Natural Ways To Manage Diabetes Through Ayurveda
Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems. It has provided relief for multiple ailments since the last 5000 years. It is a medical practice which originated in India, and is focused on preventive and curative approaches.
The term ‘Ayurveda’ is a composite of two words – ‘Ayu’ implies longevity, and ‘Veda’ signifies science. In a nutshell, Ayurveda is an ancient science that is focused on improving longevity and maintaining sustainable healthcare practices.
The principles of Ayurveda are in alignment with the human body’s anatomy and design. The focus is on correcting the imbalances that are caused primarily due to lifestyle and poor habits.
As it currently stands, healthcare is threatened by the burden of lifestyle disorders and chronic non-communicable diseases. In order to combat this sudden spike of metabolic and lifestyle disorders, Ayurveda is being seen as a sustainable and holistic approach to treatment and prevention. Medicine has come a full circle.
The definition of health in Ayurveda is along the same lines as the one proposed by WHO (World Health Organization):
“sama dosha sama agnischa sama dhatu mala kriyaaha|
Prasanna atma indriya manaha swastha iti abhidheeyate” – Sushruta Samhita
Perfect health is when there is perfect balance of:
- 3 Doshas (sama dosha) i.e. vata, pitta, kapha,
- Digestive fire or agni (sama agnischa)
- Body tissues (sama dhatu)
- Excretory functions (mala kriyaha)
- With a pleasant spirit (atma), senses (indriya), mind (manah)
According to WHO, health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease.
The term ‘Diabetes Mellitus’ is derived from the Greek word ‘diabetes’ which means ‘siphon’ (to pass through), and the Latin word ‘mellitus’ which means ‘honeyed’ or ‘sweet’. The reason being, diabetes occurs when excess sugar is found in blood and urine.
Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder associated with abnormally high levels of blood glucose levels – it implies a person’s Hemoglobina Glicosilada (HbA1C0) is 7 percent or higher.
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus is primarily an acquired disease, which develops because of wrong lifestyle patterns. In some cases, the ailment is acquired rather easily due to predisposed genetic factors.
Pancreas, an organ situated behind the stomach, secretes a hormone called insulin which regulates the blood glucose. In diabetes, the beta cells in the pancreas get damaged, and as a result they produce less insulin.
Diabetes can also be a byproduct of aging. As a person grows old, the pancreas also age, and the insulin production becomes reduced. Consequently, the blood glucose levels escalate leading to diabetes.
The pathophysiology of diabetes indicates peripheral insulin resistance, decline in beta cell functions, and impairment of hepatic glucose regulation. Today, diabetes is rampant among young and middle-aged men and women. In this particular context, the widespread of diabetes is mainly attributed to insulin resistance.
In short, diabetes is typically an acquired disorder although there is a genetic predisposition as well.
There are some other less prevalent causes as well:
- Gestational diabetes
- Latent autoimmune diabetes
- A rare form of diabetes due gene mutation or monogenic diabetes
- Diabetes due to cystic fibrosis of pancreas
- Chronic pancreatitis leading to diabetes
- Long term intake of steroids leading to diabetes
Insulin resistance is caused because of the visceral fat – the fat found over muscles, internal organs including the liver, intestines, heart, kidney etc. Visceral fat is derived from the carbohydrates consumed which are not utilized as energy and therefore stored as fat in the body.
Insulin resistance dramatically lowers the uptake of sugar from the blood into the cells, therefore making the patient feel tired and fatigued, while the glucose remains in the blood.
To tackle diabetes caused by insulin resistance, one must reduce visceral fat by moderating diet, quitting a sedentary lifestyle, and actively managing stress.
In the Ayurveda lexicon, Diabetes is referred to as “Prameha” or “Madhumeha.”
“Madhu” translates to “sweet like honey”, and “Meha” refers to “urine.” 5000 years ago, physicians detected the presence of glucose in urine, and did some physical tests wherein they studied urine appearances to diagnose the type of Dosha that is involved in diabetes.
The etiopathology of diabetes states that addiction to a sedentary lifestyle and oversleeping can aggravate Kapha Dosha and can trigger diabetes. In addition, consumption of the following food items may also lead to diabetes by aggravating Kapha and vitiating the fat and muscle tissues:
- Yogurt and other milk products
- Meat of domestic and aquatic animals of marshy land
- Freshly harvested grains
- Alcoholic drinks
Similarly, Pitta Dosha can be aggravated by diet lifestyle factors. This can cause a different type of diabetes.
