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Is there an over the counter medication to control blood sugar?

William Lee Dubois
Endocrinologist

Ummmm … not in the traditional sense. In many states you can purchase insulin without a prescription, which I guess makes it over-the-counter. The reason for this is that type-1 diabetics like me die without insulin. Many state houses have removed insulin from prescription status, as sometimes poverty-stricken type-1s cannot afford both a doctor’s visit and a prescription medication.

But it sounds more like you want to know if there is a blood sugar version of Aspirin or Tums, and unfortunately, the answer is “no.” At least in the United States, all of the other medications needed to keep blood sugar in check are prescription meds. On the bright side, quite a number of them are generics and are on Walmart’s $4 formulary.

Getting a prescription requires, at the very least, one doctor’s visit per year (but most will want to see you more often).

Of course, you can control your blood sugar to some degree by being careful of what you eat. High carb foods turn to sugar in your body more quickly than other kinds of foods. To keep things simple, you can remember that high carb foods tend to be white in color: things made with sugar, flour, potatoes and rice. Corn, although technically usually light yellow in color, is an honorary white food.

  • Sugar foods are candy, cakes and sodas.
  • Flour foods are bread, tortillas, waffles and pasta.
  • Potato foods are fries; hashed, chipped and baked.
  • Rice includes all kinds of rice as well as some chips and noodles.

Oh. Right. Thanks for asking. Cauliflower and cottage cheese, while white, won’t give your blood sugar any trouble.

On the other side of the coin, anything that used to walk, run, fly, swim, crawl or slither won’t have any effect on blood sugar worth mentioning. So reasonable servings of meat are freebies, as are most veggies that grow above the ground. The ones that grow under the soil tend to be higher in sugar.

Does that mean you can’t eat white foods? Of course not, but if you moderate them, and never let them make up more than a quarter of your meal, you can keep your blood sugar in as good as control as possible without meds. Will it be enough? I can’t say. It might be. It might not be. But paying attention to carbs at the very minimum will reduce the amount of prescribed medications you will need.

 

There is a myriad of over-the-counter (OTC) products that claim to lower blood sugar or increase insulin sensitivity, including banaba leaf extract, chromium, cinnamon, fenugreek, ginseng, magnesium, probiotics, vitamin D, to name a few. Although these can be a part of a healthy balanced diet and and may have some benefits, they are not recommended as a form of treatment for glycemic management. It is always a good idea to discuss any OTC medications or supplements with a health care provider as they may interact with medications already being taken. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.