Jewels Doskicz is a registered nurse, freelance writer, patient advocate, health coach, and long-distance cyclist. Jewels is the moderator of Diabetic Connect’s weekly #DCDE Twitter chat, and she and her daughter both live healthfully with type 1 diabetes.

The pharmacy certainly isn’t responsible for your total health package—even if you're dependent upon insulin. Outside of the typical "diabetes box" treatments may be your ticket toward health; one that has you reaping both mental and physical health benefits.

The approach

No one’s suggesting you stop your medicine (please don’t). Nor should anyone suggest that you should be ashamed for needing it. But let’s be honest, do you think you could benefit from change?

Most people with diabetes (both type 1 and type 2) will answer "yes," because it’s a downright difficult disease to manage day in and day out.

As is true of most things, approach does matter. Both Eastern and Western (conventional) medicine have the same goals: to balance blood sugar levels, reduce the symptoms of the disease, and prevent complications through disease management—but the approaches are very different.

In Eastern medicine, diabetes isn’t viewed as a free-standing issue—it must be understood at length as a relationship to the body and the mind, according to Diabetes Journals.

Many patients prefer practitioners with a good mix of both philosophies—complementary medicine practiced alongside conventional medicine. Keep in mind that type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease with no insulin production and no cure, which is fundamentally very different than type 2. Blood sugars may be impacted with both types of diabetes when enlisting alternative therapies, necessitating changes in your medication regimen.

Let’s take a peek at what other people are "prescribing" for health.

1. You are what you eat

Eastern medicine practitioners prescribe diet based on the individual; their suggestions go beyond an end-of-the-day carbohydrate total and get into the nitty-gritty of what foods are best for your constitution—those that are “balancing,” according to The Chopra Center.

2. Massage

If you’ve had the opportunity to wear a continuous glucose monitor, it’s easy to connect the dots between stress and high blood sugar. You can see it happen at work, when accidents occur, or in any situation when you drop loads of stress hormones.

We live in a stressful environment. There’s a hefty link among our mind, stress, and disease. We’re no longer chased by lions; our demons are deadlines, double-booking, constant environmental input, and everything needing to be done yesterday.

What goes on in our mind affects our physical health. Massage is effective at quelling the stress input.

3. Acupuncture

Clinical studies document acupuncture’s effectiveness on blood sugars. A recent study in Diabetes Journals on acupuncture treatments for patients had some impressive results:

77 percent had significant improvement in their pain symptoms.
• After 18 to 52 weeks, 67 percent were able to stop or significantly reduce their pain medications.
• Only 24 percent required additional acupuncture treatment.
21 percent stated “Their symptoms had cleared completely.”

4. Exercise as medicine

The concept of moving the body as a treatment for diabetes isn’t a new one, but it sure does work. When we move our body, we don’t just release feel-good hormones called endorphins; we also make our muscles more responsive to insulin—especially with aerobic activities. Our body becomes more efficient, allowing sugar in the blood to enter the cells for energy.

It’s no surprise exercise is prescribed from both camps of medicine.

5. Yoga

Studies show yoga has positive impacts on diabetes and other sister diagnoses. Yoga can improve nerve function, decrease blood sugars, decrease blood pressure, lower stress and cortisol levels, and improve mood.

A yoga practice for 40 minutes every day for 40 days had some outstanding research results at the University College of Medical Sciences, in Shahdara, New Delhi, according to Yoga Health Foundation. On average, fasting blood sugars from type 2 participants decreased from 190 mg/dl to 140 mg/dl.

Western medicine isn’t the end all, be all in respect to traditionally managed diabetes care models. Successfully blending therapies with one another, you can create a personalized recipe for what works for your diabetes—a successful holistic model of disease management.

To learn more about alternative treatments for diabetes:

Chinese Medicine and Diabetes
Pot for Pain? Treating Neuropathy Pain with THC
Taking Herbs with My Diabetes Medication: Is it Safe?