Caught early enough, lifestyle changes that promote good blood sugar control may be enough to stop the development of diabetic complications, which can potentially be as serious as blindness and heart disease. However maintaining these changes can be challenging
Traditional acupuncture, which has been shown by research to be effective in alleviating diabetic symptoms, can be easily implemented into a person's routine and can form an effective part of an overall diabetes management plan.
Because type 2 diabetes starts out with mild symptoms, many people (estimated at up to a million in the UK) have the condition without knowing it. The first noticeable symptoms are typically constant thirst, needing to urinate frequently, tiredness and weight loss.
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder, which develops when the body can no longer make enough insulin (the hormone that regulates blood sugar) or when the insulin that is produced does not work properly any more (insulin resistance). Although insulin injections may be needed in the later stages of the disease, it is initially treated by diet and lifestyle modifications or by oral drugs.
Acupuncture, which involves inserting fine needles into different parts of the body, has been found to increase insulin production, regulate blood sugar and improve blood circulation, as well as helping treat obesity.
Lisa Sherman, acupuncturist and British Acupuncture Council member says: "Acupuncture can be safely and effectively combined with Western medicine and can play an effective role in an integrated diabetes treatment plan.
"As well as applying the technique of needling, which has been demonstrated to have beneficial effects on blood sugar control, an acupuncturist will often suggest beneficial lifestyle changes such as changing to a healthier diet, losing weight and increasing physical activity. Maintaining these changes is important, to prevent type 2 diabetes from getting worse and working with a supportive acupuncturist can help people commit to taking positive steps.
"The main aim of treatment for type 2 diabetes is to achieve blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels as near to normal as possible. This prevents development of diabetic complications which damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and blood vessels," she concluded.
Acupuncture is a tried and tested system of traditional medicine, which has been used in China and other eastern cultures for thousands of years to restore, promote and maintain good health. It aims to treat the root cause of a condition and promote long-term wellness, rather than just alleviating symptoms. Its benefits are now widely acknowledged all over the world and, in the past decade, traditional acupuncture has begun to feature more prominently in mainstream healthcare in the UK.
*There are two types of diabetes, of which type 2 makes up about 90%. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, typically diagnosed in young people, in which the immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
To find a practitioner in your area call the British Acupuncture Council on 020 8735 0400 or visit www.acupuncture.org.uk.