Shihan Mary Bolz, L. Ac., M. Sc.,
Master of Science Oriental Medicine
Doctoral Fellow, FBU
This article is a report of what Dr. Gang Ma, a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctor at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China is doing in the treatment of diabetes mellitus Type II and what I, as a student in the doctoral program at Five Branches University, have directly gleaned from him. It is very exciting how he and his staff are treating thousands of patients who have diabetes Type II with what seems to be much greater success than the Western-medicine-only treatment of diabetes that is usually done in the United States. Read on about Zhejiang University Hospital and Dr. Ma.
Dr. Ma is the director of the Diabetes Center at Zhejiang University and has set up a diabetes care center consisting of a team of medical professionals. This team looks at the patientâ€™s need, not from a viewpoint of each medical professional, but at the overall need and outcome of treatment of the patient. The M.D. in Zhejiang has equal respect for the TCM doctor and vice-versa. They work together for the good of the patient. What is the best way the clinicians can help the patient?
The process appears somewhat like an assembly line of medical experts, white coats where the patient goes through the line of expert stations and sees each medical professional, thus providing integrated therapy. Each patient in this Integrated Diabetes Care System ends up with a booklet that contains each of the specialist tests, analyses, results, recommendations, and prescriptions. Dr. Ma has found that integrated therapy is the best for treatment and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has the most important role of the team. The team consists of professionals that test for and address not only the diabetes itself, but all the complications of diabetes. The team of professionals includes the endocrinologist, the neurologist, the cardiologist, the nutritionist, the podiatrist, the general practitioner, the Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor, the physical therapist, nephrologists, dermatologist and ophthalmologist.
There are a lot of doctors in China studying and treating patients and also researching diabetes treatment and care around the world. They have realized that in the United States there are 40% more diabetic patients that have amputations due to infections than in China. (The infections are due to the poor circulation, the diabetic peripheral neuropathy.) This is largely due to the use of Traditional Chinese medicine in China. That and acupuncture are the main differences in treatment. Many of the diabetic patients at Dr. Ma university clinic are also able to reduce their medications such as Metformin and Glyberide and insulin and some are even able to get rid of their medications. Another important difference in his program is the nutritional counseling and follow-up with the patient by the nutritionist on a regular basis. The patient is educated and followed up as to what they are eating. Another prescription is exercise and Tai Ji Chuan, which is not only good for the body, but helps to relieve stress.
But, the number one most important treatment, this team has found is Traditional Chinese Medicine, that is, the herbal medicine. The Oriental Medicine doctor prescribes a special formulation for each patient, depending on their TCM diagnosis, not just the Western medicine diagnosis of diabetes. The Western medicine diagnosis of diabetes is really more like a symptom complex in the eyes of Traditional Chinese Medicine, not a diagnosis. In traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the individual pattern differentiation according to signs and symptoms is what is termed a diagnosis. The individuals TCM pattern differentiation is very vital to determine before any herbal formula can be prescribed. This is not a matter of the patient just buying a conglomeration of herbs. This is done with the oriental medicine doctoral definite understanding, education, and sophisticated knowledge of Oriental medicine diagnostics and Chinese herbs. After thoroughly understanding the therapeutic category, the tropism and effective qualities of each individual herb, the practitioner must know how each herb can properly fit in a group of other herbs (a formula). The patientâ€™s individual imbalance and pattern diagnosis being carefully established, the practitioner can formulate the most beneficial herbal prescription.
The best method for the patient to consume the herbs is in a decoction. The patient takes these formulas home (whole part of plants; the leaves, bark, roots, etc.) and cooks them and then drinks them daily as a tea. It is formally called a decoction in TCM. As one Chinese teacher jokingly said, however; it tastes good, this is tea, if it does not taste good and it is acting as medicine, this is country usually tell the patients it is a tea, because this is more understandable. This is by far the most effective form of taking the herbs and this is the only way patients take them at Dr. Ma center in China.
In my clinic here in Vacaville, this is always what I encourage my patients to take, because I can customize the formula and because the decoctions themselves are more readily absorbed by the patientâ€™s body. Approximately 85 % of my patients take these formulas, because the decoctions work the best. Still, because this is the United States and people are not accustomed to drinking herbs, but very used to taking medications and vitamin supplements, some people will only take the herbal pills. These are not really the most effective. However, it is much better to take these than none, because still effect does occur.
