World Diabetes Day – REAL food, herbs, spices to the rescue

The theme for diabetes awareness month and World Diabetes Day 2019 is Family and Diabetes. We are urged to learn more about the warning signs of diabetes and find out their risk of Type 2 diabetes (T2D) - recent research discovered that parents would struggle to spot this serious life-long condition in their own children.  So I'm highlighting the warning signs and since every family has to eat - I'm making the case for real food, herbs and spices as a powerful solution!

Type 2 diabetes - the warning signs

The most common symptoms of type 2 diabetes are:

Type 2 diabetes - serious complications

Left untreated or unmanaged, diabetes can lead to life-changing complications. These include blindness, amputation, kidney failure, heart attack and stroke. Diabetes alone was responsible for four million deaths in 2017.


Diabetes occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin, or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces. Put simply, insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas, which acts to allow the glucose (sugar) from the food we eat, to pass from the bloodstream into each and every cell in the body to produce the energy we need not only to fuel the cell itself, but to fuel the organ it belongs to and ALL our bodily processes, including our mind. The strength (or otherwise) of our metabolism determines our energy, vitality, overall health and even how quickly we age.

Most people think of Type 2 #diabetes as a blood sugar regulation problem, however the main cause - and the driver - for this condition is #insulinresistance. Click To Tweet

The amount of glucose in our blood is tightly controlled and over time, an inability to produce or use insulin effectively leads to raised blood glucose (known as hyperglycaemia) and over the long-term, these elevated blood glucose levels are responsible for serious damage to the body and the eventual failure of key organs and tissues.

Type 2 diabetes and treatment

Conventional treatment

The conventional view is that type 2 diabetes diagnosis is for life and that this condition is chronic and the only way to treat it is with lifelong medications (tablets and/or injectable) or with insulin itself, to lower blood glucose levels.

However, each form of medication has side effects - the known side effects are detailed in the patient information leaflet in every pack of medication. It is very important to understand these side-effects and even more important to understand that medication can only manage and slow the progress of this condition. Medication cannot arrest, reverse it or cure diabetes.

Food and lifestyle as medicine - putting education before medication

More and more studies and health experts are showing that a powerful and natural way to reduce the risk for T2D diabetes, manage the condition without medication and even reverse it completely by transitioning to a healthy, wholesome diet and lifestyle.

  • Managing our stress and sleep  
  • Increasing our physical activity
  • Creating and maintaining social relationships
  • Detoxing our personal and household products
  • Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight with an organic, sustainable diet of REAL, wholesome, delicious unprocessed foods!

Why? Because although changing the way we eat can bring us quick wins, it's fundamentally all reducing our body's total stress-load - not only from our diet, but crucially from the chronic stress-load that comes with lifestyle that our body hasn't evolved to cope with.

Herbs and spices to the rescue...

Did you know that herbs and spices are amongst the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet? Ancient cultures have used wild and cultivated herbs as medicines and foods for thousands of years; the Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and Native Americans were all herbalists. Herbs are mentioned in the first chapter of the Bible and throughout its text, and as for spices...

"Wars were fought over them, kingdoms were lost because of them, and new lands were discovered in search of them. In ancient times and for centuries to follow, spices were often more precious than gold.But before they were money, spices were medicines."

- Bharah B. Aggarwal

There is now a plethora of research on the natural, medicinal benefits of herbs and spices - a variety of which have been shown to be extremely effective in the treatment and management of diabetes and we’ll consider seven of these more closely below.

As ever, I would strongly advise to source certified organic supplies of the herbs and spices mentioned below and consult your medical practitioner if you are on any kind of medication.


A study found that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, was 100% effective in preventing diabetes, while other research found that it was up to 100,000 times more effective as a treatment than the drug metformin.


Ginger has been found to significantly lower fasting blood glucose levels, while even a modest dose of the spice can improve markers for T2D.

Ginger also brings a host of health benefits and is highly effective in the treatment of indigestion, stomach aches, joint pains, asthma and more.


