Diabetes: what, why and
how Tibb can help
Diabetes is a real threat to the health of more and more South Africans – some actually call it an epidemic. It is a chronic,
debilitating disorder which has a major impact on the physical, social and working life of those who suffer from it. It is now
one of the leading causes of disability and premature death in South
Africa. The highest levels are in the Asian community, with the white and
coloured groups not far behind. In black people it has increased
alarmingly, particularly in city dwellers. Diabetes seems to be closely
ed to unhealthy living which eventually leads to serious disturbance in the personʼs basic metabolism. Tibb is well
placed to correct this situation, by improving the diabetic personʼs Lifestyle Factors, especially with dietary changes,
increased physical activity and better sleep.
Someone with diabetes can do much to minimise the symptoms, and by dealing with the underlying causes avoid serious
complications which invariably follow if not treated properly. Education on the reality of the disorder, and the danger it
poses to all those affected, should be a priority, as awareness is generally very low. Again, Tibb can help in this context.
What is diabetes?
“A disorder of carbohydrate metabolism in which sugars in the body are not metabolised to
produce energy, due to a lack of the pancreatic hormone insulin”
[Oxford Medical Dictionary]
Simply put, someone with diabetes has abnormally high levels of sugar in the blood. This is due to (a) inability to produce
the hormone insulin in the pancreas; or (b) a decreased response by the cells in the body to insulin, so sugar cannot enter
Diabetes is a complex disorder affecting the personʼs internal chemistry. If untreated, it usually leads to serious
complications, such as problems with the eyes, kidneys, heart and brain. Fortunately, it does provide an early warning by
way of clear signs and symptoms. If acted on promptly, by making changes to lifestyle and personal behaviour, the
As mentioned, the defining feature of all types of diabetes is an abnormally high and persistent level of sugar, or glucose,
in the personʼs bloodstream. The cause of these abnormally high levels is either a lack of ability to produce the hormone
insulin in sufficient amounts, or a lowered sensitivity to existing insulin by the bodyʼs cells.
The term for abnormally high levels of glucose in the blood is
The higher the blood sugar level is, the
. When the blood glucose exceeds a certain threshold
greater the chance that diabetes will develop.
level, it spills over from the blood into the kidneys and appears later in
th e urine. The appearance of glucose in the urine is called glycosuria.
Both urine and blood can be tested for sugar to see
Types of diabetes
There are two main types of diabetes, with different causes and treatment.
Type 1 diabetes
is the more severe form, but fortunately occurs in only 5% to 10% of those affected by diabetes. The
• This form of diabetes is not preventable.
• It usually affects younger people – that is, those under 30 years of age. This is why it is sometimes called juvenile-
• The cause of this type is not known, although genetic make-up is a factor, with an unhealthy lifestyle (especially faulty
diet, little physical activity and stress) acting as a trigger.
• A person with Type 1 diabetes needs to inject regularly with insulin to keep blood glucose levels in the normal range.
• Insulin is produced in clumps of cells (islets
) which are embedded in the pancreas. In this type of diabetes these islets
are severely damaged, or even destroyed.
• Treatment is usually regular injections of insulin, supplemented with dietary advice and controlled physical exercise.
Type 2 diabetes
accounts for 90+% of cases of diabetes, but is not as severe as Type 1. It usually responds to weight
loss or lifestyle changes. The main features are:
• This form of diabetes is preventable – by lifestyle and behavioural changes.
• Type 2 diabetes usually develops relatively late in life – that is, in people aged 40 and over. This is why it is
sometimes called maturity-onset diabetes.
However, it is now appearing in 12-year old and even younger children.
• The pancreas does produce some
insulin, but not enough. Whatʼs more, the body cannot use it effectively because
the bodyʼs cells have developed insulin resistance.
• There appears to be a strong genetic pre-disposition.
• People with Type 2 diabetes sometimes need a little insulin, but generally the condition can be controlled with
changes to their personal behaviour and lifestyle, especially regarding food and drink, exercise and sleep.
