We now move on to some of the more physical type treatments
Yoga offers a noninvasive way to manage diabetes. It is relatively simple to add to a person’s daily routine, because it requires little equipment, only a yoga mat or soft carpet and some space. Yoga instruction has also become widely available via local studios, gyms, and on DVD.
A 2010 study conducted by the Kasturba Medical College shows the efficacy of yoga practice for type 2 diabetes patients. The three-month study showed yoga to be an effective therapy in reducing oxidative stress in type 2 diabetes.
Yoga is also beneficial in improving glycemic parameters and BMI and can be administered as an add-on therapy to standard lifestyle intervention. In short, yoga helps the body utilize antioxidants, like Vitamin C, more efficiently, retaining higher amounts in the body. It assists with improving blood sugar levels, so they are not dangerously high or low and improves the body’s muscle to fat ratio.
Yoga has a wide variety of health benefits and can improve one’s overall state of health, which can only help with diabetes conditions.
Yoga poses provide therapeutic support to various parts of the body both externally and internally. The poses recommended for diabetics focus on the pancreas, the organ responsible for producing insulin.
These and other yoga poses also provide general stretching and toning exercises for the body. These exercises and the style in which they are performed, entering the poses slowly and holding them while counting breaths, also calms the nervous system.
These poses are relatively accessible to most people and can be learned with ease:
• Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose)
• Mandukasana (Frog Pose)
• Viparita Karani (Legs Up a Wall Pose)
• Balasana (Child’s Pose)
• Pachimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
• Ardha Matsyendrasana (Seated Twist)
• Reclining Twist with Ocean Breath
These are much more advanced poses, which provide the same benefits, but should not be attempted without the guidance of a qualified teacher.
• Gomukhasana – Cow Head Pose
• Halasana – Plough
• Mayurasana – Peacock
• Padma Bakasana – Crane in Lotus
• Salamba Sarvangasana – Modified Shoulder Stand
Diabetics have a higher incidence of thyroid disorders, and this pose can help maintain thyroid health. In the Salamba Sarvangasana pose, the legs are raised above the heart in a shoulder stand, which makes the blood flow to the crook of the neck where the thyroid gland is located, thereby increasing blood circulation to the thyroid.
All the yoga poses for diabetes massage the pancreas, compressing and releasing the organ in order to massage it and release toxins–similar to wringing out a cloth and encouraging fresh blood circulation and acting as a cleanser.
If a type 1 or type 2 diabetic integrates yoga into their regular fitness regimen, they will see immediate benefits. Of course, results will vary by individual and depend on the frequency of their practice.
Yoga also improves general physical fitness and tone, improves circulation and since yoga is a practice that includes “mindfulness,” this can help to get in touch with the body and its needs that greatly helps with identifying true hunger and managing weight.
While modern conventional medicine effectively supports the management of the disease, some individuals may see better or additional improvements to their condition by utilizing an alternative therapy like acupuncture. Acupuncture offers a minimally invasive or non-invasive (when electrostimulation is used) treatment therapy with significant positive results for diabetic patients.
Acupuncture therapy is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM); it was developed in China and is thousands of years old. During acupuncture, thin needles are inserted into the skin at specific points, which align with energy meridians within the body.
Ancient Chinese tradition suggests the qi (pronounced chee) or life force of each person runs along these meridians. Acupuncture allows the therapist to stimulate and direct this energy to heal the body and treat symptoms. The depth of the needle insertions varies depending on the desired results.
The effectiveness of acupuncture is well documented. Dr. Adrian White, a medically trained acupuncturist and editor-in-chief of Acupuncture in Medicine, acknowledges and promotes the existence of scientific evidence to support the efficacy of acupuncture. A Medical News Today article, for which he was interviewed, summarizes his view of acupuncture as a natural therapy that is backed by a lot of scientific evidence over the last 30 years as to the efficacy of acupuncture in stimulating the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, and in increasing opioids and serotonin that provide feelings of wellbeing. The research also shows that a needle placed outside of the traditional meridians will have an impact.
