Diabetes Mellitus From Western and TCM Perspectives – Part 2
An excerpt from an article by Clinton J. Choate L.Ac.
Chinese System of Food Cures
“Proper diet is the foundation for life-long good health”
Chinese nutrition uniquely differs from modern Western nutrition in that it determines the energetic and therapeutic properties of foods rather than analyzing them solely according to their chemical constituents. For example Spinach is cooling, strengthens all the organs, lubricates the intestines, quenches thirst and promotes urination. One application for diabetes to strengthen the digestive organs and assist in clearing heat would be to boil tea from spinach and chicken gizzards and drink 1 cup three times a day. Another application is to eat spinach cooked with seaweed to help clean the blood and reduce swellings. This is beneficial when a diabetic develops itchy skin, rashes or hot skin eruptions.
Furthermore, Chinese nutrition takes into consideration such factors as the person’s body type, age and Vitality level, the geographical location, yearly seasonal influences and the method of preparation in determining the appropriate diet. Used both as a healing and disease prevention system, the distinct advantage of Chinese nutrition lies in its ability to adapt to the changing needs of an individual. In case of illness, rather than solely focusing on treating the particular disease, the whole person and their interrelated bio-chemical and bio-energetic systems can be addressed.
Sugar in the urine, as one of the most important symptoms of diabetes, was included in the Chinese medical classic, A Collection of Diseases, by Wang Shou, published in 752. For the first time in Chinese medical history diabetes was listed among the eleven hundred diseases. The author recommended pork pancreas as treatment for the disease, and also recommended a special method of testing sugar in the urine: the patient was asked to pass urine on a wide, flat brick to see if ants gathered to collect the sugar.
This method of testing urine was more than ten centuries ahead of Richard Thomas Williamson (1862-1937), who invented a test for the same purpose. The Chinese author’s treatment using pork pancreas was similar to modern treatment by insulin. In Chinese medicine however, thirst, weight loss, fatigue, and sugar in the urine are considered the key symptoms of diabetes. When a patient recovers from any of these symptoms, the diabetes treatment is considered successful.
Food Remedies for Diabetes
Clinical Report: A Food Treatment of Diabetes.
Steam 60% wheat bran and 40% all-purpose whole wheat flour; add an adequate amount of vegetable oil, eggs and vegetables. Eat at meals to relieve diabetes.
The proportion of wheat bran was decreased as the condition improved. No drugs or nutritional supplements were given in this treatment. Among the 13 diabetes cases treated, blood sugar dropped to below 140 mg/dl in 3 cases and to 180 mg/dl in 7 cases; after treatment (lasting from 5 to 90 days), sugar in the urine changed from ++++ or +++ to negative in 10 cases; but in general, sugar in the urine changed to negative within one month along with the disappearance of neuritis associated with diabetes.
Vegetable and Grain Remedies
Bamboo Shoots: Cooling. Strengthens the Stomach, resolves mucous, promotes diuresis. Add generously to stir-fry vegetable dishes or blend bamboo shoots and celery juice, warm and drink 1-2 cups a day.
Bok Choy: Cooling. Clears heat, lubricates the intestines, quenches thirst. Steam or lightly stir-fry as a side dish or blend with cucumber as a juice.
Celery: Cooling. Tonifies the Kidneys, strengthens the Spleen and Stomach, clears heat, promotes diuresis, lowers blood pressure. Combine celery, yam and pumpkin and bake to make vegetable pie or lightly boil celery juice and drink 1-3 cups daily. Can also blend daikon radish, celery, carrot, and spinach as a juice and drink one or two cups a day.
Corn Silk: Neutral, sweet. Promotes urination, affects the Liver and Gall Bladder, lowers blood sugar. Boil corn silk with watermelon peel and small red beans in water. Drink as soup for the relief of chronic nephritis with edema and ascites.
Millet: Cooling. Benefits the Stomach and intestines, promotes urination. Steam millet with yams and a few dates.
Mung Bean: Cold, sweet. Clears heat, quenches thirst, resolves edema in the lower limbs. Make soup from mung beans, barley and rice. Or soak 100mg. mung beans overnight; boil in 3 cups water over low heat; drink twice a day. Or grind mung beans into powder and take 15g powder dissolved in warm water twice a day.
Mushroom (Chinese Black or Shitake): Neutral, sweet. Strengthens the Stomach, promotes healing, lowers blood pressure, counteracts cholesterol, lowers blood fat levels. Eat fresh or soak, blending with the soaking water; heat like soup and take on an empty stomach to clear toxins from the intestines. Or bake until it appears burned on the surface; eat 10g twice a day.
Pearl Barley: Cooling. Promotes diuresis, strengthen the Spleen, clears heat. Blend barley and water, boil and drink the liquid. Or cook soupy barley and eat as a porridge.
