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Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Is It Right For You?

You’ve been doing it all: monitoring your numbers, taking your meds, managing lifestyle factors like exercise and eating habits.

But what if you want to add something else into the mix? What about complementary and alternative therapies? Things like acupuncture, yoga, or even massage therapy?

Here’s the lowdown on some of the most common alternative treatments and whether they’re worth your time or not.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a 3000-year-old practice of stimulating various points on the body, usually with tiny, sterile needles. It doesn’t hurt, I swear!

Should you try it?

Sure, if you want to. There don’t seem to be any adverse impacts caused by acupuncture for those with type 2 diabetes, but there’s limited information on how well it works. It does appear to help people with neuropathy, and it can help with chronic pain.1 There’s an ongoing study looking at how effective it is for people with type 2 diabetes, so keep an eye out for future findings.2 If it appeals to you, check it out after asking your doctor. There can be some bruising in the areas where the needles are inserted.

Yoga

Yoga is an ancient practice consisting of breath control, meditation, and putting one’s body into various positions or “postures” for the purpose of health and relaxation. I feel pretty confident you know what yoga is.

Should you try it?

As long as you choose the right type, go for it. These days yoga often seems to be about on the most beautiful mountain top with the best pair of yoga pants, but in reality, it can be a deeply healing discipline. Research suggests various postures and parts of yoga practice can do everything from stimulating insulin production to rejuvenating pancreatic cells.1 However, there are plenty of reasons to be cautious before starting any sort of yoga program. Talk to your doctor, of course, and make sure you’re taking a class from a seasoned professional. Strenuous Bikram or hot yoga classes are unlikely to be a good fit. And pay careful attention to how the practice is impacting your body. Do not push yourself, or serious injuries are possible.

Massage therapy

Massage therapy is the manual manipulation of soft body tissues. There are various kinds of massage, like hot stone, Swedish, or deep tissue.

Should you try it?

Yes. There doesn’t seem to be a downside to massage unless you’re uncomfortable with them. They’re especially helpful in increasing relaxation and decreasing anxiety. That’s great for anyone, but especially those living with a chronic health conditions. As always, talk to your physician beforehand and check in with yourself during a massage to make sure everything feels good.

Herbal treatments

Plants as medicine, usually in the form of a pill or powder.

Should you try it?

Cautiously. There’s some evidence that certain plants, such as bitter lemon and fenugreek, can lower blood glucose levels.3 If you’re interested, read up on it and then, and I can’t stress this enough, talk to your doctor about it. Mixing meds is not a safe thing to do.

As always, do what feels right to do, and always check in with your medical team beforehand.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Type2Diabetes.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Raveendran, A. V., Deshpandae, A., & Joshi, S. R. (2018). Therapeutic Role of Yoga in Type 2 Diabetes. Endocrinology and metabolism (Seoul, Korea), 33(3), 307–317. doi:10.3803/EnM.2018.33.3.307
  2. Liu, M., Chen, J., Ren, Q., Zhu, W., Yan, D., Nie, H., … Zhou, X. (2019). Acupuncture and related techniques for type 2 diabetes mellitus: A systematic review protocol. Medicine, 98(2), e14059. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000014059
  3. Pandey, A., Tripathi, P., Pandey, R., Srivatava, R., & Goswami, S. (2011). Alternative therapies useful in the management of diabetes: A systematic review. Journal of pharmacy & bioallied sciences, 3(4), 504–512. doi:10.4103/0975-7406.90103

Comments

  • Thomas A McAtee Jr. moderator
    4 months ago

    Good read Jen. And glad that you mentioned on the last item to check with doctor due to mixing with meds. I can remember many years ago someone told the wife to try something, forget what it was now but I did some research on it and told her that there was no way I was going to let her try it. I had read that In England there were a lot of people going to hospital with liver damage and other things due to taking it. So when someone tells me or her to try something I always do research on what they’re recommending plus I’d check with the doctor as well before going off on my own with something.

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