Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae that is believed to be the oldest form of life on earth. This alga is rich in minerals, vitamins, proteins, antioxidants, and carotenoids. There are various health benefits linked with spirulina such as protection against allergic reactions, boosting the immune system as well as antiviral and anticancer effects.
The fact that NASA used spirulina in space missions for astronauts explains its popularity as a dietary supplement. Spirulina is also considered good for blood pressure control, eye health, oral health, and diabetes. There are several clinical studies that show the positive impact of spirulina on diabetic patients.
In this article, we’re going to focus on diabetes and the benefits of spirulina for diabetes.
Let’s start by briefly learning about diabetes so that we can get a better understanding of the effectiveness of spirulina on this disease.
Diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as diabetes or blood sugar, is a metabolic condition in which the blood sugar is too high. In this disease, our body either can’t make enough insulin hormone or can’t effectively make use of it.
Insulin is the hormone that is responsible for moving sugar from the bloodstream into cells to be stored or used as energy. In short, insulin lowers blood sugar levels by directing the cells to increase their uptake of glucose.
Over time, high blood sugar levels can cause various health issues. This includes damage to the kidneys, eyes, nerves, and other organs.
The common symptoms include 3P’s of diabetes. The 3P’s stand for polydipsia, polyuria, and polyphagia.
Polydipsia, polyuria, and polyphagia are the terms that refer to an increase in thirst, urination and appetite respectively.
- Loss of appetite/Weight loss (polyphagia)
- Blurry vision
- Extreme fatigue
- Frequent urination (polyuria)
- Sores that don’t heal
- Decreased sex drive
- Poor muscle strength
- Vaginal dryness (in women)
- Increased thirst (polydipsia)
- Increased hunger
- Erectile dysfunction (in men)
- Yeast and urinary tract infections (in women)
As diabetes is a condition in which your blood glucose levels are high, the diagnosis includes checking glucose levels in the blood test. Anyone who has diabetes symptoms or is at high risk of developing the disease is tested.
There are three tests that are normally conducted to test blood glucose levels: Fasting glucose test, Random glucose test, A1c test
- Fasting plasma glucose test: This test is conducted in the morning after an 8-hour fast. The patient shouldn’t eat or drink anything before the test except sips of water.
- Random plasma glucose test: This diabetes test can be conducted at any time during the day without the need to fast.
- A1c test: This HbA1C or glycated hemoglobin test provides an average blood glucose level over the previous 3 months. In this test, the amount of glucose attached to hemoglobin is measured.
For gestational diabetes, two tests are conducted. First, a glucose challenge test is conducted, where the patient drinks a sugary drink and the glucose level is checked after one hour. If the results of this test show a higher level of glucose than normal, an oral glucose tolerance test is conducted.
An oral glucose tolerance test measures the blood glucose level after an overnight fast. After this, the patient drinks a sugary drink. Then, the blood glucose level is measured at hours 1, 2, and 3.
There are mainly three types of diabetes:
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Gestational Diabetes
In type 1 diabetes mellitus, our body attacks itself because it’s an autoimmune disease. In this type of diabetes, the insulin-producing cells in our body are destroyed by our immune system. This is more common in young adults and children. This condition is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, as it requires the patient to take insulin every day.
Type 2 diabetes is caused when our body is either unable to make enough insulin or the cells aren’t able to effectively use it. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, contributing up to 95% of the total number of diabetic cases. This type of diabetes is also called “insulin-resistant diabetes,” as in this disease the body becomes resistant to insulin. This causes sugar to build up in the blood.
Gestational diabetes is having high blood sugar levels during the gestation period or pregnancy. This type of diabetes is caused when the placenta produces insulin-blocking hormones. This type of diabetes is more likely to go away post-pregnancy but increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Interestingly, there are several benefits to taking spirulina while pregnant. This is because spirulina boosts insulin sensitivity and lowers blood sugar levels.
