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Diabetes, neuropathy and acupuncture

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By Li Zheng, Ph.D., Lic. Acu.

In a 2011 Journal of Endocrinology Investigation, Dr. Jiang YL, et. al used a single abdominal injection of a chemical called streptozotocin (STZ) to induce high blood sugar in rats. Rats were randomly divided into six groups: control, diabetes, preventive acupuncture plus streptozotocin injection, STZ injection plus therapeutic acupuncture, streptozotocin injection plus preventive and therapeutic acupuncture, and preventive and therapeutic acupuncture control. Body weight, blood glucose, serum insulin, lipid peroxidation, and antioxidant enzymes were measured by routine standard methods. Histological analysis of pancreatic islets was conducted. Their results showed preventive acupuncture significantly reduced blood sugar levels, enhance insulin efficiency, reduced body weight and pancreatic islet damage in rats with streptozotocin injection; it also significantly reduced serum lipid peroxidation and enhanced superoxide dismutase in the serum and the pancreas, which reduced the oxidation stress and prevented the blood from clotting.

Glucose intolerance is the condition in which insulin cannot function normally due to too much sugar intake every day, which desensitizes the insulin receptors. The sharp elevated blood sugar levels right after the meal can damage the blood vessels and nerves irreversibly. The above study indicates that acupuncture treatment can prevent the blood sugar surge induced by chemicals artificially, thus acupuncture can prevent neuropathy, stroke and even dementia. The healthy blood vessels and nerves are crucial for the normal function of the heart and brain function.

In clinical practices, when we applied acupuncture to type I and type II diabetes patients after each meal, their blood sugar reading usually is lowered within two hours. Since people cannot have acupuncture everyday to lower their blood sugar, eating low glycemic index food and doing regular exercise are also very important to resensitize the insulin receptor, so that with the lowered level of insulin, people can still achieve the optimized blood sugar level. Insulin itself is a growth factor, which can cause the imbalance of the estrogen and progesterone and chronic inflammation.

Acupuncture not only can help the body stabilize the blood sugar level, but also can be used to treat neuropathy because it can improve the blood circulation to your hands and feet to facilitate the peripheral nerves’ regeneration. The most recent article inNeuroscience. 2011 by Cidral-Filho FJ et. al. indicates that manual acupuncture inhibits mechanical hypersensitivity induced by spinal nerve injury in rats. Jin Z et. al did human clinical research in 2011 and found that electroacupuncture and acupoint injection with methylcobalamin can increase motor and sensory nerve conduction velocity, control and relieve the symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

Li Zheng is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, a graduate of the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine with 24 years of clinical and research experiences, including 6 years of residency, a Ph.D. degree holder in medical sciences from the US, a Harvard Medical School trained researcher and a professor at the New England School of Acupuncture. Her website is and her clinic is located at 475 hillside avenue, Needham, MA02494.



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