Acupuncture Therapy for Diabetics
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes respond well to acupuncture treatment. This complementary therapy relieves diabetic symptoms without requiring additional medication or medical procedures. While effective, it works best when used in conjunction with a health care provider’s recommended treatment regimen.
According to the Acupuncture Massage College of Miami, FL, 20 body acupoints have been identified that are effective in lowering blood sugar. The points selected vary from patient to patient and are based on the patient’s medical history, type of diabetes, existing symptoms, age, and the progression of the disease.
Each of these points aligns with a specific body part or organ. Needles are inserted into these points for a specified period of time and at a specific depth to stimulate healing and the relief of existing symptoms. Acupuncture, using electrostimulation in place of needles for treatment, has been utilized as well.
Relieves Nausea And Vomiting
Some diabetes patients experience nausea and vomiting from gastroparesis, which significantly affects their ability to manage their blood sugar. It interferes with medications and digestion. It also limits their options regarding future organ transplants; depending on the progression of the disease patients many become candidates for transplants of the kidney or pancreas (almost all pancreas transplants are done to treat type 1 diabetes). The inability to retain the immunosuppressive drugs necessary to maintain the transplant poses a barrier.
Acupuncture has been proven to relieve such nausea and vomiting in one study conducted by Richard W. McCallum, MD, at the Texas Tech University in El Paso where patients self-administered an electrical current by way of “watch-sized” electrical stimulators to specific acupuncture points.
Studies have also shown that this therapy may be helpful to relieve excessive thirst, ease the impulse to overeat, increase cellular growth, and improve the slow healing of wounds experienced by diabetics.
Acupuncture provides the best results when treating younger individuals and individuals in the early stages of the disease. Acupuncture also tends to be more successful with patients experiencing mild symptoms.
How To Begin
To begin treatment, seek a well-trained, qualified, and reputable acupuncturist with a clean and well-kept office, since cleanliness is an important consideration that can be indicative of proper needle handling and sterilization practices.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information a division of the National Institute of Health, the resulting effects of relaxation are of great benefit in diabetes and that is how massage therapy is of most use.
Stress Reduction And The Relaxation Response
As opposed to simple rest, massage offers additional stress reducing effects that is particularly useful for diabetes suffers. Several studies have documented the relaxing effect of massage and it has been shown to reduce muscle tension in both subjective self-reports of study subjects and in objective electromyography testing.
Massage reduces heart rate and blood pressure, two of the more important features of the relaxation response. Massage is also known to decrease anxiety and stress in a variety of patient populations including people with diabetes.
Stress reduction in people with diabetes is of utmost importance because it helps to control counter-regulatory stress hormones, which allows the body to use insulin more effectively.
Relief For Diabetic Neuropathy
Massage also improves blood circulation, which is extremely helpful for diabetic neuropathy and other diabetic-related complications. One study assessed 25 patients with symmetrical diabetic neuropathy of the lower extremities who had symptoms for an average of 14 months. All subjects received syncardial massage (mechanical leg massage) every 2 days with a total number of treatments ranging from 10 to 30.
After a month of massage treatment, 56% of subjects reported a good response, 32% reported that symptoms improved, and only 12% reported no effect.
Caution And Safety
It is important to get clearance from the treating physician before starting massage therapy to be sure it is safe for the specific diabetes condition parameters of the individual patient.
Using reflexology as a complementary therapy along with a healthcare provider’s prescribed regimen supports the health and well-being of people living with diabetes. The therapy has proven successful in treating neuropathy resulting from the effects of diabetes on the nerves and circulation.
Reflexology, an alternative massage therapy, focuses on designated points on the ears, face, hands, lower legs, and feet. This complementary therapy theorizes that each part of the body, organs, glands, nerves and other body parts, correlates to some point on the ears, face, hands, lower legs, or feet.
Most reflexology therapists focus primarily on the feet as the starting point for this form of therapy.
