Diabetes refers to a metabolic condition that causes elevated blood sugar (glucose) in the body. Glucose is essential for health as it supplies energy to the cells that make up your muscles and tissues and is your brain’s main source of fuel. But too much glucose, over time, can cause serious conditions such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, eye damage and nerve damage, among other issues.
The hormone insulin is responsible for moving sugar from the blood into the cells where it can be stored and/or used for fuel. When a person has diabetes, they either have too little insulin, or the body is unable to use its insulin properly and the result is high blood sugar. With type I diabetes, the pancreas does not make enough or any insulin at all and so is unable to regulate the amount of sugar in the blood. With type II diabetes, the body becomes insulin resistant, allowing blood sugar to soar.
Researchers found that one serving a day of a sugar-sweetened beverage is associated with a 13 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Similarly, consuming one serving a day of artificially sweetened beverages is associated with an 8 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And with fruit juice, one serving a day is associated with a 7 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes. (Source)
There are many ways to heal the body and all have their appropriate place, each modality with its own strengths and weaknesses. I have found in my practice, that what often works best is integrative therapy, where multiple modalities are combined and used in congruent fashion. However, what is lacking in the United States, as a general rule, are practitioners who are willing to work together for the greater good of patient care. This is something you may have to fight for.
The Mayo Clinic has outlined these as the most common symptoms of diabetes:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Presence of ketones in the urine (Ketones are a byproduct of the breakdown of muscle and fat that happens when there’s not enough available insulin.)
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores
- Frequent infections, such as gums or skin infections and vaginal infections
From a clinical perspective my patients have experienced:
- Hypoglycemia (the shaky feeling from not eating)
- Hangry: anger or irritability when hungry
- Fungal infections such as candida
- Strong cravings for sugars and sweets
- Propensity of gum issues like bleeding
- Poor circulation
- Frequent colds and virus due to depressed immune system
Naturopathy often uses food as medicine. This involves a carefully customized nutritional program and natural supplementation. Many naturopathic doctors practice what is called ‘functional medicine’ where a scientific analysis of blood and saliva lab work indicates deficiencies that a naturopath will wish to correct. Rather than treating the disease, a naturopath works to bring the body back to homeostasis with the aid of natural supplementation and nutrition. A nutritional plan should be customized for your body and blood type, as well as for your life-style and unique needs. This means that the nutritional plan for someone who loves to cook would look different from the plan for someone who does not have time or like to cook.
Chinese Medicine, predating most all other modalities, uses clinically proven herbal formulas (aka Chinese Rx), acupuncture, and Tui-Na (body work), to balance qi, the life force energy mapped in the body’s meridians. Pulse and tongue diagnosis are often used to discover the imbalance in a modern oriental medical clinic. In some states, when necessary, we can even use laboratory medicine, X-rays, CT Scans and many other up-to-date technologies to assist us in getting to the root of your issue. It is when balance in these energies occur that healing homeostasis is obtained.
Western Medicine typically addresses the acute condition with pharmaceutical drugs or surgery with the hope of maintenance. Western medicine utilizes many blood tests and scans in diagnosis. However, in many cases Western Medicine does not promote long-term healing of chronic issues due to the myriad of side effects that too often occur from long-term use of pharmaceuticals. We would encourage you to openly discuss with your medical doctor or pharmacist the length of time a drug is being recommended and what long-term side effects to expect before accepting a prescription drug.
Naturopathic, Oriental and Western Medicine approaches for the treatment of diabetes are discussed below. Each modality focuses on blood sugar stabilization, but does so uniquely. There are also different components, such as diet and exercise. Click and explore.
This is not intended a complete list of options but merely a brief summary and for informational and educational purposes only and is neither intended nor suited to be a replacement or substitute for professional medical treatment nor for professional medical advice relative to a specific medical question or condition. If you have a concern about your health, promptly consult a licensed healthcare provider.
Naturopathic / Functional Medicine Approach:
- Eat Like a Grazer: Give yourself permission to snack every few hours to keep your blood sugar level optimized. I know, I know, this is easier said than done, but, you must train yourself to be a ‘grazer’ of food throughout the day. This would be the case for anyone who has blood sugar issues whether from diabetes, hypoglycemia or insulin resistance. Health Bars/Shakes can be a quick and easy thing to keep with you, but be careful, many of these include high amounts of sugar that negate the high protein content. I would recommend seeking a health practitioner’s advice before deciding on something from your local supermarket. For patients, there are specific glycemic protein formulations that could be prescribed. Don’t waste money on things your body cannot assimilate and use. See below for specific Diet & Nutritional information.
