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Acupuncture and Diabetes

Acupuncture and Blood Sugar

Treatment of diabetes with acupuncture has been effective in reducing blood sugar levels, especially in individuals with type 2, non-insulin dependent diabetes, the most common form of diabetes. Acupuncturists have identified about 20 body acupoints that are effective in lowering blood sugar.

The Chinese medical approach to diabetes identifies its initial onset as due to a deficiency in yin. The yin deficiency causes an imbalance in yin and yang, resulting in a yang deficiency. In advanced diabetes, these yin and yang deficiencies result in impairment of Qi. An unhealthy diet of excessive amounts of fatty and sweet foods exacerbates the condition.

The main acupuncture points effective in treatment of diabetic symptoms and conditions include quchi, sanyinjiao, zusanli, and yishu. Supplemental points, combined with these main points in treatments to produce increased symptom improvements, are yuj, guanyuan and baihui.

Acupuncture points are chosen based on the diabetic medical history, and specific stage of diabetes advancement. Treatments and acupuncture points selected are highly differentiated from individual to individual.

Diabetes is often treated with a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas that have a hypoglycemic effect, such as Baihu Jia Renshen Tang, Bawei Dihuang Wan, Yu Quan Wan, Liuwei Dihuang Wan, and Fangfeng Tongsheng San. The herb Ginseng, found in several herbal formulas that treat diabetes, plays a significant role in lowering glucose levels.

Treatment may involve acupuncture applied to up to a dozen acupoints for a single session. A course of acupuncture therapy for diabetes is typically long-term, as acupuncture can treat symptoms but not cure diabetes. The treatment course may consist of one to two sessions per week, with number of weekly sessions dependent upon improvement in symptoms and decline in blood sugar levels.
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Dubai Study
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.
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Acupuncture and Diabetes
Licensed acupuncturists are trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and use acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy in combination to help diabetes patients. TCM provides good results for diabetes because it has a diagnostic framework based on specific symptom pictures, which lead to individualized treatment regimens. All Western medications focus on reducing blood sugar levels, but different drugs do so through different physiological mechanisms. TCM success with diabetes is measured by a decrease in blood sugar levels as well, but is achieved by reconciling all the imbalances a person presents with. This means that there is no single acupuncture point or herb that lowers blood sugar levels, but rather, several acupuncture points and Chinese herbs are combined to treat each individual manifestation of diabetes.
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More on Diabetes and Acupuncture
Diabetes is caused primarily by dysfunction of the pancreas. How can acupuncture help diabetic patients? 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:

lower blood glucose content;
lower the release of pancreatic glucagons;
attenuate symptoms of polyphagia (the urge to eat too much), polydipsia (excessive thirst) and polyuria (excessive passage of urine);
prevent slowing of motor nerve conduction;
improve microcirculation and myocardial contractility;
enhance blood outflow and regulate vascular peripheral resistance;
exert antiatherogenic, antioxidant and immunomodulating effects;
obliterate antheroscelerosis of the legs;
induce secretion of endogenous beta-endorphin;
elevate a lowered pain threshold; and
increase cell proliferation and neuropeptide Y levels.
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Four good reports
A report in the 1994 Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine (37) serves as a model of Chinese research on acupuncture.  Though the findings were promising for complimentary treatment of diabetes, the method involved daily acupuncture; something most persons in the U.S. are unlikely to receive.  In the study, 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 only one group received acupuncture.
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