After getting an herbal formulation to match the individual patientâ€™s underlying pattern of imbalance, the practitioner also should consider adding herbs that will help increase insulin uptake in the body and/or regulate blood sugar metabolism. There are many herbs that have been proven to do this. These should not be indiscriminately taken by diabetic patients, however, because they could cause more imbalances and have the opposite effect on the metabolism and other complications. Prescribing herbs on the basis of the Western scientific analysis alone is not enough. This type of prescribing may fail to help the patient. Therefore, I urge anyone reading the information on insulin uptake or blood sugar regulating capabilities of herbs in this article not to take them without the professional advice of a TCM herbal specialist. One shoe does not fit all in TCM. Unlike Western medicine, where most diabetic patients are taking the same medications, TCM diabetic patients will have very individualized
These herbal formulas are taken side by side with the Western medication in China without any interference or ill side effects. Herbs are by far safer, as they are whole foods, than medications, which are individualized chemical constituents in mega doses. If you think about it, this makes sense.
Absolutely, you should keep your medical doctor and work with them; also you should work with your TCM practitioner to get all the treatment that you have a right to. An individual being able to reduce their medication or stop it is deemed success at Dr. Ma University clinic, by both the M.D. and the TCM doctor. It should be so here. In China, the 2-hour postprandial blood sugar is taken 2 hours after taking the first bite of food, for more accuracy. It is taking regularly to monitor how well the patient is controlling their blood sugar levels, not just relying on the fasting glucose tolerance test. The HbA1C also is a good way to tell if a diabetic patient has their diabetes good control. This is the average blood sugar level within a three-month time period. If more than normal, it means blood sugar is really high because this is an average. An average for normal HbA1C is 5.8%-6.5%. Patients in the pre-diabetes stage usually have a normal HbA1C.
Some of the many Chinese herbs that have been shown to have a blood sugar regulating effect are huang qi, shan zhi zi, ze xie, shan yao, and tian hua fen. Ren shen zo dai has been proven to regenerate the Beta cells in the pancreas. These are just a few. Some herbs that improve the microcirculation are dan shen and ge gen. Huang qi protects the cells of the inner membrane of the blood vessels.
Besides treating the diabetes itself, TCM is good at treating the complications of diabetes, such as peripheral neuropathy and retinopathy, and the kidney function. There are established formulas for these conditions that are modified for each individual. Bloating is also a problem for many diabetes patients which can be caused by poor circulation in peripheral neuropathy. The Western medication for neuropathy can be causing the bloating, which has been found in China.
According to these doctors experience, Dr. Ma reports that 40% of all pre-diabetic patients can be prevented from turning into diabetes, that is, they can reverse their condition. How? Diet, exercise, stress management and traditional Chinese herbal formulations that have been customized for their individual condition. Dr. Ma stresses that acupuncture is good for weight control and endocrine imbalances and improving the metabolism and immune function of patients. Here is a tea that everyone can make and drink that helps to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood, lose weight, and regulate sugar metabolism: gou qi zi (Lyceum fruit), shan zha (hawthorn berry), ju hua (chrysanthemum flower), and jiao gu lan (Rhizome Herbal Gynostemmatis). These herbs can be bought in bulk at Chinese herbal pharmacies. There are many herbs that are food-grade herbs and can be bought as food. (These are available for sale as food at Acupuncture Plus). Shan yao (rhizome dioscoreae), yi yi ren (Job tears), and huang qi (radix astragali) can also be purchased in bulk as food and put into your regular soup at home. These are good to improve the function of the stomach and spleen. There is research printed in English that has been done in Pakistan and some U.S. universities about rou gui (cinnamon) having the ability to regulate blood sugar. This is true. However, it should not be used as a single herb for many people because it is also very warm. People who have heat conditions and are diabetic should not be using large amounts of cinnamon or maybe none. Many people have yin deficient heat with night sweats and other heat symptoms, this herb should be used with caution.
Only those people who are knowledgeable enough or totally fed up with the conventional medical treatment of their condition come to us, the Oriental medicine practitioner in the United States. That is really too bad, and, hopefully, we will see more and more people in the United States benefit from the Oriental medicine treatment which is, for the most part, ignored in this country. There is a great segment of effective and lasting treatment for diabetes and many diseases that Oriental medicine has to offer, that is being overlooked and squelched by greater forces in this country. It is time that the consumer themselves take responsibility for their own health and their own disease because they cannot rely on conventional medical care alone to do it.
What about you? Make a change to a whole foods diet and reduce or eliminate dairy and meat, eat more fresh cooked vegetables (not canned, frozen, or prepared in a package, but buy them whole and cook them yourself). Get on a regular exercise program. Learn how to cook with some herbs. Take advantage of Western and Eastern medicine. Doing all of these things will give you a better chance towards recovery and at the least improve your general health and put off the complications associated with diabetes.