Pumpkin: Cooling. Dispels dampness, reduces fever, particularly beneficial for diabetes. Eat a slice of pumpkin everyday it is in season. For a main dish bake a pie with pumpkin, yam and potato.
Snow Peas: Cold. Strengthens the middle warmer, detoxifies, promotes diuresis, quenches thirst. Cook snow peas, blend and drink as a juice half a cup twice a day.
Soybeans: Cooling. Clears heat, detoxifies, eases urination, lubricates the Lung and intestines. Drink plain soymilk or eat tofu to relieve heat conditions. Steam tofu, cool, add sesame oil and thin julienne slices of raw squash.
Soybean Sprouts: Cooling. Promotes diuresis, clears heat, especially in the Stomach. Boil for four hours; drink tea lukewarm. Continue over a period of one month to relieve hypertension.
Spinach: Cooling. Strengthens all the organs, lubricates the intestines, quenches thirst, promotes urination. Boil tea from spinach (including the roots) and chicken gizzard; drink 1-3 cups a day.
String Bean (Green Bean): Neutral, sweet. Kidney and Spleen tonic. Boil 50g dried string beans (with the shells) in water. Drink as a soup once a day to relieve thirst, and frequent urination. Or blend string beans, cucumber and celery as juice and drink 1 cup daily.
Sweet Potato (Yam): Neutral, sweet. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach, tonifies qi, clears heat, detoxifies. Steam millet with yams and a few dates or cook soup with winter melon. Or mix 50g yam powder with 10g American Ginseng powder. Dissolve 15g in warm water each time; drink 3 cups a day as a therapeutic dose.
Sweet Rice (Glutinous): Warm, sweet. Used as an energy tonic. Benefits the Spleen, Stomach, and Lung. Relieves excessive urination, perspiration, and diarrhea. Cook 50g sweet rice with 60g Job’s tears and 8 red dates. Eat as a side dish at meals to provide general support.
Tomato: Slightly cooling. Promotes body fluids, quenches thirst, strengthens the Stomach, cools blood, clears heat, calms the Liver. Eat one raw tomato daily on an empty stomach.
Turnip: Cooling. Clears heat, removes dampness. Boil with tops as a side dish.
Water Chestnut: Cold, sweet. Relieves fever and indigestion; promotes urination; benefits the Lung and Stomach. Boil 5 water chestnuts in water with 1 fresh mandarin orange peel. Drink as a tea to relieve hypertension. Or peel 100g water chestnuts and chew them slowly in the morning and evening.
Winter Melon: Cooling. Clears heat, detoxifies, quenches thirst, relieves irritability, dispels dampness. Particularly effective in regulating blood sugar. Make soup from cabbage, yam, winter melon and lentils. Or drink three cups of fresh winter melon juice a day. Oral administration of 50-60 ml of the juice per dose has shown good results in clinical trials21.
Wheat Bran: Cool, sweet. Benefits the Stomach22.
Winter Melon Soup
6 pints (3.5 liters) vegetable broth, 3 cups chopped and peeled winter melon, 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks, 1 onion, 12 Mushrooms (Chinese Black or Shitake), stems removed, 6oz (170g) tofu noodles or finely sliced baked tofu. Cook until tender (about 25 minutes) Season with 1tsp chives, 1Tbs tamari, and 1tsp peanut oil. Serves 4.
Cut the top off a small pumpkin; clean out the seeds and strings; save the lid. Fill with the following mixture:
3 cups cooked rice or barley, 1Tbs crushed, toasted sesame seeds, 2-3 sliced celery stalks, 1Tbs parsley, 1tsp thyme, 1tsp sage, half tsp. rosemary, and 1Tbs tamari
Cover with pumpkin lid and bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 1.5 hrs. A fork will easily go into the pumpkin when cooked. Serves 4-6.
Azuki Bean and Squash Casserole
1cup azuki beans soaked overnight, two 6-inch pieces of kombu seaweed, 1 small butternut squash, kabuchi or other winter squash.
Cover beans and kombu with water and simmer for about 1 hour, adding water as needed. Then add the cubed and peeled squash. Cook until tender (about half an hour). Stir in a pinch of sea salt or 1-2 tsp. tamari. Serves 4
Twenty-five diabetes patients were treated at the Canton College of Traditional Chinese Medicine with dried bitter melon slices; 250g dried bitter melon slices boiled in water each day. The changed levels of their blood sugar taken 2.5 hours after meals, and of their urine sugar taken 24 hours after meals, were both statistically significant. The same method has subsequently been applied to diabetic rats, and also resulted in a significant decrease in the level of blood sugar. The same report concludes that the effects of dried bitter melon are remarkably similar to those of insulin. It was also suggested that when 100g fresh clams are boiled in water with the dried bitter melon slices, the results should be better.
