Treating Diabetes with Acupuncture
and Chinese Medicine
It is estimated that 25.8 million men, women and children in the United States have diabetes. Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the risk for death is approximately twice that of persons of similar age without diabetes.
The cause of diabetes continues to be a mystery, although both genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles. Complications of diabetes include heart disease, hypertension, eye problems, kidney disease, nervous system disease, periodontal disease, amputation, fatigue, depression, and complications during pregnancy.
In order to manage diabetes, it is essential for people to make healthy lifestyle choices in diet, exercise, and other health habits. Another important factor when treating diabetes is creating a support team of health care professionals. This support team may include your primary doctor, an eye doctor, nurses, a dietitian, and a licensed acupuncturist.
Acupuncture and herbal medicine have been used to treat diabetes for over 2000 years. A patient with "Xiao Ke" or “wasting and thirsting disease” (the Traditional Chinese medical term for diabetes) is discussed in detail in the Nei Jing, a classic Chinese medical book written about 2,500 years ago. The patient is described as having symptoms of excessive hunger and thirst, frequent urination and rapid weight loss; all symptoms of diabetes.
Diabetes according to Traditional Chinese Medicine
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, diabetes is caused by an imbalance of the cyclical flow of Qi within the meridians and organ systems. This particular imbalance produces heat that depletes the body’s fluids and Qi causing symptoms such as:
How Acupuncture and Chinese
Medicine Treats Diabetes
In treating diabetes, Oriental medicine offers a way to address each patient individually to eliminate the symptoms associated with diabetes and reduce the need for insulin. The practitioner may choose to use a variety of techniques during treatment including acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, bodywork, lifestyle/dietary recommendations and energetic exercises. The treatment for diabetes will focus on regulating the circulation of blood and Qi and balancing the organ systems to improve pancreatic function and address internal heat and the depletion of fluids.
The acupuncture points used to treat diabetes are all over the body and on several meridians. A point on the back, called 'Yishu' (located on the back, lateral to thoracic vertebrae 8) is often used and has proven effective in recent studies published by the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine for controlling the function of the pancreas and blood sugar levels in diabetic patients.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Herbal medicine is an important component to the treatment of diabetes. Different formulas may be effective for different people, so practitioners may try several different approaches. Commonly used Chinese herbal formulas are Liu Wei Di Huang, and Da Bu Yin Wan. Studies have shown that American ginseng can improve glucose tolerance and is often added to herbal formulas. Other herbs are added to an herbal formula to treat complications of diabetes such as peripheral neuropathy and blurry vision.
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