According to the International Diabetes Federation, there were 72 million diabetic patients in India in 2017. Predominantly a lifestyle disorder, promising strides have been made in the science of Ayurveda for the treatment of diabetes through the right diet, detoxification therapies, yoga and deep-breathing exercises and an overall lifestyle makeover.
If done right, diabetes is known to be controllable today through Ayurvedic system of wellness. We asked Dr. Nisha Manikantan, author of Ayurveda Simplified and founding director of Sri Sri College of Ayurvedic Science and Research Hospital, about some herbal solutions, tips and simple lifestyle transitions to deal with diabetes.
Also, we asked an important question that must have been on your mind, does Ayurveda have any healthy solution to reduce the sugar craving?!
Diabetes is caused due to too much sugar or glucose in the bloodstream. We store energy in our body in the form of glucose. But in case of diabetic patients, this glucose does not get assimilated in the blood due to improper secretion of insulin from the pancreas, which regulates the absorption of glucose.
Some of the common symptoms are more hunger, itching, urination, or dryness. But those with Diabetes type 1, these symptoms may not be there.
1) Dealing With The Most Important Causative Factor For Diabetes - Stress
"We are told that stress worsens diabetes but we are not taught how to deal with stress. Through programs like the Art of Living, people are taught Yoga, meditation and other powerful meditative and interactive processes. So this enables them to cope with stress and it is also healing," says Dr. Nisha Manikantan. The healing effects of these practices are well documented now. It is well documented how sugar levels have come down after practicing breathing technique like Sudarshan Kriya, with complications reduced significantly.
2) Herbal Mix
In Ayurveda, medicines like Mehantak Vati and Nisha Malaki (combination of turmeric and gooseberries - both antioxidants) are recommended. It not only helps to increase immunity, but also helps in preventing the complications.
3) Managing The Sleeping Pattern
In treating diabetes, fixing up the sleeping hours according to one's body clock is important. "Body has an in-built clock. So when we follow that clock, like rising up early, sleeping early and sleeping in regulated time, it helps prevent diabetes because there is a definite time when specific organs are getting rejuvenated when the human body is in the resting phase," says Dr. Manikantan.
4) Food Habits To Keep Diabetes At Bay
· Strongly recommended - Bitter gourd and Indian blackberry juice. Both, bitter gourd and Indian blackberries have Diabetic-inhibiting properties.
· Amla is one medicine that triggers insulin secretion. It stimulates pancreatic secretion. "It is one of the main medicines we use," says Dr. Manikantan.
· Steer clear of foods that have a high glycemic index as much as possible. But stick to a diet which has normal good carbohydrates and proteins and a lot of greens. Ayurveda allows fruits as well. And a lot of vegetables and nut seeds.
· Also, those already diagnosed with diabetes, cannot stick to two-time meal rule generally prescribed in Ayurveda (Dwikala Bhojanama). They must eat three to four times, according to their diabetes type.
5) Allowing all the fruits and vegetables in the diet is quite unlikely in other schools of medicine but Ayurveda suggests so:
Usually, Ayurveda allows all veggies and fruits in moderation. There are certain fruits which are really good for diabetes like berries and pomegranates.
Then, there are certain fruits that can immediately cause an insulin spike but in the long term, they do no harm. For example, Ayurveda allows one apple a day. Even fruits like mangoes and bananas that have a high glycaemic index are recommended in limited quantities. "What we have commonly observed is that if there are a lot of restrictions on food that adds to the stress," says Dr. Manikantan, "So you don't have to avoid anything, but you keep it to very limited quantities." Here self-control becomes very important.
6) The Sugar Craving?
"You can make desserts that are fruit based, date based or fig based," says Dr. Manikantan, "But that too should be consumed within limits. Also, we allow honey for diabetic patients because honey doesn't do any harm."
7) How Does Ayurveda Treat Diabetes?
"We use a multidimensional approach to our treatments, from regulating the diet, monitoring sugar levels , and supporting the digestive system or the Agni (fire element)," says Dr. Manikantan. "According to Ayurveda, in Diabetes, Agni element is imbalanced. Herbs that can help with glucose metabolism are bur berries and haldi or turmeric."
Ayurveda also recommends elaborate Panchkarma treatment for diabetic patients. Panchkarma includes full-fledged Ayurvedic treatment and therapies to detox the body, de-stress the mind and empty the emotional and stress toxins in your system that potentially manifest into diseases in the future.
"When we do Panchakarma treatment periodically, the body detoxes. Once the body detoxes, the body mechanism falls into place," says Dr. Manikantan. "We do Vasti treatment, which helps in maintenance of sugar levels. There are certain types of massages to regulate celluloid metabolism. Shirodhara treatment helps in dealing with stress."
According to Dr. Manikantan, "With the help of these herbal treatments and proper diet routine, yoga and meditation protocol, we have not only reduced, sometime also taken patients off insulin. But it needs continues monitoring and efforts from the side of the patient. Yes, we do have patients who do not want to take allopathy for several reasons."
There are clear signs that with increasing incidences of Diabetes among Indians, many of them are moving to traditional Ayurvedic treatment of the disease. Out of 100 people who come to Dr. Manikantan for treatments, 70 percent are diabetes patients.
Content Credits: Art of Living