November signifies National Diabetes Awareness Month 2023, a dedicated time to illuminate the plight of millions worldwide affected by diabetes. In my personal journey, I have close family members grappling with this condition, and I can attest to the daily battle it represents.
The relentless task of monitoring blood sugar levels throughout the day, ensuring consistent meal times, being vigilant about dietary choices, and even keeping an "emergency sugar source" on hand for potential low blood sugar episodes—it's a perpetual struggle. Diabetes management knows no respite; it's an exhausting challenge that necessitates diligent care.
Diabetes is a multifaceted and demanding health concern that calls for unwavering attention, education, and innovative approaches to its management. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers a holistic and complementary perspective in addressing diabetes and its myriad challenges. Rooted in ancient wisdom and a profound understanding of the body's equilibrium, TCM, with its holistic approach, doesn't just aim to alleviate physical symptoms but also strives to nurture the body's innate capacity for self-healing. Our aim is to empower individuals living with diabetes and inspire those searching for a comprehensive path to wellness within the realm of TCM.
Diabetes is a persistent medical condition characterised by elevated blood glucose (sugar) levels, resulting from the body's inability to effectively regulate blood sugar. It primarily stems from either an insufficient production of insulin, impaired insulin function, or a combination of both. Diabetes can be broadly categorised into two primary types:
1. Type 1 Diabetes: This autoimmune condition arises when the body's immune system mistakenly targets and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Individuals with Type 1 diabetes typically necessitate lifelong insulin therapy to regulate their blood sugar levels.
2. Type 2 Diabetes: The most prevalent form of diabetes, Type 2, is often associated with lifestyle factors, such as obesity and sedentary habits. However, it can also result from other life factors, such as stress and mental health. In Type 2 diabetes, the body develops resistance to insulin, making it less effective in regulating blood sugar. Over time, it may also involve reduced insulin production. Management for Type 2 diabetes entails lifestyle adjustments, medication, and insulin therapy when necessary.
In addition to Type 1 and Type 2, there are other forms of diabetes, including:
- Gestational Diabetes: This occurs during pregnancy when a woman's body cannot produce enough insulin to meet increased needs. It usually resolves after childbirth but raises the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
- Monogenic Diabetes: A rare form of diabetes caused by mutations in a single gene, affecting insulin production and blood sugar regulation. It can often be misdiagnosed as Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.
- Secondary Diabetes: Certain medical conditions, medications, or hormonal disorders can result in high blood sugar levels, leading to secondary diabetes. Treating the underlying cause can often improve or resolve this type of diabetes.
- Other Types: Less common forms of diabetes include maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY) and neonatal diabetes, which are often of genetic origin and may manifest at different ages.
Which Herbs may aid diabetes?
TCM herbs presents a promising avenue for managing diabetes. These herbs offer natural compounds that have the potential to regulate blood sugar levels, enhance insulin sensitivity, diminish inflammation, and supply valuable antioxidant support. These collective benefits contribute to the enhancement of glucose control and overall well-being. Here is a selection of herbs that may be recommended for diabetes management.
Proper diagnosis and treatment guidance from a healthcare professional are essential, as management and treatment strategies can vary based on the specific type of diabetes. Traditional Chinese Medicine and its culinary and medicinal herbs potentially offer complementary help alongside diabetes management and may offer additional hope and possibilities.
May Improve Insulin Function: Cinnamon may enhance insulin signalling and improve insulin sensitivity in cells.
Potentially Lowers Blood Sugar: It can help lower fasting blood sugar levels by increasing glucose uptake in the cells.
- Antioxidant Properties: Cinnamon is rich in antioxidants that may protect against oxidative stress often linked to diabetes complications.
May Enhance Insulin Secretion: Ginseng may stimulate insulin secretion by pancreatic cells, helping to regulate blood sugar levels.
Potentially Reduces Blood Sugar: It has been shown to lower fasting blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes.
- Adaptogenic Properties: Ginseng may help the body adapt to stress, which is essential for diabetes management.
May Support Immune Function: Astragalus is known for its immune-boosting properties, helping the body fight infections that can complicate diabetes.
Could Reduces Inflammation: It possesses anti-inflammatory effects that may mitigate chronic inflammation associated with diabetes.
- Potentially Improves Kidney Health: Astragalus can support kidney function, which is often compromised in individuals with diabetes.
Low Glycaemic Index: Black soybeans have a low glycaemic index (GI), meaning they have a slow and steady impact on blood sugar levels when consumed. This may help prevent rapid spikes and crashes in blood glucose, making them a suitable choice for people with diabetes.
Rich in Fibre: Black soybeans are a good source of dietary fibre, which can aid in regulating blood sugar levels. Fibre helps slow down the absorption of carbohydrates, reducing post-meal blood sugar spikes and promoting better glycaemic control.
- Nutrient-Dense: Black soybeans are packed with essential nutrients, including protein, vitamins, and minerals. Their protein content can help stabilise blood sugar levels and reduce the impact of carbohydrates on insulin response, contributing to better diabetes management.
Low Glycaemic Index: Dried Chinese Yam has a low glycaemic index, which means it may have minimal impact on blood sugar levels when consumed. This can help stabilise blood glucose and prevent rapid spikes, making it a potentially suitable option for individuals with diabetes.
High in Dietary Fibre: Dried Chinese Yam are potentially rich in dietary fibre, which may can aid in regulating blood sugar. Fibre slows down the absorption of carbohydrates, helping to maintain steady blood sugar levels and improve glycaemic control.
- Potential Insulin-Sensitising Properties: Some research suggests that certain compounds in Chinese Yam may possess insulin-sensitising properties. This can enhance the body's response to insulin, potentially improving glucose metabolism and diabetes management.
Traditional Chinese Medicine potentially offers several herbs that are believed to be beneficial for managing diabetes. It's important to note that while these herbs may offer benefits in diabetes management, they should be used as complementary therapies alongside conventional medical treatments. Consult with a healthcare provider or TCM practitioner to determine the appropriate dosage and duration of use for these supplements, as they can vary based on individual health conditions and needs. Additionally, monitor your blood sugar levels regularly and make necessary lifestyle and dietary changes as advised by your healthcare team.
Discover the wide selection of Chinese herbs which may help you this Diabetes Awareness Month 2023.