Diabetes is a complicated disease with many variables affecting blood sugar. For this reason, Diabetes can also be a very stressful disease with which to deal. In fact, stress can have a pronounced effect on maintaining healthy glucose levels. Under stress, the hormones epinephrine and cortisol are released into the bold stream.
These stress hormones are meant to aid in the resolution of a stressful event by providing energy when needed. That means they increase blood glucose levels. Non-diabetic individuals have insulin to help counteract the effects of these stress hormones, but diabetics do not. Diabetics must rely on insulin (Type I) or diet (Type II) and other holistic management tools to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Among these management tools are Yoga, Meditation, and Massage. But how do these alternative healing modalities help? Massage, Yoga, and Meditation help to relieve stress in the body, be it physical, mental, or spiritual. As the body relaxes, Oxytocin is released. Oxytocin is a hormone/neurotransmitter similar to Serotonin and Dopamine.
When released in the blood stream Oxytocin facilitates a sense of calm, trust, and empathy. Oxytocin is naturally released in the body through many different avenues among which is a simple touch like getting a hug, petting your dog, or getting a massage. According to Dr. Kerstin Uvnäs Moberg, author of The Oxytocin Factor, massage can assist in the natural release of Oxytocin.
Even the person giving the massage can experience such benefits of oxytocin release in their own bodies as lowered blood pressure and a decrease in stress hormones. Oxytocin has also been shown to counteract the effect of Cortisol (a stress hormone). Massage also aids the diabetic condition through improved circulation and mobility. Massage has long been known for improving circulation of blood and lymph. Circulation brings fresh nutrient and oxygen-rich blood to the tissues. As a result, there is an increase in the uptake of glucose by the cells.
Massage also acts to increase mobility. The more sedentary we are due to injury or illness the harder it becomes to move. Diabetes is hit unusually hard because increases in blood glucose, as well as stress hormones, can thicken the connective tissue surrounding muscles, ligaments, and tendons causing them to become sticky and less inclined to move freely over each other. This causes stiffness, pain, and discomfort. It makes it hard even to want to get up and move. Massage is one of the best ways to encourage mobility in those prone to pain with movement.