Studies have shown cinnamon to be effective in reducing fasting blood glucose levels by slowing down the rate the stomach ‘empties’ after eating. Cinnamon also aids digestion, promotes healthy blood clotting and boosts memory while also protecting our brains.

It’s important to distinguish between ‘true’ cinnamon and cassia, the spice we all probably have lurking in the back of the cupboard. The most important distinction between the two is in their levels of coumarin, natural compound that acts as a blood thinner when ingested.

Cassia has much higher levels of coumarin than true cinnamon. But both types of cinnamon are excellent sources of the trace mineral manganese, which is an important activator of enzymes essential to building healthy bones, as well as other physiological processes, including carbohydrate and fat metabolism. They are also both very good sources of dietary fibre, iron and calcium.

Nigella (black) seed

The seeds of the annual flowering plant, Nigella Sativa, have long been prized for their healing properties since time immemorial. It’s also known as Roman coriander, black sesame, black cumin, black caraway and onion seed. It’s known as the ”Remedy for everything except death.

A small dose of 2g per day of Nigella seed has been shown to significantly reduce insulin resistance and fasting blood glucose.


Spirulina is among the most popular supplements in the world - it is an organism that grows in both fresh and saltwater, a type of cyanobacteria, which is a family of single-celled microbes often referred to as ‘blue-green algae’.

As well as possessing myriad nutrient and antioxidant properties, spirulina has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity by over 200% from a 19g supplement. - incredible.


Berberine is a chemical found in several plants including European barberry, goldenseal, goldthread, Oregon grape, phellodendron, and tree turmeric, and is most commonly taken as an oral supplement.

It is usually used in the treatment of diabetes, high levels of cholesterol in the blood (hyperlipidemia) and high blood pressure.

A randomized controlled study of over 1000 participants showed berberine to be just as effective than prescription drugs such as metformin in the treatment of T2D, while another recent study concluded that the “use of berberine for patients with metabolic syndrome can effectively regulate blood glucose and lipid, lighten insulin resistance in the body and reduce inflammatory response level.


Consuming berries with meals has been shown to reduce insulin release after eating. A 2013 study, where Finnish women were asked to eat either white bread or rye bread with or without a selection of berries.

The starch in the bread would cause a spike in blood glucose levels, with white bread also inducing a high insulin response. The research determined that the berries actually helped to significantly reduce the insulin spike - up to 38%.

Strawberries, raspberries, bilberries, cranberries and blackcurrants were all used in the study.


Cooking with herbs and spices

In my book The Real Food Solution I have a whole chapter on the many culinary uses and medicinal benefits of the wide variety of herbs and spices, together with tips and recipes for how I use them in my kitchen.

Type 2 diabetes is NOT for life!

Above all know that Type 2 diabetes need NOT be a life sentence OR a lifetime on prescription drugs and a vicious circle of deteriorating health.

Treating the root causes of T2D with real food-and-lifestyle-as-medicine for effective insulin and blood sugar management should be your very FIRST line of defence. Transitioning to real, whole, organic foods, herbs and spices AND prioritising consistent, healthy lifestyle habits can be the major tools to put and keep this destructive disorder in remission

Finally, for a detailed and very comprehensive guide to treating the root causes of diabetes naturally, I highly recommend you have a look at this excellent article by Chris Kresser.



Izabella Natrins

I'm here to inspire and support women at midlife and beyond to re-ignite purpose and meaning to take back control of their health and create the radical, resilient heath they want and deserve. As a whole-health expert with over 30 years experience in the field, a qualified Health and Wellness Coach and Ballymaloe-trained nutritional chef, my real food nutrition and lifestyle medicine programmes support women fighting fatigue, struggling with overwhelm, weight gain, sleep, energy and niggling or multiple diagnosed health issues. As an advocate for real food nutrition, regenerative agriculture and whole-health, my book 'The Real Food Solution' is an evidence-based treasury wisdom for energy, vitality and better health for people and planet and a call to action to change the way we grown, source and cook our food. As the CEO at The UK Health Coaches Association, I'm proud to continue the task of leading the first professional association for Health and Wellness Coaches in the world and the gold standard for the UK and Ireland.

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