• Most people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, often from poor lifestyle habits. Fat is more than just a
storage site for extra nutrients. It also acts as an endocrine organ, producing hormones that affect appetite and
• Treatment is based initially on dietary changes and exercise, with oral anti-diabetic drugs added if necessary.
Symptoms of diabetes
Someone with diabetes will probably complain about one or more of the following symptoms:
• Feeling physically weak or exhausted
Unfortunately, most people affected by diabetes are free of symptoms in the early stages. This means that active
treatment may not start until well into the disorder, when complications may already have set in. Others may complain of
unusual cravings for food, frequent infections on the skin and genitals, and blurred vision. Often these are blamed on
something else – being “run down”, stressed, or not sleeping properly.
As the disorder progresses, other symptoms will appear, due mainly
A symptom is what someone complains of, like a headache or nausea. A sign is
to the effect of abnormally high blood sugar. When the blood sugar
level reaches a certain level, the kidneys cannot reabsorb the excess
their senses or from diagnostic tests, like sugar in the urine.
glucose, so sugar leaks into the urine – glycosuria appears. This
“pulls” water with it, and this causes the frequent urination. This in turn
leads over time to chronic dehydration. During this time Physis is trying to restore fluid balance by inducing a strong
Fatigue is also a common symptom, due to a diminishing supply of energy-providing glucose. Also, as the bodyʼs cells
cannot get the glucose they need to provide energy, they switch to fats as their energy source. This eventually leads to
the person losing weight and continually feeling hungry.
Causes of diabetes
For someone with Type 1 diabetes probably had a serious problem with his or her pancreas early on in life. In Type 2
diabetes, a poor, unhealthy lifestyle is probably responsible. Unwise, slowing of the personʼs metabolism with age, eating
habits, lack of exercise and poor sleep quality all contribute to probably
the most common cause – a state of being seriously overweight. A
family history of the disease most likely plays a part, as does a stressful
life. For some, an infection during childhood may have been the trigger.
Dire poverty, especially at a time of increasing urbanisation, indirectly underlies many of these influences. Regularly
eating cheap energy-rich, sugar-dense food is emerging as an important influence. Also, smoking is a likely contributory
Hippocrates, the acknowledged “Father of Medicine,” is first on record as diagnosing diabetes. He described the three
classic symptoms of frequent urination, severe thirst and increased appetite. Maintaining the tradition, Tibb diagnoses the
disorder by: (a) noting the classic signs and symptoms, plus others, such as irritability, drowsiness, tingling in the feet, and
fatigue; (b) inspection of the patientʼs temperament, personal and familial medical history and (c) confirming the diagnosis
if there is some doubt with simple blood and urine tests. The Tibb practitionerʼs intuition, based on empirical experience,
Conventional medicine, in contrast, is more objective. It places great emphasis on laboratory tests, for both blood glucose
and glycated haemoglobin
; and more elaborate tests, such as glucose tolerance and insulin challenge.
Complications of untreated diabetes
Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are life-threatening disorders, and both need to be treated effectively.
Anyone with untreated, uncontrolled diabetes runs the risk of developing serious complications, especially if they have the
Type 1 version. These will definitely have a huge impact on the personʼs Quality of Life.
• Failing sight
– Small blood vessels in the eyes are damaged by the high glucose levels. This is called diabetic
, and can lead to blindness.
• Serial infections –
The person affected becomes more prone to microbe attacks, especially on the skin. Fungal skin
• Foot ulcers
– Poor blood circulation holds back the natural healing processes, especially in the lower limbs. Damage
to the sole of the foot heals slowly, allowing ulcers to form. The nerves serving the foot may also be affected. If
gangrene develops, amputation may be necessary. This is made even worse if the person smokes.
• Sexual impotence
– This comes about because the blood supply to the genital areas becomes sluggish as fatty
• Heart disorders
– The person may develop pains in the chest (angina
) and even suffer a heart attack.
