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.
The Chinese language includes two terms for diabetes. The traditional name, Xiao-ke, correlates closely with diabetes in most instances. Xiao-ke syndrome means “wasting and thirsting.” The more modern term, Tang-niao-bing, means “sugar urine illness.” Reference to diabetes by the traditional term appears in the earliest texts, including the first medical text in Chinese history, Huang Di Nei Jing, or The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic.
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Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors help control blood sugar levels by preventing the digestion of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates include starchy foods like potatoes and corn. They also include most grains (bread, rice, crackers, cereal) and sugary sweets. The two medicines in this group are acarbose and miglitol. These medicines may cause bloating, nausea, diarrhea, and flatulence (gas).
Thiazolidenediones can increase risk of heart failure and should not be used in patients with symptoms of heart failure. Liver enzymes should be checked regularly with use. Other side effects include weight gain, fatigue, swelling of the legs or ankles, increased risk for fractures in female patients. Avandia may have a potential increased risk for heart attack.
Fasting plasma glucose concentration depends entirely on the fasting rate of hepatic glucose production and, hence, on its sensitivity to suppression by insulin. Hepatic insulin sensitivity cannot be inferred from observed postprandial change in hepatic glycogen concentration because glucose transport into the hepatocyte is not rate limiting, unlike in muscle, and hyperglycemia itself drives the process of glycogen synthesis irrespective of insulin action. Indeed, postprandial glycogen storage in liver has been shown to be moderately impaired in type 2 diabetes (50) compared with the marked impairment in skeletal muscle (51).
What is prediabetes? Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. This occurs when the body has problems in processing glucose properly, and sugar starts to build up in the bloodstream instead of fueling cells in muscles and tissues. Insulin is the hormone that tells cells to take up glucose, and in prediabetes, people typically initially develop insulin resistance (where the body’s cells can’t respond to insulin as well), and over time (if no actions are taken to reverse the situation) the ability to produce sufficient insulin is reduced. People with prediabetes also commonly have high blood pressure as well as abnormal blood lipids (e.g. cholesterol). These often occur prior to the rise of blood glucose levels.
There are numerous studies of botanical medicines and herbs for diabetes that speak to the effectiveness of natural and home remedies for diabetes. I have listed the most useful herbs with the most documented benefits. A patient does not need to take one hundred bottles a day of everything out on the market, but rather it is important to focus on a few botanicals backed by the most impressive studies and the best clinical evidence. The botanicals listed below are safe and effective.
Gymnema Sylvestre is a vine native to Central & South India. Used in traditional Indian medicine since the 6th century BC, the leaves of this plant contain ‘gymnemic acids’ that have the amazing ability to slow down the transport of glucose from the intestines to the bloodstream. Some scientists even believe that Gymnema Sylvestre extract can help repair and regenerate pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin!
In obese young people, decreased β-cell function has recently been shown to predict deterioration of glucose tolerance (4,78). Additionally, the rate of decline in glucose tolerance in first-degree relatives of type 2 diabetic individuals is strongly related to the loss of β-cell function, whereas insulin sensitivity changes little (79). This observation mirrors those in populations with a high incidence of type 2 diabetes in which transition from hyperinsulinemic normal glucose tolerance to overt diabetes involves a large, rapid rise in glucose levels as a result of a relatively small further loss of acute β-cell competence (3). The Whitehall II study showed in a large population followed prospectively that people with diabetes exhibit a sudden rise in fasting glucose as β-cell function deteriorates (Fig. 5) (80). Hence, the ability of the pancreas to mount a normal, brisk insulin response to an increasing plasma glucose level is lost in the 2 years before the detection of diabetes, although fasting plasma glucose levels may have been at the upper limit of normal for several years. This was very different from the widely assumed linear rise in fasting plasma glucose level and gradual β-cell decompensation but is consistent with the time course of markers of increased liver fat before the onset of type 2 diabetes observed in other studies (81). Data from the West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study demonstrated that plasma triacylglycerol and ALT levels were modestly elevated 2 years before the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and that there was a steady rise in the level of this liver enzyme in the run-up to the time of diagnosis (75).
