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Mindfulness May Reduce Physical Complications of Diabetes

mini zen garden with stonesMindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a therapy designed to enhance awareness and nonjudgmental acceptance in clients. Individuals who are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety often benefit immensely from this noninvasive relaxation approach. MBSR uses a combination of techniques that teach individuals how to be more reflective and considerate of their emotions rather than reactive. Research has shown that MBSR has positive results when used for the treatment of many mental health challenges. But less is known about how it can help alleviate physical and physiologic symptoms. To determine if MBSR can be equally affective for physiologic conditions as well as emotional symptoms, Mechthild Hartmann of the Department of Medicine II and Psychosomatik at the University of Heidelberg in Germany recently led a study that evaluated MBSR in participants with type II diabetes.

The 110 participants were assigned to MBSR or treatment as usual (TAU) and were evaluated for symptoms of depression before and after the therapy. Hartmann also measured their levels of albuminuria (protein in urine) and blood pressure. The participants were monitored over the course of the 8-week treatment and were then assessed 5 years posttreatment. Hartmann discovered that the psychologic distress of the participants in the MBSR group decreased much more than in the TAU group. Although there were no significant changes in albuminuria, the diastolic blood pressure in the MBSR group was much lower than that in the TAU group.

Taken together, these findings suggest that although MBSR does not have a direct effect on the physiologic activities of the kidneys in individuals with type II diabetes, it does serve to reduce the depression and stress that can accompany this illness. Psychologic distress is known to increase inflammation and could negatively impact other symptoms of diabetes. Therefore, MBSR can be viewed as one more course of treatment in the overall fight against the negative consequences of diabetes. Additionally, this approach could help slow down the development of other psychological and physiologic symptoms of diabetes. Hartmann added, “The specific advantage of MBSR is its preventive nature and broad applicability for a variety of symptoms.”

Hartmann, M., Kopf, S., Kircher, C., Faude-Lang, V., Djuric, Z. (2012). Sustained effects of a mindfulness-based stress-reduction intervention in type 2 diabetic patients: Design and first results of a randomized controlled trial (the Heidelberger Diabetes and Stress-Study). Diabetes Care, 35.5, 945-947.

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  • Marleen

    June 8th, 2012 at 4:23 AM

    Of course, I have no doubt that this could help, it could help patients not only who have diabetes but also any other disease that could drastically change your life with the diagnosis. Now a lot of how well it can work will be based on the compliance of the patient as well as how much they take control of the other health issues in their lives as well.

  • jeff

    June 8th, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    Don’t you think that maybe this should be stresses that it does not necessarily help the physiological symptoms of chronic illnesses, but that it can help to alleviate some of the psychological ailments that those with these types of illnesses often experience too? I just think that there will be someone out there who sees this and thinks that they can stop all of their meds and try this instead when in fact that could do far more harm to their bodies in a physical sense. Ket’s just be careful of who could be reading and how this may actially be interpreted by someone who is simply looking for an ecuse to abandon their treatment that they have been taking.

  • Parks

    June 9th, 2012 at 6:52 AM

    At the very least this could teach diabetics to be more intune with their illness so that they know when they need to check their blood sugar a little more often

  • Galen J

    June 10th, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    there are so many others who could get help from this too
    it does not have to be exclusive to only diabetic patients
    how about those with heart disease, may make them more mindful about their overall lifestyle choices

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