If you practice yoga, meditation, or other mindfulness practices, you may be helping your body manage blood sugar. If you don’t, it might be worth starting!
New research has found these mindfulness activities may help people with type-2 diabetes lower their blood sugar. The effects may be substantial, too: the work showed that it worked almost as well as standard treatments like metformin.
It is important to note that these practices are best used in addition to standard diabetes treatment and not a replacement. In any event, mindfulness activities are worth a try.
More than 37 million people have diabetes, and the vast majority of people have type 2. It develops when the body loses its ability to process insulin, a hormone that carries sugar from food into body cells for energy.
When that happens, sugar builds up in the bloodstream, damaging blood vessels and nerves over time. Many people with diabetes also develop complications like heart disease, kidney failure, nerve damage in the feet and legs, and potential blindness.
Controlling blood sugar can help minimize those risks.
Researchers looked at 28 published clinical trials that tested various practices. Most focused on yoga, which combines physical postures with breathing techniques and meditation. Other trials looed qigong, guided imagery, meditation, or mindfulness-based stress reduction.
They found that each practice helped people with type-2 diabetes lower their A1c – a measure of average blood sugar levels over the past three months.
In general, people with the disease should keep A1c below 7 percent. During the trials, on average, mind-body practices lowered participants A1c by just over 0.8 percent. That is very close to what metformin does, which cuts A1c by about a percent.
Mindfulness may help because it can reduce stress, making diabetes easier to manage. A dip in stress hormones may also help reduce systemic inflammation, which may help bring down blood sugar.
If you’re treating diabetes or are interested in blood sugar management, yoga, qigong, or other forms of meditation may help.