Managing Diabetes & Pancreatitis

In Eastern Medicine the pancreas is associated with the spleen and stomach. One reason is location. These organs are all found in the left middle portion of the body, just underneath the ribs. This time of year (late summer) the pancreas is most active just like the stomach and the spleen. It’s purpose is to help the spleen maintain the quality of the xue (blood). It does so by secreting digestive enzymes and hormones. The spleen is the most dynamic of the organs because it both transports and contains the blood, but it cannot do so without the pancreas. Technically, the pancreas doesn’t govern or have an associated emotion, but because of its relationship with the spleen, it shares in the spleen’s governing of the limbs and managing worry and over thinking. 


One of the responsibilities of the pancreas is to secrete hormones that aid in the management of blood sugar concentration. In the case of diabetes this function is lost. Modern medicine and technology has made it possible for those with diabetes to live a long healthy life. However, symptoms of this disease will still be felt like weakness/numbness of limbs, fatigue, or blurry vision. Massage and acupuncture can help manage these symptoms. By maintaining the soft tissue and energetic systems, there is less stress on an already compromised body, reducing consequences that are a result of the above symptoms, like falling and dropping things. In addition, diabetes damages the heart and blood vessels over time. Massage is proven to improve heart health and Acupuncture is shown to directly affect the symptoms related to diabetes. Of course, massage and acupuncture cannot replace western medical management of diabetes, but they are both great assists. To determine which is best for your body try both separately and see how your body reacts.


Pancreatitis is defined as inflammation of the pancreas there are more than 300,000 admissions to the hospital each year for pancreatitis (National Pancreas Foundation). It can be either acute or chronic. Symptoms are abdominal pain in the upper left quadrant made worse by lying flat, fever, nausea and vomiting. It is caused by gallstones, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive intake of fatty and protein rich food, smoking, high blood triglycerides, high blood calcium, family history. 

Both Eastern and Western Medicine treat with a change in diet to start. Massage can help the damaged tissue to heal and can help improve circulation. However, the acute phase needs to be over and the patient needs to be on a better diet before a massage. This is because a massage stimulates cells to release material to  circulate through the blood for disposal and and the last thing a patient wants is for more triglycerides or calcium in the blood stream if that is the cause of the inflammation. If the inflammation is due to gallstones, a massage will help move the stones, but it is still recommended after the acute phase. Otherwise, the massage will be painful. Acupuncture can help move gallstones with less pain and can also help tissue to heal. It would be best to go to an acupuncturist immediately following the acute phase of pancreatitis and get a massage two weeks following to allow for the damaged tissue (inflammation) to settle. 

Between 16-25% of patients who experience pancreatitis will have a recurrent episode. Massage and Acupuncture reduces the risk of recurrence, but a change in lifestyle (diet) is of the utmost importance. On both sides of the isle, doctors agree on this fact. 

Foods to Improve the Pancreas

Orange or yellow vegetables whether you have something seriously wrong or if you just want to take better care of this organ are a great start. Things like squash and root vegetables are easy to digest and nourish the pancreas with their natural sweetness. Easy to digest grain like barley, oats, rice, and millet is an incredible option to stabilize the digestive tract and neutralize the system. And staying away from things that tax both the pancreas and the liver like alcohol and large doses of sugar can improve the health of the pancreas. 

Curran Latchford