Due to revolutionary modern technology in agriculture and transportation, we are living in an era of abundance. We enjoy foods from all around the world every season. It is hard to notice which fruits and veggies are in season as we can buy summer fruits and veggies all year long. There also are many delicious food items which can be served with little preparations. They usually contain corn syrup and other flavor enhancing artificial ingredients. Even a wealthiest in hundred years ago never had a chance to enjoy these delicious foods that we enjoy every day now.
Is it really a good thing to eat whatever is available? Or should we be more careful to choose what, when and how to eat? As you can see it on "Healthy Diet", we need to moderate our eating habits as we are suffering from many food-related problems. One of the prevailing problems with those foods is Diabetes. According to the American Diabetic Association, almost 10% of the US population has diabetes and 30% are regarded as pre-diabetes. Since people eat too much of the processed food which includes refined grain product and high fructose corn syrup, their body cannot function well with a surge of sugar in their digestive system.
Symptoms of diabetes changes as the disease progresses. It can be divided into 4 stages of symptoms of Stagnation, Heat, Deficiency, and Loss in Oriental medicine perspective. When sweet and greasy food keeps going into the digestive system in a large amount, it will relax and stretch the muscles of the digestive system to cause stagnation. Stagnation for a long period can generate Stomach heat which can be manifested as acid reflux, heartburn, and frequent hunger. In those stages, people usually control their symptoms and blood sugar level by medication which actually inhibit the Stomach's function to digest food. Long term medication leads to the stage of malnutrition due to improper digestion. As blood sugar level keep rise and fluctuate, blood is getting thicker than normal and the flow is compromised to cause complications such as neuropathy, loss of vision etc. In each stage, we use the appropriate formula of acupuncture points and Chinese herbal medicine to relieve the symptoms and improve the condition. Those treatments should be accompanied by supporting lifestyle changes.
For earlier stage(stagnation) of the disease, it is important to stay away from refined sweet flavor including soda, syrup, and refined grains. Also, you need to reduce the amount of food you are taking in each meal. Sweet food will relax the stomach muscle thus slow down the digestion process to generate more stagnation. In this stage, you may have no symptoms (even blood sugar level could be in normal range) or just minor symptoms on your digestive system such as bloating or sense of discomfort on your stomach. However, you may experience muscular symptoms such as shoulder and neck pain due to stagnation of energy on the channels such as Large intestine, Small intestines, Gall Bladder which travels on the shoulders and neck. You can prevent further progression of the disease in this stage by reducing sweet flavors as much as you can but it is not always easy due to your cravings or eating habit. Short-term Acupuncture treatment and/or herbal prescription will be helpful to stop the progression of the disease as well as reducing pain on the neck and shoulders.
The second(heat) stage, you may develop more symptoms such as heartburns, acid reflux, dry mouth, bad breath, frequent hunger and gum disease which represent symptoms of Stomach heat. It is the next stage of stagnation where the stagnated food generates heat. In this stage, you can reduce your stomach heat by taking cold food but it might aggravate the stagnation issues. Antiacid medication such as Tums can help to reduce heartburn and acid reflux by neutralizing acid in your stomach but it eventually hinders the stomach's function to digest food chemically. Having some plain yogurt before or after the meal can help protect the stomach lining and reduce stomach heat temporarily. Other medications such as Nexium or Prilosec to suppress stomach acid may give you a steady result but more complications. Treatment principle here is to reduce stomach heat and heal any damages in your esophagus and stomach lining while promoting the digestive function of the stomach. Acupuncture and herbal medication effectively do the job in this stage by relieving symptoms and reverse the progression of the disease.
The third(deficiency) stage, you may develop malnutrition conditions with profuse urination and weight loss. Due to continuing heat condition, blood and body fluid was dried out and energy was also depleted. Also, there are by-products such as heat-induced phlegm and stagnation of blood. Symptoms are usually those of cold or deficiency (indigestion, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, burping, bloating, diarrhea or loose stool) mixed with those of heat or excess(extreme thirst, bitter taste in the mouth, sweating, hot flushes), or those of heat above mixed with cold below. Treatment principle here should be taking care of both ranges of symptoms altogether using bitter herbs to cool down the heat above and warm and spicy herbs to promote digestion and warm up the below. Acupuncture also can take care of this stage by relieving symptoms and recovering balance.
The last(loss) stage, you may have symptoms of damages on your organs, nerves of limb and sensory organs. Diabetic neuropathy, nephropathy, eye & skin complications are usual symptoms of this stage. Other symptoms include frequent urination, night urination, dark dry complexion, knee & lower back weakness and pain, easily feel cold, cold(esp. lower) limb, lower limb edema, etc. In this stage, taking care of complication should be accompanied by root treatment. Herbal formula treating Yin and Yang deficiency of Kidney will do the job and opening of affected channels and meridian will reduce prevent further damage due to the complication.
Those stages could be overlap or missing depends on a patient's condition or constitution. Those are the general pictures of the progression of the disease. If you start to intervene earlier, it would be much easier to stop the progress and go back to healthier. One of the main factors that many people do not seek remedy seriously is that the symptoms and improvements are so subtle so they are getting used to those condition until it got severe with neuropathy and other sensory complications. If you take medications for that, you may reduce symptoms and delay the progress of the disease. However, these medicines do not cure the disease. If you get proper acupuncture treatments and herbal medication along with lifestyle changes, you can cut down the medications gradually and recover from the symptoms and complications.