In recent years, there has been an upsurge of interest within the diabetes community in dietary supplements and other alternative therapies. This development has most certainly been aided by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, in which Congress provided a new regulatory framework under which the industry thrived and expanded greatly. Dietary supplements are now a more than $23 billion industry in the United States.
But unlike prescription and over-the-counter drugs, dietary supplements are not approved ahead of time by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety and efficacy, and only rarely are they evaluated by the agency at all. This puts a clear burden on the potential consumer, one that may lead to doubts and confusion about whether supplements or other alternative remedies (which are also not routinely evaluated by any agency) should be used at all. This list of resources serves as a guide to information about specific alternative and complementary therapies, as well to the decision on whether — and how much — to trust and explore alternatives to conventional medicine.
THE AMERICAN DIABETES ASSOCIATION GUIDE TO HERBS AND NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS
Laura Shane-McWhorter, PharmD, BCPS, FASCP, BC-ADM, CDE
American Diabetes Association
Alexandria, Virginia, 2009
This book is designed to show how herbal and other dietary supplements fit into overall diabetes care. It describes the purpose of each supplement, how effective it is, and how it may amplify or interfere with the effects of prescription drugs. The author is a pharmacist and diabetes educator who previously wrote a doctor’s guide to alternative therapies.
An interview in which the author discusses the use of supplements in the treatment of diabetes can be found at the following Web addresses: Part 1 at www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhnM62kwR6c and Part 2 at www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHw4Nawd_ak.
DIABETES SELF-MANAGEMENT’S HIDDEN SECRETS OF NATURAL HEALING
Diana W. Guthrie, PhD, ARNP, FAAN, CDE, BC-ADM, AHN-BC, CHTP
Diabetes Self-Management Books
New York, 2007
This book reviews dietary supplements as well as a variety of other complementary, alternative, and non-Western treatments, and explains how they can be used to help manage diabetes. It reviews a wide range of the available therapies and describes in everyday language how each — with input from a conventional health-care provider — can become part of a diabetes treatment plan. It can be ordered by calling (800) 664-9269.
MAYO CLINIC BOOK OF ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Time Inc. Home Entertainment
New York, 2007
This book, written by a variety of authors associated with the famed clinic, aims to describe which alternative remedies should be used, when they should be used, and which remedies should be avoided. It addresses when alternatives to conventional medicine can be considered as treatment, and when they should take on a minor role or be avoided altogether. The potential of alternative remedies to be used alongside, rather than only in place of, traditional medicine is emphasized throughout the book.
PRESCRIPTION FOR DRUG ALTERNATIVES
James F. Balch, MD, Mark Stengler, ND, and Robin Young Balch, ND
Wiley Publishing, Inc.
Hoboken, New Jersey, 2008
Unlike the previous title, this book emphasizes the negative aspects of conventional medical treatments and proposes ways to avoid them. It lists, by condition — from acne to diabetes to osteoporosis — commonly prescribed drugs, and then alternative remedies that can supposedly be used in their place. It should be noted that the book does not recommend ending drug therapy or beginning to use a proposed alternative without first consulting one’s doctor.
THE BEST ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier
Simon & Schuster
New York, 2007
Written by the former director of the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Program at the Stanford University School of Medicine, this book focuses on remedies supported by substantial clinical research and how to use them safely and effectively. It also addresses the mind–body connection, homeopathy, and spirituality, again with a focus on what has been proven to work and what has not — and what is still unknown. The book describes how alternative medicine is viewed in the medical profession and how it may be used in the future, and also has a section devoted to remedies for specific conditions (including diabetes).
TRICK OR TREATMENT
Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst, MD
W.W. Norton & Co.
New York, 2009
This book takes a skeptical approach to alternative medicine, examining the scientific evidence — if any — behind acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic treatment, and herbal medicine. It concludes that most — but not all — alternative treatments are of little value, and that those with a proven effect must be used carefully. A short guide to therapies is also included.
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE? A HISTORY
Oxford University Press
New York, 2008
More a frame of reference than a practical guide, this book traces the history of natural and folk remedies as Western medicine developed and became what we now know as conventional medicine. The author concludes that what is nowadays considered to be alternative medicine has, in many cases, been unwisely excluded from modern medicine.
