Tai Chi As A Complementary Therapy For Type 2 Diabetes

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Tai Chi As A Complementary Therapy For Type 2 Diabetes

More and more, the ancient martial arts and healing techniques in Tai Chi have been found to have benefits in human health. Researchers have found that this form of exercise, which can be done by just about anyone at any fitness level, improves posture, balance, flexibility, and muscle strength. Recently, research scientists have looked into whether or not Tai Chi affects our internal body functioning.

Tai Chi has been used for many different internal illnesses by the Chinese who practice traditional Chinese medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine has been used for centuries but there have been no good Western medical research studies to back up the claim that Tai Chi is good for conditions such as type 2 diabetes until one study (Yeh SH, et al) was conducted that’s results were reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The Type 2 Diabetic Study

The study took 60 participants, 30 of which had type 2 diabetes and 30 of which were considered to have normal glucose and insulin functioning. They taught all 60 participants the ancient Chinese exercise known as Tai Chi or Tai Chi Chuan. Initially, they checked the blood of all of these subjects and found that the diabetic population had an elevated hemoglobin A1C level, which is a measure of how “sugar-coated” the red blood cells are in the body. They also measured levels of interleukin-12, which is an inflammatory mediator involved in the immune system.

Naturally, the diabetic participants had an elevated hemoglobin A1C level, an elevated fasting blood glucose level and lower levels of interleukin-12 when compared to age-matched control subjects. Other measures of the immune system and growth factors were measured in all participants as well.


Results Of The Study

All participants practiced Tai Chi regularly for twelve weeks and were retested on all the blood parameters that were checked in the beginning of the study.

• The population of participants who had elevated hemoglobin A1C levels (the diabetic patients) experienced a reduction in the level from an average of 7.59 to an average level of 7.16.

• The blood levels of interleukin-12 increased significantly in these patients, from a low level of 5.96 to 12.96.

• The expression of T helper cells, important in proper immune function improved significantly as well after the participants practiced Tai Chi Chuan.

Note: It should be noted that no other change was made in the diabetic patients’ lives during the twelve-week study.


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Diabetics suffer more than just high blood sugar. The elevations in blood sugar seem to negatively affect the immune system so that diabetics have more problems with infections from just about every part of the body. This is why the research scientists in the study looked at both the blood sugar levels and measures of the immune system as well.

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Conclusions From The Study

From this small study, it appears that the practice of Tai Chi Chuan in diabetic patients can have positive results, improving palpable measures of their blood sugar and their immune system. Exactly how this form of exercise works to improve type 2 diabetes is unknown.

Tai Chi Chuan is believed to help the body’s qi energy (the life force energy) flow better, making the function of the various organs of the body work better. This is something that practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine have been studying for centuries but something that western science has not been interested in because it is not something that can easily be measured in scientific ways.

What they can say, however, is that, based on this study, Tai Chi Chuan improves the levels of hemoglobin A1c and immune parameters in type 2 diabetics, even though they can’t identify exactly why this occurs. Tai Chi Chuan likely will not replace medications altogether in type 2 diabetes but it can add to the improvements already seen by medication alone.

Improving Health In Type 2 Diabetes Patients

Improving blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes patients is critical in preventing or stalling the associated health risks associated with this chronic disease, including:

• Nerve damage (neuropathy)

• Kidney damage (nephropathy)

• Eye damage

• Foot damage

• Heart and blood vessel disease

• Hearing impairment

• Skin conditions

• Alzheimer's disease

Any therapy that helps improve the diabetic outlook is important to consider for patients to improve their blood sugar numbers and overall health and since Tai Chi also provides numerous other benefits for health and wellness it is certainly recommended for type 2 diabetes patients.



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