Diabetes has become so prevalent that
some concerned health care providers and officials have
labeled it, along with obesity, as one of the "plagues" of
the 21st century. According to the American Diabetes
Association (ADA), the number of Americans with diabetes
tripled between 1960 and 1990, then doubled again between
1990 and 2000.
|Although there are several types of diabetes,
the most common form is type 2, which results
when the body either does not produce enough
insulin (a hormone that allows glucose to enter
cells) or fails to utilize insulin properly.
Approximately 90 percent of all people with diabetes
have type 2 diabetes. Left untreated, it can
case a wide range of related health problems,
including heart disease; blindness; kidney failure;
nerve damage; and poor blood circulation.
U.S. newspapers continuously report the
increase in the number of individuals among all age
groups who suffer from diabetes.
How can acupuncture
help diabetic patients?
Diabetes is caused primarily by dysfunction of the
pancreas. Scientific studies and clinical tests in
international research centers in the past 10 years*
have shown that acupuncture can help diabetic patients
in the following ways:
blood glucose content;
the release of pancreatic glucagons;
symptoms of polyphagia (the urge to eat too much), polydipsia
(excessive thirst) and polyuria (excessive passage of urine);
slowing of motor nerve conduction;
microcirculation and myocardial contractility;
blood outflow and regulate vascular peripheral resistance;
anti atherogenic, antioxidant and immunomodulating effects;
antheroscelerosis of the legs;
secretion of endogenous beta-endorphin;
a lowered pain threshold; and
cell proliferation and neuropeptide Y levels.
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TREATMENT OF DIABETES WITH
CHINESE HERBS AND ACUPUNCTURE
Lowering Blood Sugar
Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for
Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon
BRIEF HISTORY OF CHINESE MEDICINE AND DIABETES
Chinese medicine owes its current stature to the long history of its
practice, dating back more than 2,000 years in a form similar to that
utilized today. Chinese physicians appear to have had a reasonably
good understanding of diabetes since ancient times. In one of the oldest
books about Chinese medical theory, the Huangdi
Neijing , compiled around 100 B.C., the condition known
as xiaoke is mentioned. This is translated today as diabetes or diabetic
exhaustion. The literal translation of the term is emaciation-thirst,
referring to the disease manifestation when it has gone untreated:
namely, one loses body weight despite eating normally, and thirst is
persistent. According to this ancient text, the syndrome arises from
consuming too much fatty, sweet, or rich food. It is said that it typically
occurs among wealthy people: "you ask them to refrain from a rich
diet, advice which they may resist." The description fits that
of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.
than 220 million people worldwide have diabetes.
2005, an estimated 1.1 million people died from
80% of diabetes deaths occur in low- and middle-income
half of diabetes deaths occur in people under
the age of 70 years; 55% of diabetes deaths are
projects that diabetes deaths will double between 2005
diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal
body weight and avoiding tobacco use can prevent or delay
the onset of diabetes.
WHO (World health organization)
Diabetes is a major health problem worldwide,
but particularly in America. It is estimated that about
2.1% of the world's population has diabetes, but the
disease is out of control in America. In the U.S.,
current estimates are that over 6% of the adult population
has the disease, 99% of them with the type 2 diabetes
mellitus (late onset or non-insulin-dependent: NIDDM).
Type 2 diabetes usually appears around the age of 50
or later, though it can occur during teen years in
some cases of obesity. The incidence rate becomes quite
high among elderly Americans (20% for those over the
age of 65) and in groups with genetic or other predispositions
including blacks (14%), Hispanics (15%), and Native
Americans (19%). Furthermore, the overall incidence
of diabetes is growing, apparently because of increased
rates of obesity.
|CDC data on prevalence of diabetes across
the United States in 1994 (left) and in 2000
(right). The rise in diabetes rates is striking.
In the year 2000, no states had less than 4%
of the population with diabetes, and only 10
states had under 5%.
Despite the major medical advances in
rapid and easy monitoring of blood sugar and treatment
with drugs, diabetes remains a serious problem. Blood
sugar regulation that can be attained by standard methods,
particularly when patients are not fully compliant
with all medical recommendations, is often not adequate
to avoid common secondary effects of diabetes, including
cardiovascular diseases, degenerative eye conditions,
limb numbness and pain, skin ulceration, and kidney
failure. Thus, investigating other avenues for aiding
the treatment of diabetes and its secondary consequences
is an important undertaking.
