For those with type I diabetes, the pancreas struggles to make enough insulin. Without sufficient insulin, blood sugar begins to build up in the bloodstream and may lead to long-term complications, such as nerve damage, kidney damage, heart and circulatory issues, and skin conditions. Whereas type II diabetes is lifestyle- and diet-related, type I diabetes is an autoimmune condition with a strong genetic component. With proper management, including taking insulin shots and maintaining healthy diet and lifestyle habits, those with type I diabetes can manage this condition successfully. Some preliminary research suggests that acupuncture can help stabilize blood sugar metabolism and relieve many symptoms of diabetes.
Causes and Symptoms of Type I Diabetes
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), type I diabetes is thought to result from an autoimmune reaction that destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas (called beta cells). Without enough insulin, glucose cannot enter the cells and builds up in the bloodstream. Over time and without intervention, high blood sugar levels can negatively affect major organs in the body. Known risk factors for developing type 1 diabetes include genetics, family history, and age (diagnoses peak in children between 4 and 7 years of age and again in children between 10 and 14 years old).
Western Medicine’s Approach to Managing Type I Diabetes
When someone receives a type I diabetes diagnosis, western physicians will recommend lifelong insulin therapy. Insulin may be delivered through injections or via an insulin pump. Doctors may prescribe additional medications, such as high blood pressure medications or cholesterol-lowering drugs, but these may carry unwanted side effects. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can support the management of both type I and type II diabetes, so it’s important to eat a nutrient-dense diet and exercise regularly.
How Acupuncture Can Benefit Type I Diabetes
Western medicine has started to explore the benefits of acupuncture therapy for individuals with type I diabetes. One review and analysis of 234 publications found that acupuncture can improve various metabolic disorders (including insulin signal defect, which contributes to insulin resistance). Another study looking at the impact of 15-day acupuncture treatment on diabetic peripheral neuropathy concluded that “acupuncture was significantly more effective than sham for treatment of numbness in the lower extremities, spontaneous pain in the lower extremities, rigidity in the upper extremities, and alterations in temperature perception in the lower extremities after therapy.” Additionally, a retrospective study indicated that integrative Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) might reduce the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis in those with type I diabetes. While further and more comprehensive research is needed to fully understand the interplay between acupuncture and type I diabetes symptoms, existing studies show great promise. Acupuncture therapy encourages the body to heal from within, restoring balance and helping to manage many types of painful symptoms.
Call the NW Portland office of Inner Works Acupuncture today at (503) 227-2172 to schedule an appointment.