- Supplementation: One of many options: A New study demonstrates vitamin C supplementation improves glycemic control and blood pressure in patients with type II diabetes (200 mg per day). Liposomal Vitamin C* is more absorbable and it is important to consult to get the right formulation or it is a waste of your money. It is also important to note that many resellers on Amazon have been found to sell ‘counterfeit’ supplements, so please use caution and only buy directly from the supplier or trusted practitioner.
- Sugar Cravings: Neurotransmitter based supplements* are often given to help dull the sensation for sweets and food. When using supplements like this you may have to set an alarm reminder to eat as you may not be hungry. Just because you are not hungry does not mean your body doesn’t need nutrition to keep that blood sugar as stable as possible.
- Stay Hydrated for Sugar Balancing: consume water, club soda or unsweetened iced tea instead of sugary beverages. Try adding a splash of Apple Cider Vinegar to your water to help with sugar cravings and to balance the pH of your body. Coconut water is also a good option because it is almost identical in makeup to your blood plasma and hydrates very efficiently.
Oriental Medicine (aka Traditional Chinese Medicine: T.C.M.) Approach:
- Xiao Ke: In TCM terms, this is usually known as yin deficiency with damp and heat and is commonly referred to as xiao ke (wasting and thirsting) syndrome. However, it is important that even though these two conditions (diabetes and xiao ke) share similarities, they are not the same and each person must be treated individually and personalized. Liver Qi stagnation in Modern Chinese Medicine is of almost epidemic proportions in the clinic and must be considered. Liver Qi in a nutshell is the stress and tension damage done to our bodies over time causing both mental (usually anger) and physical issues (changes in hormones). Additional organs/meridians that must be supported in diabetes by the tenants of Chinese Medicine are the lung, stomach and kidney’s.
- Chinese Rx*: would be formulated based on blood sugar stabilization and would be modified if impotence, urinary tract infection, high cholesterol, excessive thirst, retinopathy, neuropathy, kidney, obesity, coronary artery disease or if infections are present. A patient should expect a dosage of at least 3-4 capsules 3 times a day, on an empty stomach. These types of formulas take 3-4 weeks to obtain clinical results, so this is no quick fix, and requires discipline to follow the protocol for long-term benefits. These types of prescriptions have been used for over 30 years with proven effectiveness in the states and for thousands of years in Asia with their continued use today. For over-the-counter, albeit far less effective than a tailored Chinese Rx, Pau d’ Arco and Breakstone can help to keep your liver and kidney detox cleansing which are both focal points when treating xiao ke. During anytime you detox, make sure you are not constipated and stay hydrated. Impacted stool effects the immune system and drags down metabolism.
- Acupuncture / Sonopuncture have specific point protocols for diabetes and additional points depending on the symptoms mentioned above. Try not to be intimidated by Acupuncture. It really does not hurt like you are thinking. The needles are very fine similar to a strand of hair and are nothing like a shot or injection. Most fall asleep and feel very relaxed. If it is absolutely a no-go on the needles then consider Sonopuncture. This allows us to use the same point prescriptions using tuning forks instead of needles.
- Auricular medicine, aka ear acupuncture, may also be used in a similar way with needles or ear seeds. A patient would expect to start with treatment a few times a week for a few weeks, then come in weekly then taper off to every few weeks until the body is brought to homeostasis. At that point, an infrequent maintenance would be expected with any complex medical issue. Ear seeds offer a cool independence because patients can treat themselves from home by applying pressure to those points themselves.
Western Medicine Approach:
- Insulin: The western approach is to provide a patient with the ability to check their insulin, via finger pricking, and the ability to directly supplement with insulin with shots, when needed. It is always my preference to avoid invasiveness when possible, but you must never let your insulin levels become dangerous and should have a licensed professional on-boarded to ensure insulin is available to you, if needed. This is an important aspect for any diabetic to be well educated and trained on. Make sure your doctor walks you through it and the various formulations of insulin that have wide ranges on rapid-acting, short-acting, intermediate-acting and long-acting varieties to make certain you receive the prescription that is best suited for you. Additional Resource: WebMD. The Care Touch Diabetes Testing Kit, by far, has the best reviews on Amazon, at the time of writing this article, than the other of the insulin kits we have looked at, due to it being ‘pain free, affordable and with easily used adjustable settings’. We always encourage looking at reviews and contacting support groups for first-hand information.
