If you wear a pacemaker or have a serious heart disorder, consult your
doctor before undertaking biofeedback.
Biofeedback can help people with diabetes control their circulation but it
could also change the need for insulin and other medicines. Be sure to monitor
blood sugar carefully if you are using this therapy.
Biofeedback devices sold for home use vary widely in quality. Ask a
physician or biofeedback therapist for advice about a good brand before making a
The Swedish Medical reports..."But a study published by the
same group did not find any correlation between weekly biofeedback and daily
relaxation and improved diabetes control. The researchers did find, however,
that the more depressed or anxious an individual was, the less likely he/she was
to achieve clinical benefits of biofeedback."
Complementary and alternative medical therapies for diabetes
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the
National Institutes of Health, defines complementary and alternative medicine as
a "group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products
that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine."
Complementary medicine is used with conventional therapy, whereas alternative
medicine is used instead of conventional medicine.
Some people with diabetes use complementary or alternative therapies to treat
diabetes. Although some of these therapies may be effective, others can be
ineffective or even harmful. Patients who use complementary and alternative
medicine need to let their health care providers know what they are doing.
Some complementary and alternative medicine therapies are discussed below.
For more information, talk with your health care provider.
Meditation may be an effective complementary therapy for persons with diabetes. Stress plays an important part in blood glucose level, how we eat, sleep, and even on our mood -- all important aspects to master for optimal diabetes management.
Meditation is synonymous with awareness. Whatever you do with awareness could be considered meditation in its purest form. The word meditation, is
derived from two Latin words meditari, meaning "to think, to dwell upon, to exercise the
mind," and mederi ("to heal") and the Sanskrit word medha means "wisdom."
The origins of meditation intended for it to be a way of life and to define a state of mind free of scattered thoughts and certain patterns. The person meditating comes to the place that "all the activity of the mind is one."
Modern meditation has come to take on a more spiritual or ritualized flavor where a persons sits down, eyes closed, empties his/her mind to find some inner peace. It may even be used for relaxation, or religious experiences and is an active part of many yoga programs. But the core of meditation was intended to encompass more than just passing moments. Purposely watching a bird, for example (focusing on something) would be considered meditation. What is absent from the meditation lifestyle philosophy are wandering, unfocused thoughts.
The classical yoga texts offer that to attain true states of meditation, one must go through several stages. There is an associated preparation in yoga including personal and social code, position of the body, breathing techniques, and relaxation. The more advanced stages are concentration, contemplation, and then, ultimately, absorption.
Integral yoga involves simultaneous application of a little of all these stages together.
Whatever meaning meditation has for you, anything that can help eliminate stress in your mind and body will only have a positive impact on your diabetes care and blood glucose levels. It is documented that people with diabetes who are stressed or depressed tend to be lax on their care plans and therefore, tend to have higher A1c levels and more complications that those who are able to relax and maintain a positive outlook on life.
The following is an excerpt from a long article on meditation (Wikipedia) called "Meditation:"
In the recent years there has been a growing interest within the medical community to study the physiological effects of
meditation (Venkatesh et al., 1997; Peng et al., 1999; Lazar et al., 2000;
Carlson et.al, 2001). Many concepts of meditation have been applied to clinical
settings in order to measure its effect on somatic motor
function as well as cardiovascular and respiratory function. Also the hermeneutic and phenomenological
aspects of meditation are areas of growing interest. Meditation has entered the
mainstream of health care as a method of stress and pain reduction. For example, in an early study in 1972, transcendental meditation was shown
to affect the human metabolism
by lowering the biochemical byproducts of stress, such as lactate, decreasing heart rate and blood pressure and inducing favorable brain waves. (Scientific American
226: 84-90 (1972))
As a method of stress reduction, meditation is often used in hospitals in
cases of chronic or terminal illness to reduce complications associated with
increased stress including a depressed immune system. There is a growing consensus in
the medical community that mental factors such as stress significantly
contribute to a lack of physical health, and there is a growing movement in
mainstream science to fund research in this area (e.g. the establishment by the
NIH in the U.S. of 5 research centers to
research the mind-body aspects of disease.) Dr. James Austin,
a neurophysiologist at the University of Colorado, reported that Zen meditation rewires the circuitry of the brain
in his landmark book Zen and the Brain (Austin, 1999). This has been
confirmed using sophisticated imaging techniques which examine
the electrical activity of the brain.
