Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a major health problem that is affecting millions globally. It causes abnormal levels of blood sugar in the body that is the root cause of several complications. A hormone called insulin is responsible for the movement of blood sugar into cells from the bloodstream which is either used as energy or stored in the body.
In diabetic patients, the cells called Islets of Langerhans are unable to produce a sufficient amount of insulin or the body is unable to use it effectively to remove the sugar in the bloodstream. This causes accumulation of sugar which can damage nerves, kidneys, eyes and other organs.
Hypoglycemia is a condition where the blood sugar dips too low which causes sugar craving and in some extreme cases can cause coma. In hyperglycemia, your blood sugar levels are increased beyond the normal limits and your body tries to eliminate it through urine, the cause behind frequent urination. High blood sugar levels can also cause fatigue, blurred vision, weight loss and headaches as the body tries to cope with excess sugar in the body. If left unchecked, abnormal blood sugar levels can increase the risk of heart problems, and other serious complications like blindness, nerve problems, and kidney failure.
You will need medication and insulin shots to get the blood sugar under control regularly and Ayurveda can be of great help for diabetes.
Causes of Diabetes
Diabetes can be either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. In type 1 diabetes the immune system that should protect the body against foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses attacks healthy cells including insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The exact reason is unknown but it can be triggered by viruses or can be a genetic problem.
In type 2 diabetes your body is unable to use the insulin properly resulting in abnormal blood sugar levels. This can be caused by genetics or lifestyle disorders. The risk increases with increased body weight or obesity. Extra weight in the belly is considered to be responsible for the cells being resistant to the effects of insulin. Your chances of the disease increases if your parents have this condition as it runs in the family. Environmental factors can also trigger diabetes.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause a condition called gestational diabetes. Women who are overweight or who have gained weight during pregnancy are more likely to get this condition and should be more cautious.
Ayurveda's view on diabetes
Ayurveda describes diabetes as the outcome of an imbalance of any of the Vata, Pitta, and Kapha doshas in the body. Type 1 diabetes is described as the imbalance of Vata. The excess of Kapha dosha is considered to be responsible for Type 2 diabetes.
According to Ayurveda experts, diabetes is triggered by the diminishing function of agni (digestive fire). Pitta promotes fire and when it diminishes, it causes diabetes. It is important to balance pitta in the body with diet and breathing techniques.
Diabetes affects all vital organs like eyes, liver, and kidneys as it aggravates the deterioration of body tissues (dhatus). This indicates the impairment of Vata. It can also result in increased ama (toxins) in the body which can affect the pancreatic cells and impair insulin production. These toxins have to be eliminated from the body regularly to avoid complications.
Ayurveda recommends rejuvenating the body by working on the root cause of the disease along with improving digestion and enhancing the patient’s immunity. Treatment has to improve insulin secretion and glucose utilization, normalize blood glucose levels, maintain lipid profile balance and manage long-term complications.
Ayurvedic medicine for diabetes can complement medical treatment and if practiced early can help in preventing this condition. Here are some recommendations from the experts:
- Abnormal blood sugar levels can cause sudden cravings. Follow a healthy diet.
- Eating at irregular times, consumption of cold foods, anxiety, and worry can influence digestion. Eat a three-course meal at the same time every day to maintain balance.
- Include food with a low glycemic index. Include more leafy vegetables in the diet.
- Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like nuts, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
- Warm, or moist foods are helpful for Vata.
- Agni is at the highest during lunchtime in pittas. A big meal will be very helpful. Pittas can also benefit from coriander.
- Kaphas are at the highest risk of diabetes. The recommended diet for Kaphas include astringent and bitter foods like lentil soup, cauliflower, green leafy vegetables, pomegranate, and beets.
- Exercise helps for all doshas but benefits Kaphas immensely. A 30 minutes activity every day can be very beneficial.
- Processed foods can influence the digestive system and should be avoided completely.
- Sleep well regularly and take measures to manage stress.