Diabetes

Dr Janet Gray explains how homeopathy can help manage this condition,  improve quality of life & control complications

Diabetes mellitus* - commonly known simply as diabetes - is a condition in  which the normal mechanism of the body for controlling the level of  glucose (sugar) in the blood stream has gone awry. A hormone called  insulin, which is produced by the pancreas, is responsible for  controlling the movement of sugar, in the form of glucose, across from  the blood stream into the individual cells of the body. Intracellular  glucose is the “fuel” of the cells, without which they cannot work. In  diabetes, either the pancreatic beta cells fail, and thus insulin is not  produced; or the body become insensitive to the action of insulin with  the same end result. So diabetes is really a condition of “starvation in  the midst of plenty” where the glucose piles up in the blood stream and  spills over into the urine, but the individual cells are starved of  glucose.

In the case of pancreatic beta cell failure, insulin is the only  possible treatment, and must be given regularly by injection. This type  of diabetes is known as type 1 diabetes or formerly “insulin­-dependent  diabetes mellitus”. Let me say at this point that there is no  homeopathic alternative to insulin, although some remedies may help to  reduce the insulin requirements. People with type 1 diabetes are often  quite young at the time of diagnosis, and will often have lost a lot of  weight before diagnosis is made.

In the case of the cells being resistant to insulin, management can  often be achieved by a healthy diet, regular physical activity, drugs  and sometimes insulin – this is type 2 diabetes and used to be known as  “non-­insulin dependent diabetes mellitus”. These people are often in  their middle years at time of diagnosis, and are often overweight, and  can thus be helped considerably by dieting and regular physical  activity.

Management of diabetes

So where can homeopathy contribute to the management of diabetes?  First of all, homeopathic treatment can help improve the general health  of a person with diabetes. If a person with diabetes is in good health,  his or her insulin requirements will be steady and the blood glucose  well controlled. If the general health is poor, it can be very difficult  to achieve good control.

This can be helped by administering a “constitutional” remedy, based  on the totality of the patient’s symptoms and characteristics. The  effect will be to improve the general sense of well-being, to improve  diabetes control, and maybe to lower the insulin or drug requirements.

The remedy Syzygium (Jambol seeds) has a reputation for a specific  effect on diabetes, and can be given in mother tincture, three drops  daily in water. I cannot claim much success with this, but a veterinary  colleague has reported excellent results in dogs.

Boericke’s Materia Medica mentions several other remedies, which  cause diabetic symptoms, such as an increased urinary output and the  presence of sugar in the urine (glycosuria), in their provings. Uranium  nitricum is one of these, and it is associated with great emaciation and  fluid retention, thirst, nausea and vomiting. It can be tried in low  potency, twice daily.

Phloridzin (obtained from the root of the apple and other fruit trees) is another remedy indicated.

Specific complications

Unfortunately, if the blood glucose level is not well controlled in  diabetes, several serious complications can arise. It is important that  people with diabetes have regular checks to detect any complications  early. However, homeopathy can help to alleviate some of the symptoms of  these complications.

Neuropathy

The peripheral nerves can be damaged giving rise to blunting of  sensation in the feet and hands. This can be dangerous because minor  injuries, such as blisters, will not be felt and will thus be ignored.  They can then progress to seriously infected ulcers which will take a  long time to heal. I must stress that although homeopathic remedies can  help here, they must be used in a complementary and not alternative way,  because conventional medicines such as antibiotics may be vital to  prevent gangrene from occurring.

The numbness may be helped by Conium (hemlock) especially if this is  accompanied by weakness of body and mind, difficulty walking because of  trembling and weakness, and dizziness.

Plumbum (lead) may be useful if the numbness is accompanied by  hypersensitivity with neuralgic pains. These pains are better for hard  pressure and rubbing, and worse at night.

The infected ulcers can be helped to  heal by using Calendula (marigold) both externally as a lotion, and also  internally, using a 6c potency twice daily.

