Modern Medicine Explanation of Diabetes Mellitus

Modern Medicine Explanation of Diabetes Mellitus

Modern Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine: Diabetes Mellitus (Part One)

by Clinton J. Choate
Published in the Journal of Chinese Medicine, No. 58, September 1998


There is nothing new about diabetes; it has been a medical problem since antiquity. The name which was originated by Aretaeus (30-90 CE) came from the Greek words meaning ‘siphon’ and ‘to run through’, signifying the chronic excretion of an excessive volume of urine.

Diabetes mellitus, because of its frequency, is probably the single most important metabolic disease and is widely recognized as one of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. It affects every cell in the body and the essential biochemical processes that go on there. Diabetes has been linked to the western lifestyle, as it is uncommon in cultures consuming a more primitive diet. As cultures switch from their native diets to more commercial foods, their rate of diabetes increases, eventually reaching the same proportions seen in western societies.

A great deal of research has been conducted into the possible aetiology of diabetes. Most of the prevalent ideas can be classified under one of the following categories: heredity, endocrine imbalance, dietary indiscretion and obesity, sequelae of infection, and severe and continued psychic stress. Although genetic factors appear important in determining susceptibility to diabetes, environmental and dietary factors are also important in its development and many have been identified. A diet high in refined fibre-depleted carbohydrate is believed to be the causative factor in many individuals, while a high intake of high-fibre complex carbohydrate foods is protective against diabetes.

Obesity appears to be a significant factor, particularly considering the fact that 90% of Type 2 (see below) sufferers are obese. Even in normal individuals, significant weight gain results in carbohydrate intolerance, higher insulin levels and insulin insensitivity in the fat and muscle tissue. The progressive development of insulin insensitivity is believed to be the main underlying factor in Type 2 diabetes. Weight loss can correct all of these abnormalities in many instances and significantly improves the metabolic disturbance of diabetes in most cases.

What has become apparent through years of research is that the diabetic condition is not simply a matter of one or two things having gone wrong. It is a complex condition with a multitude of metabolic imbalances. Consequently, the conventional medical approach of simply using insulin or oral drugs to treat diabetes is incomplete and the person relying on them to prevent long-term complications remains at risk.

The full article can be found at: Clinton J. Choate (1998). Modern Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine: Diabetes Mellitus (Part One).

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Dr. Mee Lain Ling