Certain factors that increase the risk of having diabetes in individuals are:
For type 1 diabetes
- Age (child or teenage)
- Presence of autoantibodies
- Genes linked to type 1 diabetes
- Having a family history of type 1 diabetes
- Exposure to diseases caused due to virus
- Physical stress (due to illness or surgery)
- Injury to the pancreas (due to tumor, infection, or accident)
For Type 2 diabetes
- Age (above 45)
- Physical inactivity
- Gestational diabetes
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- High triglycerides levels
- Family history of type 2 diabetes
- Bad lifestyle choices such as smoking
- Having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Having a history of stroke or heart disease
- Having given birth to a baby of more than 9 pounds of weight
For gestational diabetes
- Age (above 25 years)
- Being Overweight before pregnancy
- Family history of type 2 diabetes or prediabetes
- Having this type of diabetes during any past pregnancy
Diabetes Management and Treatment
For managing diabetes, one needs to manage the risk factors:
- The most obvious way to manage diabetes is to keep your blood glucose levels in check. Having blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible by taking a healthy diet and prescribed medication is the best approach. Besides this, maintaining a good physical activity level is a must to be fit and healthy.
- Make sure to manage your blood pressure in the normal range (140/90 mmHg)
- Maintaining your triglyceride levels and blood cholesterol levels (HDL and LDL levels) is also very important
- Maintaining a healthy weight is also necessary.
- Staying physically active by exercising for 30 minutes or including other activities such as sports or swimming into your regime is good.
- Making sure to take medication and/or insulin as prescribed is also very crucial.
- Also, keep monitoring blood pressure and blood glucose levels at home is also vital.
Treatment for diabetes includes different medications to control blood sugar levels. Some of these common medications are taken orally, while others are injected.
Administering insulin is the most common treatment for type 1 diabetes. The insulin is either injected or an insulin pump is used in the treatment.
Insulin is classified into several types based on its speed of action and effectiveness in patients with type 1 diabetes. This includes- rapid-acting insulin, short-acting insulin, intermediate-acting insulin, long-acting insulin, ultra-long-acting insulin, and premixed insulin.
Along with this, as a part of this treatment, the blood sugar levels are checked frequently, and carbohydrate counting is done.
Seldom, an islet cell or pancreas transplant is also done in some patients.
The treatment for type 2 diabetes includes lifestyle changes along with oral diabetes drugs, insulin, or both. In addition to this, frequent monitoring of blood sugar levels is also required.
The treatment for gestational diabetes also includes lifestyle changes. This also includes monitoring blood sugar multiple times daily during the pregnancy. About 15% – 30% of women require insulin to reduce their blood sugar levels during this time. Insulin is considered safer for the baby.
Frequently Asked Questions About Diabetes and Spirulina
How Much Spirulina Should a Diabetic Take?
According to research, a daily dose of spirulina ranging between 0.8-8g is effective in reducing fasting blood sugar levels. Spirulina has been shown to be particularly beneficial in type 2 diabetes.
One study conducted on patients with type 2 diabetes with a daily dose of 2 grams of spirulina for over a 2 months period of time showed promising results. A significant reduction in blood sugar levels and improved lipid profiles were observed.
Here is the list of the best spirulina capsule for diabetes.
Does Spirulina Spike Insulin?
Studies show that spirulina improves insulin sensitivity, antioxidant status, and lipid profile in type 2 diabetes patients. However, more research is required to conclude facts on spirulina’s effect on blood sugar levels and insulin.
Is Spirulina and Chlorella Good for Diabetes?
Studies show that spirulina and chlorella are both good for diabetes. These two types of algae can improve insulin sensitivity, reduce blood glucose levels, and increase the secretion of insulin from pancreatic cells. In addition to this, spirulina and chlorella also have anti-inflammatory properties because of the presence of their vitamin and antioxidant content.
Related: Spirulina tablets vs capsules
Overall, the fact that spirulina is a powerful superfood packed with nutrients, minerals, and vitamins can’t be denied. Several studies have shown promising results in relation to the effectiveness of spirulina on diabetic patients. Spirulina can also aid diabetes patients in dealing with various unpleasant side effects. This alga can assist in healing wounds and ulcers, lower liver fat, improve neuropathic conditions, and strengthen the effects of insulin.
However, more research is required to better understand any side effects or conclude what happens when you take spirulina everyday. Besides this, we recommend always reaching out to your healthcare provider before starting on any dietary supplement to be on the safe side.