An estimated 25.8 million men, women and children in the United States have diabetes, a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life.

Untreated diabetes affects the whole body and can lead to other medical problems, including heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, peripheral neuropathy, digestive disorders and periodontal disease. Many remain unaware that they live with diabetes, but often there will be warning signs that help to make an early diagnosis. Pay attention if two or more of them apply to you.

Perhaps most noticeable are increased thirst and increased frequency of urination. The kidneys go into high gear to rid the body of extra glucose in the blood, and the increased urination leads to thirst to replenish lost fluids. Type II diabetics are often overweight, and rapid weight loss – 10 or 20 pounds over a couple of months – can be an alarming sign that the body’s ability to utilize glucose is compromised. Since diabetics often go though wide swings in glucose levels, low blood sugar can also lead to excessive hunger pangs.

The poor circulation resulting from diabetes can also result in excessively dry or itchy skin. Slow healing of cuts and bruises is another classic sign of diabetes, as are susceptibility for fungal and yeast infections. Alarming symptoms include blurred vision, and tingling or numbness in hands and feet, which if left untreated can lead to a permanent condition called neuropathy.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Yin deficiency is the underlying cause of the disease, characterized by dryness, heat and dampness. An imbalance of the flow of Qi within the meridians and organ systems produce heat that depletes Qi and the body’s fluids, hence the dryness. This brings about the symptoms, while dampness is reflected in the increased blood glucose.

TCM has been used to treat diabetes for over 2000 years. The holistic approach TCM provides can be specifically tailored to the needs of each individual to provide both symptomatic relief and treatment of the underlying condition, allowing the body to return to its normal healthy functioning state.

In addition to acupuncture, a variety of techniques may be used during treatment, most notably herbal formulations. When prescribed correctly, Chinese herbs lower blood glucose levels, manage common signs and symptoms, and treat complications. Chinese herbs are very effective in treating patients with Type II diabetes and patients generally respond to herbal treatment within three-to-four weeks, with significant reduction in blood glucose levels and little fluctuation throughout the day.

In order to manage diabetes, create a support team of health care professionals. Your TCM practitioner will focus on regulating the circulation of blood and Qi, and balancing the organ systems to improve pancreatic function, as well as addressing internal heat and the depletion of fluids associated with this disease. It is also essential for people with diabetes to make the right lifestyle choices in diet, exercise and other health habits. 

Diane Sheppard is owner of AcQpoint Wellness Center in La Quinta. She is a licensed acupuncturist with a Ph.D. in Oriental Medicine and can be reached at (760) 775.7900.

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