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Diabetes and Acupuncture

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Diabetes is linked with many health problems: low thyroid function, early onset of stroke, eye problems and neuropathy. More and more Americans are developing type II diabetes. Why is high blood sugar so detrimental to your health? The reason is that high blood sugar is toxic to blood vessels and nerves causing inflammation. If you observe the blood vessels of a diabetic patient, you will find that they look purple and enlarged indicating bad circulation. If these blood vessels are in the brain, the inflamed nerves cannot get sufficient nutrients. This is how you can lose your memory and your vision in your early fifties. If blood vessels are damaged in your legs or hands, small cuts in those areas will not heal easily, eventually developing ulcers deep to the bone.

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If your blood vessels are damaged in your testicles or ovaries, you can develop impotence, ovarian cysts, an irregular period and possibly infertility. If the inflammation happens in your prostate, you can develop prostatis or even prostate cancer. If the inflammation is in your thyroid, you will develop a hypothyroid condition. That is why diabetes and thyroid dysfunction always go hand in hand.

How can you stabilize your blood sugar to achieve optimal health? Eating whole foods is the key. You do not have to get rid of carbohydrates; you can eat whole wheat in moderation with vegetables. Eating fruits instead of drinking juice will help your body process the fructose slowly because of the fibers in the fruit. Simple sugars in processed food can go to your blood within half an hour, making your blood sugar spike right away. Your body will try to produce more insulin to quickly move the blood sugar into your fat cells, and your sugar can drop to very low levels after an hour. You will need another fix to bring up your blood sugar. This up-and-down process not only damages your blood vessels and nerves, but also can make you very moody and tired.

The good thing about eating simple sugars is that you feel happy for half an hour because the simple sugars induce endorphin release right away and you do not need enzymes to digest sugar, thus no gas and bloating. But simple sugars do not provide any nutrients, and slowly cause inflammation in every part of your body, including joints without you knowing it.

Glucose intolerance is the condition in which insulin cannot function normally due to too much sugar intake every day, which desensitizes insulin receptors. Even though you have normal fasting blood sugar, sharp elevated blood sugar levels right after a meal can damage blood vessels and nerves irreversibly. The following study indicates that acupuncture treatment can prevent blood sugar surges induced by chemicals artificially; thus acupuncture can prevent neuropathy, stroke and even dementia. Healthy blood vessels and nerves are crucial for the normal function of the heart and brain. If you would like to remember your children's names by the age of eighty, please avoid processed food.

In a 2011 Journal of Endocrinology Investigation, Dr. Jiang YL, et. al used a single abdominal injection of a chemical called streptozotocin (STZ) to induce high blood sugar in rats. Rats were randomly divided into six groups: control, diabetes, preventive acupuncture plus streptozotocin injection, STZ injection plus therapeutic acupuncture, streptozotocin injection plus preventive and therapeutic acupuncture, and preventive and therapeutic acupuncture control.

Body weight, blood glucose, serum insulin, lipid peroxidation, and antioxidant enzymes were measured by routine standard methods. Histological analysis of pancreatic islets was conducted. Their results showed that preventive acupuncture significantly reduced blood sugar levels, enhanced insulin efficiency, reduced body weight and pancreatic islet damage in rats with streptozotocin injection; it also significantly reduced serum lipid peroxidation and enhanced superoxide dismutase in the serum and the pancreas, which reduced oxidation stress and prevented the blood from clotting.

In clinical practices, when we applied acupuncture to type I and type II diabetes patients after each meal, their blood sugar reading usually is lowered within two hours. Since people cannot have acupuncture everyday to lower their blood sugar, eating low glycemic index food and doing regular exercise are also very important to resensitize the insulin receptor so that with the lowered level of insulin, people can still achieve an optimized blood sugar level. If you build more muscles through exercise, your body will use lower levels of insulin to stabilize blood sugar levels. Insulin itself is a growth factor, which can lead to an imbalance of hormones and chronic inflammation. If you pay attention to people who start using insulin for a couple of years, you will notice they all have a big belly and very thin limbs as they lose muscle mass.

Acupuncture not only can help the body stabilize blood sugar levels, but it also can be used to treat neuropathy because it can improve blood circulation to your hands and feet to facilitate peripheral nerve regeneration. The most recent article in Neuroscience. 2011 by Cidral-Filho FJ et. al. indicates that manual acupuncture inhibits mechanical hypersensitivity induced by spinal nerve injury in rats, which helps reduce the pins-and-needles sensation. Jin Z et. al did human clinical research in 2011 and found that electroacupuncture and acupoint injection with methylcobalamin can increase motor and sensory nerve conduction velocity, control and relieve the symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

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Li Zheng is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, a graduate of the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine with 24 years of clinical and research experience, including 6 years of residency. She is also a Ph.D. degree holder in Medical Sciences from the United States, a Harvard Medical School trained researcher and a professor at the New England School of Acupuncture. Her website is and her clinic is located at 475 Hillside Avenue, Needham, MA02494.

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