TCM is becoming a popular complementary form of medicine for an array of different diseases. What is the role of TCM in those who have been afflicted with diabetes? Let us look at the 5 most common questions people usually ask when it comes to TCM & Diabetes
How can TCM help with diabetes?
TCM sees a human body as a whole and does not segregate body parts and symptoms from its relations to the whole body. As such, for chronic conditions like diabetes, we would do a diagnosis based on the patterns of disharmony in the body, including presenting symptoms and the patients’ psychological responses.
Very often, TCM does not place very much emphasis on constant monitoring of the blood glucose levels, but rather we are more concerned with treating the deficiency and disharmony of the body as a whole.
For diabetes, TCM terms it as Xiao-ke (消渴), which in direct translation means “wasting and thirsting”. We usually classify diabetes into 3 types: upper, middle and lower Xiao-ke. Organs that are usually affected are the lungs, stomach and kidneys. Therefore, when we do a diagnosis, we would place emphasis on these organs to look out for patterns of disharmony or over-activity.
Two common treatment methods are acupuncture and herbal medication. Whether a person needs acupuncture or herbal medication vastly depends on his/her body symptoms and the diagnosis. In some cases, both treatment procedures can be carried out in tandem, where we see greater and faster improvements in the patient’s condition.
I am on western medication, can I still go for TCM treatment for diabetes?
Yes you can, but do keep your physician informed on the medication you are taking at the moment. Many patients chose to integrate Western and Chinese medicine because:
They experience side effects of western medication
Patients aim to wean off western medication
Western medication is not helping with their blood sugar management
Some important factors to take note off when one is undergoing both TCM and western medication:
Do not stop taking your western medication immediately as there may be unwanted rebound/side effects. This should be done slowly, in stages and under supervision
Have a gap of 1.5 - 2 hours in between when consuming the medications
Constantly measure your blood sugar (eg. Once/twice a day). Some western medication can cause sudden drastic drop of blood sugar, which may result in symptoms such as giddiness.
How long will a typical TCM treatment for diabetes be?
This greatly depends on individuals. A typical TCM treatment can span from 3-6months, or even longer. Determining factors include:
Severity of the disease
Whether there are other accompanying symptoms/complications involved
Immune system of the patient
How diligent the patient is in taking the chinese medication
TCM medication/acupuncture treatment works in an accumulative manner which is unlike western medication, whereby effects are almost immediate after popping the pill. Therefore, patients are often encouraged to persevere and be patient even if results are insignificant at the initial stage.
When should I seek TCM’s help for diabetes?
Prevention is better than cure. This applies for chronic diseases such as diabetes. If one goes for regular body check-up and finds his/her blood sugar/HbA1c (Glycated hemoglobin) at an elevated level, he/she should start seeking TCM treatment.
Very often, pre-diabetics tend to be able to see greater and faster results than those who have been having the condition for a longer period of time.
Any TCM herbs/medication I can buy off the shelf to help with my blood sugar?
As mentioned earlier, TCM’s treatment method focuses on the wholesome body state, and not on single/segregated body parts nor the disease itself. Therefore, without a proper diagnosis with a TCM physician, getting herbs/medication off the shelf is not recommended.
No doubt there are many products in the market today that advocates its blood sugar lowering properties. However, if the product is not suitable for your body, it may worsen the condition and cause unwanted side effects.
For instance, if a patient is presented with yin deficiency and the product is meant for people with yang deficiency, condition of patient yin deficiency patient will worsen after taking the product.