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Managing Binge Eating and Compulsive Eating Through Yoga Therapy. Part 2

In the last article, we explored the relationship between Type I, insulin dependent diabetes and eating disorders. For those of you who see more overweight/obese Type II diabetics, carbohydrate cravings, binge eating, compulsive eating and generalized poor eating habits may be related to stress and depression therefore lowering metabolic rates. We will explore this connection here.

Co-Morbid Conditions: Diabetes and Eating Disorders

Part II

Managing Binge Eating and Compulsive Eating Through Yoga Therapy

Beverly Price, RD, MA, RYT

In the last article, we explored the relationship between Type I, insulin dependent diabetes and eating disorders. For those of you who see more overweight/obese Type II diabetics, carbohydrate cravings, binge eating, compulsive eating and generalized poor eating habits may be related to stress and depression therefore lowering metabolic rates. We will explore this connection here.

Obesity and other lifestyle issues are strongly linked to the increasing epidemic of diabetes. Often, we overlook stress as not only a cause of diabetes, but if left unmanaged can aggravate diabetes. Stress has a direct, physical effect on blood glucose management. When your patients are under physical or mental stress, their bodies release hormones such as adrenaline, to prepare for “fight” or “flight.” This mechanism floods the bloodstream with glucose to provide the body with extra energy. However, if there is not enough insulin available to allow the glucose to enter the cells, it accumulates in the blood, resulting in high blood sugar.

If your patient is chronically stressed and is overeating in response to stress, blood glucose may hover at levels that are dangerously high. Persistent high blood sugar levels can cause damage to the heart, kidneys, and eyes. In my practice, I have seen both extremes—clients who are binge eaters and compulsive eaters as well as clients who turn away from food when troubled. Both may be highly stressed from their job, family and possibly other deep seeded issues. In either case this chronic stress keeps their blood sugar levels high, increasing their risk of diabetes-related complications.

Does this sound like some of your patients? Your patients will never be able to get rid of stress entirely, but they can learn to manage stress more effectively. One of the ways to manage stress is through yoga, breathing and meditation. Yoga doesn’t mean that one must get twisted up like a pretzel. Yogi is from the Sanskrit word “Yug,” which means, to join.” The English word, “Yoke,” comes from the same source and carries a similar meaning. An Eastern practice, over 5000 years old, links the breath, mind and posture together for continued vitality, freedom from disease and fear, mental power and happiness, self-control, clear-sightedness, and spiritual growth.

In Hatha yoga, through postures and movement, “prana” or energy is sent to any organ or body part to strengthen and invigorate that area of the body. Whereas Western society looks at breathing as an exchange of hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, Eastern culture views rhythmic breathing as a way to bring the mind and body into harmony. The benefits of yoga are many. For someone with diabetes, these benefits can be a powerful adjunct to diet and medication. In fact, with tighter control of blood glucose, medication may be able to be decreased or eliminated over time.

The most important aspect to understand is that the breathing and meditation component are the most crucial to stress management. The postures are secondary. However, yoga may be used as a form of exercise for some who have difficulty engaging in traditional exercise on a regular basis. Yoga can improve health by increasing muscle strength, aerobic capacity and overall fitness levels.

If your patient is trying to manage their weight and diet through yoga, the physical discomfort of overeating becomes more obvious as greater awareness learned in the regular practice of yoga makes all sensations more apparent. This can make it easier for your patient to choose to stop eating before the point of physical discomfort. Yoga also teaches mindfulness. Your patient will learn to experience the taste, texture, and other sensual qualities of food and to pay attention to what and how much they are eating. Deep breathing, as practiced in yoga, can help also your patient’s metabolism through management of the stress hormones.

If your patient is planning on starting a regular practice of yoga, just like any other exercise, medical clearance should be obtained and a baseline blood pressure, weight and HBA1c levels should be obtained. The patient should check blood glucose levels before and after yoga. The dietitian can help the patient manage a meal plan in relation to the intensity level of the yoga practice as a slow flow may be less caloric intensive versus a Vinyasa which is more aerobic in nature. In addition, since yoga involves all body parts, including the feet, make sure your patient understands the importance of checking their feet after each session to make sure that they are not irritated.

In choosing a yoga teacher, the teacher should do minimal modeling or demonstrating during class while giving clear and simple directions so that your patient can follow. The teacher should be skilled in listening to their students’ breath, which gives them an understanding of what the student is experiencing during that particular yoga practice.

Legitimate yoga teachers are trained by a yoga school, which is registered through Yoga Alliance. The yoga teacher should have completed at least 200 hours of training through a yoga alliance registered school. You can inquire if your teacher or the school at which your teacher works is registered with www.yogaalliance.org.

By the basic breathing techniques and simple movements, that yoga can offer an individual with diabetes, the patient may find it easier follow a healthy food and lifestyle plan that you have outlined, while listening to their own intuition regarding their condition. The end result is better disease management!

Beverly Price is a registered dietitian, exercise physiologist and registered yoga teacher. She conducts private nutrition and yoga therapy, corporate wellness programs and eating disorder/yoga support groups in the Detroit and suburban areas of Michigan.

Beverly Price is a registered dietitian, exercise physiologist and registered yoga teacher who offers individual nutrition and yoga therapy in Bingham Farms and Royal Oak, Michigan. She also conducts yoga and eating disorder recovery programs along with continuing education for dietitians, diabetes educators and other healthcare professionals. For more information, log on to www.gettingthatjumpstart.com

References

Yoga and Eating Disorders, Marcie Berman, PhD, Yoga World, No. 15, Oct/Dec 2000.

Yoga as a Self-Transformation, Joel Kramer, Yoga Journal, May/June 1980.

Self-Care, Gretchen Rose Newmark, RD, Yoga Journal, March/April 1997 and

Hatha Yoga as an Adjunct to Eating Disorders Treatment, Gretchen Rose Newmark, RD, Today’s Dietitian, January 2004.