Treating Diabetes with Acupuncture and Asian Medicine

What is Diabetes?

A person is getting acupuncture on his leg.
Below is the summary of Diabetes from PubmedHealth

“Diabetes is a chronic (lifelong) disease marked by high levels of sugar in the blood.”

Diabetes affects more than 20 million Americans. Over 40 million Americans have pre-diabetes (early type 2 diabetes).

There are many risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including:

  • Age over 45 years
  • A parent, brother, or sister with diabetes
  • Gestational diabetes or delivering a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
  • Heart disease
  • High blood cholesterol level
  • Obesity
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Polycystic ovary disease (in women)
  • Previous impaired glucose tolerance
  • Some ethnic groups (particularly African Americans, Native Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Hispanic Americans)


High blood levels of glucose can cause several problems, including:

  • Blurry vision
  • Excessive thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Hunger
  • Weight loss

However, because type 2 diabetes develops slowly, some people with high blood sugar experience no symptoms at all.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes:

  • Fatigue
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss in spite of increased appetite

Patients with type 1 diabetes usually develop symptoms over a short period of time. The condition is often diagnosed in an emergency setting.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes:

  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination

Signs and tests

A urine analysis may be used to look for glucose and ketones from the breakdown of fat. However, a urine test alone does not diagnose diabetes.

The following blood tests are used to diagnose diabetes:

  • Fasting blood glucose level — diabetes is diagnosed if higher than 126 mg/dL on two occasions. Levels between 100 and 126 mg/dL are referred to as impaired fasting glucose or prediabetes. These levels are considered to be risk factors for type 2 diabetes and its complications.
  • Hemoglobin A1c test — this test has been used in the past to help patients monitor how well they are controlling their blood glucose levels. In 2010, the American Diabetes Association recommended that the test be used as another option for diagnosing diabetes and identifying pre-diabetes. Levels indicate:
    • Normal: Less than 5.7%
    • Pre-diabetes: Between 5.7% – 6.4%
    • Diabetes: 6.5% or higher
  • Oral glucose tolerance test — diabetes is diagnosed if glucose level is higher than 200 mg/dL after 2 hours. (This test is used more for type 2 diabetes.)
  • Random (non-fasting) blood glucose level — diabetes is suspected if higher than 200 mg/dL and accompanied by the classic diabetes symptoms of increased thirst, urination, and fatigue. (This test must be confirmed with a fasting blood glucose test.)

Persons with diabetes need to have their hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) level checked every 3 – 6 months. The HbA1c is a measure of average blood glucose during the previous 2 – 3 months. It is a very helpful way to determine how well treatment is working.

Have your cholesterol and triglyceride levels checked each year (aim for LDL levels below 100 mg/dL)

Treating Diabetes with Acupuncture and Asian Medicine

Again, Diabetes is 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. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the risk for death is approximately twice that of persons of similar age without diabetes.

The cause of diabetes continues to be a mystery, although both genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles. Complications of diabetes include heart disease, hypertension, eye problems, kidney disease, nervous system disease, periodontal disease, amputation, fatigue, depression, and complications during pregnancy.

In order to manage diabetes, it is essential for people to make healthy lifestyle choices in diet, exercise, and other health habits. Another important factor when treating diabetes is creating a support team of health care professionals. This support team may include your primary doctor, an eye doctor, nurses, a dietitian, and a licensed acupuncturist.

Diabetes according to Asian Medicine

In Asian Medicine, a thousand years ago, when the physicians didn’t even know about the blood sugar, insulin or all the mechanisms behind the disease, they called it in general, xiao ke(wasting and thirsting syndrome) and categorized this into three different names based on the main symptoms.

  • upper xiao –increased thirst

  • middle xiao- increased appetite
  • lower xiao- increased urination

And those physicians thought that diabetes is caused by an imbalance of the cyclical flow of Qi within the meridians and organ systems and even there was the thought of oily and heavy food causing this disease and recommending “be frugal and moderate!” as we now know that the primary culprit of type 2 diabetes are the wrong diet and lifestyle and this is the disease of affluence in this country.

This particular imbalance produces heat that depletes the body’s fluids and Qi causing symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Unexplained Weight Loss
  • Excessive Thirst (Polydipsia)
  • Excessive Urination (Polyuria)
  • Excessive Eating (Polyphagia)
  • Poor Wound Healing Infections
  • Irritability
  • Blurry Vision
How Acupuncture and Asian Medicine Treats Diabetes

In treating diabetes, Asian medicine offers a way to address each patient individually to eliminate the symptoms associated with diabetes and reduce the need for insulin.

A variety of techniques may be used during treatment including acupuncture, herbal medicine, bodywork, lifestyle/dietary recommendations and energetic exercises. The treatment for diabetes focuses on regulating the circulation of blood and Qi and balancing the organ systems to improve pancreatic function and address internal heat and the depletion of fluids. When treating diabetes, acupuncture and asian medicine can assist the body to regain its normal healthy functioning.

Acupuncture Treatment

Generally used meridians in treating diabetes are;

Stomach –st36, 44
Spleen – sp9, 6, 4, 3
Kidney- kd6, kd 3, kd 10
Ren meridian – ren 12, ren 4.

Even in Master Tong’s Acupunture, these meridians are the primary such as xia san huang, tong shen, tong wei, shui jin, shui tong, shang san huang, zhu san li, shen guan.

And also auriculo-acupuncture can be effectively used together.

Five Areas Diabetics Should Monitor Carefully
There are a lot of complications caused by diabetes that require extra attention. If you have diabetes make sure you monitor these five areas on a regular basis.
  • Blood Sugar
Understand how diabetes changes how food affects your body. Know the signs of low blood sugar. Have a plan in place to correct your blood sugar levels when necessary.
  • Heart Health
Diabetics have a higher risk of heart attacks and stroke. Optimal cholesterol and blood pressure goals are lower for diabetics.
  • Infections
Due to higher blood sugar levels bacteria grow and infections develop more quickly. Treating infections early on can prevent serious complications later.
  • Feet
Diabetics may suffer from neuropathy, or nerve death in their feet and can get an injury or serious infection without feeling it.
  • Exercise
Exercise has been shown to decrease blood sugars and improve insulin resistance, the main issue in those with type II diabete.