Drs. Chaudhary, Molina, Schneider and Kaplan answer your questions on diabetes, outlining the benefits of Transcendental Meditation.
Q: How can the Transcendental Meditation technique influence Type 2 diabetes?
Dr. Sandeep Chaudhary: When you look at diabetes as a process of manifesting disease in several stages, in the initial stages the person develops insulin resistance. This means that your insulin is not working as efficiently as it should, and consequently your blood sugars start to rise.
As a secondary consequence, when the pancreas has been overworked for decades, it starts secreting less and less insulin. Now you need more insulin, but your pancreas can't make any more; in fact, it slowly starts to die off because it's been overworked for years.
Research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2006 shows that the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique can help during the initial stages, by lowering insulin resistance. So even though it's true that some damage has been done to your pancreas over the years of developing diabetes, it doesn't mean you can't still be helped.
Dr. Schneider: Stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenalin aggravate insulin and glucose levels. Reducing these neurohormones through the Transcendental Meditation technique helps to balance glucose and insulin in the blood. This helps to normalize metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
Q: Does stress play a role in Type 2 diabetes as well?
Dr. Sandeep Chaudhary: Yes, for the same reason that it does in obesity. When you're stressed you tend to have higher cortisol levels, which increases insulin resistance; you also tend to eat the wrong foods, eat excessively, and eat at night because sleep patterns tend to be off in people who are anxious.
Eating at night is particularly bad for diabetics, because there is a natural five-minute spike in growth hormone at 3:00 a.m. This leads to a temporary increase in insulin resistance and subsequent higher blood sugar. If you have eaten something at midnight, blood sugars can spike even higher because of this growth hormone effect. This makes medication less effective. So it's very important to control stress and anxiety when treating diabetes.
As shown by research, the Transcendental Meditation technique can help by decreasing stress and regulating sleep patterns, so the person is sleeping through the night and not eating at midnight because of stress or anxiety.
Dr. Molina: Since the Transcendental Meditation technique is a stress reduction technique, and since diabetes can be worsened by both physiologic and psychological stress, it makes sense that the regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique may improve the ability to control diabetes.
Q: How does the Transcendental Meditation technique reduce stress?
Dr. Molina: Stress is the inability of the physiology to maintain a steady state, a balanced state or homeostasis. The Transcendental Meditation technique has been shown to improve neurophysiologic integration, thereby enhancing the physiology's capacity to return to a steady state when challenged. The challenge may be caused by emotional stress, physical stress or an irregular daily routine. By enhancing the body's capacity to return to homeostasis, the Transcendental Meditation technique decreases the effect of stress, an important risk factor associated with increased incidence of diabetes, atherosclerosis and many other diseases.
Q: How does making better food choices help lower insulin resistance?
Dr. Sandeep Chaudhary: If someone starts eating healthier foods—such as complex carbohydrates, healthier proteins and cooked vegetables with high fiber content—his pancreas will tend to secrete less insulin because he is not stressing his pancreas as much.
If, on the other hand, he eats junk food, his blood sugars will go sky high; and because of that the pancreas will have to work extra hard to secrete more insulin, to bring the sugar down.
Q: Does practicing TM help lower insulin resistance?
Dr. Sandeep Chaudhary: Research on insulin resistance, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2006, has shown that practitioners of the Transcendental Meditation program experience a significant decrease in insulin resistance, as measured by HOMA. "HOMA" stands for homeostasis model assessment, and is a measure of a person's insulin level.
People with more stable blood sugar levels tend to have more energy, whereas people with higher fluctuations in their blood sugars tend to experience more fatigue and reduction in mental clarity throughout the day. Medication can decrease the fluctuations in the blood sugars. Properly medicated, the patient can concentrate better and make it through the day better. But that's on a biochemical level; with the Transcendental Meditation technique one can create changes on a much more fundamental level.
The Transcendental Meditation technique creates balance at the deepest level of the physiology—at the level of consciousness itself. When a health intervention works at such a profound level, it creates more profound changes on the gross level of the human physiology as well. The TM technique allows one to make changes at this most fundamental level of existence, leading to greater changes—and healthier choices—in creating mental and physical health.
Practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique, by reducing anxiety and stress, not only leads to better food choices, but the food is digested and assimilated into the body in a more efficient way.
Q: If I practice TM, will I need to take less insulin or oral diabetes drugs?
Dr. Sandeep Chaudhary: The answer to that is to follow the advice of your doctor. Research indicates that if one practices the Transcendental Meditation technique and starts eating healthier, then in general, one will need fewer medications. You can start practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique and monitor your insulin requirement with your doctor's guidance.
I have a patient who had diabetes for many years and was on many medications. She started the Transcendental Meditation technique, completed several sessions to remove toxins from her body, and started a healthier diet. Where her A1C test (a measure of average blood sugar levels) started at 9, which is relatively high, her A1C eventually dropped below 7, which is ideal for diabetics.
So in my experience, when people start the TM technique and become more in tune with what the body needs, they spontaneously start eating foods that are healthier.
Dr. Schneider: Many people might be able to avoid the need for diabetes medications or lower their doses. As usual, continue to monitor your condition with the supervision of a qualified health care professional.
Q: Can the TM technique help control both blood sugar and cholesterol? What about weight?
Dr. Kaplan:There is evidence now from a well-controlled scientific study published in Archives of Internal Medicine in 2006 that the TM technique can reduce the components of "metabolic syndrome," a major cause of poor health and premature death. Patients with metabolic syndrome are characteristically overweight, with high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and triglycerides, and low HDL (good) cholesterol.
Q: Many people who have weight problems have Type 2 diabetes as well, right?
Dr. Sandeep Chaudhary:Yes. It runs in families—most people with Type 2 diabetes have a family member who also has it. As a nation we're getting more and more obese, and because of that each subsequent generation has more insulin resistance than the previous generation. This is one reason why Type 2 diabetes is becoming more prevalent in children.
Add to that our national habits of eating fast food, exercising too little and living a stressful lifestyle, and you have a nation that is becoming more and more obese and has a higher and higher incidence of Type 2 diabetes
This is where the Transcendental Meditation program can really help, because if people can decrease stress, take time twice a day to get in tune with their own nature, they might find themselves thinking, "Hey, I'm not eating so much all the time, now that I'm not as anxious or stressed," or "Let's go for a walk in nature" instead of sitting in front of the TV. Then you start fixing many of these problems.
Q: Can the Transcendental Meditation technique decrease my risk of diabetes?
Dr. Molina:The practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique for even a short period of time has been shown to be associated with decreased insulin resistance and a lowering of the blood sugar, thereby decreasing the risk factors of diabetes.
Our medical experts
Drs. Chaudhary, Molina, Schneider and Kaplan, experts on diabetes and the benefits of transcendental meditation.
Sandeep Chaudhary, M.D. earned a double board certification in both Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at Loma Linda University Medical School and later earned his board certification in Endocrinology at the University of California, San Diego. He is currently the Medical Director of Wellspring Endocrinology at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California.
César Molina, M.D., F.A.C.C. is Medical Director of the South Asian Heart Center at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, CA. He is a graduate of Yale University School of Medicine and a fellow of the American College of Cardiology. Dr. Molina has recently appeared in the international edition of CNN discussing the benefits of diet and exercise in the treatment and prevention of coronary heart disease.
Robert Schneider, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.B.M.R. has been awarded more than $20 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his pioneering research on natural approaches to heart disease. Dr. Schneider is the author of Total Heart Health and 100 medical research articles, and he has been featured in more than 1,000 media reports, including CNN Headline News, The New York Times, and Time magazine.
Gary P. Kaplan, M.D., Ph.D. is a neurologist and Associate Professor of Clinical Neurology at Hofstra University School of Medicine. He is also a recipient of the Albert H. Douglas Award from the Medical Society of the State of New York for outstanding achievements as a clinical teacher interested in promoting and improving the medical education of physicians.