Islets of Hope alternative and complementary treatment for persons with diabetes

islets of hope home buttonabout type 1 diabetes buttonabout type 2 diabetes buttondiabetes care tips from otherscomplications with diabetes buttondiabetes support groups buttondiabetes resources

Article disclaimer

By Lahle Wolfe, Founder, Islets of Hope.


NIDDK, NIH Publication No. 04–4552, May 2004



Guided Imagery for Diabetes, Kathy Wong, ND, Biofeedback

Whole Health MD

Use of prayer in diabetes self-management. Diabetes Educ. 2002 May-Jun;28(3):390-4.

Spiritual self-care and the use of prayer.. Diabetes Self Manag. 2002 Nov-Dec;19(6):57-9.

Supporting self-management to improve diabetes care. Med Health R I. 2004 Feb;87(2):46-9.

For article use and reprint permission please contact:

Did You Know?

Ailments for which biofeedback is frequently used include complications from diabetes, Raynaud's disease, and incontinence?

Finding Someone Qualified in Biofeedback

The Biofeedback Certification Institute of America in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, provides the most signigicant certification program for biofeedback practitioners.  There contact information is:

10200 W. 44th Avenue
Suite #310
Wheat Ridge, CO 80033

303-420-2902 (Voice)
303- 422-8894 (FAX)

Cautions About 

Courtesy of WholeHealthMD

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 purchase.

Mind-body skills instructors: do you need one?

Tai chi

Researchers Show Traditional Chinese Exercises Can Help Combat Diabetes
An Australian clinical trial evaluated the effectiveness of traditional Chinese exercises in preventing the growing problem of diabetes and produced startling results... 12/06/2005


Meditation & Yoga
Comprehensive information on yoga, meditation, body building. Includes 18 steps on how to meditate.

Best of the East to the West

Articles to peruse

Prayed-Over Girl Died of Untreated Diabetes

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."



islets of hope diabetes medical library                               main Treatment Options page
Diabetes Treatment Options                                                           main Alternative & Complimentary page

Alternative & Complementary Treatments for Diabetes
Biofeedback, Meditation & Prayer
Join and IOH Support Group for Alternative & Complementary Therapy


Mini Site Index
Complementary & Alternative Medical Therapies
Biofeedback & Guided Imagery
More Information on Complementary & Alternative Therapies for Diabetes

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, 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 the Mind-Body 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, 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 Himalayan Mountains.

    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, 1985; Davidson, 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 practitioner

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 for diabetes

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.

To provide you with the most up-to-date resources, information specialists at the clearinghouse created an automatic search of the NIDDK Reference Collection. To obtain this information, you may view the results of the automatic search on Complementary Medicine.

If you wish to perform your own search of the database, you may access and search the NIDDK Reference Collection database online.


Contact Us  |  About IOH  |  Our Mission  |  Elizabeth's Story  |  About the Founder  |  Join IOH  |  How To Help  |  Advertise  |  Privacy Statement |  Site Index  |

Page Updated 05/11/06