Reflexology may also be referred to as acupressure as it shares general methodology and application concepts with acupuncture sans the needles. Therapists apply pressure with their hands on the points indicated by their client’s condition.
When a person visits a reflexologist to begin treatment, they undergo an interview regarding their health history and lifestyle. This allows the therapist to establish a course of treatment specific to their needs. Patients remain clothed for the session and are asked only to remove their shoes and their socks. After examining the feet for indicators of dysfunction like redness, tenderness, and hyperpigmentation, the therapist will warm the feet with massage and begin treatment. Sessions last from 45 to 60 minutes.
Reflexology and Diabetes
Diabetics may be concerned about trying reflexology given the cautions presented to them regarding their feet from the time of their diagnosis. For diabetics, the feet may be one of the first indicators of the continued progression of diabetes. They may experience tingling, sharp pains, sensation mimicking pins and needles or loss of circulation and sensation in the feet due to diabetes related neuropathy.
In practice, reflexology provides a safe and accessible complementary therapy for diabetics.
• Enhances circulation
• Eases diabetes related neuropathy
• Promotes relaxation (diabetic symptoms are aggravated by stress),
• Can improve kidney function
• Assists with the control of blood sugar
• The external indicators of diabetic symptoms, tenderness, hyperpigmentation, and redness are also alleviated with the application of reflexology.
As with all health treatments, some individuals may not be good candidates for reflexology. Pregnant women, people with skin ulcers, blood clots or other blood vessel disease or injury may not be appropriate candidates for this therapy. If any of these conditions exist, they must discuss the appropriateness of reflexology to manage their diabetes symptoms with their doctor.
How to Use Reflexology
Reflexology treatments may be administered regularly by a trained therapist, an informed caregiver, or the diabetic patient if they are able to reach their feet. The methods of reflexology simply require knowledge of the appropriate pressure points and consistent application. The pressure points generally indicated for the treatment of diabetes rest near the knees, near the hands and on the feet.
While there are other reflexology points to treat diabetes, the following are among the most accessible for people who may need to self-administer the therapy:
Knees: Press the points a little more than a ½ inch below each knee on the front part of the leg. The fingers should press alongside but not on the shinbone. Press the area with the thumb and hold for five minutes. Purpose: Supports digestion
Joint of Thumb and Index Finger: Press the joint where the thumb and index finger meet by grasping it with the opposite thumb and index finger. Press firmly and massage the area for five minutes. Purpose: Supports pain relief and the large intestine
Big Toe and Second Toe Points: Press the area about ½ inch below where the webbing between the big toe and second toe meet. Press and massage the area for five minutes. Purpose: Diabetic symptom relief, insomnia and targets the liver.
Wrist: Press and massage the area under the pinky finger just below the wrist by grasping the area between the thumb and forefinger of the opposite hand. Supports: heart health and stress relief.
Along with the difficulty of managing their blood sugar, some diabetics also experience kidney damage, thickened blood vessels, nerve damage, and pain. Many of these conditions and symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes respond well to natural and herbal remedies. These complementary alternative therapies assist with controlling blood sugar levels and decreasing insulin resistance. Their use may also be effective as preventative treatments for these associated conditions.
Natural remedies utilize medicinal plants, spices, and food items to treat or prevent disease. In the case of type 2 diabetes, there are a number of such items, which assist with controlling blood sugar and insulin resistance. Many of them may be integrated into preparing meals or taken as supplements.
Aloe: May help to lower blood sugar levels
Bilberry: Anthocyanosides, the active components in bilberry possess antioxidant properties that may improve blood flow and prevent blood vessel thickening.
Bitter Melon: Contains a chemical that acts like insulin to help reduce blood sugar levels. It is typically take in juice-form at about 3 to 6 tablespoons per day. It helps to block the e absorption of sugar from the gastrointestinal tract and reduces insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes. Research done in human trials showed a reduction in blood sugar of men and women who took it as opposed to those who only took a placebo. It does cause an upset stomach in some individuals.
