Western or conventional therapies for diabetes have been geared toward regulating blood glucose with a combination of diet modification, insulin and/or oral pharmacological agents, weight loss when appropriate, and exercise. Although Western medicine and Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) share the diabetes treatment goals of reducing symptoms and preventing complications, their approaches to conceptualizing, diagnosing, and treating the disease are very different. 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 mellitus is a condition in which the body cells develop resistance to insulin and fail to use it properly. Type 2 diabetes mellitus is more common amongst overweight and obese adults over 40 years of age. The disorder can also be referred to as non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or adult-onset diabetes mellitus. Mostly, these patients need to manage their blood sugar levels through regular exercise, weight control, balanced diet, and anti-diabetes medications.
Among several home remedies for controlling diabetes, perhaps most vital is the bitter gourd. Bitter gourd contains a hypoglycemic or insulin-like principle, designated as 'plantinsulin', which is beneficial in lowering the blood and urine sugar levels. This property of bitter gourd it an excellent anti-diabetes agent. Consuming a glassful of bitter gourd juice first thing in the morning proves to be highly beneficial for diabetics. Also, it should be included generously in the diet of the diabetic. Remedy is also beneficial in long term and shows instant results. It is one of the best home remedies for diabetes.
According to TCM, the major activity of the blood is to circulate through the body, nourishing and moistening the various organs and tissues. Disharmonies of the blood may manifest as “deficient” blood or “congealed” blood. If deficient blood exists and affects the entire body, the patient may present with dry skin, dizziness, and a dull complexion. Congealed blood may manifest as sharp, stabbing pains accompanied by tumors, cysts, or swelling of the organs (i.e., the liver).4 The key organs associated with blood are the heart, liver, and spleen.
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.
About Diabetes, Type 2: Type 2 diabetes is characterized by "insulin resistance" as body cells do not respond appropriately when insulin is present. This is a more complex problem than type 1, but is sometimes easier to treat, since insulin is still produced, especially in the initial years. Type 2 may go unnoticed for years in a patient before diagnosis, since the symptoms are typically milder (no ketoacidosis) and can be sporadic. However, severe complications can result from unnoticed type 2 diabetes, including renal failure, and coronary artery disease. Type 2 diabetes was formerly known by a variety of partially misleading names, including "adult-onset diabetes", "obesity-related diabetes", "insulin-resistant diabetes", or "non-insulin-dependent diabetes" (NIDDM). It may be caused by a number of diseases, such as hemochromatosis and polycystic ovary syndrome, and can also be caused by certain types of medications (e.g. long-term steroid use). About 90-95% of all North American cases of diabetes are type 2, and about 20% of the population over the age of 65 is a type 2 diabetic. The fraction of type 2 diabetics in other parts of the world varies substantially, almost certainly for environmental and lifestyle reasons. There is also a strong inheritable genetic connection in type 2 diabetes: having relatives (especially first degree) with type 2 is a considerable risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. The majority of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus are obese - chronic obesity leads to increased insulin resistance that can develop into diabetes, most likely because adipose tissue is a (recently identified) source of chemical signals (hormones and cytokines).
Magnesium deficiency is common in diabetic patients, as magnesium can be lost in the urine with hyperglycemia. A study in Diabetes Care reported that low magnesium status is common in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) and showed that when low-magnesium Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus patients were given an oral dose of magnesium daily for sixteen weeks, the mineral reduced insulin resistance, fasting glucose, and A1C levels.
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.
That is the goal of Imcyse, a French company running a clinical trial with an immunotherapy designed to stop type 1 diabetes. Patients that have been diagnosed within the last 6 months, who still retain some insulin-producing cells, are given a treatment designed to make the immune system destroy the specific immune cells that are attacking insulin-producing cells. Results are expected later this year and will reveal whether the treatment has the potential to become a cure.
But people are curing diabetes every day. It's simple and straightforward, and when you cure diabetes, you greatly reduce your risk of heart disease, obesity and cancer at the same time. The thing is, no one will cure your diabetes for you. Sure, the drug companies want to "treat" you with diabetes drugs, but you have to keep taking those for a lifetime. They don't cure anything. The only real cure can come from YOU -- by changing what you eat and increasing your exercise.
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.
A number of companies are attempting to be the first to produce an artificial pancreas system. An artificial pancreas is likely to be worn outside of the body and would continuously measure blood glucose and deliver an appropriate amount of insulin. It would not necessarily be a cure, but would represent a way of treating type 1 diabetes without injections and without the continual dosing decisions.
