For the last five years or so, I’ve experienced a significant improvement of my diabetic control as measured by my CGM time in range, CGM glucose variability and A1c performance. I’ve been aware of this improvement but I’m just now realizing what is going on and where much needed improvements still need to happen.
Back in the late fall of 2019, I called 911 due to an alarming shortness of breath. I had not experienced this symptom before. I felt an air hunger that was new to me. Spending eight hours overnight in the ER revealed no medical insight into my condition. The shortness of breath symptom moderated and then disappeared during my stay.
The medical reason for my ER visit remained a mystery to me until today. I finally put two and two together and made a conclusion after watching a YouTube video by Patrick McKeown. I’ve been aware of all the key facts but it took the simple unifying explanation of his video to make it clear to me.
Since 2018 I’ve been explicitly aware of the importance of balancing the sympathetic (fight vs. flight) side of the nervous system with the parasympathetic (rest and digest) side. Only one can be present at a time; when one dominates, the other steps aside. I used meditation and breathing exercises to elicit the calming effect of a parasympathetic response.
It’s interesting that it’s the vagus nerve that serves as the key piece of anatomy in our sympathetic vs. parasympathetic nervous system balance. The vagus nerve connects our brain to all of our digestive organs. When good balance is struck, we enjoy good digestion, less cortisol release, and more well-being. I now realize that we also can control our blood sugar levels better!
Don’t get me wrong, I fully realize that good blood sugar control is a complex balance that involves good diet choices, exercise and many other factors. But I now can fully realize that explicit and daily repetition of breathing exercises play a critical role in our diabetic control.
Hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia and the swing between the two puts us on a stressful edge. This often too-regular metabolic excursion keeps us on the fight or flight trajectory and reduces our ability to bring balance and relaxation to us.
While I’ve been using breathing exercises to help me, I now have a greater appreciation for its potent effects. This on-again, off-again habit will now go to the top of my daily priorities.
I also have more appreciation for my practice of taping my mouth each night to enforce nose breathing during sleep. This may alarm some here but I encourage people to consider this practice. Not everyone breathes through their mouth during sleep but waking up with a dry mouth is a good indication of unhealthy mouth breathing.
I believe that restoring balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system plays a key role in diabetic control. Daily breathing exercises are an accessible and potent tool to strike that balance.
Another resource to check out is Nick Heath, PhD and T1D, The Breathing Diabetic. He has found breathing exercises as a way to improve metabolic health.
I encourage you to give consideration to reducing stress and making the control of your blood sugar markedly better.