Diabetes: Findings From Alternative Medicine

IMAGE Diabetes is a chronic condition that often requires several lifestyle changes to manage it. In addition to medication, diet, and exercise, new therapies may be emerging from the field of complementary and alternative medicine. Thirteen million Americans, or about 6% of the population, have diabetes, a disorder of the endocrine system, which is involved in metabolizing food and regulating the amount of glucose in the bloodstream—referred to as "blood sugar." There are two forms of diabetes—type 1 or insulin-dependent diabetes, and type 2 or non-insulin-dependent diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes are usually diagnosed as children or young adults and must take injections of the hormone insulin because their pancreas does not produce insulin. People with type 2 diabetes do have insulin but their bodies don't utilize it effectively. Type 2 diabetes is much more common and affects mostly adults. There are oral medications available to help people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugars and some people with type 2 diabetes may require insulin injections. In addition to insulin and oral medications, individualized diet and exercise programs are a key component of managing both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.Now additional options for managing diabetes may be emerging from the world of complementary and alternative medicine. Here's a rundown of some of the interesting research findings.

Exercise: It Doesn't Have to Be Rigorous

Exercise has long been known to help people with diabetes reduce blood sugars and achieve and maintain a healthy weight. A study confirmed this, but with two interesting twists.First, this trial, known as the Nurses' Health Study, studied women, whereas most previous trials studied the association between exercise and diabetes in men. For eight years the researchers followed more than 70,000 women who did not have diabetes or other health problems, to see how many would develop diabetes during that time and whether development of diabetes had anything to do with intensity of physical activity. During the study, 1419 women developed diabetes. The women who were less physically active were more likely to develop the disease.The second interesting twist is that even moderate exercise, particularly walking, had a positive impact on lowering blood sugar levels. This is very important because walking is one of the simplest, least time-consuming, and most accessible activities available. In the Nurses' Health Study, 60% of the women questioned walked at least one hour per week, compared with only 6% who jogged, 12% who swam, 30% who bicycled, and 5% who played tennis.

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