• General weakness and tiredness –
This is largely due to poor nutrition of the bodyʼs muscle cells.
If someone with diabetes has not been treated properly for a long period of time, it can get even worse:
• Severe damage to the kidney
– this is called diabetic nephropathy
, and usually leads to fatal kidney failure.
• Severe damage to the nerves
– this is diabetic neuropathy
, and results in tingling pain in the fingers, feet, thigh and
• Psychological problems
– unexpected mood changes and confusion may affect the sufferer, as ʻmini-strokesʼ interfere
Many people, especially men, develop what is known as Syndrome X
. This is a cluster of disorders which include:
– abnormally raised blood pressure. This can trigger a heart attack, kidney failure or stroke.
– the build-up of cholesterol containing fatty deposits (plaques) in the major blood vessels, which
– a prominent “beer gut” develops.
Diabetes: a serious threat to health
Diabetes is now one of the biggest public health threats in modern times. Deaths from chronic disorders of lifestyle, such
as diabetes and obesity, will probably overtake death from infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV &
Aids in a few years. In most countries, life expectancy will fall
Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults aged 20 to
significantly, and death rates rise, due to the impact of these non-
O n the positive side, diabetes, especially Type 2, can be managed effectively and relatively cheaply, and the serious medical consequences reduced. Type 1 diabetes, unfortunately, is not preventable. More important, Type 2 diabetes,
which makes up by far the majority of cases, is largely a disorder of lifestyle. This means that effective measures can be
taken to prevent both its onset and its progress. Another important factor is that conventional medical care is simply too
expensive or inaccessible for most people in many developing countries, so lifestyle changes offer an attractive
The Tibb view of diabetes
Tibb regards diabetes as a classic case of Physis failing to maintain inner harmony. The inner control
mechanisms which normally operate to keep the person in good health have been overwhelmed by poor diet, abnormal
lifestyle factors and imprudent behaviour over a sustained period of time. Type
2 diabetes is a form of inflammation, which is one of the mechanisms Physis
brings in to counteract persistent irritation. Physisʼ control of blood sugar
levels, a critical component in the overall health picture, has been severely disrupted by disregard for the basic Lifestyle
Factors. The capacity for inner healing has been seriously disturbed.
. Tibb is well placed to treat diabetes, either alone or in combination with conventional practice. As the
main culprits are poor food and drink intake, lack of regular physical activity and inadequate quality sleep, these can easily
addressed by simple dietotherapy, changes to daily physical activities and improved sleep hygiene.
Most people with diabetes have sanguinous dominant/sub-dominant temperaments because of the quality
of moistness associated with their temperament. People with a sanguinous/phlegmatic combination are at even more
risk, as this temperamental combination has a dominant quality of moistness. Diabetes therefore reflects an imbalance,
namely, an excessive quality of moistness. This means that any therapy has to be directed at reducing moistness by
increasing qualities of heat, together with dryness. Treatment of diabetes with Tibb therefore acknowledges the
uniqueness of the person affected. Tibb also takes note of the patientʼs temperamental nature before treatment starts, and
. Tibb regards both education about the disorder and motivation of the sufferer as being important for a
successful outcome. Many people are unaware of their diabetes until disturbing symptoms appear, by which time
considerable damage may have been done. So information on early detection is essential. In addition, firm motivation for
the patient to persist in the changes to lifestyle is crucial. This is best achieved by stressing the undoubted benefits to the
Tibb-initiated changes. By taking the initiative for the management of the disorder, the patient can expect an improved
. An important feature of Tibbʼs treatment of diabetes is that whatever measures are adopted, Physis has to be
respected, and fully supported. Diabetes is managed in Tibb mainly by dietotherapy, the use of specific medications,
changes to the Lifestyle Factors and physical therapies (see later
). These have relatively little negative impact on daily life.
The person is able to lead a normal life.
