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Let’s Beat Diabetes

Are you suffering from Diabetes?
Are you worried that you might end up swallowing pills for the rest of your life?
Are you thinking of healing it with natural, Ayurvedic treatments?

Kudos, you are thinking right! Ayurveda has answers for Diabetes!

Diabetes: Global phenomena, insufficiently understood!

Diabetes is projected to become one of the world’s main disablers and killer within the next twenty-five years. The WHO estimate for the number of people with diabetes worldwide in 2000 was 177 million and is projected to increase to at least 300 million by the year 2025.

As we all know, diabetes is classified into two broad types: the type I caused by genetic disorders and the type II, which occurs due to unhealthy lifestyle.   

Diabetes is a metabolic disease resulting in high blood sugar level. Some initial symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst, frequent urination and loss of weight and appetite. If not treated properly, diabetes could have serious complications and may result in failure of vital body organs.

Till date, we understand the biology of diabetes only partially. Biomedicine describes diabetes as a chronic disorder of carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism characterized by increased fasting and post-prandial blood sugar levels.  It occurs either when the pancreas do not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces (insulin resistance). Hyperglycemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes, and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.

However, diabetes is known to have multifactorial etiopathology (the cause of a disease or abnormal condition) which is not fully understood and modulation of blood sugar levels is merely a symptomatic treatment. Today diabetes management is pharma led and not scientist and physician driven.  The major limitation of Oral Anti-diabetic Drugs (OADs) generally given when lifestyle modifications fail to achieve euglycemia (a normal level of sugar in the blood), is that OADs have various side-effects like hypoglycemia (low blood sugar level), gastrointestinal discomfort and inevitability of moving the patient to taking progressively higher doses of medicine.

Ayurveda appears to have a better comprehension of diabetes judging from the results of its clinical management. It uses multi-dimensional strategies for treating diabetes, which include diet modification, detoxification (Panchakarma), well designed herbal and herbo-mineral formulations and yoga. The holistic principles of Ayurveda not only focus on restoring euglycemia, but attempt to restore the overall metabolic and energy homeostasis of the body. The treatment design has a multi-targeted mode of action which is appropriate for addressing the multifactorial etiopathology of diabetes.

From the patient’s perspective, in cases of border-line diabetes one can experience normalization of blood sugar levels and improvement in quality of life within 3-6 months period of time only by diet and lifestyle changes.

In respect of cases which have HbA1c (a term commonly used in relation to diabetes referring to glycated hemoglobin) in the range 7–7.5, the Ayurvedic intervention includes Udwarthana, Abhyanga, Nadi sweda, Patra Pinda sweda, ShiroDhara, Mrudu Virechana etc. to be taken for certain period depending on the clinical and other risk factors. The outcomes are enhancement in the quality of life, decrease in the symptoms like thirst, burning sensation, increased urinations, etc.

In groups where there are diabetic complications such as cardiovascular, neuropathy, nephropathy, the interventions include Abhyanga, SarvangaDhara, Basti, etc. These Panchakarma treatments need to be taken for few months depending on the severity of the problem and patient condition followed by oral medications. The clinical outcomes in majority of the cases are decrease in the symptoms, normalizing the functions of the organs and systems and improving quality of life, but these treatments need to be taken under expert medical supervision.

However the limitation of Ayurvedic management is its inability to deal with acute conditions of hyperglycemia. In acute conditions, short duration use of modern drugs is advisable without giving up on long term Ayurveda management.

Plants like Gymnema sylvestre (Madhunashini), Tinospora cordifolia (Guduchi), Withania somnifera (Indian ginseng/Ashwagandha), Ocimum sanctum (Tulsi/holy basil), Eugenia jambolana (Indian gooseberry/ jambu/ jamun), Momordica charantia (Bitter melon) etc. are widely used in the management of diabetes for their benefits in harmonizing the discordant physiology. These plants have also been shown to reduce craving for sugar, enhance glucose metabolism, increase insulin secretion and also aid regeneration of pancreatic cells.

In border line cases, only dietary and lifestyle changes are sufficient to restore health.  With respect to food, Ayurveda recommends avoiding excess sweets, carbohydrates, red meat, seafood and dairy products which are slow to digest and are known to aggravate the kapha. Recommended  diet includes: barley, corn, rice, oats, fresh vegetables such as asparagus, peppers, onions, garlic, brinjal, spinach, fenugreek, cabbage, cauliflower, and herbs like ginger, gudmar, triphala, musta, cardamom, fenugreek, or coriander and curry leaves. Dry cooking such as baking, broiling, and grilling are preferable for balancing the heavy, cool and wet nature of kapha. Honey is recommended instead of sugar, albeit in a limited quantity.   Regular physical activity, yoga and meditation are recommended to strengthen and facilitate optimal metabolism.

Here, it is important to remember that diabetes cannot be managed by quick-fix solutions and no cure for diabetes currently exists, but the disease can go into remission!

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