Seven alternative lifestyle therapies for lowering blood glucose

Diabetes is now a major pandemic of the world with the number of people with diabetes worldwide has more than doubled during the past 20 years [1]. Many countries including Singapore has now declared “War on Diabetes” – attempting to mobilise the general public to raise awareness on diabetes and how to prevent it.

More and more people is having problem maintaining a healthy blood sugar levels these days.

One of the key aspects of preventing and managing diabetes is through lifestyle management. The typically recommended lifestyle management approaches are dietary change, increase physical activities, and quit smoking  [2]. Little is known about alternative lifestyle therapies that can be potentially helpful in lowering blood glucose naturally. In here we will explore seven of these therapies.

1. Yoga

Yoga pose helps to stimulate insulin production and improve blood circulation.

Yoga is an ancient Indian exercise with more than 5000 years of history. It is a means of balancing and harmonizing the mind, body, and emotions. While traditionally yoga is a spiritual practice for attaining a higher level of awareness, it is now recognised as a science of health management [3]. The effects of yoga practice and its various components of cleansing, preparatory, postures, regulated breathing, and meditation on type 2 diabetes have been extensively researched. Among the benefits include stimulating insulin production, improve blood circulation, minimizes insulin resistance, and improve glycaemic control [3].

2. Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is recommended for diabetes patients.

Massage has been recommended for diabetes patients primarily for relaxation. As stress is a contributing factor of the development of type 2 diabetes [4], the relaxing effects of massage bring about the reduction of heart rate and blood pressure as well as overall stress and anxiety. A systematic review has found massage at an insulin injection site can significantly increase serum insulin action, thereby decreasing blood glucose levels in people with type 1 diabetes. There are also studies that suggest massage may help to normalise blood glucose and symptoms of damage to the peripheral nerves due to diabetes (neuropathy) [5].

3. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is commonly used in China to treat diabetes.

Acupuncture is commonly used in China to treat diabetes. A 2014 article in Zhongguo Zhen Jiu (Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion journal) reported acupuncture to positively regulate the glucose and lipid metabolism in the patients of type 2 diabetes. 83 female patients of type 2 diabetes were treated with 76.5% success rate in patients with yin and yang deficiency and 83.7% success rate in patients with kidney yin deficiency [6]. Current evidence from experimental studies also suggests that acupuncture has the potential to improve insulin sensitivity [7].

4. Aromatherapy

Essential oils are used in aromatherapy to reduce stress and anxiety.

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils for therapeutic purposes. Essential oils are inhaled or diluted and applied to the skin for addressing certain symptoms or conditions. The use of aromatic essential oils may stimulate relaxation which helps to reduce stress and anxiety [8], and make diabetic patients more comfortable, whether through the healing of an infection, the amelioration of a sore muscle, the lessening of neuropathic pain, or the reduction of psychological stress. Aromatherapy can help to improve their overall quality of life [8]. Eucalyptus, Juniper and Geranium essential oils are some of the commonly used oils for diabetes [9].

5. Biofeedback

Biofeedback en
How biofeedback works?

Biofeedback therapy involves the use of measuring instrument to monitor body activity such as skin temperature, muscle tension or brain activity, with the objective of learning control over the maladaptive response to stress. A randomized controlled study found the use of biofeedback-assisted relaxation was associated with significant decreases in average blood glucose, Haemoglobin A1C, and muscle tension in type 2 diabetes for up to 3 months after treatment compared to control [10]. A psychological mechanism for blood glucose reduction through biofeedback is suggested [11].

6. Hydrotherapy

Partial immersion in a hot tub for 30 minutes a day can help to improve blood sugar control.

Hydrotherapy is the application of water (hot, cold or steam) for health promotion or treatment of various diseases. It is one of the modalities commonly used in naturopathy to increase the circulation of blood and lymph so as to stimulate the body’s natural healing mechanisms [12]. Partial immersion in a hot tub for 30 minutes a day, six days a week, for three weeks has been reported to decrease weight, mean fasting plasma glucose level, and glycosylated haemoglobin levels among eight patients with diabetes type 2. These patients also reported improved sleep and an increased general sense of well-being [13].

