What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a serious disease that should not be ignored, as avoiding treatment can have harmful and even deadly effects, e.g. through heart disease or stroke. Because your blood sugar levels are higher than normal with diabetes, you may experience symptoms such as frequent urination, increased thirst, and increased hunger. Type 1 diabetes is thought to be genetic and immune-system based, while type 2 diabetes (the more common form) is usually caused by obesity, inactivity, and a poor diet. Type 3, also known as gestational diabetes, only occurs during pregnancy and, left untreated, can potentially mean permanent diabetes for you and/or your baby.
While you should certainly follow the advice of your doctor (which will likely involve regular exercise, eating well, blood sugar monitoring and, with type 1 diabetes, also insulin injections), acupuncture can help you manage your symptoms. In fact, acupuncture can have quite profound effects with helping you control your blood sugar levels, your stress, and even helping you lose weight.
How does acupuncture treat diabetes?
Acupuncture is a modality of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is composed of a few different theories that are used in diagnosis. Once you are diagnosed with a certain pattern, your acupuncturist chooses a combination of points on your body that together can help you feel better.
In TCM, diabetes is called 'Xiao-Ke', which essentially means 'emaciation-thirst', referring to the symptoms with which you present. Your acupuncturist differentiates the type of diabetes you have according to what part of your body is being affected the most: i.e. your upper, middle, or lower body. Xiao-Ke of the upper area of your body, aka your 'upper-jiao' or 'upper burner', will present with excessive thirst, your middle-jiao with excessive hunger, and your lower-jiao with excessive urination. Some or all of your jiao may be affected, but your acupuncturist will determine for you which needs to be of central focus for treatment purposes.
Diagnosis of your diabetes is further established by determining which of your organs need(s) to be treated. A common TCM pattern leading to diabetes is Qi (energy) stagnation, due to long-term mental over-stimulation. The idea is that the stagnation turns into heat, which then dries up the fluids in your Lungs (capitalized to differentiate from the scientific meaning), causing excessive thirst. Accompanying symptoms may include propensity to getting colds or the flu, and dry coughing.
Another possibility for a pattern of symptoms causing your diabetes is injury to your Spleen and Stomach, due to long-term consumption of fatty and spicy foods or alcohol. Accompanying symptoms may include excessive hunger, abdominal pain, anxiety, and other digestive issues.
Finally, your Kidneys may have become weakened, e.g. through ageing, improper diet, or emotional imbalance. Accompanying symptoms may include frequent urination, low back pain, sore knees, and night sweats.
Treatment for diabetes would likely take place once or twice per week, for one to two months. After that point, you should be feeling much better, and treatment frequency can be reduced by a great extent. You may ultimately need treatment only once a month (or even less), once your symptoms have subsided.
For more information, and to obtain your own free TCM diagnosis, contact us.
By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner
These links may also be helpful:
Case Study: Acupuncture and TCM for Diabetes and Vision Problems
Case Study: Acupuncture for Diabetes and High Blood Pressure