TCM does not offer a cure for diabetes, but instead aims to optimize the body’s ability to function normally. There is still a great need for more and better research on the efficacy and safety of both Chinese herbals, which are being used along with or in lieu of Western pharmaceuticals, and acupuncture in the care of diabetic patients. Patients, TCM practitioners, and physicians who choose to integrate the two forms of care must all recognize the importance of careful monitoring of blood glucose levels, as well as monitoring for potential side effects such as drug-herb interactions.
The first thing to understand when it comes to treating diabetes is your blood glucose level, which is the amount of glucose in the blood. Glucose is a sugar that comes from the foods we eat and also is formed and stored inside the body. It's the main source of energy for the cells of the body, and is carried to them through the blood. Glucose gets into the cells with the help of the hormone insulin.
The BAS colesevelam (Welchol) is a cholesterol-lowering medication that also reduces blood glucose levels in patients with diabetes.  BASs help remove cholesterol from the body, particularly LDL cholesterol, which is often elevated in people with diabetes.  The medications reduce LDL cholesterol by binding with bile acids in the digestive system; the body in turn uses cholesterol to replace the bile acids, which lowers cholesterol levels. The mechanism by which colesevelam lowers glucose levels is not well understood. Because BASs are not absorbed into the bloodstream, they are usually safe for use by patients who may not be able to use other medications because of liver problems. Because of the way they work, side effects of BASs can include flatulence and constipation.
Called ALA for short, this vitamin-like substance neutralizes many types of free radicals. A build-up of free radicals, caused in part by high blood sugar, can lead to nerve damage and other problems. ALA may also help muscle cells take up blood sugar. In a German study, a team of scientists had 40 adults take either an ALA supplement or a placebo. At the end of the four-week study, the ALA group had improved their insulin sensitivity 27 percent. The placebo group showed no improvement. Other studies have shown a decrease in nerve pain, numbness, and burning.
Foods with a low glycemic load: The glycemic index of a food tells you about the blood glucose-raising potential of the food. Foods that have a high glycemic index are converted into sugar after being eaten more quickly than low glycemic foods. If you are fighting diabetes, stick to low glycemic foods like non-starchy vegetables, stone fruits and berries, nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut, organic meat, eggs, wild-caught fish, and raw pastured dairy.
In-person diabetes prevention programs: The CDC offers a one year long lifestyle change program through its National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) at various locations throughout the US to help participants adopt healthy habits and prevent or delay progression to type 2 diabetes. This program is a major undertaking by the CDC to translate the findings from the DPP study into a real world setting, a significant effort indeed!
Implementing integrative and functional medical nutrition therapy, I helped the patient understand that she could reverse the trajectory she was on by making lifestyle changes—and that’s what she did. We engaged in shared decision making in our ongoing nutrition consultations. Over the course of one year, her physiology and health status changed for the better. Her A1c dropped from 7.2% to 5.6%, and she no longer required medications. She continues to adhere to her new lifestyle program and is confident she’ll remain free of a diabetes diagnosis.
Because TCM defines diabetes as a disease characterized by Yin deficiency and excess internal heat, an example of a dietary prescription would be to consume spinach, which is cooling, “strengthens all the organs, lubricates the intestines, and promotes urination.”7 A recommendation might be to boil tea from spinach and drink 1 cup three times/day. Other foods considered to be cooling and beneficial for diabetes include vegetables and grains, such as celery, pumpkin, soybeans (i.e., tofu, soymilk), string beans, sweet potato/yam, turnips, tomato, wheat bran, and millet. Fruit remedies, which act in specific therapeutic ways, include crab apple, guava, plum, strawberry, and mulberry.7 It is generally recommended that patients eat a wide variety of seasonal foods and avoid or minimize consumption of sweets and fruits. Meals should be smaller, eaten more frequently, and eaten at regular times each day.
Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common form (around 90% of all cases) and the one which is increasing the most. It primarily affects overweight people in middle age or later. It’s not uncommon for the affected person to also have a high blood pressure and an abnormal lipid profile. Gestational diabetes is a temporary special case of type 2 diabetes.
