Diabetes occurs for several reasons, but the ultimate cause of high blood sugar that characterises the disorder is either due to deficiency of the hormone insulin or a combination of insulin deficiency and resistance of the body tissues to its actions. In response to food intake, insulin is released by specialised cells in the pancreas and is necessary for adequate amounts of glucose and other nutrients from food to be absorbed into certain tissues of the body. When insulin is lacking or the body resists its actions, the level of glucose in the blood becomes excessively high and diabetes is thus diagnosed. There are two major forms of diabetes – Type 1 and Type 2. Whatever the form, its basis is to some extent hereditary and some extent environmental.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is mostly due to an almost complete deficiency of insulin, resulting from immune system erroneously attacking and destroying the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It is often hereditary and can occur at any age, but most often diagnosed in juveniles.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is due to a combination of our body tissues becoming resistant to the action of insulin and the inability of the pancreas to make enough extra insulin to overcome it. Most of the times, our pancreas fails because we impose an excessive load upon it. It occurs during later onset normally after age 40, and especially in those who are overweight and inactive. Approximately 90% of the diabetics in Singapore belongs to Type 2, and are still continuing to be on the rise each year.
Symptoms & Prevention
In fact, diabetes may not cause any symptoms. One of every four people believed to have diabetes is often unaware of it and is undiagnosed. However, as diabetes of even moderate severity can lead to complications and shorten lifespan, it is thus important to make the diagnosis, even in people without symptoms. One of the first few symptoms that people tend to ignore is fatigue. In the early stages, diabetics often feel tired for no reasons and/or even after long hours of rest. Other typical symptoms include frequent urination and thirst, hunger, weight loss, blurred vision etc.
Before the actual diagnosis of diabetes, people normally go through a stage called borderline diabetes or prediabetes. This stage indicates that a person has abnormalities in his or her plasma glucose levels that fall short of standard accepted definitions for frank diabetes. The knowledge that one has prediabetes necessitates regular check-up and thus permits early intervention to prevent progression to frank diabetes. Prevention is always better than cure. Early prevention should be performed not only for prediabetes but anyone regardless of age, gender or ethnic groups.
Exercise and diet is often an important part of the prevention and treatment plan for people with or without diabetes. It is important that they follow a healthy diet plan and regular exercise regime to prevent or delay long-term complications.
- Exercise 3-5 times a week (min. of 20 minutes)
- Lose weight (if you are overweight)
- Use the healthy diet pyramid to plan your meals
- Eat the right portion and right carbohydrates (choose whole grains over refined grains)
- Adjust the timing of meal and snacks (spread your meals apart)
- Reduce salt intake
- Cut down on sweets and sugary drinks
From TCM’s perspective
Diabetes is often known as 消渴” (Xiao-Ke) in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Xiao-Ke syndrome means “wasting and thirsting.” Xiao-Ke is often associated with Yin deficiency, hence resulting in the production of excess heat within the body. This deficiency of Yin is closely associated with the lungs, stomach, and kidneys respectively under TCM principles. Chinese herbs and formulas have been used to treat diabetes since thousands of years ago, along with acupuncture and/or acupressure. It aims to reduce blood glucose, particularly in prediabetes, thus simultaneously reducing and preventing the onset of frank diabetes and its complications.
Two acupoints you can self-massage to glucose control
- Acupoint SP8, 地机, ‘Di Ji’
- Acupoint KD3, 太溪, ‘Tai Xi’
Prevention is always better than cure. Start your healthy lifestyle today.