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Diabetes nurses must record alternative therapy use

To avoid complications, nurses should ask people with diabetes whether they use alternative therapies, say researchers.

A review of health literature around the world has found that nutritional supplements and herbal medicines can have unsavoury side-effects or may interact with conventional diabetes treatment.

"Fenugreek, for example, used as a supplement, may affect blood sugar levels but patients are already on other blood sugar lowering medications as well," says Annie Chang in Griffith's School of Nursing,  in Australia.

Her review suggests nearly half of people with diabetes around the world supplement their diabetes medication with alternative therapies.

Older women were the most likely to make use of alternative therapies.

"People will tell their alternative practitioners that they are using western medicines but the vast majority will not discuss their alternative therapies with a doctor or other healthcare professional," says Chang.

"While it might be impossible for western medicine to learn about complementary and alternative therapies, healthcare professionals do need to be included in discussions about them so we can document their use and be aware of any potential problems for our patients."

Journal of Advanced Nursing