How can TCM help with Type 1 Diabetes?

Doctor's Answers 1

Type 1 diabetes patients produce little or no insulin, therefore causing their blood glucose level to be poorly regulated [1].

Clinically, patients may experience symptoms like [2]:

  • excessive thirstiness,
  • frequent urination,
  • extreme hunger,
  • fatigue,
  • unintended weight loss
  • etc.

In TCM, these symptoms are often related to a condition called “xiao ke” (消渴) which means wasting and thirstiness [3]. “Xiao ke” is often related to the imbalance of the lungs, stomach and kidney [4]. Herbal medicines may be prescribed to restore the balance of these organs and relieve the symptoms of patients’ experience.

However, the primary treatment for type 1 diabetes would still be insulin injection to regulate blood glucose level [5]. Diabetic patients can combine treatment from both TCM and western medicine to manage their blood glucose level [6].


1. Type 1 Diabetes. Published 2019. Accessed December 19, 2019.

2. Diabetes symptoms. Published October 12, 2019. Accessed December 19, 2019.

3. Zhang L, Li Y, Guo X, et al. Text Mining of the Classical Medical Literature for Medicines That Show Potential in Diabetic Nephropathy. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2014;2014:1-12. doi:10.1155/2014/189125

4. Rozario E. MD PATHOLOGY. Published 2019. Accessed December 19, 2019.

5. Savitha Subramanian, Baidal D, Skyler JS, Hirsch IB. The Management of Type 1 Diabetes. Published November 16, 2016. Accessed December 19, 2019.

6. Lee A-L, Chen B-C, Mou C-H, Sun M-F, Yen H-R. Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine Therapy and the Risk of Vascular Complications in Patients With Type II Diabetes Mellitus. Medicine. 2016;95(3):e2536. doi:10.1097/md.0000000000002536

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What does it mean to be metabolically obese?

Dr Francisco has provided an excellent answer, so I shall try not to repeat anything, but I would like to add that perhaps you could consider seeking a body plethysmography - this aims to measure body fat and some centres might do CT or MRI scans to look for internal fat deposits. Most sports medicine centres will be able to provide pre-participation screenings, that look at the things Dr Francisco mentions in addition to a full MSK screen and assessment of your exercise/health goals. We can also provide you with advice on exercise as well as dietary consultations.

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Dr Dinesh Sirisena

Sport Medicine

Can I rely only on TCM treatment to keep my diabetes under control?

This greatly depends on the type and stage of diabetes that you are diagnosed with. For Type 1 diabetes in which the body does not produce enough insulin to control blood sugar, lifelong insulin therapy would be needed. Type 2 diabetes starts off with insulin resistance, where the cells in your body aren’t responding to the insulin produced, and may be accompanied with a lack of insulin as the disease progresses.

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