Is Acupuncture Effective for Insulin Resistance?

What you need to know

Acupuncture is a safe, effective, and natural way to support the body’s metabolism whether or not diabetes is a concern. Give our office a call today at (425) 686-4498 to learn more about how we can help.

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Is Acupuncture Effective for Insulin Resistance?

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes in adults characterized by elevated glucose levels in the blood and underling culprit, insulin resistance. As of 2020, over 10% of the U.S. population have diabetes (this is up from about 6% in 2000 , and prevalence is also expected to double in the next 20 years).

What is insulin resistance and why is it such a huge concern?

Insulin resistance is defined as the ineffective use of insulin in the body leading to poor control of blood sugar and is usually associated with excess body weight. Insulin’s job in the body is to be secreted when it detects that blood glucose levels are too high and it helps to get excess glucose out of the blood. In the case of insulin resistance, your cells don’t respond, ex.) they are resistant, to insulin trying to regulate blood sugar, and your blood sugar continues to be high. This can lead to development of hyperglycemia, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. This metabolic syndrome can lead to vascular issues, neuropathy, and kidney problems. In fact, diabetes type 2 is associated with a 2 to 3-fold risk of heart attacks and stroke. Other complications include blindness and lower limb amputation. In 2019, it was the 9th leading cause of death with 1.5 million deaths directly caused by diabetes.

Modern approaches are mainly drug-based though any successful management program will include diet and lifestyle changes. Metformin is the drug of choice for most as it reduces the amount of sugar the liver releases into your blood, while also helping the body to respond better to insulin. Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) is the typical blood-test used to gauge a person’s average blood sugar and treatment progress. Currently, with western treatment, only about 50% of people reach their A1C target , which clearly leaves some room for improvement and alternative therapies.

How can acupuncture help?

Studies have looked at how acupuncture can help regulate metabolism and blood sugar. Some studies have looked at how acupuncture can help with insulin resistance in those people with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) due to the association of insulin resistance and PCOS.

In a 2018 study of 90 rats, it was found that within 3 weeks, diabetic rats that received electroacupuncture at specific acupuncture points had lower glucose levels, increased insulin levels and improved glucose tolerance. Acupuncture also shows significant benefit as an adjunctive therapy to pharmaceutical treatment. In 2015, an article published in Acupuncture in Medicine reviewed studies using rats in which scientists combined electroacupuncture with metformin. It was found that the combination of metformin and acupuncture offered better glucose lowering effects and greater insulin sensitivity when compared with metformin alone.

Read Dr. Ellie’s previous post on how acupuncture can help diabetes, here.

Acupuncture has also been shown to assist in weight loss while reducing blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes patients. Sanming County Hospital of Integrated Medicine researchers (Fujian) conducted a clinical trial of obese patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. A group receiving “routine care” (metformin plus lifestyle guidance) was compared with another group receiving routine care plus regular acupuncture. Although weight loss was statistically significant for both groups, reductions were significantly greater in the acupuncture group as measured by BMI (Body Mass Index).

Other Benefits of Acupuncture: Improvement with complications of Diabetes

Diabetes is often associated with other complications. Most notably is diabetic neuropathy. This may involve numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, mobility and balance concerns, and even changes in skin color and increased risk for infection. Acupuncture has been shown to be effective in reducing nerve pain and numbness and tingling with neuropathy (see our other blog posts on this topic here.)

Acupuncture takes the approach of bringing the individual body back into balance with itself and the environment, so each person’s treatment will be based on a customized plan. Given the growing prevalence of this metabolic disorder and the limitations of modern treatment, acupuncture should be a consideration for anyone concerned with prevention and/or treatment of this disease.

Acupuncture is a safe, effective, and natural way to support the body’s metabolism whether or not diabetes is a concern. Give our office a call today at (425) 686-4498 to learn more about how we can help you live your best life.


Acupuncture and Lowered Mortality Rate with Diabetes:

Call or Schedule Now! (425) 686-4498

Call or Schedule Now!

(425) 686-4498

Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc

  • Master’s Degree in Acupuncture
    Bastyr University
  • Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine
    Bastyr University
  • Master’s Degree in Chemistry
    Northern Arizona University
Dr. Heintze Acupuncturist and Naturopathic Doctor

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