Improve Diabetes with Meditation
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“As a therapist who works primarily with people with diabetes, I have found that those who have a deeper understanding of themselves and have the ability to cope well with stressful life events simply live better with diabetes, both in terms of diabetes control and general quality of life.” – Joseph Nelson
Diabetes is a major health issue. It is estimated that 30 million people in the United States and nearly 600 million people worldwide have diabetes and the numbers are growing. Diabetes is heavily associated with other diseases such as cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, and circulatory problems leading to amputations. As a result, diabetes doubles the risk of death of any cause compared to individuals of the same age without diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is a common and increasingly prevalent illness that is largely preventable. One of the reasons for the increasing incidence of Type 2 Diabetes is its association with overweight and obesity which is becoming epidemic in the industrialized world. A leading cause of this is a sedentary life style. Unlike Type I Diabetes, Type II does not require insulin injections. Instead, the treatment and prevention of Type 2 Diabetes focuses on diet, exercise, and weight control. Recently, mindfulness practices have been shown to be helpful in managing diabetes. There is a need for further research into this promising approach to the treatment of patients with diabetes.
In today’s Research News article “Mind–Body Interactions and Mindfulness Meditation in Diabetes.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5954593/ ), Priya and Kalra review and summarize the published research literature on the effectiveness of meditation-based practices for patients with diabetes. They report that the research found that meditation produces changes to the brain areas that reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress and this improves emotion regulation and coping responses to the disease and overall feelings of well-being.
They report that in diabetes patients, meditation-based treatments have been found to improve the psychological state of the patients including improved mood and reduced psychological distress, anxiety, and depression and increased self-care behaviors. These treatments also appear to improve the diabetes patient’s physiological state including lower weight and waist circumference, improved glycemic control, and improved cardiovascular health, including blood pressure, heart rate variability, and vascular resistance.
Hence, the published research indicates that meditation-based practices are safe and effective treatments for diabetes patients. “To summarise, mindfulness interventions have demonstrated impact on a broad range of outcomes relating to all domains of holistic care in diabetes – biological, psychological and also social” (Priya and Kalra, 2018).
So, improve diabetes with meditation.
“Exercise trains the body and meditation train the mind. Many people with diabetes find meditation is a good way to reduce stress, lower blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure readings and minimize pain. Regular meditation should become an important part of your diabetes self-management program.” – Roberta Kleinman
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Priya, G., & Kalra, S. (2018). Mind–Body Interactions and Mindfulness Meditation in Diabetes. European Endocrinology, 14(1), 35–41. http://doi.org/10.17925/EE.2018.14.1.35
Diabetes is associated with significant psychological distress. It is, therefore, important to ensure the physical and emotional as well as psychosocial wellbeing of individuals living with diabetes. Meditation-based strategies have been evaluated for their complementary role in several chronic disorders including depression, anxiety, obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The practice of meditation is associated with reduction in stress and negative emotions and improvements in patient attitude, health-related behaviour and coping skills. There is increased parasympathetic activity with reduction in sympathetic vascular tone, stress hormones and inflammatory markers. Additionally, several studies evaluated the role of mindfulness-based stress reduction in diabetic individuals and demonstrated modest improvements in body weight, glycaemic control and blood pressure. Thus, mindfulness meditation-based intervention can lead to improvements across all domains of holistic care – biological, psychological and social. Though most of these studies have been of short duration and included small numbers of patients, meditation strategies can be useful adjunctive techniques to lifestyle modification and pharmacological management of diabetes and help improve patient wellbeing.