugar in your body. I found out that if I walked for 10 minutes after a meal, the impact of the meal on my blood sugar was reduced. The flexing of muscles when walking helped to pump the sugar into the muscle cells where it was used to power my walk rather than raise my blood sugar. Walking after meals helped reduce my insulin resistance and improve my blood sugar.

I learned how to determine carbohydrate equivalents. One carb serving is 15g, and you can subtract a gram for each gram of fiber in the food. That is how the glycemic index works. All carbohydrates, including vegetables, fruits, grains, and beans, are ranked on the glycemic index. It is obvious that a bowl of beans will not spike your blood sugar the same way a muffin will, but I also learned some good tricks. I learned that I could eat a larger portion of apples or berries than of grapes or watermelon because apples and berries are lower on the glycemic index and have more fiber. The lower a food on the glycemic index, the less it will raise your blood sugar.

Women who have had gestational diabetes have a 7-fold increase in the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes. I am in prevention mode and continue to be mindful of a diabetic diet when I choose my foods and my dedication to exercise.

If you have already been diagnosed with prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes, there are several natural strategies that you can employ to help control your blood sugar.

  1. Diet: Learn how to count your carb equivalents and limit them to 2-3 per meal or 1-2 per snack. Eat small, frequent meals to keep blood sugar levels more stable. Familiarize yourself with the glycemic index and choose low-glycemic carbs. Increase the fiber in your diet and drink more water. Avoid processed fats and eat plenty of healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, wild salmon, nuts and seeds.
  1. Exercise: Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes per day of aerobic exercise. If you walk for 10 minutes after each meal, you will lower the blood sugar impact of the meal by improving the insulin sensitivity of muscle cells, helping the sugar go into muscle cells and out of the blood stream.
  1. Lose weight: Excess stored fat causes the body’s cells to become resistant to insulin.
  1. Supplements:
    1. Chromium – helps stabilize blood sugar and supports the job of insulin
    2. Cinnamon – reduces fasting blood sugar and improves insulin sensitivity
    3. Alpha Lipoic Acid – antioxidant that can help lower blood sugar by enhancing the uptake of glucose into cells and help inhibit glycosylation (the abnormal sugar-coating of proteins). It helps promote eye and nerve health.
    4. Magnesium – promotes healthy insulin production
    5. CoQ10 – antioxidant that helps support a healthy heart
    6. Green Tea – antioxidant helps support insulin and glucose control, reduces hunger, and reduces inflammation
    7. Botanicals such as blueberry, prickly-pear cactus, ayurvedic gurmar, and Asian bitter melon may help lower blood glucose.

Work with your physician to help implement an individualized program for your blood sugar control and monitoring. You can make an appointment to see Dr. Boston at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine at 310-451-8880.

An Integrative Approach to Neuropathy

Neuropathy can be a frustrating diagnosis given that there are not many treatments available for it. Neuropathy can cause weakness, numbness, tingling, burning, or painful sensations, depending on the type of nerves involved. Some common causes of neuropathy include diabetes, toxic trauma from chemotherapy, heavy metal toxicity, autoimmune disorders, vascular disorders, but many cases of neuropathy have no known cause. The common thread of all neuropathies are that the nerve cells (neurons) are not as healthy as they should be. That brings us to an integrative approach to neuropathy.

Nerves can best be treated when they are optimized on a cellular level. Keep in mind that neurons are living cells with nuclei containing DNA and mitochondria powering them, just like all other living cells in our body. DNA needs to be protected from the free radicals that are created during normal metabolic activities. Cells, including neurons, cannot survive without a steady supply of antioxidants to curtail free radical damage and oxidative stress. Glutathione, a master antioxidant, is important to the health of neurons. It can be given intravenously or through a nebulizer, but not orally because it is a tripeptide and our gastric juices will break it down into amino acids. Our glutathione levels can be boosted by eating cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli or brussel sprouts, which contain sulforophanes and the phytonutrient DIM which help our bodies make more glutathione. Antiox-Restore by Akasha Naturals is a supplement which helps boost glutathione levels and contains broccoli seed extract and DIM.

