Ya'u Mukhtar
Ya'u Mukhtar

Diabetes Mellitus: A Devastating Metabolic Disorder; the Alternative Remedy, By Ya’u Mukhtar

NEWS DIGEST – Diabetes is a medical condition that is characterised by the accumulation of high amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood stream. Simply, Diabetes mellitus is the most common endocrine disorder that affects the body’s ability to make or use insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced in the beta cells of pancreas that helps regulate the amount of glucose in the blood by either influencing its absorption by the body cells to get energy or converting it’s excess into fats (glycogen) and stored in the liver for future use. The body of a diabetic patient is either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should and this causes sugars to build up in the blood.  

More than 170 million people are suffering from this disease worldwide and it is likely to increase up to 300 million by 2025. According to WHO, the global prevalence of diabetes is estimated to increase from 4% in 1995 to 5.4% by the year 2025 majorly in the developing nations. Presently, India has the largest number of diabetic patients in the world and has been infamously known as the “diabetic capital of the world”. In Africa region, about 16 million people are suffering from this disease and this figure is expected to increase up to 41 million by 2045. In 2015, there were almost about 1.9 million cases of diabetes in Nigeria and deaths related to diabetes in Nigeria in 2013 were estimated to be 105,091 cases (IDF, 2013).

There are several forms of diabetes and scientists are still defining and categorizing some of these variations and establishing their prevalence in the population. Type 1 DM is caused as a result of autoimmune destruction of the beta cells of the pancreas that secrete the hormone insulin and this causes absolute or relative deficiency in its secretion. Apart from this reason, type 1 DM can also be triggered as a result of genetic susceptibility, risk environmental factors, virus infection and infant feeding practices. Generally, this form of diabetes is usually diagnosed in children, adolescents, and sometimes in young adults. It accounts for about 5% -10% of diabetes cases globally.

In Type 2 DM, the pancreas of the patient makes insulin initially, but the body has trouble using this glucose-controlling hormone, or eventually the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to respond to the body’s need for it (i.e. the insulin is insufficient to bring about its proper effect). Type 2 DM is by far the most common form of diabetes, accounting for 85% -95% of cases in developed nations and an even higher percentage in developing nations, as stated by the International Diabetes Federation. Type 2 DM has multifactorial causes including anxiety, stress, advance age, obesity, sedentary life style, irregular diet etc. Obesity has been found to contribute to approximately 55% type II diabetes.

Another category of diabetes mellitus is the gestational diabetes. It is a temporary metabolic disorder that any previously non-diabetic woman can develop during pregnancy, usually during the second or third trimester. Hormonal changes contribute to this disease, along with excess weight and family history of diabetes. About 4% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes or 135,000 cases annually as per the statistic of the American Diabetes Association.  Gestational diabetes is fully treatable but requires careful medical supervision throughout the pregnancy period. However, about 20% – 50% of affected women develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

More so, the signs and symptoms of diabetes mellitus are many and that is a reason why diabetes is termed as the silent killer. However, the most commonest and typical symptoms of diabetes are; polyuria (frequent urination), polydipsia (excessive thirst) and polyphagia (excessive hunger). Other symptoms include; unplanned weight loss, nausea and vomiting, slow healing of wound, sexual dysfunction in men, vaginal infections in women among others. Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations.

Prevention and management of diabetes has become necessary due to increase in its prevalence globally. Regardless of the type of diabetes, patients are required to control their blood glucose with medications and or by adhering to an exercise program and a good dietary plan. Drug treatment for diabetes mellitus involve the use of injection and hypoglycemic drugs that lower glucose levels in the blood. Insulin hormone can also be administered subcutaneously, either by injections or by an insulin pump especially in patient with type 1 DM to regulate blood glucose level. Prominent oral anti-diabetic drugs with proven record of clinical trials includes; Glibenclamide, Chlorpropamide, Metformin, Phenformin, Buformin, Rosiglitazone etc. non drug treatment of diabetes involves change in the life style, engaging in body exercise and appropriate dieting as well.

Apart from using drugs, treatment of diabetes mellitus using herbal species is also very essential, because management of diabetes using these drugs without any adverse side effects using synthetic drugs is still a nagging problem among medical practitioners. Recently, drug therapies have been employed for the treatment of diabetes and some of the standard synthetic drugs used for the treatment of diabetes are sulfonylureas, biguanides, α-glucosidase inhibitors, glibenclamide, glinides, etc., apart from expensiveness and ineffectiveness, these drugs tend to cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, head ache, abnormal weight gain, allergic reaction, low blood glucose, dark urine, fluid retention, or swelling. Moreover, they are not safe for use during pregnancy. The world health organization (WHO) estimates that about 80% of the populations living in the developing countries rely almost exclusively on traditional medicine for their primary health care needs in which plants were dominantly used over all other traditional sources due to their low cost, effectiveness, less or no side effects and easy to acquire.

Sequel to that and in addition to the recommendation made by the WHO on the investigation of medicinal plants with anti-diabetic potency and to possibly incorporate them with orthodox medicine, it has become of enormous importance to search for plant species with proven track records of hypoglycemic potential in order to explore their efficacy and level of safety in order to counteract this life threatening ailment.


(M Sc Candidate, Ethnomedicine, Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria) [email protected]

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