BiotiQuest® Gut Health & Probiotics Blog with Martha Carlin

The Bottom Line: Are Sugar Metabolism Supplements Helpful?

Martha Carlin | Jan 02, 2024 |

According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report, as of 2022, over 37 million Americans are struggling with diabetes. Diabetes is diagnosed when an individual has persistently high blood sugar levels.

Tracking and managing glycemic control is essential to maintaining health in the long run since diabetes complications can include diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage), diabetic nephropathy (kidney damage), and diabetic retinopathy (eye damage) amongst others.

Some diet and lifestyle choices and a healthy microbiome may help support normal blood sugar levels. Research also suggests that some dietary supplements for glucose control might have a positive impact on blood sugar levels.

Glucose metabolism includes several steps from the breakdown of macronutrients to the release of hormones such as insulin and amylin and the absorption of blood glucose. Let's look into what makes for healthy blood sugar levels, and how dietary supplements might support managing high blood glucose levels.

Understanding the system - glucose metabolism

From digestion to the storage of blood glucose, the human body goes through a complex and interdependent set of steps to ensure we have an adequate supply of energy at all times.

Factors such as the synthesis, release, and use of insulin; hormones in addition to insulin that support glucose, protein, and lipid metabolism; pancreas, liver, and gut health; triggers that lead to insulin resistance and loss of insulin sensitivity all play a role in either maintaining or disturbing glucose homeostasis.


What we need for healthy glucose metabolism

Healthy blood sugar levels can range from 70 to 90 mg/dl as fasting blood sugar levels (8 hours after your last meal) or less than 140 mg/dl when measured two hours after your last meal.

Hyperglycemia occurs when you have higher than average blood sugar levels, while lower than average blood sugar levels are called hypoglycemia.

Here are the deciding factors for how much sugar you have in your bloodstream at any given time.

Pancreas - Insulin, Amylin and Glucagon

The pancreas is a hand-sized organ that impacts both your digestion as well as blood sugar. Different types of pancreatic cells produce, store, and release different hormones such as insulin, amylin, and glucagon that are necessary for blood sugar control.

What are pancreatic β-cells? And how do they affect insulin levels?

After digestion, the smallest components of your digested meal such as glucose (carbohydrate metabolism), fatty acids (fat metabolism), and amino acids (protein metabolism) enter the small intestine and get absorbed into the bloodstream.

When this nutrient-enriched blood passes through the pancreas, receptors present on the surface of the pancreatic cells recognize the presence of nutrients and begin to release the hormones, insulin and amylin. Different nutrients can trigger the release of insulin but the largest share of insulin release is glucose dependent.


Insulin acts like a key that opens the door of fat (adipose), muscle, and liver cells for glucose absorption. In the liver, insulin prompts the storage of glucose in the form of glycogen (an alternate form of glucose stored for quick access).

Amylin plays many crucial functions in glucose homeostasis. It delays gastric emptying which slows down the rate at which glucose gets absorbed into the bloodstream from the small intestine. In addition, amylin inhibits the release of glucagon from the pancreas and enables the brain to send satiety signals (feeling of fullness).

When blood sugar begins to drop, the pancreatic α (alpha) cells release glucagon, which triggers the conversion of stored glycogen (in the liver) into glucose, which is released back into the bloodstream bringing up the blood sugar levels back to an optimum range.

Insulin is the main driver behind blood glucose control but several factors can influence how well you produce and respond to insulin itself. Lack of sleep, exercise, and an unhealthy diet or cardiovascular risk factors can affect your blood sugars, insulin response, and glucose homeostasis.


Gut hormones and insulin

Similar to the cells present in the pancreas, there are cells located in the gut lining that release hormones such as GLP-1 (Glucagon-like peptide 1) and GIP (Gastric inhibitory polypeptide) in response to nutrients.

The incretin effect

Just as insulin influences glucose absorption through cell walls, gut hormones, also called the incretin hormones, influence insulin release itself. Over 50-60% of insulin release is gut hormone dependent.

Microbial metabolites (by-products of microbial interactions) such as short-chain fatty acids (butyrate and acetate) and secondary bile acids (lithocholic acid and deoxycholic acid) facilitate the release of Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and GIP. GLP-1 and its receptor agonists is self-limiting, ceasing when blood glucose levels fall in response to the secreted insulin.

Gut microbiota (microbes that live in the gut) aid in the digestion and absorption of food and help in the synthesis of metabolites that are essential to healthy living. Studies have found that an imbalance in the gut microbiome (gut dysbiosis) can dysregulate the optimum release of GLP-1 and GIP and might even lead to GLP-1 resistance.

A fiber-rich diet helps increase the abundance of SCFA-producing gut microbes and might be beneficial in promoting the release of GLP-1 and GIP. In addition to aiding in insulin release, GIP and GLP-1 communicate with the brain and signal satiety.

Insulin resistance

Insulin must be amidated to be fully functioning. Amidation is copper and ascorbate dependent. So it’s possible more insulin is being made because the insulin that is in circulation is more proinsulin (not amidated) than active insulin (amidated). Dr. Jason Fung has a lot of insightful research about what causes insulin resistance.

Studies suggest that exercise and a healthy diet can help lower blood glucose and increase insulin sensitivity, in addition, dietary supplements have shown promising associations with increasing insulin sensitivity and blood sugar management.

Can supplements help you reduce insulin resistance and increase insulin sensitivity?

Supplements might be able to support blood sugar levels by improving glucose metabolism, whether by improving insulin sensitivity or decreasing insulin resistance.

Supplements for managing blood glucose

As we’ll explore below, several dietary supplements have been linked with having beneficial effects on blood glucose management including herbal supplements (berberine, fenugreek, cinnamon, gymnema sylvestre, aloe vera, and nigella seeds), Alpha lipoic acid (ala), vitamins, and minerals such as vitamin D supplements, magnesium supplements, zinc supplements, chromium supplements, and probiotics.


