Alternative and Complementary Therapies Among Glu Users with Type 1 Diabetes

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We polled Glu members about supplements, meditation, massage, acupuncture, and reiki.

By GluColleenG

Almost a third of American adults use complementary or alternative medical treatments, according to a 2015 survey from the National Institutes of Health. It’s not surprising, then, that a significant number of people with type 1 diabetes might also opt to try these two classes of therapies. While there is no alternative to insulin for blood glucose management for type 1 diabetes, we found in a daily poll that some Glu users have tried a variety of therapies that often would not be prescribed by the average endocrinologist.

First, a primer on the terms “complementary” and “alternative”, as the terms are not interchangeable. Complementary medicine is when a non-mainstream practice is used alongside conventional treatment, while alternative medicine is when that practice is used instead of conventional treatment¹. Therapies can fall into both categories, depending on how they are used.

Poll based on answers from 325 respondents (n=325)

Complementary medicine generally falls into two categories – the first is natural products like herbs, vitamins, and probiotics. In the poll, 34 percent of Glu respondents said they they took dietary supplements.

The second group of complementary medicine centers around mind and body practices – including yoga, chiropractic manipulation, and meditation¹. The poll found that 32 percent of Glu users used massage therapy, 20 percent of respondents said they meditated, 19 percent of respondents said they sought out acupuncture treatment, and 8 percent of respondents said they did reiki.

In addition to complementary and alternative therapies, it is becoming increasingly common to use marijuana or marijuana-derived therapies for medicinal purposes. In this poll on alternative and complementary therapies, we didn’t include marijuana as an answer choice, but we have asked Glu users about marijuana use in other polls. We’ll discuss marijuana use and type 1 diabetes in our next column on Glu poll results.

While a good number of people with type 1 diabetes opt for complementary and alternative therapies, there has been little research done on the impact of such therapies on blood glucose management. This mirrors the scarcity of rigorous research on the health effects of some of these therapies for the general population. As these therapies gain popularity within the type 1 community, researchers may find they will need to study more how such therapies might affect blood glucose levels.

  1.      Complementary, Alternative, or Integrative Health: What’s In a Name? National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/integrative-health#cvsa. Published 2017. Accessed May 15, 2018.
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