This magazine, formerly called Alternative Medicine, discusses healthy eating, herbs and supplements, physical activity, and mental balance. The Web site features a variety of articles, recipes, and fact sheets on maladies and treatments, as well as a blog of personal anecdotes and insights from several authors. The site also lets visitors sign up for a free weekly e-newsletter. A yearly magazine subscription costs $19.95 for eight issues.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), founded in 1998, is a division of the National Institutes of Health that is charged with investigating alternative remedies and making information on the subject available to policymakers and the public. It operates a phone clearinghouse with both English- and Spanish-speaking representatives, weekdays 8:30 AM–5:00 PM ET. Callers can get information on studies in the agency’s database, ask questions about alternative medicine topics, or order pamphlets and publications (which are also available for download from the Web site).
The NCCAM Web site has a large body of information on alternative medicine and the latest research behind it. The main health information sections of the site discuss the basics of alternative therapies and being an informed consumer, and also include alphabetical listings of both health concerns and herbal remedies. There is also a section of the site in Spanish.
Two of the most useful pages on the site can be found in the “D” section of “Health Topics A–Z.” “Diabetes and CAM: A Focus on Dietary Supplements” (under “Diabetes”) discusses the risks and benefits of specific supplements often used by people with diabetes for blood glucose control and other health goals. “Using Dietary Supplements Wisely” (under “Dietary Supplements”) discusses the legal requirements of manufacturers of supplements, what the FDA does and does not monitor, and the general risks of taking supplements. It also covers what to look for on a supplement label and what to discuss with your doctor before taking a supplement.
DIABETES SELF-MANAGEMENT: ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE/COMPLEMENTARY THERAPIES
This section of the Diabetes Self-Management Web site has trustworthy articles on antioxidants, yoga, multivitamins, and spiritual self-care.
MEDLINEPLUS: COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
This Web page from MedlinePlus, the National Institutes of Health’s online information library, gets some of its content straight from the NCCAM Web site. However, it also has useful links from other sources, including news on the latest alternative-medicine discoveries.
ABOUT.COM: ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
This branch of About.com has articles on natural remedies from a variety of angles, including how to sleep better and making the most of your money for massage; guides to supplements, ailments, and treatments; a Q&A library; a blog written by a naturopathic medicine specialist; and a discussion forum. Natural remedies for diabetes can be found under the tab “By Condition.”
OFFICE OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
This site from the National Institutes of Health features fact sheets on nearly every dietary supplement imaginable, including vitamins, minerals, and botanicals (plant-based supplements). It also has articles on using supplements safely and how to spot fraudulent or misleading claims by manufacturers.
MEDICAL NEWS TODAY: COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE/ ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE NEWS
This Web page trumpets the latest news and research findings on topics connected to alternative medicine. It includes an RSS feed for easy following.
WEBMD: ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS FOR DIABETES
This Web page, part of WebMD’s larger Diabetes Guide, provides an overview of supplements and plant “superfoods” that are often used by people with diabetes, including for weight loss. It focuses on safety concerns with many of these products and outlines how to minimize your risk if you are taking any of them.
READER’S DIGEST: THE BEST HERBS AND SUPPLEMENTS FOR DIABETES
For those who want the concise version of anything, Reader’s Digest does the job — and alternative remedies for diabetes are no exception. This article describes the goal of treatment, usual dosage, and probable course of action for 10 supplements.
Naturopathic doctors, or NDs, aim to treat patients as complex beings and to use a mix of conventional and natural remedies to promote health — not just cure disease — with an emphasis on the body’s innate healing ability and treating causes, not symptoms. The association’s Web site has information on naturopathic medicine, the group’s advocacy efforts, and even health tips, as well as a tool to find a doctor in your area.
The American Holistic Medicine Association consists of doctors and other health professionals committed to treating not just diseases and symptoms, but “the whole person — body, mind, and spirit.” Visitors to the Web site can learn more about the organization under the “About AHMA” tab, or search for a doctor or other holistic practitioner, such as an acupuncturist, under the “Public” tab.