Carbohydrates break down into glucose in the small intestine which is then absorbed into the bloodstream. Spices like Cayenne pepper stimulate glucose absorption from the small intestine, according to a Hungarian study published in the March 18, 2006 issue of the “European Journal of Pharmacology”. Add a bit to cayenne pepper to your home-cooked meals to stabilize your blood sugar levels naturally. The entire pepper family – including bell peppers, chilli peppers, and cayenne are known to help fight inflammation. That is why they are prized in several Asian culinary traditions. Use Cayenne wisely to get its anti-inflammatory benefits as well.
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.
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When evaluating patients with a chronic illness such as diabetes, TCM practitioners take a detailed, multi-system case history and supplement this information with observations that give information about the state of the patient’s health. These observations include the shape, color, and coating of the tongue; the color and expression of the face; the odor of the breath and body; and the strength, rhythm, and quality of the pulse. Many practitioners will palpate along meridians to detect points of tenderness that may indicate a blockage in the flow of Qi at that point.6
The NIDDK has played an important role in developing “artificial pancreas” technology. An artificial pancreas replaces manual blood glucose testing and the use of insulin shots or a pump. A single system monitors blood glucose levels around the clock and provides insulin or a combination of insulin and a second hormone, glucagon, automatically. The system can also be monitored remotely, for example by parents or medical staff.
One of the biggest hits in type 2 diabetes treatment is glucagon-like peptide (GLP)-1 receptor agonists, which induce insulin production in beta-pancreatic cells while suppressing the secretion of glucagon. All big pharma have GLP-1 drugs on the market or their pipelines, including Sanofi, Eli Lilly, Roche, AstraZeneca and Boehringer Ingelheim. But Novo Nordisk is going a step further with the first oral version of a GLP-1 drug, which is now close to the market.
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Diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases in the United States. The morbidity and mortality associated with the disease is significant and derives primarily from complications of persistent hyperglycemia. Longstanding hyperglycemia has been shown to lead to vascular complications involving large and small blood vessels, such as arteriosclerosis, glomerulosclerosis, and retinopathy. Diabetic neuropathy, characterized by pain and paresthesias, is among the most frequent complications of longstanding, poorly controlled diabetes and is often associated with a reduction in physical activity and with sleep disturbances.1,2
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.
If the rapid changes in metabolism following bariatric surgery are a consequence of the sudden change in calorie balance, the defects in both insulin secretion and hepatic insulin sensitivity of type 2 diabetes should be correctable by change in diet alone. To test this hypothesis, a group of people with type 2 diabetes were studied before and during a 600 kcal/day diet (21). Within 7 days, liver fat decreased by 30%, becoming similar to that of the control group, and hepatic insulin sensitivity normalized (Fig. 2). The close association between liver fat content and hepatic glucose production had previously been established (20,22,23). Plasma glucose normalized by day 7 of the diet.
The American Diabetes Association contends the promise of an unlimited source of beta cells from stem cell technology is likely to become a reality in the next several years, in an article on its site. “However, how to use this new source of cells, how these cells live and function after transplantation, and how to best control immune responses against the transplanted tissue present additional barriers to the widespread use of islet transplant. Research in these areas will be essential for the realization of the potential of stem cell derived islets for the cure of diabetes.”
Aside from the financial costs of diabetes, the more frightening findings are the complications and co-existing conditions. In 2014, 7.2 million hospital discharges were reported with diabetes as a listed diagnosis. Patients with diabetes were treated for major cardiovascular diseases, ischemic heart disease, stroke, lower-extremity amputation and diabetic ketoacidosis.
An injection port has a short tube that you insert into the tissue beneath your skin. On the skin’s surface, an adhesive patch or dressing holds the port in place. You inject insulin through the port with a needle and syringe or an insulin pen. The port stays in place for a few days, and then you replace the port. With an injection port, you no longer puncture your skin for each shot—only when you apply a new port.
Replacing humans with computers could make patients better control their sugar levels and suffer less complications in the long term. The French company Cellnovo has already shown that just a partially automated system, where blood sugar levels can be monitored wirelessly but patients still select insulin amounts, can reduce the chances of reaching life-threatening low sugar levels up to 39%. The company is now working towards developing a fully automated artificial pancreas in collaboration with Imperial College, the Diabeloop consortium and the Horizon2020 program.