The Chinese character for Yin originally meant the shady side of a slope. Qualities characteristic of Yin include cold, stillness, darkness, inwardness, passivity, decrease, and downwardness. In contrast, the Chinese character for Yang originally meant the sunny side of the slope, and qualities characteristic of Yang include heat, movement, brightness, outwardness, stimulation, excitement, increase, and upwardness.4 Illnesses that are characterized by coldness, weakness, slowness, and underactivity are considered Yin (e.g., hypothyroidism: cold limbs, fatigue, slowed metabolism). Illnesses that manifest strength, forceful movement, heat, and overactivity are Yang (e.g., acute infections with fever and sweating).
Another non-insulin injection for people with diabetes is exenatide (Byetta). This medication, originally derived from a compound found in the saliva of the Gila monster, triggers insulin release from the pancreas when blood glucose levels rise. Exenatide is meant to be used along with oral diabetes drugs. It is dosed twice daily and should be injected within an hour of the morning and evening meals. Recently, the FDA warned that exenatide may increase the risk of severe even fatal pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) and that the drug should be discontinued and not restarted if signs and symptoms of pancreatitis develop (severe abdominal pain, for example). It is not for use in people with type 1 diabetes.
Low glycemic index foods also may be helpful. The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food causes a rise in your blood sugar. Foods with a high glycemic index raise your blood sugar quickly. Low glycemic index foods may help you achieve a more stable blood sugar. Foods with a low glycemic index typically are foods that are higher in fiber.
Magnesium is a mineral found naturally in foods such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains and in nutritional supplements. Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions. It helps regulate blood sugar levels and is needed for normal muscle and nerve function, heart rhythm, immune function, blood pressure, and for bone health.

Scientists are trying to figure out how to transplant islet cells and then protect them from the patient’s immune system so that long-term immunosuppressive medications aren’t required. Micro encapsulation is an approach scientists are testing to find out if a special coating to the transplanted islets can help the patient avoid rejection of those islets. These coatings let in nutrients to nourish the cells but prevent your body’s immune system from attacking them.
Online diabetes prevention programs: The CDC has now given pending recognition status to three digital prevention programs: DPS Health, Noom Health, and Omada Health. These offer the same one year long educational curriculum as the DPP study, but in an online format. Some insurance companies and employers cover these programs, and you can find more information at the links above. These digital versions are excellent options for those who live far away from NDPP locations or who prefer the anonymity and convenience of doing the program online.
Diabetes: The differences between types 1 and 2 There are fundamental differences between diabetes type 1 and type 2, including when they might occur, their causes, and how they affect someone's life. Find out here what distinguishes the different forms of the disease, the various symptoms, treatment methods, and how blood tests are interpreted. Read now
As of 2010, an estimated of 285 million people have type 2 diabetes globally, making up about 90% of all the diabetes cases. There is an alarming rise in the prevalence of diabetes in every part of the world, thanks to the eating habits and sedentary lifestyle. And, as opposed to the misconception that eating sweets can result in diabetes, stress and genes can also play a major role in this. As of today, number of diabetics is far more than anytime in the past. Now, even younger generation is not spared by this disease. Generally, diabetes is more common in people who are overweight or obese. Generally, fasting blood sugar levels per 100 ml of blood should be between 80 to 120 mg, which can go up to 160 mg/100 ml of blood after meals. Anything that is constantly above 160 mg/100 ml indicates diabetes. Usually, older and obese people are at increased risk of diabetes because of their inability to produce insulin and lifestyle.
Good research and fascinating, but so far does not look to be a “cure”. It may prevent the development of type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune diseases but an A1C of 6.5 is not a cure. It would interesting to see how much insulin each group is using and by what means. Making diabetes easier to manage is certainly a noble goal as well. If someone can keep an A1C of 6.5 without much effort, that is great progress. But with the new 670g and other “bionic pancreas” projects, people may have an easy time keeping A1C in the 6-7… Read more »
So if you really want to prevent diabetes, boost your vitamin D levels with either daily sunshine or quality vitamin D3 supplements. Vitamin D deficiency explains why diabetes is so rampant among African Americans, by the way. Did you notice that doctors don't explain any of this to African American patients? It's the dirty little racist secret of both the diabetes and cancer industries...
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“Diabetes type 1 is very different from your standard disease. Insulin requirements vary greatly from one day to another and there is no way patients can know what they need,” Roman Hovorka, Professor at the University of Cambridge, explained to me during an interview. His research group is working on the development of an algorithm that can accurately predict insulin requirements for a specific patient at any moment.
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