Type-2 diabetes (adult-onset or non-insulin-dependent diabetes) is a common metabolic disorder in which the body is unable to regulate the amount of glucose in the blood. The condition affects nearly 1.5 million people in the UK (Diabetes UK, 2004), and may be undiagnosed in as many as a million more. It develops when insufficient insulin is produced by the body, or when the body’s cells no longer respond to insulin (insulin resistance).
The four common symptoms of type-2 diabetes are: excessive thirst, passing large amounts of urine, tiredness and weight loss. Over time, the high blood sugar levels caused by type-2 diabetes causes damage to blood vessels. This leads to atheroma, which can cause problems such as poor circulation, angina, heart attacks and stroke. It can result in diabetic complications, including eye disorders, nerve damage, foot problems, kidney disease and impotence.
Studies indicate that acupuncture may:
regulate insulin production (Lin et al, 2004) and blood sugar levels (Lin 2004; Chang 2006; CabioÄlu 2006; Jiang 2006)
improve the blood lipid profile (CabioÄlu 2005; Jiang 2006) (dyslipidaemia is common in patients with type-2 diabetes and may lead to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality).
improve blood circulation (Tsuchiya 2007), thus helping to slow the onset and progression of diabetic circulatory complications
moderate the stress response (Sakai 2007)
Most people use acupuncture as part of an integrated diabetes treatment plan because they are already using Western medication. Acupuncture can be safely and effectively combined with Western biomedicine and other treatments such as relaxation exercises and herbal medicine. In addition to offering acupuncture and related therapies, acupuncturists will often make suggestions as to dietary and other lifestyle changes that may be beneficial. Eating a healthy balanced diet, taking regular physical exercise, reducing stress and maintaining a healthy body weight can help to prevent or delay the onset of type-2 diabetes and slow the progression of the disease. Working with a supportive therapist can help people commit to these positive lifestyle changes.