Acupuncture can stabilize blood sugar,
correct insulin imbalances and aid in the treatment
of Type II Diabetes or its earlier stages of
Dubai Wellbeing Center conducted a small
study of diabetes in the United Arab Emirates
and found that acupuncture was a successful
treatment for the disease
Among the 22 participants who took usual
Diabetes-prescribed drugs, there were 12
cases rated as effectively treated and 8
cases as markedly effective. However 20 of
them showed serious side effects such as
kidney malfunction. On the acupuncture group
27 patients were treated successful and 11
needed more treatment. However none of the
38 patients showed any side effect.
is a common approach to treating diabetes in China.
Many Americans assume that acupuncture is only suitable
for treating pain, perhaps because the initial introduction
of acupuncture was mainly for this application. Indeed,
the general opinion here appears to be that acupuncture
ought to be used mainly for treating chronic back pain.
Therefore, relatively few people have turned to acupuncture
for treating the disease. Increasingly, people with
pain and other health problems for which acupuncture
is selected also have diabetes.
|Acupuncturists have identified about 20 points
on the body that appear to be effective in lowering
blood sugar; typically, a dozen of these points
are selected for treatment at one time. Western
cultures as a result of the increasing acceptance
of Chinese medicine during the past three decades.
A report in the 1994 Journal of Traditional Chinese
Medicine (37) serves as a model of Chinese research
on acupuncture. The researchers recruited 60 patients
with diabetes and divided them randomly into two groups:
the acupuncture group (38 patients) and the control
group (22 patients); the two groups were found to be
well matched for symptoms and laboratory results (blood
and urine tests). Both groups followed a regulated
diet during the study, but one group received acupuncture.
To evaluate the effects of treatment, three levels
of responses were defined. Patients who experienced
markedly effective results were those who had their
initial symptoms essentially disappear by the end of
the one month treatment and their fasting blood-sugar
levels had dropped below 130 (or the blood sugar two
hours after a meal would be below 150). Further, the
24-hour, urine-sugar content was reduced by 30% or
more at the end of treatment compared to beginning
common consequences of diabetes?
Over time, diabetes can damage
the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.
increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
50% of people with diabetes die of cardiovascular
disease (primarily heart disease and stroke).
with reduced blood flow, neuropathy in the feet increases
the chance of foot ulcers and eventual limb amputation.
retinopathy is an important cause of blindness,
and occurs as a result of long-term accumulated
damage to the small blood vessels in the
retina. After 15 years of diabetes, approximately
2% of people become blind, and about 10%
develop severe visual impairment.
is among the leading causes of kidney failure.
10-20% of people with diabetes die of kidney
neuropathy is damage to the nerves as a result
of diabetes, and affects up to 50% of people
with diabetes. Although many different problems
can occur as a result of diabetic neuropathy,
common symptoms are tingling, pain, numbness,
or weakness in the feet and hands.
overall risk of dying among people with diabetes
is at least double the risk of their peers
For the 38 participants in the acupuncture
group, there were 25 cases rated markedly effective
and 10 cases rated effective: nearly 2/3 of the patients
treated showed marked improvement and only three patients
failed to respond. Further, it was reported that the
patients receiving acupuncture experienced a statistically
significant decline in cholesterol, triglycerides,
and beta-lipoproteins. The drop in triglycerides was
most substantial, with a decline from an average value
of 151 at the start to 117 one month later (a decline
of more than 20%). There were significant improvements
in "nail-fold microcirculation," which is
a measurement of blood circulation through capillary
beds (poor circulation through these beds is one reason
persons with diabetes suffer from skin ulceration),
which has also been observed in other diabetes studies
(11, 12). Among those who were using insulin, the amount
needed after the 30 days of acupuncture declined in
six of the eight individuals; in two of those cases,
the insulin could be stopped altogether.
| In the U.S., it is uncommon for people to
receive acupuncture therapy every day, as is
the method used in the clinical studies reported
in the Chinese medical journals. Instead, one
may undertake a course of therapy with acupuncture
once or twice per week. Needless to say, the
impact of the intermittent treatment is not as
great as with daily acupuncture.
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