- Support Organizations: American Diabetes Association has a wealth of knowledge and I would recommend you explore their site.
- No Artificial Sweeteners: Many may recommend the use of artificial sweeteners to replace your sugar needs. This is a dangerous practice because, we know in western science that your body still treats the artificial sweeteners like sugar, metabolically speaking. The exception is that the body can only process so much of the artificial sweetener before the system is confused by the molecule and doesn’t know what to do with it. This confusion wreaks havoc on the body and creates a complete deregulation of sugar. This certainly is not a healthy choice.
Note: There are artificial sweeteners in pharmaceutical drugs, food, drinks, and personal care products such as toothpaste, mouthwash and confections. Artificial sweeteners are shown to be neurotoxins which means they are damaging to the brain and its delicate, and very important cells. These products should not be on the market. At one time in history a Surgeon General of the United States even vehemently disagreed with allowance for use due to their dangers.
*If supplements or TCM herbs are used, it is important to coordinate with your medical doctor as stabilization of your blood sugar naturally can affect insulin dosing over time.
It is important to note that in comparing approaches there is a lot of crossover. All recommend regular exercise, weight-loss management, avoiding consumption of sugar and carbs since they just turn into sugar in the body.
Naturopaths will typically prescribe a tailored diet plan for you. It is important that you have a ‘Repeatable’ plan you can stick with. This would include nutritionally dense foods and proteins by eating them every few hours w/o skipping meals. Avoid processed foods and things you open from a plastic package. If you can’t pronounce it, you may want to think twice about eating it. Increase good fats from things like coconut oil and avocados. Organic candy is still candy laden with sugar.
- Best Foods: Apart from an individualized diet plan, Healthline has prepared an article of the 16 best foods for diabetics (Quick Link) that I would highly recommend you read.
- Foods to Avoid: Healthline has a great article on foods to avoid with diabetes (Quick Link) that I would recommend your read.
Oriental Medicine recommends eating a low-fat, high fiber diet including plenty of raw fruits and vegetables. Increased intake of cooling foods and roots like yams, cucumbers, radishes, potatoes, carrots, beets, cucumbers, turnips, taro and rutabaga.
- Avoid spicy, pungent, and aromatic vegetables such as pepper, garlic, onions, basil, rosemary, cumin, funnel, anise, leeks, chives, scallions, thyme, saffron, mustard, chili pepper and wasabi. These things are very aggravating to the system.
- Increase Cinnamon Consumption: Cinnamon taken in tea, added to your diet, supplemented in capsules or used in an essential oil is known to promote blood sugar stabilization. This is recognized in Naturopathy as well as in Modern Chinese Medicine. Studies have shown that by adding even a small amount to your regular daily diet can potentially lower cholesterol and stabilizes blood sugar.
Western doctors may provide you with handouts or information on low sugar diets and we encourage you to look at all your options. When it comes to diets, there are 3 that are widely known. They include the Plate Method, Carb Counting Method and Glycemic Index Method. This doesn’t even count the myriad of fad diets that are available to choose from in addition those mentioned above. Our recommendations usually falls closer into the Plate Method (quick link) endorsed by the American Diabetes Association.
We would discourage the use of fad diets, since many of them cause stress to a particular organ or set of organs in the body, and while may have therapeutic benefits should be done under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. Real food and things in moderation is the key.
All modalities recommend regular exercise and weight control for long-term management of diabetes with the avoidance of alcohol and tobacco. If you are a smoker consider switching to a healthier Ayurvedic vaping with Rebel Herbs if quitting altogether is not an option for you.
- Exercise: Gentle exercise of walking will move your lymph and increase circulation. 15-30 minutes is preferred. Get an app and keep track of your steps. Work towards 10,000 steps daily. Try this only after you have mastered the 10K step daily walking to avoid over doing it: The ‘PACE’ Exercise Program was developed by Dr. Al Sears M.D. It is likely the most healthy and effective type of exercise in our opinion. This intermittent increase in heart rate followed by a cool down and repeated during your ‘walk’ will add health and circulation benefits to your heart, body, mind, immune, endocrine and metabolic systems.
- Regular Hot baths: especially with the addition of magnesium are recommended to regulate pancreatic functions, increase circulation, and help you relax. If you are local try Float Effects. Bathing in large amounts of Epsom Salts or Ancient Minerals Magnesium Chloride Flakes is the most effective way to get magnesium into your body. Diabetics are especially prone to being magnesium deficient in a very serious sense.
