Studies suggest that acupuncture could help to improve blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, and relieve the symptoms of neuropathy and more.
Acupuncture is often used to treat diabetes in modern-day China, and scientists researching the benefits note that it could improve blood glucose management, help with weight loss, protect pancreas islet function (the function responsible for producing insulin), improve insulin resistance, and adjust the balance of hormones that affect diabetes.
Various studies have suggested that acupuncture may benefit people with diabetes.
Glucose and insulin levels
A 2018 study from China had findings that showed that specific acupuncture points helped improve symptoms in diabetic rats. Within three weeks of receiving electroacupuncture, the rats had lower glucose levels, increased insulin levels, and improved glucose tolerance.
Insulin sensitivity and resistance
A literature review in Acupuncture in Medicine in 2016 investigated whether acupuncture was a valid treatment for insulin, and whether it could be used as a future treatment for insulin sensitivity. The review found that low-intensity, low-frequency electroacupuncture could help to reduce insulin resistance and increase insulin sensitivity.
The team suggested that electroacupuncture could be used either alone or with other treatments, and other complementary therapies could include dietary measures and Chinese herbs.
Acupuncture and metformin
Acupuncture in Medicine contained an article from 2015 which reviewed studies on rats where electroacupuncture was combined with metformin, an anti-diabetic medication. The team discovered that when compared to metformin alone, the combination of the two treatments offered better glucose lowering responses and greater insulin sensitivity.
However, none of the studies address the processes and mechanisms which could explain how acupuncture works to manage diabetes symptoms.
The techniques of acupuncture used for treating pain may be different to those used for treating diabetes.
Medical acupuncture can involve various different styles and techniques, but in treating diabetes, only three of these have been researched.
Wrist-ankle acupuncture involves deep needle stimulation of the ankle and wrist nerves.
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine published research in 2014 which concluded that wrist-ankle acupuncture may be a safe and effective way of treating pain, including diabetic peripheral neuritis. However, the scientists stated that there is not enough evidence to confirm that this is a safe and effective method of treatment.
Electroacupuncture is the most common form of acupuncture used to treat diabetes. The practitioner inserts a pair of needles into each acupuncture point and passes an electrical impulse from one needle to the other.
This method has shown that it is effective in treating pain from diabetic neuropathy and managing blood glucose levels.
Herbal acupuncture is a modern technique which involves injecting herbs into acupuncture points.
A review from the journal Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine suggested that herbal acupuncture could help to maintain blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
There are some general side effects of acupuncture, such as soreness, bleeding, and bruising.
Before having acupuncture, a person should check that the practitioner is licensed and insured, and uses sterile, single use needles. They should also check with their doctor that it is safe for them to receive acupuncture treatment. People who take blood thinners or have a blood clotting disease may be discouraged from having acupuncture.
People can combine it with other types of diabetes treatment, including medication, a healthful diet, and regular exercise.
For more information about Acupuncture for Diabetes
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