7. Meditation

Meditation can improve self-awareness, regulation of attention and emotion, as well as reduce stress.

Meditation is a vital spiritual practice for many religions of the world. Meditation has had varied interpretations in different cultures and includes a wide range of different techniques and practices that ultimately involve self-regulation of the mind. Scientific evidence now shows that meditation can improve self-awareness, regulation of attention and emotion, as well as reduce stress [14]. A systematic review published in 2011 found meditation-based therapies to associate with significant improvements in blood pressure, glycaemic control, body weight and waist circumference, all of which is beneficial for patients with diabetes [15].   


 [1]       P.Z. Zimmet, K.G.M.M. Alberti, Epidemiology of Diabetes—Status of a Pandemic and Issues Around Metabolic Surgery, Diabetes Care. 39 (2016) 878 LP-883. doi:10.2337/dc16-0273.

[2]        American Diabetes Association, 4. Lifestyle Management, Diabetes Care. 40 (2017) S33 LP-S43. doi:10.2337/dc17-S007.

[3]        A.V. Raveendran, A. Deshpandae, S.R. Joshi, Therapeutic Role of Yoga in Type 2 Diabetes, Endocrinol. Metab. (Seoul, Korea). 33 (2018) 307–317. doi:10.3803/EnM.2018.33.3.307.

[4]        S.J. Kelly, M. Ismail, Stress and Type 2 Diabetes: A Review of How Stress Contributes to the Development of Type 2 Diabetes, Annu. Rev. Public Health. 36 (2015) 441–462. doi:10.1146/annurev-publhealth-031914-122921.

[5]        J. Ezzo, T. Donner, D. Nickols, M. Cox, Is Massage Useful in the Management of Diabetes? A Systematic Review, Diabetes Spectr. 14 (2001) 218 LP-224. doi:10.2337/diaspect.14.4.218.

[6]        Y. Wang, Z.-C. Liu, B. Xu, [Efficacy analysis on type 2 diabetes mellitus treated with acupuncture in females]., Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 34 1 (2014) 21–24.

[7]        F. Liang, D. Koya, Acupuncture: is it effective for treatment of insulin resistance?, Diabetes, Obes. Metab. 12 (2010) 555–569. doi:10.1111/j.1463-1326.2009.01192.x.

[8]        J. Buckle, Aromatherapy and Diabetes, Diabetes Spectr. 14 (2001) 124 LP-126. doi:10.2337/diaspect.14.3.124.

[9]        A. Pandey, P. Tripathi, R. Pandey, R. Srivatava, S. Goswami, Alternative therapies useful in the management of diabetes: A systematic review, J. Pharm. Bioallied Sci. 3 (2011) 504–512. doi:10.4103/0975-7406.90103.

[10]      R.A. McGinnis, A. McGrady, S.A. Cox, K.A. Grower-Dowling, Biofeedback-Assisted Relaxation in Type 2 Diabetes, Diabetes Care. 28 (2005) 2145 LP-2149. doi:10.2337/diacare.28.9.2145.

[11]      A. Mcgrady, The effects of biofeedback in diabetes and essential hypertension., Cleve. Clin. J. Med. 77 suppl 3 (2010) S68–S71. doi:10.3949/ccjm.77.s3.12.

[12]      S.A. Fleming, N.C. Gutknecht, Naturopathy and the Primary Care Practice, Prim. Care Clin. Off. Pract. 37 (2010) 119–136. doi:

[13]      P.L. Hooper, Hot-tub therapy for type 2 diabetes mellitus.(Letter to the Editor)(Statistical Data Included), N. Engl. J. Med. 341 (1999) 924. doi:10.1056/NEJM199909163411216.

[14]      G. Priya, S. Kalra, Mind-Body Interactions and Mindfulness Meditation in Diabetes, Eur. Endocrinol. 14 (2018) 35–41. doi:10.17925/EE.2018.14.1.35.

[15]      J.G. Anderson, A.G. Taylor, The metabolic syndrome and mind-body therapies: a systematic review, J. Nutr. Metab. 2011 (2011) 276419. doi:10.1155/2011/276419.

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