Can Meditation Help Control Your Blood Sugar Levels?

By Roberta Kleinman|2018-09-13T13:45:44-04:00Updated: June 19th, 2018|Diabetes Management|1 Comment
  • Meditating on the Waterfront

Meditation is a way of relaxing the mind through techniques such as focusing and controlled breathing. It has been around for centuries and many people continue to use meditation to benefit both the body and the mind. People meditate to reduce stress and relieve a variety of physical ailments. Recent research showed meditation can also help people with diabetes control their blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Achieve a More Peaceful State of Mind

Meditation helps people achieve a more peaceful state of mind. It takes focus and practice to reach a peaceful meditative state of mind. No special equipment is required to meditate. Effective meditative techniques have been shown to reduce mental stress and hormone release. Cortisol, one of those hormones, can raise blood sugars when elevated. Today’s world is so fast paced with multiple daily stressors and taking time for “oneself” with meditation is important for overall health, including your diabetes.

Types of Meditation

There are different types of meditation. Research presented at an American Diabetes Association conference showed mindfulness meditation is beneficial for people with diabetes. Quiet contemplation helps you put aside worries about the past and future. The motions of breathing can bring you into the present moment. This helps you quiet the mind. Mindfulness meditation relieves anxiety and depression, which are common symptoms for people with diabetes.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation can be done sitting on a chair, on a cushion or the floor. You can also lie on the floor. The object is to bring yourself into the present moment by focusing on your breathing. When your mind begins to wander, gently return to the breath. At the beginning, your mind may constantly wander. Do not pass judgement on yourself, just refocus on the breath. Always wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing while meditating. Find a quiet, uncluttered place with natural light and fresh air for the best practice. Singing birds or a gentle waterfall are sounds which can stay in the background without you losing your focus. Beginners can start with 10 minutes of practice a day then eventually work up to over an hour daily, if desired. Use a timer to set your “intention.” Mindful meditation is simple yet not easily achieved as it takes practice.

Transcendental Meditation

Diabetes Mental HealthAnother type of meditation is transcendental meditation which is practiced world-wide by millions of people. Transcendental meditation originated in India in the 1950s, by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This is typically done sitting on the floor with your eyes closed. You focus on one word or phrase silently, which is called a “mantra.” Your mantra can be as simple as the word “one” or “om”. Chant the word and keep breathing for 10 minutes each day. After a week, try 15 minutes daily then work up to 20 minutes twice a day. Transcendental meditation does not require mindfulness or “monitoring of thoughts” as in mindfulness meditation. This helps clear the mind of any thoughts. According to research, Transcendental meditation may help lower stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, addiction, PTSD, and raise the immune system. It may lead to a healthier heart by, “recharging the brain and mind”.

Moving Meditation

Moving meditation is another type of meditation and includes tai chi, qigong and walking meditation. Tai chi originated in ancient China and embraces the mind, body and spirit. There are multiple styles, but all tai chi practices share the same principles. These principles integrate the mind and body through movements and breathing. It brings tranquility, better health and helps you think more clearly. Also originated in China, is another moving meditation called Qigong. It is a “mind, body and spirit practice,” which can improve mental and physical health. Qigong integrates posture, breathing, focus and intent by doing slow, gentle movements. Walking meditation involves bringing mindfulness and awareness to your walk. It can be done indoors or outdoors and does not require a lot of space. You take 10-15 steps forward and then back on the same path. The point is using your brain, your breath and your feet together. Walking meditation involves slow, small, natural steps, nothing exaggerated, with arms and hands hanging by your sides. Focusing on your sensations as you experience the walk is the primary goal.

Concentration meditation is another form of mediation that focuses on a single point. It could be a mantra or word, listening to a repetitive sound like a gong or bell, counting beads on a mala(string) or staring at a flame of a candle. When your mind wanders, you refocus your awareness on the specific object. After time, this helps your concentration improve.

How Meditation Can Help You

If you are unsure about how to meditate, there are classes, books, DvDs, YouTube videos and smartphone Apps available to help you learn. There are websites on meditation as well. Yoga instructors and community centers may offer classes in meditation. Meditation helps minimize stress levels and lowers blood pressure. It reduces levels of stress hormones including cortisol, norepinephrine and epinephrine. Hormones such as cortisol contribute toward weight gain, belly fat and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance increases diabetes risk. Excess weight increases the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and related heart problems.

A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed transcendental meditation can help people with diabetes control their blood sugar levels. It can also lower blood pressure and reduce insulin resistance. Meditation is also used to relieve chronic pain. People with diabetes who have nerve pain-neuropathy or back pain are subject to increased stress and blood sugar levels. Reducing pain through meditation minimizes anxiety and related health problems as well as blood sugar readings. Use blood pressure monitors or blood pressure machines before and after meditation sessions to gauge your progress. Have a glucose meter handy to keep track of your blood sugar levels prior and subsequent to meditation. Give yourself a few weeks to master the techniques and start seeing real results.

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. Dr. Herbert Benson, a researcher at Harvard University in the 1970s coined the term, “relaxation response” after doing research on people who practiced TM. Discuss the possibilities of meditation with your health care provider or diabetes care team. Regular meditation should become an important part of your diabetes self-management program.

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NOTE: Consult your Doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.

About the Author: Roberta Kleinman

Roberta Kleinman, RN, M. Ed., CDE, is a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator. She grew up in Long Island, NY. Her nursing training was done at the University of Vermont where she received a B.S. R.N. Robbie obtained her Master of Education degree, with a specialty in exercise physiology, from Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia. She is a member of the American Diabetes Association as well as the South Florida Association of Diabetes Educators. She worked with the education department of NBMC to help educate the hospital's in-patient nurses about diabetes. She practices a healthy lifestyle and has worked as a personal fitness trainer in the past. She was one of the initiators of the North Broward Diabetes Center (NBMC) which started in 1990 and was one of the first American Diabetes Association (ADA) certified programs in Broward County, Florida for nearly two decades. Robbie has educated patients to care for themselves and has counseled them on healthy eating, heart disease, high lipids, use of glucometers, insulin and many other aspects of diabetes care. The NBMC Diabetes Center received the Valor Award from the American Diabetes Center for excellent care to their patients. Robbie has volunteered over the years as leader of many diabetes support groups. More about Nurse Robbie

One Comment

  1. Charles A Simpkins PhD January 14, 2022 at 12:47 am - Reply

    Although it is often said that there has been research on using meditation to improve type 2 diabetes, I cannot ever find a specific paper with research on it. Can you guide me to actual research studies?

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