So, what is diabetes mellitus? Diabetes mellitus ‘honey urine’ is a metabolic disorder that basically disrupts the body’s ability to utilise glucose to produce energy. How this disruption occurs is either through an autoimmune component that leads to the destruction of the insulin secreting beta cells of the islets of Langerhans within the pancreas as in type 1 diabetes, or via cellular insulin resistance occurring generally due to poor lifestyle choices and a subsequent increase in circulating fatty acids, as in type 2 diabetes.
Let's take a look at type 1 and type 2 diabetes more closely to really get a feel for what is occurring and what are the mechanisms at play.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes
It is important to note that type 2 diabetes can shift to type 1 diabetes. If you imagine that in type 2 diabetes the pancreas is producing plenty of insulin in response to rising blood glucose levels (i.e. fed state). However as the cells of the body are not responding to the circulating insulin, the circulating glucose cannot gain entry into its target cell (i.e. muscle cell). Thus blood glucose levels remain high (hyperglycaemia), this in turn tricks the pancreas into thinking that it needs to produce even more insulin (hyperinsulinaemia). Over time this over production and overwork of the pancreas results in destruction of the insulin producing beta cells of the pancreas, and thus results in type 2 (insulin resistant) diabetes shifting into type 1 (loss of insulin production) diabetes.
Acupuncture's role in treatment ...
In regards to acupuncture's role in the treatment of diabetes it can provide a regulatory function in terms of the immune system. As well as provide various treatment strategies to balance endocrine and hormonal function. If we relate classical Chinese medical philosophy to a condition like diabetes mellitus we can see that they attributed to the earth element the responsibility of transporting and transforming food to a useable form of energy for the whole body. This sounds very similar to the endocrine role of the pancreas in its secretion of insulin and the resulting cellular uptake of glucose that is then transformed into a useable form (adenosine triphosphate). Thus strengthening the function of the earth element can play a pivotal role in the amelioration of diabetes signs and symptoms.
In regards to my clinical practice key meridians I focus on when addressing individuals who present with diabetes symptoms include the kidney meridian, spleen meridian, as well as addressing the constitution of the individual accordingly based on palpatory findings. Acupuncture stems from a philosophy of treating the individual, thus I can honestly say that although I do use specific treatment strategies for dealing with diabetes symptoms, treatment will always be guided by palpatory findings related to the constitution of the individual and subsequently the treatment acupuncture points used will vary from person to person. Diet, exercise, and regulating the immune system and endocrine function are essential when dealing with diabetes symptoms, and acupuncture can play a pivotal role in the harmonizing of the individual and greatly improve their health and vitality.
As always if you have any questions please feel free to contact me.
Giancarlo Nerini - Licensed Acupuncturist