Despite these encouraging results, Vulksan cautions that it's too early for diabetic patients to rely on ginseng. Herbs sold in this country are not standardized, he says, so it's difficult to know for certain what you're buying and impossible to ensure consistent dosages. Besides, his study looked only at American ginseng, and he's not certain the results would hold true for the seven other varieties. What's more, researchers haven't conclusively identified ginseng's active ingredients.
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.”
Over the last century, advancements in new treatments aided by the remarkable developments in computer technology have helped many people better manage the disease, but achieving optimal glucose control remains an unattainable goal for the vast majority of those with diabetes, and particularly among young people. Despite patients' best attempts, managing diabetes remains a challenging, daily balancing act that requires constant vigilance. That's because insulin therapy cannot ideally mimic the exquisite biological function of a healthy pancreas. And that's why the Diabetes Research Institute and Foundation remain passionately committed to achieving this singular goal. Learn more about our progress toward a cure and the steps we are taking to turn our vision into reality.
The bottom line is that diabetes can be bad news—but this doesn’t have to be the case. Interventions can prevent or delay the disease in people with prediabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a large study of people at high risk of diabetes, has established a prevention plan that’s both feasible and cost-effective. The DPP showed that weight loss and increased physical activity reduced the development of type 2 diabetes by 58% during a three-year period.
It's unclear whether this rare side effect poses a risk for otherwise healthy kids with diabetes taking the drug, but until this is known, the precautions recommended for adults should be followed. Because in adults lactic acidosis is more likely to happen when a person is ill, diabetes pills should be stopped when your child is sick or has the flu.
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.
The aptly named bitter melon is thought to help cells use glucose more effectively and block sugar absorption in the intestine. When Philippine researchers had men and women take bitter melon in capsule form for three months, they had slight, but consistently, lower blood sugar than those taking a placebo. Gastrointestinal problems are possible side effects. You can reverse diabetes with these science-backed strategies.
A new class of medications called DPP-4 inhibitors help improve A1C without causing hypoglycemia. They work by by preventing the breakdown of a naturally occurring compound in the body, GLP-1. GLP-1 reduces blood glucose levels in the body, but is broken down very quickly so it does not work well when injected as a drug itself. By interfering in the process that breaks down GLP-1, DPP-4 inhibitors allow it to remain active in the body longer, lowering blood glucose levels only when they are elevated. DPP-4 inhibitors do not tend to cause weight gain and tend to have a neutral or positive effect on cholesterol levels. Alogliptin (Nesina), linagliptin (Tradjenta), saxagliptin (Onglyza), and sitagliptin (Januvia) are the DPP-4 inhibitors currently on the market in the US.
In type 1 diabetes, patients sometimes experience what physicians have come to call a "honeymoon period" shortly after the disease is diagnosed. During the "honeymoon period" diabetes may appear to go away for a period of a few months to a year. The patient's insulin needs are minimal and some patients may actually find they can maintain normal or near normal blood glucose taking little or no insulin.
The twin cycle hypothesis of the etiology of type 2 diabetes. During long-term intake of more calories than are expended each day, any excess carbohydrate must undergo de novo lipogenesis, which particularly promotes fat accumulation in the liver. Because insulin stimulates de novo lipogenesis, individuals with a degree of insulin resistance (determined by family or lifestyle factors) will accumulate liver fat more readily than others because of higher plasma insulin levels. In turn, the increased liver fat will cause relative resistance to insulin suppression of hepatic glucose production. Over many years, a modest increase in fasting plasma glucose level will stimulate increased basal insulin secretion rates to maintain euglycemia. The consequent hyperinsulinemia will further increase the conversion of excess calories to liver fat. A cycle of hyperinsulinemia and blunted suppression of hepatic glucose production becomes established. Fatty liver leads to increased export of VLDL triacylglycerol (85), which will increase fat delivery to all tissues, including the islets. This process is further stimulated by elevated plasma glucose levels (85). Excess fatty acid availability in the pancreatic islet would be expected to impair the acute insulin secretion in response to ingested food, and at a certain level of fatty acid exposure, postprandial hyperglycemia will supervene. The hyperglycemia will further increase insulin secretion rates, with consequent enhancement of hepatic lipogenesis, spinning the liver cycle faster and driving the pancreas cycle. Eventually, the fatty acid and glucose inhibitory effects on the islets reach a trigger level that leads to a relatively sudden onset of clinical diabetes. Figure adapted with permission from Taylor (98).
“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.