Living cells, including neurons, need to have adequate methylation for optimal cellular repair, production and repair of DNA, neurotransmitter production, and detoxification. An important gene involved in methylation, MTHFR, can be checked in a simple blood test. MTHFR has 2 main variants, and a mutation in either variant needs to be addressed to optimize nerve cell health. At the Akasha Center, we can assess your MTHFR gene and advise on supplements to optimize methylation.

Nerves are also electrical. Information travels from the cell body, down the axon, to the nerve terminal as electrical signals. The inside of a neuron is negative, and the outside is positively charged. “Earthing”, also known as “Grounding”, or standing on dirt, grass, or sand with your bare feet, allows electrons from Earth’s surface to flow into your body. Studies have shown Earthing reduces inflammation, improves wound healing, and can help prevent and treat chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disorders.

Neurons are chemical. Nerves talk to each other by releasing chemicals know as neurotransmitters across synapses to other nerves. Many supplements can be useful in optimizing neurotransmitter production, including B-complex vitamins, alpha lipoic acid which supports the tiny blood vessels that feed neurons (the vasa nervorum), acetyl-L-carnitine which supports cellular energy production, and gamma linolenic acid, an omega 6 fatty acid that supports nerve health.

Now that we have discussed optimizing your nerve health, let’s talk about treatments that reduce the symptoms of neuropathy. Neural Prolotherapy is an injection therapy that uses a low concentration of a dextrose solution that has been shown to reduce cutaneous neuropathic pain. Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) has been shown to reduce neuropathic pain that involves the central nervous system, such as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or multiple sclerosis. LDN is thought to work by reducing glial cell transmission and by boosting our endogenous opioid production (endorphins).

If you have neuropathy and would like to be evaluated for an integrative approach to treatment, make an appointment with Dr. Boston at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine.

The Buzz about Intermittent Fasting

The truth is you probably already do some intermittent fasting (IF) and don’t even know it. If you don’t snack after an early dinner and eat a late breakfast, you have done a form of IF. Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that sets aside a specific period of time during the day for eating while the rest of day is devoted to fasting.

There is not a one size fits all protocol for intermittent fasting. Each person responds differently to how many hours they fast and how often they practice IF during the week. It does take some experimenting in the beginning to see if IF is right for you and which protocol allows your body to thrive.

The most common schedules are:

  • The Leangains Protocol (also known as the 16/8 method – involves restricting your eating period to an 8-hour period, for example 11AM -7PM. For many people we recommend lengthening the eating period to 12-hours (7AM – 7PM). This can be done 2 or more times a week.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat – fasting for 24-hours once or twice a week. For example, no eating from dinner one day until dinner the following day.
  • The 5:2 Protocol – involves only eating 500-600 calories on 2 nonconsecutive days of the week, for example every Monday and Wednesday.

What are the benefits of Intermittent Fasting?

You might be underestimating the benefits of not caving in to the late night snack food cravings. The benefits of IF are far greater than just helping to maintain weight.

Studies have shown that intermittent fasting:

  • Improves brain health
  • Increases energy
  • Enhances tissue healing
  • Promotes longevity
  • Improve insulin sensitivity
  • Supports weight loss
  • Normalizes the hunger hormone ghrelin
  • Raises adiponectin which tells our body to burn fat
  • Reduces oxidative stress
  • Reduces inflammation

People who practice IF report feeling more energetic and wake with a feeling of alertness and excitement to start the day. Exercise can work in conjunction with intermittent fasting to improve your health and weight loss. Following an overnight fast, we encourage avoiding strenuous exercise and embracing more gentle forms of exercise such as restorative yoga and walking. Generally after 2-weeks most people will know if Intermittent Fasting is right for them and which schedule feels best.

The benefits of IF are increased when you choose a fiber-rich, anti-inflammatory Mediterranean-type diet with lots of multi-colored vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, whole non-processed grains during your non-fasting hours.

If you are interested in learning more about intermittent fasting and to discuss the best schedule for your body and your lifestyle, let us help you.

Dr. Bren Boston and Dr. Maggie Ney are practitioners at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine. You can schedule an appointment by emailing us at, or calling 310-451-8880.