Tibb treatment of diabetes
Tibb accepts that diabetes, especially Type 2, is a complex disorder, due to severe disturbance to the personʼs qualitative
balance. Treatment, therefore, is based on a multi-faceted approach, which restores equilibrium to the diabetic person.
Some treatments involve lifestyle modification, others behavioural changes, and yet others herbal therapy.
• Dietary changes
. Tibb provides sensible and realistic eating advice, which could benefit most people. The main
feature is to limit the consumption of moist foods, which include white, refined sugar and flour products and increase
heating and drying foods. Diet which are made up of protein, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts together with fish
and low-fat dairy products are advised. Essentially hot and dry and cold dry foods are ideal. Eating oily foods high in
saturated animal fats should be severely restricted. Regular and excessive fast food consumption should be
• Physical activity.
Regular, appropriate physical exercise and reduced sedentary behaviour is a main element in
diabetes avoidance and treatment. Not only does this produce a partial recovery of the insulin-producing power of the
pancreas, it leads to a drop in insulin resistance. It also improves blood circulation in the limbs, so reducing the risk
• Other lifestyle changes
. Good sleep hygiene should be encouraged, aiming at a maximum of seven to eight hours
sleep nightly. This supports Physis in restoring homeostasis. Resolving stress-inducing situations should be
attempted. These aggravate the disorder and can disturb other elements of the personʼs lifestyle and behaviour, such
• Behavioural changes
. Smoking is a contributory factor to diabetes, so should be reduced or, ideally, discontinued.
Cigarette smoke contains agents which constrict blood vessels, and so reduce blood circulation and so promote ulcer
Foot hygiene is essential. Damage to the feet surfaces from bad fitting shoes, for example, should be treated
immediately, and feet kept clean, dry and warm. These measures help prevent ulcers forming.
• Body weight maintenance.
Obesity and diabetes, especially type 2, go hand-in-hand. Losing weight improves blood
glucose levels and so is a central part of the treatment. Measures to gradually reduce excess body mass should be
seriously considered and adopted. However, too rapid a loss of body mass is not advised, as this can confuse
Physis, resulting in a rebound in body weight as compensation.
. Several herbs and spices have been used to good effect over the centuries, and their clinical
benefits have recently confirmed in clinical studies. Interestingly most of these possess heating and/or drying
Moderate amounts of raw, cooked or aged garlic benefit diabetics. It helps to regulate blood glucose and can
stop or reduce the effects of some complications, as well as fighting infections, reducing high cholesterol, and
, which has traditionally been used for centuries to treat the symptoms of diabetes. It also
helps in the fight against obesity and high levels of cholesterol, which often accompany diabetes. When combined
with black seed and onions it has a positive effect on blood glucose, body mass, cholesterol and other blood lipids.
improves blood glucose and lipid levels in people with Type 2 diabetes, and may reduce risk factors
associated with diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
seeds are high in soluble fibre, which helps lower blood sugar and improve glucose tolerance by slowing
down digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. It can improve most metabolic symptoms associated with both main
improves long-term blood sugar control for people with Type 2 diabetes. It increases uptake of glucose into
muscle cells without using insulin, and may therefore assist in the management of high blood sugar levels.
Bitter melon or gourd
, has long been used for a range of ailments, including type 2 diabetes. It contains at least
three active substances with anti-diabetic properties, which work individually or together to help reduce blood sugar
can help improve blood glucose levels of people with diabetes. It also decreases abnormally high blood
lipids (fats). It is effective for treating diabetic complications.
. Indian gooseberry, Java plum and Gymnema sylvestre
have benefitted diabetics in various parts of the world.
• Combined herbal products.