Cayenne: Cayenne’s active element, capsaicin, has been used topically to relieve nerve pain associated with diabetes.
Cinnamon: There is anecdotal evidence for cinnamon’s use as a way to support insulin’s natural activity in the body when consumed with meals.
Prickly Pear Cactus: This plant-based medicine comes in juice form, as a whole fruit, or as a powder at supermarkets or health food stores. Researchers are not yet sure how it works, but they suspect it may have something in it resembling insulin.
Green Tea: A study of the effects of green tea consumption on the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes showed a 33% risk reduction of developing type 2 diabetes in those subjects who consumed six or more cups of green tea daily compared to those who drank less than 1 cup per week.
Onion: According to the University of Michigan, allul propyl disulphide compound found in onions may stimulate insulin production in the pancreas and therefore lower blood sugar. Raw onions are the most effective, but onion powder supplements and extracts can also be used if you cannot stand the taste of onions.
Herbs can be whole foods or parts of plants, which have medicinal properties. Many are traditionally used in food preparation; however, this is not ideal for therapeutic purposes. When incorporated in the diet as a food, the amount of active constituents consumed to treat diabetic symptoms and associated conditions cannot be standardized. Herbal supplements and extracts with measurable dosages are recommended for this reason.
It is best to follow the directions on the package when purchasing herbal supplements or better yet consult with a qualified herbalist to ensure the most benefit from their use.
Also, take the time to consult with your doctor, pharmacist or herbal practitioner to find the most credible and effective sources when purchasing herbal supplements.
Keep in mind; some herbs may be contraindicated with the presence of certain pre-existing conditions or prescribed medications and for this reason, it is of utmost important to seek professional advice.
Herbs Used In Treatment Of Type 1 Diabetes
Basil: Holy basil and hairy basil leaves and seeds may help control blood sugar levels.
Fenugreek: Benefits type 1 and type 2 diabetics by controlling blood sugar levels.
Gingko Biloba: Preliminary research shows this herb may help to prevent neuropathy, pain and nerve damage associated with early stage diabetes.
Crepe Myrtle: A two-week study of the herb showed participants experiencing an average drop of 20 to 30 percent in blood sugar levels. While this one trial looks promising, the herb is still under study for long-term safety and consistency in outcomes.
Gymnema Sylvestre: Gymnema Sylvestre is native to parts of India and Southeast Asia, and has been used for thousands of years to reduce sugar cravings. The leaves of this herb actively increase available insulin in the bloodstream, decrease the absorption of glucose in the intestine, and inhibit the release of glucose by the liver.
Maintaining proper balance of blood sugars is critical for diabetics, and is important for anyone to prevent the development of diabetes, and heart disease as well.
Avoiding blood sugar spikes is important for both diabetics and those concerned with diabetes. When taken internally, Gymnema inhibits the effects of plasma glucose and serum insulin and therefore helps to regulate blood sugars. It is also believed to help lower hemoglobin A1C in diabetic patients.
This herb can also help with weight loss and managing the intake of sweets in the diet. When the leaves are chewed, they can paralyze the sense of taste for sweet and bitter substances for as long as two hours. Therefore, either there will be no taste of sugar or the sugar will taste terrible. This is a powerful way to curb a sweet tooth, especially for those who have a hard time controlling their intake of sweets.
Ginseng: This Chinese herb provides several benefits for diabetes. Some studies have shown ginseng to help in slowing of carbohydrate absorption thereby slowing glucose delivery to the blood and in stimulating insulin secretion from the pancreas. A study conducted at the University of Toronto resulted in ginseng capsules lowering blood glucose by 15% to 20% as opposed to a placebo.
Other natural and herbal remedies can also help with diabetes. Some of them have been confirmed using animal and/or human trials, and some have not. Each potential remedy should be discussed with your healthcare provider for use as a complementary treatment to support doctor prescribed care.