Dr. Herbert Benson of
Medical Institute, which is affiliated with Harvard and several Boston hospitals, reports that
meditation induces a host of biochemical and physical changes in the body
collectively referred to as the "relaxation
response" (Lazar et.al, 2003). The relaxation response includes changes in
metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and brain chemistry. Benson
and his team have also done clinical studies at Buddhist monasteries in the
Among other well-known studies within this particular field of interest we
find the research of Jon
Kabat-Zinn and his colleagues at the University of Massachusetts who have
done extensive research on the effects of mindfulness meditation on stress (Kabat-Zinn et.al, 1985;
Davidson et.al, 2003).
Biofeedback was originally a mind-body technique to help someone become more aware of and learn
to deal with the body's response to pain. It is also now used to simply help people become more aware of, and better control, bodily functions, such as
heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, and muscle tension, in order to
improve their health and well-being. This alternative therapy emphasizes
relaxation and stress-reduction techniques both of which can play an important role in managing your diabetes.
Guided imagery is a
relaxation technique that some professionals who use biofeedback do. With guided
imagery, a person thinks of peaceful mental images, such as ocean waves. A
person may also include the images of controlling or curing a chronic disease,
such as diabetes. People using this technique believe their condition can be
eased with these positive images.
The first significant biofeedback studies were conducted by Barbara Brown, of the VA Hospital (Sepulveda, CA) in the late 1960s. Also participating in conducting these studies were Elmer and Alyce Green of the Menninger Foundation, a clinical
and research center for mental illness in Topeka, Kansas. Their studies showed it was thought that the body's autonomic functions (i.e., heart rate,
digestion, blood pressure, brain waves, and muscle behavior) could
be voluntarily controlled.
The researchers studied Indian yogi masters
who were able to consciously control the nervous system and metabolic rate. The Brown/Green studies led to further exploration of how of biofeedback could be used as an effective complementary therapy for many of physical ailments, including migraine headaches, insomnia,
circulatory, and gastrointestinal disorders. Biofeedback is now commonly used as part of an overall treatment plan for persons with diabetes.
It usually takes a person 5-10 sessions to begin to learn to recognize and control their own responses to stimuli. The entire process is painless and many health insurance polices now cover biofeedback training to help patients
cope with a chronic illness or stress-related health problems.
It is important to note that while biofeedback helps people control bodily
functions but it is not a cure for diabetes. It can also help change behavior, but biofeedback does not address deeper emotional and
psychological issues that may be involved with stress or chronic pain. If these
problems exist, you may want to consider counseling or psychotherapy.
How to choose a
There are plenty of certified biofeedback therapists that are also licensed physicians, clinical psychologists,
or other healthcare professionals who have taken special training in this
technique. Try to find someone with experience treating the particular
problem for which you are seeking help. It is important to select someone you feel comfortable
with. because success of the treatment depends a lot on the
level of trust you develop with your therapist. Your primary-care
physician also may be able to give you a referral to a biofeedback therapist.
Many health insurance plans now provide partial coverage for biofeedback
therapy. You can ask your physician for a referral or contact the Biofeedback Certification Institute of America.
There is no shortage of studies on prayer and the impact it has on chronic illnesses, including diabetes but the studies often conflict. There are many scientific studies conducted by reputable institutions that offer data to support that prayer (both being prayed for, and the act of personal prayer itself) can plan an active and effective role as a complementary adjunct to diabetes care. Other studies show no correlating data.
It is important to remember that while God may heal, miracles may exist, that, without a literal miracle of being delivered from diabetes you still need your insulin or you will die. Sadly, there are hundreds of reported deaths each year of people with serious illnesses (including diabetes) that die because the stop taking medications or refuse medical treatment because of their personal faith system. This is certainly a personal option for adults I will not argue, but in most states in the U.S.. it is a criminal offense to ignore medical needs of a child.
Personally, I do believe in the power of prayer and in a God that heals but I still give my 6-year-old daughter her insulin. I thank Him for the miracle of modern diabetes care. If we lived only 75 years ago, she certainly would have already died from this terrible disease, or become blind in the next few years, or lose a foot or leg.
My miracle, the one that renews every single day, is the miracle of Elizabeth being here, with me now.
More information on complementary and alternative medical therapies
The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse collects resource information
on diabetes for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney
Diseases (NIDDK) Reference Collection. This database provides titles, abstracts,
and availability information for health information and health education
resources. The NIDDK Reference Collection is a service of the National
Institutes of Health.