The urine must be regularly checked for the presence of protein  which would indicate that the kidneys have become affected. Good  diabetes control will minimise the risk of kidney damage.

Unless severe damage has occurred, homeopathic remedies can help  renal function. Apis mellifica (the honey bee) can stimulate a good  urine flow and improve fluid retention. Natrum muriaticum (salt),  Lycopodium (club moss) and Sulphur are all wonderful constitutional  medicines which can improve renal function if the patient fits the type.

Thrush

Although not a life-threatening complication, recurrent thrush can make  life pretty miserable. Again good blood glucose control minimises the  problem, but there are several homeopathic remedies which can help with  the symptoms.

The one I most commonly use is a potency of the fungal organism  itself, Candida. I use Candida 30c three times a day until the symptoms  remit. This also tends to prevent recurrences.

Other useful remedies are:

  • Helonias (unicorn root): Profuse, thick, creamy discharge. Severe itching and soreness.
  • Kreosotum: Smelly, yellow-staining discharge. Rawness and itching.

Erectile dysfunction (impotence)

This is a problem that causes a lot of distress, and for which there  is no easy conventional solution. Good diabetes control is of the  essence, but homeopathic treatment can also help. Again, I would use a  constitutional remedy wherever possible, with the addition of the  following remedies in low potency:

  • Coca (divine plant of the Incas) – especially where associated with exhaustion and palpitations. Irritable, prefers to be alone.
  • Phosphoric acid – mental debility. Cannot maintain an erection. Testicles tender and swollen.
  • Moschus (musk) intense desire, but impotence. Fainting fits – tends to be hysterical. Worse for cold. Desire for stimulants.

Arteriopathy

People with diabetes in the past were put on diets rich in fats to  compensate for the sugar and carbohydrate that they could not eat. It is  now realised that this is not necessary and nowadays people with  diabetes have much healthier diets, low in fats and with an average  carbohydrate content. It is possible therefore that the high rate of  atherosclerosis (furring of the arteries) seen in people with diabetes  is as a result of their diet, and not of the disease itself.  Atherosclerosis causes heart disease, stroke, poor circulation in the  limbs and kidney damage. Hopefully the incidence of these complications  will now reduce.

I would like to illustrate this complication with a case history. Mr  KS (aged 69) came to see me with an infected ulcer on his big toe. It  had failed to heal using conventional treatment, including an admission  to the hospital for intravenous antibiotics. His other leg had been  amputated four years previously after a similar infection could not be  controlled.

He was under the care of a vascular surgeon who was very gloomy about  his chances of keeping his remaining leg. X-rays showed osteomyelitis  of the bone underlying the ulcer, and Doppler studies showed a very poor  circulation in the leg. I treated him with a constitutional remedy (Nux  vomica 1M) for his general health, and he felt better in himself very  quickly. I gave him Calendula both internally (6c twice daily) and  externally as a lotion to bathe the ulcer. He had Secale 6c twice daily  to help the blood circulation.

After two months the ulcer was nearly healed, but the leg became swollen, so I changed him on to Apis 200c, one dose weekly.

The fluid retention resolved, but the leg became very painful and the  veins became distended. He had Hamamelis 6c twice daily for this, which  helped considerably. Although the ulcer was by this time very much  smaller, it would not completely close, and continued to ooze yellowish  pus. He first had Silica 6c twice daily for this, and then Hepar sulph  6c twice daily.

He was finally able to stop all medication after 15 months, with the  ulcer fully healed, and the leg pain-free and a good colour.

People with diabetes should let their healthcare team know if they  are using homeopathic treatments in conjunction with their conventional  medicine.

*There are other forms of diabetes but  for the purposes of this article, when diabetes is mentioned it can be  assumed that the reference is to diabetes mellitus.

Janet Gray MA MB BChir MRCGP FFHom DRCOG DFFP, uses homeopathy in her NHS General Practice in Bristol. She  lectures in homeopathy at the Bristol Teaching Centre and has a small  private practice near Chippenham.