Does acupuncture for diabetes work? Acupuncture has many uses, and some research has suggested that it may work for diabetes, although how it would help has not yet been explained. Find out about the types of acupuncture that might help, the risks, and some evidence of its benefits. Anyone considering acupuncture should first check with their doctor. Read now
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a system of healing that is thousands of years old. It has long been utilized in the Chinese culture to treat the complex of symptoms that Western medicine terms diabetes mellitus. This article will outline the key concepts and therapies of TCM that play a role in the evaluation and treatment of diabetic patients.
Type 2 diabetes results when the body is unable to produce the amount of insulin it needs to convert food into energy or when it is unable to use insulin appropriately. Sometimes the body is actually producing more insulin than is needed by a person to keep blood glucose in a normal range. Yet blood glucose remains high, because the body's cells are resistant to the effects of insulin. Physicians and scientists believe that type 2 diabetes is caused by many factors, including insufficient insulin and insulin resistance. They increasingly believe that the relative contribution each factor makes toward causing diabetes varies from person to person.
Yin and Yang are complementary opposites used to describe how things function in relation to each other and to the universe. They are interdependent—one cannot exist without the other, and they have the ability to transform into each other.3 The traditional Yin-Yang symbol (Figure 1) depicts the Yin (the dark side) flowing into the Yang (the light side) and vice versa. The dots within each side symbolize that there is always a bit of Yin within Yang and a bit of Yang within Yin; there are no absolutes. All physiological functions of the body, as well as the signs and symptoms of disease, can be differentiated on the basis of Yin and Yang characteristics.
Curcumin is a bright yellow chemical produced by the spice turmeric, among other plants. Curcumin seems to have multiple benefits for diabetes symptoms. It has been shown to be a marked inhibitor of reactive oxygen species that promote oxidation damage in cells. Curcumin lowers inflammatory chemicals like tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and that’s good because TNF-a causes insulin resistance and irritates fatty livers. Curcumin can reduce another pro-inflammatory chemical called NF-KB. The above-mentioned actions provide a benefit in diabetes protection and reduce the risk of developing diabetes symptoms and complications. Curcumin has also been shown to enhance pancreatic beta cell functioning and reduce fatty liver deposition. It reduces high blood sugar, A1C, and insulin resistance. It was also shown to reduce the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, and that is a higher risk in diabetic patients than in nondiabetic patients. A good dose is 200 to 3,000 mg a day.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
During this 8-week study, β-cell function was tested by a gold standard method that used a stepped glucose infusion with subsequent arginine bolus (21). In type 2 diabetes, the glucose-induced initial rapid peak of insulin secretion (the first phase insulin response) typically is absent. This was confirmed at baseline in the study, but the first phase response increased gradually over 8 weeks of a very-low-calorie diet to become indistinguishable from that of age- and weight-matched nondiabetic control subjects. The maximum insulin response, as elicited by arginine bolus during hyperglycemia, also normalized. Pancreas fat content decreased gradually during the study period to become the same as that in the control group, a time course matching that of the increase in both first phase and total insulin secretion (Fig. 3). Fat content in the islets was not directly measured, although it is known that islets take up fat avidly (24) and that islet fat content closely reflects total pancreatic fat content in animal models (25). Although a cause-and-effect relationship between raised intraorgan fat levels and metabolic effect has not yet been proven, the time course data following the dietary intervention study are highly suggestive of a causal link (21).

“I am extremely pleased to see that technology developed in Tejal Desai’s group is getting to the point that we can explore this for therapeutic purposes,” Matthias Hebrok, PhD, the director of the Diabetes Center at UCSF and a member of Encellin’s scientific advisory board, noted on the UCSF website. “Encapsulation and protection of islet cells remain a critical hurdle that needs to be overcome before cell therapy becomes a reality in type 1 diabetes.”


Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, and unlike type 1 diabetes, it usually occurs in people over the age of 40, especially those who are overweight. Type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance, which means that the hormone insulin is being released, but a person doesn’t respond to it appropriately. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that’s caused by high blood sugar. The body can keep up for a period of time by producing more insulin, but over time the insulin receptor sites burn out. Eventually, diabetes can affect nearly every system in the body, impacting your energy, digestion, weight, sleep, vision and more. (5)
The findings, reported in the journal Cell Metabolism, show the cells grown in the lab can reduce blood glucose levels to normal. Professor Evans added: “It was a little bit of a surprise to see that beta cells produce a high level of this regulator, but beta cells have to release massive amounts of insulin quickly to control sugar levels. It’s a very energy-intensive process.”
Recent global increase in diabetes, especially type II diabetes, is a product of the global obesity epidemic and attendant increase in Metabolic syndrome. In turn this has fueled an increase in surgical intervention in the form of Bariatric surgery. Diabetes reversal often follows sustained weight loss and indeed a 2014 Cochrane review of such surgeries found diabetes improvement in 5 randomized clinical trials (4). However, depending on the country and insurance plans, such weight loss surgery can be costly. They're also not risk-free with risks varying greatly depending on the person's overall health profile and age as well as skill and experience of the surgeon.
The above two rules are the only dietary rules you need to maintain ideal weight for the rest of your life, assuming you apply common sense and avoid extremes. The diet works by building in regular periods of insulin relief, keeping your body from becoming resistant to insulin. Following these two rules, you will maintain your weight and health by never entering the vicious cycle of increasing insulin resistance.
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