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A Dose of Prayer in Diabetes Management

In a Christian country such as the Philippines, prayer has become a part of many Filipino’s lives.  Whether it is for thanksgiving, forgiveness, or healing, prayer is a tool that many a suffering soul uses to cope with whatever hardships are encountered.

For patients with diabetes, can being prayerful help them better deal with their condition?  Is prayer an effective tool in managing diabetes?

Prayer and Diabetes

A research conducted at Duke University’s Center for the Study of Religion/Spirituality and Health investigated how intrinsic religiosity affects a person’s medical outcome and general wellness.  Intrinsic religiosity i defined as one’s religious or spiritual beliefs rather than participation in organized religious activities.

The study found that people with higher levels of intrinsic religiosity better survived severe illnesses, experienced less depression in older age, less disability and mortality when faced with chronic disease, and had stronger immune system.

Another very small, unpublished study looked at the possibilities of enhancing self-management with the use of a prayer wheel.  Nine study participants with type 2 diabetes used the prayer wheel for a span of three months adding to their usual self-care diabetes management.  Glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) values were measured before and after the three-month period and compared with the HbA1c values of a similar group of nine who were not involved in a prayer wheel study.

The study revealed that among nine participants, seven experienced a reduction in HbA1c levels during the study period.  The drop in HbA1c level averaged 0.9 percent.  The other two participants experienced an average increase of 0.4 percent in their HbA1c levels.

Meanwhile, five participants in the control group experienced an average drop of 0.5 percent in HbA1c and four experienced an average increase in HbA1c of 0.8 percent.  The study was done in October to January – months when common holidays such as Halloween and Christmas were celebrated and often result in an increase in HbA1c for many people.

The results of the unpublished study suggest that the use of prayer, when combined with other holistic approaches in diabetes management, have beneficial effects on one’s HbA1c level.

Benefits of Prayer

According to Dr. Regina Grace Ravara, a medical doctor and currently Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at St. Paul University Manila, one benefit of being prayerful for diabetes patients is that it helps them accept their condition.  “When you tend to be more prayerful, you tend to be more accepting.  And if you are an accepting person, your stress level is lower than those who are still in denial of their condition,” explains Dr. Ravara.

Accepting the fact that you are diabetic, lowers your stress level and reduces your cholesterol level as well, adds Dr. Ravara.  “There is a decrease in the level of cholesterol because it can also be converted to sugar.  It adds to the level of sugar if you tend to be more stressed secondary to the stage of a disease condition,” says Dr. Ravara.

Pastor Richard mendoza, health director of the Central Luzon Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, says that prayer has indirect benefits to diabetics, and that it makes them hopeful and optimistic. “Prayer is a source of comfort and healing,” says Pr. Mendoza.  He adds that being prayerful helps diabetes patients become compliant with their medication and treatment.

Dr. Ravara believes that the act of praying is an act of sacrifice.  It is a way to completely entrust one’s self to God.  Dr. Ravara says that when we are sick, we become more faithful to God.  It is because sickness or disease may lead one closer to death, says Dr. Ravara.  As such, the act of praying and being spiritual can help a person cope with whatever disease condition.

According to Pr. Mendoza,the act of praying and being spiritual also helps promote healthy habits.  Most churches teach healthy lifestyle and temperance which includes exercise, good diet and nutrition.  These practices are fit and good for diabetics.

Spiritual and Emotional Healing

For people with diabetes, spiritual and emotional well-being is necessary for cure and survival, say Pr. Mendoza.  Diabetics who lack spiritual and emotional support are found to get worse, develop more complications and live miserably while suffering from their chronic disease.

Dr. Ravara agrees that spiritual and emotional healing is vital for diabetic patients.  “It direct us on how we are going to cope with our problems,” explains Dr. Ravara.  She adds that it also gives diabetics a chance to accept things as they are.  Dr. Ravara emphasizes that significant people play a big role in a patient’s spiritual and emotional healing. “The way other people look at us would also contribute to our self-esteem,” explains Dr. Ravara.

Being prayerful and spiritual can definitely help diabetics accept their condition and better manage their disease.  However, it is still important to follow the advice of healthcare professionals on how to deal with diabetes and not rely solely on prayers.  Holistic management of any disease is still the key.

But when all else fails, leaving it all up to God has proven wonders for many.  As Pr. Mendoza says, “Let diabetics pray and be spiritually healthy.  They won’t regret the hope, the comfort, the willpower, the faith, and the joy brought about by putting their trust in the Lord.”

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