Tibb is very much involved in the treatment of diabetes, and especially the symptoms
which may trouble the sufferer, and the complications which may develop. Two are available in South Africa:
Tibb Diabetes Plus:
Suitable for metabolic disorders, especially in the management of Type 2 diabetes. It is
ideal for mild diabetics, and can be used as an adjunct to existing oral anti-hypoglycaemic agents
This increases the peripheral utilisation of glucose, by exerting an insulin-like action. By doing so, it
reduces the glycated haemoglobin level, normalises the micro-albuminuria and modulates the lipid profile. It
minimizes the impact of long-term diabetic complications.
• Hands-on therapies
. Cupping promotes stimulation of both the pancreas and the liver.
• Integrative treatment
. Tibb can readily be combined with conventional drugs in cases of diabetes where either
treatment alone is not completely satisfactory. The usual drugs involved are: metformin (e.g. Glucophage
sulfonylureas (e.g. Diabinese
) and acarbose (Glucobay
). More recent hypoglycaemic drugs, the meglitinides, for
example, may also be used. There seems to be no interactions between these drugs and herbal products at the
Diabetes is a medical disorder featuring constantly high blood sugar levels. The number of people with Type 2 diabetes
has risen rapidly in South Africa over the last few decades, in common with much of the rest of the world. Some experts
are calling it an epidemic. This rise has been firmly linked to major shifts in our lifestyles, particularly food consumption,
reduced physical activity and poor sleeping patterns. People with diabetes are at increased risk of serious diseases of the
eyes, heart, kidney, nervous system and blood circulation. Unfortunately, information on the dangers posed by diabetes,
both Type 1 and Type 2, has not been as widespread as for, say, hypertension or cholesterol-related problems. However,
we know that changes to lifestyle, of the sort recommended by Tibb, can cut the risk of diabetes enormously. Tibb in fact
considers diabetes, especially the most common Type 2, to be largely preventable through meaningful lifestyle changes;
perhaps even reversible. Tibb believes that information about the disorder leads to better understanding, and opens the
door to patient empowerment and effective self-healing.
Working alone, or combined with conventional medicine where necessary, Tibb offers a cost-effective way of dealing with
this pervasive, threatening and escalating disorder.
On diabetes: • Murray N & Pizzorno J. (2000). Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine
. Little, Brown and Company, USA. • Vallee N and Bhikha R. (2003). Cooking for your body type. Everyday meals to suit your personality
. Ibn Sina Institute of Tibb.
• SA Diabetic Association. Online at: http://www.diabetessa.co.za • Type 2 diabetes. Online at: http://www.diabetes.co.uk/type2-diabetes.html
On Tibb theory and practice: • Bhikha, R H. and Haq, M.A. (2000). Tibb - Traditional Roots of Medicine in Modern Routes to Health
. Mountain of Light. South
• Chishti G M. (1991) The Traditional Healerʼs Handbook
. A Classic Guide to the Medicine of Avicenna
. Healing Arts Press. • Bhikha R. (2006). 4 Temperaments; 6 Lifestyle Factors
. Tibb, South Africa. • Ahmad J and Qadeer A. (undated). Unani - The Science of Graeco-Arabic Medicine
. Lustre Press, India.
Tuberkulose Die Herausgabe dieser Reihe durch das Robert Koch-Institut erfolgt auf der Grundlage des §4 Infektionsschutzgesetz (IfSG). Praktisch bedeutsame Angaben zu wichtigen Infektionskrankheiten sollen aktuell und konzentriert der Orientierung dienen. Die Beiträge werden in Zusammenarbeit mit den Nationalen Referenzzentren, Konsiliarlaboratorien sowie weiteren Experten erarbeitet. Die Pu
BRIEF CURRICULUM VITAE (June 2006) Matthew E. Falagas, M.D., M.Sc. PERSONAL AIBS office: Alfa Institute of Biomedical Sciences (AIBS), 9 Neapoleos Str. & Kifissias Ave., 151 23 Marousi, Athens, Greece (www.aibs.gr) Tel. (+30) 210-68.39.604, Fax (+30) 210-68.39.605, Mobile tel. (+30) 694-61.10.000 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com “Henry Dunant” Hospit