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When a person has diabetes, maintaining excellent blood sugar control is one aspect of disease management, but does not paint the entire picture. In addition to medications, such as insulin injections, patients may choose to use complementary and alternative therapies to better manage their diabetes. These therapies may aim to treat the mind as well as the body.
About one-third of Americans with diabetes use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies, according to an article published in the journal Clinical Diabetes. “Integrative medicine” is a term for the combination of traditional medicine and CAM therapies.
Before you begin such treatments, it is important to recognize that there is limited evidence on how well they do or do not work. Also, just because supplements are “all-natural” does not mean they will not interfere with diabetes medications or other medications. People with diabetes should always tell their physician about any alternative therapies they are taking to ensure safety.
Herbs and supplements are some of the most popular CAM therapies for people with diabetes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not consider these therapies “medicines.” Therefore, they are not regulated.
In its 2014 “Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes” statement, the American Diabetes Association took the following positions on supplements for diabetes:
Below are some of the most popular supplements used with diabetes.
Diabetes and other chronic conditions are associated with an increased risk depression and anxiety. According to the Mayo Clinic, increased stress can also affect the ability of people with diabetes to properly manage medications. Mind-body approaches are used as alternative therapies for diabetes to help patients deal with these concerns.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that most patients with diabetes engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic physical activity on a weekly basis, with strength training at least two days a week. In addition to this, other activities that can help reduce stress,, such as tai chi and yoga, may be beneficial. But according to research published in Clinical Diabetes, while these may help a person relax and promote flexibility and strength, they are not associated with improvements in diabetes measurements, such as glycemic control or improvements in A1C tests.
While meditation may not burn calories, it can help to relieve stress. Meditation techniques can vary from mantra-based, such as repeating an uplifting thought or statement, to breathing techniques and methods. Examples of meditation techniques include Vipassana, Transcendental, and Zen meditation.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine practice that involves inserting small needles into strategic points in the skin. This can help to re-direct energy flow and restore harmony to the body. In so doing, patients may feel more relaxed.
Acupressure is another technique that involves placing pressure on strategic points in the body to produce similar effects to acupuncture.
These techniques do not aim to cure diabetes, but instead aim to help a person’s body function more optimally.
Written by: Rachel Nall
Published on: Jul 08, 2014
Medically reviewed on: Feb 28, 2017: Peggy Pletcher, MS, RD, LD, CDE
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