Essential oils can be used for glucose stabilization and pancreas support. Essentials oils are typically applied topically so they can go right into the blood stream by bypassing the digestive system. Remember to mix essential oils with a carrier oil like small dab of organic coconut oil that you melt and warm in your hands. Then apply over the feet and pancreas. You may also diffuse these oils for inhalation. Some oils can be consumed, but please make sure you buy one that is ‘food’ grade. We would always recommend buying organic oils whenever possible to reduce any toxicity that may exist. Make sure you buy essential oils from a vendor you trust. Coriander and Cinnamon normalize glucose levels. Cypress & Dill will help lower glucose levels by normalizing insulin levels and supporting pancreas function. You can also find many oil companies like Young Living and doTERRA that provide blended oils.
Sometimes symptoms do not show up right away so having a qualified health practitioner perform a functional analysis (learn more) on you, at least annually, is a good start to looking for early signs of diabetes for prevention and monitoring. Sometimes what develops as a disease can be mitigated by discovering functional imbalances in the body, and by treating those, we bring the body back to homeostasis, so that ‘healing’ can then occur. This is the very art and science of functional medicine. If you are diabetic, getting these types of regular checkups along with your medical provider is essential to managing the disease successfully.
‘Diabetes does not need to control your life, thoughts or passions. Health practitioners must recognize the impact on an individual’s mind as well as body. We are here to educate you on all your options and motivate you to be the best you! When our health is impacted, it is as if we have boarded an emotional and physical roller coaster. Here is a prayer of intent (mantra) and breathing technique for your mind and soul: Just take a very long and deep breath and repeat ‘”Infinite Love & Gratitude”. Repeat as many times as you need (recommend at least 3), each with as long and deep of a breath as you can muster.’ ~ This will increase your oxygen levels and thereby improve circulation and flow of meridian energies. This term was coined by our colleagues in Illinois, Dr. Weissman, D.C. and their clinic, The Lifeline Center. Read that book and change your thoughts to change your life. Make the choice to ‘be well’ and ‘be happy.’
We know that Organic foods have far less toxicity in them from pesticides and chemicals, with far more nutrients. With that said, we want to unburden the body from these toxins to promote nutrient-rich healing, particularly when something chronic is experienced. However, I understand the cost of organic food at a premium does not always make this affordable. We would recommend you investigate companies like Thrive Market and Brandless, who are providing home delivery of healthy and organic food at discounted prices. These cost saving companies make eating healthy and reducing consumption of garbage in our food a very hip option. These companies are staples in our home and office.
Think roughly your Great-Grandparents generation. Eat lots of veggies and reduce your intake of carbs and sugar drastically. Discontinue eating ‘before’ you start to feel full. Remember enzymes are crucial for the digestion process and must be used in the best of digestive circumstances. This is best done with the help of your provider, since many formulations are either of poor quality or are not concentrated enough to make a difference. When dealing with diabetes this component should be addressed. Under certain circumstances, a once weekly fast could prove beneficial.
Another factor to consider is making sure you have the soul support you need. There are a lot of support groups out there both in-person and online. I would encourage you to get involved with others who have diabetes, since they will understand what you are going through with first-hand experience. If that isn’t your style, never underestimate the one-on-one benefit from a qualified psychologist, psychiatrist or spiritual leader to assist you. We always recommend a technique called E.M.D.R. to deal with the emotional issues and truly helping to heal the damage trauma, both mental and physical has caused to our bodies. Search for a practitioner in your local area. This specialization is known as Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing. It’s great because you don’t have to ‘talk-it-out’ and you can use this technique to effectively get to the root that is holding you back from complete health and healing. It is a bit like peeling an onion and does take some time but with the potential for lasting results.
Recommended reading: Our root philosophy maintains that emotions are truly the root cause of most, if not all of the physical issues plaquing us as humans. Happiness is a choice and our dear friend Marilyn Tam wrote an incredible dossier, The Happiness Choice on just that. Through adversities and hardship, you can, and always should, choose happiness. Be in the moment and remember, this moment NOW, is all we have and once it’s gone, it’s gone. Be present and when you remember you aren’t, just take a deep breath and refocus in the now and do not be hard on yourself. It does seem easy and at times it isn’t. Please don’t think we are in an ivory tower spouting out drivel. We teach the things we need to learn the most and are constantly learning and these are things we use to help us stay afloat in this crazy world.