Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the body’s ability to control glucose levels in the bloodstream. For those with type 1 diabetes, there’s a lack of insulin, whereas type 2 diabetes causes insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that’s secreted from the pancreas which helps move sugar from circulation into cells where it’s converted into energy.
For diabetics, glucose levels can become too high, damaging organs and other bodily tissues. This is what’s known as hyperglycemia. When levels become too low, on the other hand, this is what’s known as hypoglycemia and can be very dangerous. When diabetics do not control their blood sugar, they significantly increase their risk of heart, kidney, nerve, and eye complications.
Although insulin is required in most cases, researchers are looking for ways to better control blood glucose levels so that individuals do not experience these severe spikes and dips. One extract that has been well researched is milk thistle. What are the key benefits and how can it help diabetics?
The Connection Between Milk Thistle and Diabetic Symptoms
Milk thistle has long been used in order to treat a wide variety of health conditions, especially in terms of the gallbladder and liver. Known to most as a common weed, compounds in milk thistle offer antioxidants properties. In turn, this helps target inflammation and contribute to overall positive health.
The key health benefits associated with milk thistle are due to a flavonoid complex known as silymarin. This can be extracted through crushed seeds, yielding immense benefits. Silymarin is the biological active component of milk thistle, which is why these two names are used interchangeably.
This flavonoid complex is comprised of at least seven different compounds, including taxifolin, silydianin, and more. Since antioxidants are essential for reducing oxidative damage, this extract can significantly boost your health. What does this have to do with diabetes?
Well, researchers have made a significant connection between diabetes and oxidative stress. It’s believed that this type of stress on the body, damages the pancreas, promoting the onset of diabetes. Based on this idea, milk thistle, and other antioxidant-rich ingredients are being investigated in order to compliment traditional diabetes treatment plans.
How Does Milk Thistle Help?
Insulin resistance can be challenging to treat based on various contributing factors. This can be caused by age, lack of wellness, diet, a sedentary lifestyle, and more. Basically, any factor that affects one’s blood sugar, as well as that individual’s ability to use insulin, increases one’s risk.
In other cases, diabetes is caused by alcoholism, resulting in cirrhosis of the liver. Milk thistle has been used for many years for this purpose, protecting the liver against oxidative damage. By increasing antioxidant enzymes, catalase, superoxide, and glutathione, silymarin yields various positive effects.
Milk thistle is known to aid in blood glucose levels when used in conjunction with other treatment options. In a clinical trial that focused on a group of individuals with type-2 diabetes, it was found that those who received 200 mg of milk thistle three times daily in conjunction with their conventional treatment plan experienced multiple benefits.
Not only did their fasting blood sugar decrease, but the same was reported regarding hemoglobin, cholesterol, and triglycerides. Although these results are promising, the number of studies supporting these findings have been fairly small and more research needs to be conducted before it’s implemented into the medical industry.
Milk Thistle and Blood Glucose Levels
Milk thistle has been shown to offer positive effects in terms of stabilizing blood glucose levels while enhancing the liver’s ability to absorb higher concentrations of glucose. When excessive levels of glucose are in an individual’s bloodstream, this is when various symptoms begin to surface.
In the short-term, individuals experience symptoms such as confusion and weakness. Long-term, however, individuals experience issues with their vision, weight issues, retinopathy, increased risk of infections, low healing, and more.
Since milk thistle has the ability to regulate insulin levels in the blood, it’s believed that this supplement can also reduce weight gain. It can also reduce the potentially dangerous complications associated with undiagnosed diabetes, including ketoacidosis. This condition is very dangerous, as the body begins using fat for fuel, yielding a toxic effect on the central nervous system.
How Much Milk Thistle Should I Take?
You can source milk thistle in a variety of strengths and form when supplementing. The level of silymarin in milk thistle supplements varies between brands. Depending on the brand and the country of origin, the quality of ingredients will vary. If you’re currently taking milk thistle, it’s critical that you follow the package-specific instructions laid out by the manufacturer.
When aiming to treat symptoms of diabetes, information is limited regarding the most effective dose. The recommended dose tends to lie between 420 mg and 600 mg daily, divided into three doses. Before you begin taking this supplement, it’s important to speak with your physician regarding your current conditions and any medication you’re presently taking. Since this supplement can lower blood glucose levels in diabetics, your health practitioner will determine whether milk thistle is right for you.