Islets of Hope alternative and complementary treatement for persons with diabetes

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Article disclaimer

Compiled and edited by
Lahle Wolfe, Founder, Islets of Hope.

Sources:  Some of the information contained in this article is from NIH Publication No. 04–4552, May 2004, Complimentary and Alternative Healing University,, and The Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Health Organization.  Please visit their sites for more complete information.

For article use and reprint permission please contact:

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Visit The Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Health Organization:

Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Health-info offers Chinese medicine & Acupuncture (TCM) information for students, practitioners, and patients. Complete with pictures and information on over 300 Chinese herbs & formulas, Tuina massage, disease treatment, diet, and much more.

Medical Disclaimer

Information on this site is not intended to replace the diagnosis, care, or position of your personal physician.  Please consult your own doctor regarding any information found on this site, or, through links from this site.



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The University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine is using a $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to evaluate the findings of thousands of studies in complementary and alternative medicine. When the evaluations are completed, the center’s reviewers will translate these findings into smaller, consumer- friendly materials that summarize the important information about each condition and the complementary therapy used to treat it.


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Diabetes Treatment Options                                                           main Alternative & Complimentary page

Alternative & Complementary Treatments for Diabetes

Mini Site Index
Complementary & Alternative Medical Therapies for Diabetes
Chinese and Western Therapy Combined
Acupuncture and Diabetes Studies
Application of Acupuncture for Diabetes
Who Might Benefit from Acupuncture?
More Information on Complementary and Alternative Medical Therapies for Diabetes
Join an IOH Support Group for Alternative Therapies

Complementary and Alternative Medical Therapies for Diabetes

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, defines complementary and alternative medicine as a "group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine." Complementary medicine is used with conventional therapy, whereas alternative medicine is used instead of conventional medicine.

Some people with diabetes use complementary or alternative therapies to treat diabetes. Although some of these therapies may be effective, others can be ineffective or even harmful. Patients who use complementary and alternative medicine need to let their health care providers know what they are doing.


Chinese and Western Therapy Combined

According to Joe Hing Kwok Chu, Complimentary and Alternative Healing University, medical schools in China now teach Western medical practices but also Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) alternative/complementary approaches.  He claims great success in China when combining Western and Chinese complimentary therapy in the prevention of complications from diabetes.

Chu believes, "A majority of diabetes mellitus sufferers, when using Western medicine alone, eventually develop eye problems and/or kidney problems and/or die of cardiovascular complications. According to some reports from a  major modern hospital  in China, based on their data on diabetes patients, correct applications of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) together with modern drugs can prevent those complicationsThe TCM)(of internal herbal medicine) diagnostics are based on zheng, which is a system of clinical diagnostics that emphasizes the overall functions of the human body. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) by itself cannot provide the needed insulin  for insulin dependent sufferers, but it can complement the pharmaceutically manufactured insulin to help maintain the whole system of the body if used properly."

Complementary therapies of TCM for diabetes include herb medicine, qigong, acupuncture, and tui na. Since some therapies can impact the amount and action of insulin and other medications, it is important that you do not attempt any alternative or complementary therapy without the recommendation and supervision of your own physician.  


Acupuncture and Diabetes Studies

Acupuncture is a procedure in which a practitioner inserts needles into designated points on the skin. Some scientists believe that acupuncture triggers the release of the body's natural painkillers and has been shown to offer relief from chronic pain. Beause of the painkilling nature of acupuncture , it can be safely used to treat people with neuropathy, the painful nerve damage of diabetes. Acupuncture has also shown promise in many studies to be of help to women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), even helping to restore ovulation in annovulatory women.

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.

Electrical stimulation of needles was used (this method replaces twirling the needle by hand and provides a pulsating stimulus that can be continued for the entire treatment period). Acupuncture was administered once daily for 30 days. The main acupuncture points used were quchi (LI-11), sanyinjiao (SP-6), zusanli (ST-36), and yishu (special diabetes point located at 1.5 cun lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the 8th thoracic vertebra). Supplemental points include yuji (LU-10), guanyuan (CV-4), and baihui (GV-20).  


Application of Acupuncture

Typically, in the U.S., persons only undertake a course of therapy with acupuncture once or twice per week at most. The impact of this intermittent treatment will not be consistent with the Chinese study participants that received daily acupuncture. However, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) using a combination of herbs with the reduced acupuncture sessions may still prove to be a beneficial alternative to daily acupuncture treatment.

While many acupuncturists in the U.S. have not been called upon to treat patients with diabetes acupuncture can be used for many disorders and afflictions common to diabetes.  For example, the acupuncture point zusanli (called Stomach-36; located on the lower leg) is one of the most commonly used points for chronic diseases and is used especially when the disease is obviously affected by dietary factors.  Acupuncture studies have also shown to report positive affects in the complimentary manage of diabetes when used for treatment in neuropathy, eye problems, and vascular concerns.  

The needling techniques reported for acupuncture diabetes treatments are virtually the same as used world-wide, without requiring special additional training.

It is important to remember that acupuncture is not, nor claims to be a cure for, any chronic illness; diabetes included.  But it is widely reported by those who receive acupuncture that it helps them manage pain, stress, and facilitate tighter blood glucose control.  

Many insurance companies will now cover some of the cost for acupuncture so be sure to check your policy.  


Who Might Benefit From Acupuncture?

The majority of studies that I reviewed seem to indicate the persons most likely to respond to acupuncture treatment were those who were, recently diagnosed (within the past five years),  younger in age, and had the fewest manifestations of diabetes-related problems.  Even if you plan on pursuing acupuncture it is important that you consider it part of an overall care plan and still follow a healthy, diabetes-friendly lifestyle.  Eat right, take supplements, exercise, and relax...

More Information on Complementary and Alternative Medical Therapies for Diabetes

The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse collects resource information on diabetes for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) Reference Collection. This database provides titles, abstracts, and availability information for health information and health education resources. The NIDDK Reference Collection is a service of the National Institutes of Health.

To provide you with the most up-to-date resources, information specialists at the clearinghouse created an automatic search of the NIDDK Reference Collection. To obtain this information, you may view the results of the automatic search on Complementary Medicine.  You can also try Preferred Provider Directory

If you wish to perform your own search of the database, you may access and search the NIDDK Reference Collection database online.



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