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HomeType 2 Diabetes  
Type 2 Diabetes

Electrotherapy Provides Relief to 
Type 2 Patients with Neuropathy

1 July 1999
Electrotherapy provided pain relief to approximately 85 percent of patients with peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is a complication that afflicts greater than 36 percent of people with type 2 diabetes. Its symptoms include painful and burning sensations that affect the feet and ankles. Because there is a misunderstanding of peripheral neuropathy's development, several different treatment regimens have been prescribed over the years to treat the accompanying discomfort.

According to the Spring 1999 issue of Diabetes Technologies and Therapeutics, independent studies were conducted to determine if electrical nerve stimulation through the skin could relieve neuropathy pain.
In the first single-blind study, 31 patients were randomly assigned to receive electrotherapy or placebo treatment. Both groups received a portable electrotherapy machine with electrodes, but the electrotherapy group received a functional and calibrated unit. The control group received an inactive unit. Patients were instructed to treat each of their lower extremities for 30 minutes daily for a four-week period. The patient's degree of pain was evaluated on a scale of 0 to 5.

After four weeks, 38 percent of the patients receiving sham therapy reported improvements with their neuropathy pain. On the other hand, 83 percent of the patients receiving electrotherapy reported improvements. Their pain scores declined from 3.17 to 1.44.

In another study, 26 patients with peripheral neuropathy were evaluated to determine the effectiveness of combining electrotherapy with the antidepressant amitriptyline. All patients were initially prescribed 50 mg. of amitriptyline at bedtime for four weeks, and then their pain scores were evaluated. Twenty-three of the patients who still reported pain symptoms were assigned to continue amitriptyline with either electrotherapy or sham therapy for twelve additional weeks. After twelve weeks, 85 percent of the patients receiving amitriptyline and electrotherapy reported improvement, with pain scores falling from 3.2 to 1.4.

Researchers could not conclude how electrotherapy provides neuropathy pain relief to people with diabetes. They do, however, feel that electrotherapy is a safe, beneficial and noninvasive remedy that could also be combined with amitriptyline.


Additional Research

Czech, M. Signal transmission by the insulin-like growth factors. 
Cell 59:235-238; 1989.

A Ton of Bitter Melon Produces Sweet Results for Diabetes
by Leslee Dru Browning

(NaturalNews) Scientists have uncovered the therapeutic properties of bitter melon, a vegetable and traditional Chinese medicine, that make it a powerful treatment for Type 2 diabetes.

Teams from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica pulped roughly a ton of fresh bitter melon and extracted four very promising bioactive components. These four compounds all appear to activate the enzyme AMPK, a protein well known for regulating fuel metabolism and enabling glucose uptake.

"We can now understand at a molecular level why bitter melon works as a treatment for diabetes," said Professor David James, Director of the Diabetes and Obesity Program at Garvan. "By isolating the compounds we believe to be therapeutic, we can investigate how they work together in our cells."

People with Type 2 diabetes have an impaired ability to convert the sugar in their blood into energy in their muscles. This is partly because they don't produce enough insulin, and partly because their fat and muscle cells don't use insulin effectively, a phenomenon known as 'insulin resistance'.

Exercise activates AMPK in muscle, which in turn mediates the movement of glucose transporters to the cell surface, a very important step in the uptake of glucose from the circulation into tissues in the body. This is a major reason that exercise is recommended as part of the normal treatment program for someone with Type 2 diabetes. The four compounds isolated in bitter melon perform a very similar action to that of exercise, in that they activate AMPK.

Garvan scientists involved in the project, Drs. Jiming Ye and Nigel Turner, both stress that while there are well known diabetes drugs on the market that also activate AMPK, they can have side effects.

"The advantage of bitter melon is that there are no known side effects," said Dr Ye. "Practitioners of Chinese medicine have used it for hundreds of years to good effect."

Garvan has a formal collaborative arrangement with the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica. In addition to continuing to work together on the therapeutic potential of bitter melon, we will be exploring other Chinese medicines.

Professor Yang Ye, from the Shanghai Institute and a specialist in natural products chemistry, isolated the different fractions from bitter melon and identified the compounds of interest.

"Bitter melon was described as "bitter in taste, non-toxic, expelling evil heat, relieving fatigue and illuminating" in the famous Compendium of Materia Medica by Li Shizhen (1518-1593), one of the greatest physicians, pharmacologists and naturalists in China's history," said Professor Ye. "It is interesting, now that we have the technology, to analyze why it has been so effective."

"Some of the compounds we have identified are completely novel. We have elucidated the molecular structures of these compounds and will be working with our colleagues at Garvan to decipher their actions at a molecular level. We assume it's working through a novel pathway inside cells, and finding that pathway is going to be very interesting."

The results were published online March 27th in the international journal Chemistry & Biology.

Historically, bitter melon has been used as a remedy for an assortment of conditions. The leaves and fruit have both been used to season soups and to make teas and beer. It is quite popular in Chinese cooking where the fruit is often braised, stir fried or steamed and is added to a dish consisting of pork, onions, ginger, and black bean sauce.

All parts of the plant, the seeds, leaves and vines, are used for medicinal purposes, but the actual fruit of the bitter melon is most commonly used. Bitter melon fruit has been used traditionally in China as a folk remedy for diabetes and other ailments for ages. Bitter melon is also used to treat cancer, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, stomach problems, and to increase appetite.

In traditional Chinese medicine, bitter melon is used to treat dry coughs, bronchitis, and throat problems. The seeds are used topically for skin swellings caused by sprains and fractures, and for sores that are slow to heal.

Other names for bitter melon include balsam pear, African cucumber, bitter apple, karla, wild cucumber, margose, and momordica charantia. Bitter melon is a powerful medicine that can be picked up at your local grocery store.

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