Last week I learned from your column that my medicine is derived from a reptile! I would like more information about the drug Byetta and some of its side effects. I would also like some natural remedies to try. – M.T., Boston, Massachusetts
ANSWER: Byetta (exenatide) is fascinating because it’s derived from the saliva of Gila monsters. Researchers, who didn’t mind getting chummy with the giant lizards, extracted their ‘spit’ and found a hormone called incretin that is 50 percent identical to a human hormone needed to lower blood sugar. Long story short, a cleaned-up, powerful drug came to fruition in April 2005, when the FDA approved Byetta as an add-on therapy for type 2 diabetes. I’m still stuck on how they make Gila monsters salivate—do they dangle juicy rodents in front of them?
Byetta is an injectable drug which exhibits many of the same effects as the human incretin hormone called GLP-1 and works on the pancreas, liver and brain. In plain English, this means that it helps you digest that 12-inch sub. Without enough incretin, you wouldn’t make enough insulin and then your blood sugar levels would remain too high. Voila, diabetes.
If you already take insulin, you shouldn’t take Byetta. Side effects may include soreness at the injection site, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or the jitters.
A few natural alternatives can be found in the kitchen:
Red Tea: a.k.a. African Red Bush—it protects the tiny capillaries that lead to your heart, kidneys and brain preventing microvascular complications like kidney failure. Since it’s herbal, it won’t aggravate kidney stones.
Cinnamon: It reduces blood sugar; sprinkle 1 teaspoonful in tea, cocoa, smoothies, cereal or oatmeal.
Garlic: Cook with 2 freshly-minced garlic cloves every day or supplement with aged garlic, like Kyolic’s brand sold nationwide at health food stores (www.kyolic.com)
Gymnema sylvestre: An Ayurvedic herb which is remarkable because it can normalize blood sugar, control cholesterol and reduce carb cravings. Take 300 – 800 mg before each meal.
Alpha Lipoic Acid: A nutrient that helps prevent and relieve painful neuropathies
Chromium: It has a balancing effect on blood sugar
Bitter Melon Extract: Sold as an oral supplement or tea (www.charanteausa.com), this powerful natural herb acts like insulin and also reduces cholesterol.
White Flour: Eliminate white-flour pastries and breads because they spike blood sugar, plus white flour may contain “alloxan”—a chemical which can destroy your pancreas which makes insulin. Whole grains are better for diabetics, provided you are not gluten (wheat) sensitive, or have Celiac disease. Gluten-intolerant people (and full-blown Celiacs) may have a higher risk for developing diabetes or pancreatitis. If you would like a little more information on gluten intolerance and how it may masquerade as an auto-immune disorder, watch me on this youtube video. CLICK HERE TO WATCH SHORT VIDEO.
Did You Know?
Generic Zyrtec has been FDA approved. Moms will be able to buy their children “Cetirizine” syrup at pharmacies nationwide.