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.
Green tea contains the bioflavinoid epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which has been shown to be a safe and effective antioxidant. In a study in Japan, green tea was shown to reduce the risk for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus onset. It has been shown to improve glucose tolerance in patients, and decrease blood sugar production and over-secretion in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus patients. Green tea has also been shown to have an effective anti-angiogenesis factor, that is, it reduces problematic overgrowth of blood vessels, which may have a significant effect on preventing diabetic retinopathy. It has also been shown to promote fat oxidation and thermogenesis. Last, green tea can provide antioxidant protection for the pancreas and the fatty liver. A good dose is 200 to 400 mg a day. It’s also beneficial to drink organic green tea.
The extent of weight loss required to reverse type 2 diabetes is much greater than conventionally advised. A clear distinction must be made between weight loss that improves glucose control but leaves blood glucose levels abnormal and weight loss of sufficient degree to normalize pancreatic function. The Belfast diet study provides an example of moderate weight loss leading to reasonably controlled, yet persistent diabetes. This study showed that a mean weight loss of 11 kg decreased fasting blood glucose levels from 10.4 to 7.0 mmol/L but that this abnormal level presaged the all-too-familiar deterioration of control (87).
A couple of studies have found that cinnamon improves blood glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes. In the first study, 60 people with type 2 diabetes were divided into six groups. Three groups took 1, 3 or 6 g of cinnamon a day and the remaining three groups consumed 1, 3 or 6 g of placebo capsules. After 40 days, all three doses of cinnamon significantly reduced fasting blood glucose, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol.
In diabetes, either the pancreas makes insufficient levels of insulin so cells absorb glucose poorly or cells themselves become insulin resistant and thus unable to absorb glucose despite adequate insulin levels. Both types of change increase blood sugar levels above normal. Parsed this way, type I and type II diabetes overlap some but also differ.
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The review affirmed how effective surgery is at treating diabetes (possibly even type 1 diabetes). Around two-thirds of patients with diabetes experience a full remission soon after surgery, while the rest are often better able to control their blood sugar through diet, exercise and medication. Other studies have shown that diabetics who have surgery outlive those who haven’t. Some longer-term research has suggested that one-third of these successes slide back into having active diabetes after five years, but to a lesser degree than they might have without surgery. By contrast, a 2014 study found that fewer than 2 percent of diabetes patients given standard care experienced any remission within a seven-year span.
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.
Encellin’s ultra thin-film device won a $10,000 research prize in The American Diabetes Association's 22nd Annual Leaders Forum HealthTech Showcase in Northern California in late 2017. The company also won a 2016 Innovation Award from the San Francisco-based Rosenman Institute, an organization that aims to support the development of innovative medical-device technologies.
McInnes, N., Smith, A., Otto, R., Vandermey, J., Punthakee, Z., Sherifali, D., … Gerstein, H. C. (2017, March 15). Piloting a remission strategy in type 2 diabetes: Results of a randomized controlled trial. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2016-3373. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article-abstract/doi/10.1210/jc.2016-3373/3070517/Piloting-a-Remission-Strategy-in-Type-2-Diabetes?redirectedFrom=fulltext
First, speak with your doctor — you should not start relying on plants or stop your medicines on your own. You’ll need to work closely with your diabetes health-care provider, and you’ll need to do some research and monitor yourself. Still, millions of people are using plant medicines, and a number of them have written to Diabetes Self-Management to tell us that they’re working.
Formal recommendations on how to reverse type 2 diabetes in clinical practice must await further studies. In the meantime, it will be helpful for all individuals with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes to know that they have a metabolic syndrome that is reversible. They should know that if it is not reversed, the consequences for future health and cost of life insurance are dire, although these serious adverse effects must be balanced against the difficulties and privations associated with a substantial and sustained change in eating patterns. For many people, this may prove to be too high a price to pay, but for those who are strongly motivated to escape from type 2 diabetes, the new understanding gives clear direction. Physicians need to accept that long-term weight loss is achievable for a worthwhile proportion of patients (96). In the United States, diabetes costs $174 billion annually (97), and in the United Kingdom, it accounts for 10% of National Health Service expenditure. Even if only a small proportion of patients with type 2 diabetes return to normal glucose control, the savings in disease burden and economic cost will be enormous.
