If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you probably already know that controlling carbs and exercising go a long way toward bringing your glucose numbers down. While both will make you feel better and improve your overall health, you may be feeling a bit deprived. The good news is that there are many enjoyable activities - like gardening and long walks in nature - that nurture your sense of well-being while helping control your diabetes. What you may not know is that soaking in a hot tub might be one of them.
Scientific Research - Hot Tub Therapy May Lower Glucose Levels
A 1999 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the test subjects showed a decrease in blood glucose levels and reported sleeping and feeling better after a three-week trial with hot tub therapy. The subjects, all of whom were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and whose diabetic treatment plan had been stable for at least 8 weeks prior to the trial, sat in the hot tub for 30 minutes each day for six days a week. The subjects saw a decrease in fasting glucose levels from 182 mg/dl to 159 mg/dl. The hot water in the hot tub stimulates blood flow to the muscles, similar to the effects of exercise. This increased blood flow is thought to be responsible for the reduction of glucose in the bloodstream.
Hot Tub Use May Lower Glucose Levels in Response to Stress Reduction and Relaxation
When stress triggers the fight or flight response in your body, glucose in emptied into the bloodstream to prepare you to take action. For those with normal glucose response, the body quickly metabolizes the additional glucose and returns to normal when the stress trigger is gone. In those with diabetes, the body cannot process the boost of glucose properly, which means the levels remain high for a longer time.
This means activities that reduce stress and promote relaxation are even more important for diabetics than for the average person. If you find soaking in the hot tub and letting your cares melt away relaxing, don't be afraid to use your hot tub frequently.
Hot Tub Safety for Diabetics
There are some health and safety concerns that must be considered. Because many diabetics suffer from diabetic neuropathy, a nerve condition that typically causes a lack of sensation in the legs and feet, they may not be able to tell how hot the water is and can accidentally burn themselves. In addition, there is an increased risk of skin problems due to the fact that abrasions, cuts and bruised do not heal well in those with diabetes. Soaking in a hot tub for long periods could damage sensitive skin. But, there are several ways to avoid these issues.
- Always measure the temperature of the water before you step in. A floating thermometer allows you to monitor the water temperature with ease. Keep the temperature below 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Many prefer a temperature between 100 and 102 degrees.
- Check your feet and legs for open sores before entering the hot tub.
- Get out of the hot tub slowly, as a drop in glucose levels may cause lightheadedness or dizziness. Sit for a moment before getting dressed.
- Dry your skin thoroughly by patting it dry with a soft cloth. Don't forget between the toes!
- Apply body lotion to prevent dry or cracked skin.
- Check you glucose levels before and after using the hot tub to determine how it affects you.
While hot tub therapy for diabetes may not be for everyone, nearly anyone with diabetes can enjoy hot tubs as long as they take a few precautions. If you have other concerns about hot tub use, talk to your doctor.