This TCM Physician Explains How Acupuncture Can Help With Diabetes

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April 8th, 2019· 5 min read

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Diabetes is often managed through Western medicine, insulin, and blood sugar monitoring to treat and monitor for chronic problems brought on by the disease. However, did you know that Traditional Chinese Medicine can also be used to help with diabetes and other similar illnesses?

Registered TCM physician Chen Yan Fang has a strong passion for gua sha, tui na, and other kinds of TCM treatments. She was featured on Human Sessions recently and gave her tips on the philosophy of TCM treatment as well as methods for managing diabetes. Here's what she said.

The TCM approach takes time

a clock against a pastel background

Whether acupuncture or herbal concoctions, the TCM methodology for regulating blood sugar is not an instant solution. Things take time when you take a traditional route.

This is partly because TCM treatments do not focus directly on lowering blood sugar levels. Instead, they are geared towards treating you based on deficiency and disharmony found in the body. [1]

Western medicine is crucial for full management of diabetes

diabetic medical devices

Type 1 diabetes patients require lifelong insulin therapy while Type 2 patients will need metformin or other medications for their insulin resistance.

However, a person in a pre-diabetic phase (also known as impaired glucose tolerance) will have higher than normal blood sugar levels (but not high enough to be Type 2). This is when TCM treatment along with diet control and exercise may be sufficient for the maintenance of health. [2] [3]

Does TCM really work against diabetes?

a bedroom with sheets

TCM can be highly effective for controlling blood sugar levels in the long run but the effects are not immediate. It is best to continue your Western treatment and prescription to lower chances of other complications such as heart disease and other health problems caused by diabetes. If you have a TCM practitioner, inform him or her about your Western treatment and prescriptions as well.

Physician Chen noted that through the course of treatment, her patients have reported having their blood sugar levels regulated and have even reported rectification of their symptoms. Gradually, they enjoy better sleep quality, more energy throughout the day, and improved mood. [4]

Diabetes in TCM is associated with a condition known as 'xiao ke'

a glass of water

The term 'xiao' is best described as emaciation (being abnormally thin) while 'ke' represents thirst.

The condition of ‘xiao ke’ (消渴) in TCM is characterized by excessive thirst, hunger, and urination as well as unexplained weight loss. There is no term for diabetes in TCM but 'xiao ke' is closely associated with it. [5]

Acupuncture can help regulate blood sugar levels

acupuncture needles that are sterile

According to the philosophy of TCM, balancing the body's major organs and the balance of Yin and Yang in a patient can lead to the regulation of blood sugar levels.

This does not directly bring blood sugar levels down like Western drugs do, but instead works to improve the body constitution and regain organ functionality. [6]

What are the acupoints associated with diabetes?

a model of a human with acupoints

For the most part, the objective of TCM treatments in diabetes is to replenish Yin and clear Yang. Thus, three acupoints are applied on the legs; Di Ji (on the inside of the calf), San Yin Jiao (also on the inside of the calf), and a third acupoint located halfway in between the highest point of the inner ankle and the Achilles tendon.

Massage these acupoints for three to five minutes until you feel some localised soreness. These points can be massaged multiple times a day. However, acupressure massages are not suitable for pregnant women and should not be used for gestational diabetes. [7]

Managing your diet is half of the battle

avocado toast and eggs

Diet control is a big part of managing diabetes. Carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels so patients need to decrease sugar and refined carbohydrates like white rice and white bread. Instead, stick to low glycemic index food such as oatmeal, brown rice, wholemeal bread, legumes, and nuts.

Throughout the day, main meals should be broken up into smaller, more frequent meals to help moderate blood sugar levels. Diabetics have a slower, continuous absorption of food. Besides, eating several smaller meals may reduce your hunger and also lower calorie intake. [8] [9]

Pre-diabetes and diabetes are both chronic conditions that are incurable

diabetes sugar checking device

There is no way to completely cure diabetes once it has been diagnosed but the management of blood sugar levels can lower the risk of developing complications. This leads to a better quality of life.

Pre-diabetes treatment involves lifestyle changes while diabetes requires a combination of medication and insulin injections. [10]

Cupping may also help manage diabetes

cupping treatment

Cupping (a form of TCM treatment) is typically performed to address pain conditions like muscle aches or rheumatism. It can, however, also be used for general wellness by balancing the Yin and Yang energies in individuals. In this respect, cupping can rectify imbalances in diabetic patients. [11]

Cupping can result in abrasions and blisters though, and these may lead to possible infections due to poor healing in diabetic patients. Physicians need to take extra care and be informed of patients' medical history in advance.

TCM has proven its effectiveness for an assortment of illnesses and this includes the possible management of pre-diabetes. Continue your treatment prescribed by your doctor, but if you choose to consult a TCM physician, learn more about how you or your loved ones can benefit from TCM treatment.

Would you like to ask any related health questions?

You can Ask A Doctor right away, or view the complete list of Human Sessions.

I hope that you've found this guide useful, and perhaps gained more insight into the application process. Most of the admissions-related information (admin and logistics wise) can be found on the official NUS Faculty of Dentistry website.

To help yourself out, you should take note of what people look for when they look for a dentist.

This article was written by Human and published on Wednesday, 25 January 2017. Human medically reviewed the article on Wednesday, 25 January 2017. The last update was made on Friday, 18 September 2020.

Disclaimer: Opinions belong to the author and not to the platform.

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