An unbalanced microbiome composition, known as dysbiosis, has been found in patients with diabetes, for whom the diversity of the gut microbiome is often reduced as compared to healthy people. Researchers from the University of Amsterdam recently showed that fecal transplants, used to transfer the microbiome of a healthy person to the gut of one with diabetes, can result in a short-term improvement of the insulin resistance found in obese patients with type 2 diabetes.
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.
A good multiple vitamin and mineral product (or “multiple,” for short) is a great way to start supporting nutrient intake in all diabetic patients. This ensures every day that the body receives all the key nutrients it needs so that all its biochemical, hormonal, nutritional, detoxifying, healing, rebuilding, protecting, and strengthening processes can be performed easily and smoothly. The body runs on enzymes, as enzymes speed up reactions to make the body function more efficiently; all enzymes require nutrient cofactors to enable them to effectively engage the action they are designed to do. A good multiple vitamin supplement for diabetes ensures all those cofactors are available every minute, every day.
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).
As of this writing, new and exciting research is being done to prevent and cure Diabetes. JDRF Australia is working on a cure that aims to allow the body to produce insulin and for the body to stop attacking its own B-cells. Another cure that is being worked on is enhancing the survival of B-cells so that they can be transplanted to diagnosed patients. In terms of prevention, since testing can now be done for an individual’s genetic risk, diet modifications have been found to delay the onset of diabetes to at least five years.
The NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Diseases and Kidney Diseases says it, “currently supports studies that are working toward obtaining FDA licensure to reclassify islet allo-transplantation as therapeutic. In other countries, such as Canada and Scandinavia, islet allo-transplantation is no longer considered experimental and is an accepted therapy in certain patients.” It adds that “Some patient advocates and islet researchers feel that islet allo-transplantation is close to having a therapeutic label.”
What’s critical is not necessarily the cutoff itself, but where someone falls within the ranges listed above. The level of risk of developing type 2 diabetes is closely related to A1c or FPG at diagnosis. Those in the higher ranges (A1c closer to 6.4%, FPG closer to 125 mg/dl) are much more likely to progress to type 2 diabetes, whereas those at lower ranges (A1c closer to 5.7%, FPG closer to 100 mg/dl) are relatively more likely to revert back to normal glucose levels or stay within the prediabetes range. Age of diagnosis and the level of insulin production still occurring at diagnosis also impact the chances of reverting to normoglycemia (normal blood sugar levels).
An aromatic herb that is used commonly to add flavor and aroma to meats and soups, Rosemary also helps normalize blood sugar levels naturally. It promotes weight loss as well, which is a double boon for many diabetics who struggle with weight issues. A research conducted in Jordan to study the effects of rosemary on lipid profile in diabetic rats proved that rosemary has no significant influence on serum glucose level and lipid profile of normal rats. But when rosemary extract was administered to diabetic rats for 4 weeks, their blood sugar levels reduced by 20%, cholesterol levels by 22%, triglyceride levels by 24%, and LDL by 27% while HDL increased by 18% respectively. The study was published in African Journal of Plant Science Vol. 6 in 2012.
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“BCG has been known for more than 30 years to boost production of a cytokine called tumor necrosis factor (TNF), which may be beneficial in autoimmune diseases both by eliminating the autoreactive T cells that attack an individual’s tissues – in the case of type 1 diabetes, pancreatic islets – and by inducing production of regulatory T cells (Tregs) that could prevent an autoimmune reaction. Faustman’s team first reported in 2001 that inducing TNF production could cure type 1 diabetes in mice, but since TNF dosing is toxic in humans, clinical trials have utilized BCG for its ability to elevate TNF levels safely.
Maintaining normal blood sugar levels is necessary for the body’s overall health. Erratic blood sugar levels can affect the body’s ability to function normally and even lead to complications if left unchecked. Some herbs and spices found in nature do a tremendous job of naturally lowering blood sugar levels, making them a boon for diabetics and pre-diabetics. What’s more, being nature’s multi-taskers, herbs and spices also produce overall health benefits beyond just helping balance blood sugar.
“People need to understand the continuum of diabetes,” she says. “If they’re on an upward trajectory of insulin resistance and a downward trajectory of insulin production weight loss, healthful eating and physical activity will slow down the insulin-loss trajectory and improve insulin sensitivity.” But, she says, “If they gain weight back, the diabetes comes back.”
Trick (important): Cut down on sweets, and if you can, cut them out entirely for a couple months. I still eat ice cream about once a week, and know people who are losing weight on this diet while eating ice cream almost every day. But this probably won’t be the case for everyone. Better to severely restrict sweets for the first few months, and then gradually reintroduce.