Animal Product Remedies
Abalone: Neutral, sweet, salty. Detoxifies; sharpens vision. Contraindicated for persons with a weak digestion. Boil 20-25g abalone with 250-300g fresh radish in water. Drink as a soup once every other day. Repeat 6-7 times as a treatment program. This is a time-honored recipe in Chinese folk medicine for diabetes.
Beef: Neutral, sweet. Used as a Spleen, Stomach, qi and blood tonic. Boil lean beef with yam to make soup.
Clam (freshwater): Cold, sweet, salty. Detoxifies, sharpens vision; acts on the Liver and Kidneys. Freshwater clam saliva is especially beneficial for diabetes. Boil 150g chives with 200g clams and suitable seasoning.
Milk: Cow’s milk is neutral and sweet with a descending action. Used as a Lung and Stomach tonic, produces fluids and lubricates the intestines, benefits the Heart, Lung and Stomach. Contraindicated with diarrhea or mucous discharge. Mix equal amounts of cow’s and goat’s milk. Drink the milk as a substitute for tea or juice to improve physical condition and help reduce frequency of urination.
Pork: Neutral, sweet, salty. Used to lubricate dryness; benefits the Spleen, Stomach and Kidneys. Cut up 100g lean pork and boil in water with 100g Job’s tears over low heat for 2 hours. Eat as a side or main dish.
In the 1846 Chinese diet classic New Collected Works of Proven Dietary Recipes, pork pancreas was used as an ingredient in several dietary formulas to treat diabetes. One recipe called for boiling a pork, beef, or lamb pancreas in water with 200g yam; season with salt and divide into 4 parts. One part is to be eaten every day for 4 days. Another instructed to cut up a pork pancreas and bake it over a low heat until dry and then to grind into powder. 3-5g to be taken in warm water at each meal. And another called to wash the pork pancreas and remove all white fat. Then cut into thin pieces; boil over low heat in water with 20g corn silk, and season with salt. One portion is to be eaten daily.
Crab Apple: Neutral, sweet and sour. Quenches thirst; astringes, benefits the Heart, Liver, and Lung. Boil 10 partially ripe fresh crab apples in an adequate amount of water until the water is reduced by half. Drink the soup and eat the fruit to quench thirst and relieve diarrhea.
Guava: Warm, sweet. Astringent and constrictive, relieves frequent urination and diarrhea. Crush 90g fresh guavas; squeeze out the juice and drink before meals.
Plum: Neutral, sweet, sour. Produces fluids, promotes urination and digestion, benefits the function of the Liver and Kidneys.
Strawberry: Cooling. Lubricates the Lung, promotes body fluids, strengthens the Spleen. Drink 1 small glass of fresh juice daily during the summer.
Mulberry: Slightly cold. Quenches thirst, detoxifies, tonifies the Kidneys, lubricates the Lung, relieves constipation, calms the spirit, promotes diuresis. Boil mulberries as a tea and drink half a cup at a time.
Eating Guidelines to Promote Healthy Digestion
• The dining area should be clean and nicely arranged, free of foul odors, and with plentiful fresh air.
• During meals and for a least one hour afterwards an upright posture of the torso should be maintained.
• Liquids should be consumed sparingly at meals. Sipping green tea during or after meals is beneficial.
• A wide variety of seasonal foods should be included in the diet, however fruit and sweet foods should be minimized.
• Three to four light meals should be eaten at regular times each day. The largest meal should be taken at mid-day and the evening meal should be consumed at least 2 hours before bedtime. When mental or physical demands are high, natural, complex carbohydrate snacks are encouraged.
After meals some light movement, such as a stroll in the fresh air, is highly recommended. A Chinese proverb says “100 paces after each meal will allow one to live a healthy 100 years”.
1. Simple Questions (Su Wen) chapter 47.
2. Spiritual Axis (Ling Shu) chapter 46.
3. Nanjing Seminars Trancript, Qiu Mao-lian and Su Xin-ming. Journal of Chinese Medicine, 1984.
4. A Manual of Acupuncture, Peter Deadman, Mazin Al-Khafaji and Kevin Baker, Journal of Chinese Medicine Publications, 1998, p.158.
5. Ibid. p.279.
6. Ibid. p.571.
8. Ibid. p. 338.
9. Ibid. p339.
10. Ibid. p339.
11. Ibid. p339.
12. Ibid. p309.
13. Acupuncture A Comprehensive Text, OºConnor, J. and Bensky, D., Eastland Press.
16. Oleson, Terrence, D., Ph.D., Auriculotherapy Manual Ç Chinese and Western Systems of Ear Acupuncture, 1990, Published by Health Care Alternatives.
17. Acupuncture A Comprehensive Text, OºConnor, J. and Bensky, D., Eastland Press.
20. Lee, Miriam, O.M.D., Insights of a Senior Acupuncturist, Blue Poppy Press, 1992
21. A Food Treatment of Diabetes (8) Ch.7, p.112.
22. Bever, B. O. and Zahand, G. R.,