Recent studies have reported that spas and hot tub therapy may help lower blood sugar levels and increase insulin absorption in patients with diabetes. Additional benefits include muscle tension relief and improved sleep quality.
How do hot water tubs help people with diabetes?
According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, that regular spa therapy may help patients with type II diabetes through the following mechanisms:
- Heat boosts the core temperature of the body, activating metabolism.
- Blood vessels in the skin dilate to release the extra heat absorbed by the body, leading to increased blood flow that has similar effects to exercise.
- Increased blood flow to the muscles may help reduce blood glucose levels as well as insulin requirements.
- Heat exposure may have positive effects on blood pressure in people with type II diabetes and lower cardiovascular risk factors.
What are the risks of spas and hot tubs for people with diabetes?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that hot tubs be no hotter than 104 F. Also, while there may be potential benefits of spas for people with diabetes, there are also potential risks involved:
- Hot tubs may not be safe for those with diabetic neuropathy.
- Damage to blood vessels and nerves (a complication of diabetes) can affect the sweat glands, affecting the cooling mechanism of the body, which can lead to heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
- There is an increased risk of dehydration, to which people with diabetes are especially prone.
- Swallowing contaminated hot tub water can cause diarrhea, Legionnaires’ disease (a potentially serious pneumonia-like lung infection caused by Legionella pneumophila) and hot tub rash (a skin infection that affects hair follicles and results in red, itchy skin and pus-filled blisters).
- People with diabetes tend to have less sensitive feet, which increases the risk of burns.
- Excessive heat can cause the heart to beat faster, which can be dangerous for people who have underlying heart problems and high blood glucose levels.
What precautions should you take with hot tubs?
Before starting spa therapy with diabetes, consult your doctor and take the following precautions:
- Use the hot tub at the end of the day, after strenuous daily activities are done.
- Avoid being alone in the hot tub.
- Check your glucose levels before getting into the hot tub. If your levels are spiking or dropping, wait until they become normal.
- Make sure the water temperature does not exceed 104 F.
- Make sure the spa is clean and sanitized to prevent the risk of bacterial infections.
- Exit the tub slowly, as a sudden change in temperature can cause blood pressure to drop too quickly.
- Do not replace spa therapy with other essential diabetes treatment steps such as diet and exercise.
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McCall B. Hot Tubs Improve A1c, BMI, and Blood Pressure in Type 2 Diabetes. Medscape. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/937991
Eurekalert. Study suggests regular hot baths are associated with improving various risk factors for type 2 diabetes. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/634165
Bernstein S. Spa Safety for People With Diabetes. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/features/diabetes-spa-safety