Chinese Medicine for Type 2 Diabetes

by Norah McIntire, L.Ac.

Type 2 diabetes is now so widespread some health professionals have labeled it an epidemic. Diabetes affects more than 30 million people in the U.S., and the vast majority of these people have type 2 diabetes. In addition, more than 84 million people in the U.S. have prediabetes, a serious condition when blood sugar is higher than normal but has yet to reach the level for a diagnosis of diabetes. Many people with diabetes and prediabetes are unaware they have the condition.

These conditions are very serious. Diabetes was the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2015. Potential complications of diabetes include kidney damage or failure, higher risk of stroke, blood vessel and heart disease, lower limb amputation, eye damage, slower healing, and nerve damage, which can cause neuropathy and erectile dysfunction, among other health challenges.

Diabetes is also expensive. According to the CDC the average annual medical costs for diabetics were over $13,000, and about $7,900 of this was related to diabetes. Medical costs for people diagnosed with diabetes were 2.3 times higher than those without diabetes.

This calculation, of course, does not include life costs such as lost time with family and friends, being unable to participate in favorite activities, and the emotional toll of chronic pain and illness.

Western medicine believes once you are diagnosed with diabetes, the most you can hope for is managing the condition. Only prediabetes is considered reversible.

I recently had the chance to add to my existing knowledge of treating diabetes by studying with one of the leaders in Chinese medicine when it comes to treating this condition. He stressed that type 2 diabetes is essentially an inflammatory condition. Inflammation damages insulin receptors, making the body unable to use insulin and kicking off the other damaging processes associated with elevated blood sugar in the body.

He also reminded us that Chinese medicine treats inflammation very effectively.

Did you know that together acupuncture, herbal medicine, and Eastern nutritional therapy can not only address inflammation, they help balance blood sugar levels, treat pain (i.e., neuropathy), and support organ function to relieve symptoms and rebalance the body.

Acupuncture helps regulate the major systems of the body, including the nervous, circulatory, immune, and chemical systems, i.e., neurotransmitters and hormones. There is evidence that suggests acupuncture can help balance blood glucose levels and also help with inflammation. Acupuncture is also excellent for pain relief, which makes it extremely valuable for issues such as neuropathy. I have treated many people with acupuncture who were referred by their Western providers for treatment of neuropathy.

Chinese herbal medicine is another valuable resource. Unlike Western herbalism, Chinese herbal medicine does not use single herbs but instead uses combinations of herbs. These combinations have been used clinically for thousands of years. Many of the common herbs we use have demonstrated properties that make them useful for treating insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar. In addition, herbal medicine can help address side effects of Western medication and secondary health complaints resulting from diabetes.

Appropriate nutrition is also critical to healing and restoring balance to the body.  Eastern nutritional therapy is tailored nutritional strategy based on the individual’s health condition, their constitution, and even the season of the year. Eastern nutrition focuses not just on which foods are most helpful but also timing and preparation of those foods to ensure maximum benefit from meals. Your food can be medicine.

If you know of someone with type 2 diabetes who wants to take a proactive approach to supporting their body and improving their health, please pass on this information.  If you have questions about how this may help your own health situation, give me a call and let’s discuss your options: (323) 475-9282.