In adults with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, probiotics containing bifidobacteria showed a promising effect in enhancing glycemic control by reducing HbA1c levels (a measure of average blood glucose over the last 2-3 months) and fasting glucose, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis published in Advances in Nutrition.

If you're looking to add probiotics to your health regimen in order to help support blood sugar, checkout our probiotic supplement, Sugar Shift. It comes enriched with strains such as Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus reuteri, and more. 

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a type of omega-3 fatty acid that acts as an antioxidant and can be found in foods such as walnuts and flaxseeds. According to a 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis covering over 1000 participants, ALA supplementation could be associated with a significant decrease in HOMA-IR (a measure of insulin resistance) and blood insulin levels although it showed no effects on HbA1c and blood glucose.

Vitamin D

In order for Vitamin D to be effective vitamin D binding receptor must be functional. This is also known as as GcMAF. There is research showing yogurt cultures can increase GcMAF and enable the active use of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin. It’s a hormone with many forms and actions. What is typically measured in bloodwork is not the active for. It’s the storage form.


A systematic review and meta-analysis evaluating the glucose-lowering effect of berberine on type 2 diabetes published in 2022 in the Frontiers in Pharmacology associates berberine with significantly lowering fasting blood sugar, 2-hour post-meal glucose (postprandial glucose), and HbA1c levels.

Magnesium supplementation

Previous studies suggest that magnesium deficiency is common among individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Magnesium supplementation has been associated with significant improvement in HbA1c, fasting blood sugar, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and blood lipids (triglyceride levels) in a systematic review and meta-analysis published in Frontiers in Nutrition in 2023.


Chromium supplementation

A systematic review analyzing the glycemic control levels including HbA1c, fasting blood sugar, and lipid control levels including triglyceride (TG), total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) of over 500 individuals with type 2 diabetes found that chromium supplementation improved HbA1c levels, while showing no improvement in fasting blood glucose levels.

Zinc supplementation

According to a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials published in Obesity Research & Clinical Practice in 2023, zinc supplementation was associated with reducing fasting blood glucose in obese and overweight populations. Zinc should not be taken alone, as there is a delicate balance between zinc and copper.

Supplement or not to supplement?

Our body's innate healing ability has many checks and balances that make us quite adaptable to live in different environments. No wonder-pill can give you perfect health, but regular exercise, a wide variety of whole organic foods, and quality sleep form the first line of defense against silently building insulin resistance, maintaining insulin sensitivity, and managing blood sugar.

Probiotic supplements such as our Sugar Shift formula might be the ally you need in your journey towards better gut health, while strengthening your body's natural defenses and supporting blood sugar levels. It converts excess sugars (glucose and fructose) into mannitol, a free radical scavenger that is naturally eliminated. Breaking down these sugars, along with toxic chemicals like glyphosate, helps to re-establish harmony in the gut and speed up your sugar metabolism.

Here’s more about the promising relationship between probiotics and blood sugar!

Frequently asked questions:

 What vitamins help metabolize sugar?

Zinc, magnesium, and vitamin D deficiencies have been independently associated with the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Thus, vitamins supporting these deficiencies may help. However, I never recommend taking zinc or Vitamin (hormone D) without a clear understanding of the balance between copper and zinc, and in the case of vitamin D, understanding the GcMAF/vitamin D binding factor. Otherwise you can disrupt Vitamin A. 

How can I help my body metabolize sugar?

Sleep, exercise, and a diet (rich in fiber and trace minerals can all help your body metabolize sugar and lower blood sugar.

What do sugar metabolism pills do?

Certain sugar metabolism pills such as gymnema sylvestre might suppress high blood sugar levels by inhibiting sugar absorption in the small intestine as well as by suppressing sugar cravings.

Do blood sugar control supplements work?

Supplements such as probiotics containing bifidobacteria might help control blood sugar by enhancing gut health and the release of the gut hormone, GLP-1 which can help increase and improve insulin sensitivity in fat cells. Our Sugar Shift probiotic, made with eight unique strains that work together as a team, was designed to support sugar metabolism.

What are blood sugar targets?

Healthy blood sugar levels can range from 70 to 90 mg/dl as fasting blood sugar levels (8 hours after your last meal) or less than 140 mg/dl when measured two hours after your last meal.

What causes blood sugar to be high?

Insulin helps cells in the body to absorb blood glucose. In type 2 diabetes, your cells become insulin resistant and they stop absorbing available blood glucose leading to high blood sugar levels whereas in type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little to no insulin, which leads to high amounts of sugar in the blood.

With gratitude,

Martha Carlin photo Martha Carlin, is a “Citizen Scientist”, systems thinker, wife of Parkinson’s warrior, John Carlin, and founder of The BioCollective , a microbiome company expanding the reach of science and BiotiQuest, the first of it’s kind probiotic line. Since John’s diagnosis in 2002, Martha began learning the science of agriculture, nutrition, environment, infectious disease, Parkinson’s pathology and much more. In 2014, when the first research was published showing a connection between the gut bacteria and the two phenotypes of Parkinson’s, Martha quit her former career as a business turnaround expert and founded The BioCollective to accelerate the discovery of the impact of gut health on all human disease. Martha was a speaker at the White House 2016 Microbiome Initiative launch, challenging the scientific community to “think in a broader context”. Her systems thinking background and experience has led to collaborations across the scientific spectrum from neuroscience to engineering to infectious disease. She is a respected out of the box problem solver in the microbiome field and brings a unique perspective to helping others understand the connections from the soil to the food to our guts and our brains.

The Martha's Favorite Posts