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.
Curcumin. The compound curcumin, which is found in the spice tumeric, has been shown to both boost blood sugar control and help prevent the disease. In a nine-month study of 240 adults with pre-diabetes, those who took curcumin capsules (which are available over-the-counter) completely avoided developing diabetes while a sixth of patients in the placebo group did.
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Cinnamon has the ability to lower blood sugar levels and improve your sensitivity to insulin. A study conducted at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif. found that the consumption of cinnamon is associated with a statistically significant decrease in plasma glucose levels, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Cinnamon consumption also helped increase HDL cholesterol levels. (15)
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Type 1 diabetes is commonly called “juvenile diabetes” because it tends to develop at a younger age, typically before a person turns 20 years old. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The damage to the pancreatic cells leads to a reduced ability or complete inability to create insulin. Some of the common causes that trigger this autoimmune response may include a virus, genetically modified organisms, heavy metals, vaccines, or foods like wheat, cow’s milk and soy. (4)
Dr Beverley Shields, at the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the research, said: "This finding is really exciting. It suggests that a person with Type 1 diabetes will keep any working beta-cells they still have seven years after diagnosis. We are not sure why this is; it may well be that there is a small group of "resilient" beta-cells resistant to immune attack and these are left after all the "susceptible" beta-cells are destroyed. Understanding what is special about these "resilient" beta-cells may open new pathways to treatment for Type 1 diabetes."
Dr. Mona Morstein is a naturopathic physician with a medical practice focused in integrative diabetes treatment. Her clinic, Arizona Integrative Medical Solutions, is located in Tempe, Arizona, where she sees patients of all ages and genders for acute and chronic conditions. An expert on prediabetes and diabetes, she is a frequent lecturer at conferences and webinars, and is the founder and executive director of The Low Carb Diabetes Association. Dr. Morstein is also a member of the Arizona Diabetes Coalition. Visit her website lowcarbdiabetes.org
You might hear of alternative or complementary treatments, such as herbal remedies and vitamin or mineral supplements. Although research continues into their possible benefits, studies thus far haven't proved their effectiveness. They also could be dangerous for kids and teens with type 1 diabetes, especially if used to replace medically recommended treatments. Talk to the diabetes health care team if you have questions.
Sulfonylureasmay increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Prolonged exercise and alcohol intake increase the risk for hypoglycemia. Patients undergoing surgery or who have had recent trauma, stress, or infection may need to switch from a sulfonylurea to insulin to manage blood sugar levels. People with kidney or liver disease need to take precaution.
One of the most studied programs in the National Institutes of Health’s Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). This program helps people who have pre-diabetes or a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes lose weight. Studies of the program have found that those who lost about seven percent of their initial weight, kept some of it off, and maintained an exercise program delayed the onset of type 2 diabetes for three years in 58% of cases.
Some herbal diabetes products have turned out to be downright dangerous. In February 2000, the FDA recalled five Chinese herbal products after discovering that they contained various amounts of two prescription diabetes drugs, phenformin and glyburide. (The products are listed at www.fda.gov/oc/po/firmrecalls/Herbal.html.) Phenformin was withdrawn from the U.S. market 20 years ago after it caused serious side effects, including several deaths.
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.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, defines complementary and alternative medicine as a "group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine." Complementary medicine is used with conventional treatments, whereas alternative medicine is used instead of conventional medicine.
The thin silicon patch – about the size of a penny – includes more than 100 microneedles, each the size of an eyelash. “The microneedles are loaded with enzymes that are able to sense blood glucose levels and trigger rapid release of insulin into the blood stream in response to high glucose,” according to the American Diabetes Association. “Dr. Gu and his colleagues have tested this technology in a mouse model of type 1 diabetes where it was able to effectively lower blood glucose levels for up to nine hours – a promising result that sets up additional pre-clinical tests (in animals) and, hopefully, eventual clinical trials (in humans).”
According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 21 million people in the United States have diabetes, with about 90 percent to 95 percent having type 2 diabetes. Sugar, in the form of glucose, is the main source of fuel for body cells. The hormone insulin allows glucose in the blood to enter cells. In type 2 diabetes, either the body doesn't produce enough insulin or cells are resistant to effects of insulin.
This seems hard to do, but really it’s not if you know one secret: Replace snacking with something far more satisfying — fat. That’s right, the government is wrong to recommend a low fat diet. Fat is what makes you feel full until your next meal. Take away the fat, take away the full. Don’t go to an extreme, but do lean strongly toward a high-fat low-carb diet.