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Transcendental Meditation - A New Way to Manage Diabetes?

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Transcendental Meditation - A New Way to Manage Diabetes?

December 04, 2009

 By Lisa Merolla for Body1

Supporters of transcendental meditation (TM) say the relaxation technique could help diabetes patients by reducing insulin resistance and lowering stress levels. More than five million people around the world already use TM, but proponents say the method has the potential to help many more. 

Transcendental meditation – an ancient Indian practice – involves the repetition of a mantra for 20 minutes twice day. It is said to improve mental concentration, creativity and general well-being. Moreover, research has begun to demonstrate the practice’s benefits for diabetes patients.

Take Away
Meditation Basics
  • There are many types of mediation, but all tend to be practiced in a quiet location in a specific, comfortable posture.
  •  
  • In meditation, people learn to focus their attention to achieve a state of relaxation.
     
  • Use meditation to supplement, not replace, conventional treatment.
     
  • If you are interested in meditation, speak with your doctor to learn how it could help manage your diabetes.
     
  • The main study illustrating this effect was published in 2006 in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine. The study looked at 84 patients with coronary heart disease; half received basic health education while the other half took a class in TM. After 16 weeks, the patients who had practiced transcendental meditation exhibited decreased blood pressure and reduced insulin resistance. Insulin resistance refers to when the body is not using insulin as effectively as it would under normal conditions; as a result, the pancreas must produce more insulin to process the same amount of glucose. Insulin resistance, which causes blood sugars to rise, often occurs in the early stages of Type II diabetes. By decreasing insulin resistance, TM could help decrease the risk of diabetes.

    More recently, people are looking into the benefits of transcendental meditation for Native American diabetics. More than 80 percent of the Native American population lives with the condition, an extremely high rate. The David Lynch Foundation, an organization that promotes TM, has taught the relaxation technique to people on the Winnebago Reservation in Nebraska since 2006. Many of the diabetes patients on the reservation have since reported a significant improvement in their condition. As a result, a $1.6 million, two-year study is now being conducted to determine just how effective TM is for patients with diabetes. The study is partially funded by the US government’s Indian Health Services.

    Doctors say TM might be helping diabetes patients by lowering their stress levels. “I do believe that stress is a precipitating factor for losing our battle with diabetes,” Ahmed Mohammed, the medical director of the Winnebago Indian Hospital, said in a press release from the David Lynch Foundation. After all, stress hormones – which include cortisol and adrenaline – can wreck havoc with blood glucose and insulin levels. Reducing stress hormone levels can help normalize glucose and insulin, improving diabetes symptoms – and relaxation techniques like TM work toward lowering stress levels.   

    Unfortunately, there is not yet enough research to definitively outline the benefits of TM for patients with diabetes. However, for those interested in learning more about the relaxation technique, check out the official TM website here.

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