When both Kapha and Pitta are imbalanced, it disturbs the Vata. Consequently, the aggravated Vata draws the essence of the bone marrow and lymph, and transmits it into the urinary tract, which ultimately causes another type of diabetes.
Ayurveda’s aim at treating diabetes is to achieve “Reverse Pathogenesis,” also known as “Samprapti Vighatana”. In doing so, the pathway and disorder tree is sketched out, and techniques to knock off the aetiology or causative factors in reverse gear are planned.
For this reason, under Ayurveda treatment you don’t achieve immediate glucose control, and acute management is obtained optimally with the help of Allopathy drugs. The advantage of the reverse pathway method is that it addresses the root cause, and eradicates the problem from its core. To achieve maximum results in this endeavor, perseverance is pivotal.
There are many therapies used in Ayurveda to combat diabetes. We describe some of them below.
This line of treatment is described in detail in Charaka. The treatment procedure is different for slim and obese patients. A combination of nourishing therapies and medication are administered on an emaciated individual. In case of obese individuals, use of Panchakarma treatments – Vamana and Virechana – is advised.
- Before Detox is done, the Udwartana procedure is performed – it is a dry, medicated herb powder massage that is done to reduce the visceral fat.
- A series of sudation therapies such as Jambeera Pinda Sweda/Choorna Pinda Sweda followed by Bashpa Sweda are carried out to promote reduction of fat and insulin resistance respectively.
- Abdominal Udwartana using a cellulite bursting herb formulation a massage is done over the abdomen which results in inch loss.
- Shirodhara or Shiro Takra Dhara is performed to relax and calm the mind.
- Dinacharya and Ratricharya are administered to maintain the normal circadian cycle and rhythms of the body.
Yes, Panchakarma is a prerequisite for the reversal of the root causes of diabetes. Holistic mind-body interventions, dietary modifications, yoga, stress management etc. will become more effective in reversing diabetes after a Panchakarma session. This is because detox promotes toxin-removal and enables cells to function optimally – be it the beta cells of the pancreas or the fat metabolism.
Ref: International Journal of General Medicine and Pharmacy (IJGMP)
Vol. 2, Issue 1, Feb 2013, 15-24
A study in IJGMP reveals that Panchakarma therapy and corrective dietary measures have contributed in significantly reducing the FBS and PPBS, and also there are noticeable trends of lipid correction.
It is proposed that prior to pharmacological intervention – through Ayurveda or modern anti-diabetic management, implementation of ‘Shodhana’ might be extremely useful in helping the body become highly responsive to these interventional methods.
There are many recipes for internal medications for all types of diabetes.
- A decoction of Haridra, Daru Haridra, Tagara and Vidanga mixed with honey is a magical potion for a Kapha diabetic. This remedy is famously prescribed in the Ayurvedic classic texts.
- A decoction of Triphala, Musta, Darunisa, and Visala mixed with a paste of Haridar and honey is an recipe for all types of diabetes.
- Bhallatakasava and Dantaysava are also useful to treat diabetes.
- Nisha Amalaki, which is a combination of Turmeric (Nisha) and Indian gooseberry (Amlaki) is the single-most beneficial prescription which is a go-to for every diabetic.
Diabetes can be managed to a large extent by controlling your diet as well. The following are recommended Ayurvedic dietary practices for diabetes.
- Pancakes made of corn-flour and barley, cooked barley porridge, and roasted corn-flour and meat soup (made with meat of birds found on dry, arid land) are excellent foods.
- Old rice which is harvested in 60 days can be mixed with a soup of green gram. Food is prepared using bitter astringent vegetables.
- Barley soaked in a decoction of Triphala and kept overnight can be mixed with honey to make a refreshing drink for a diabetic. This recipe is a classical prescription found in the Charaka Samhita.
- Boil water using the heartwood of Khadira as firewood. This water is excellent for diabetes.
- Water in room temperature mixed with honey and Triphala juice is also a good remedy.
Yoga exercises that focus on reducing central obesity and visceral fat are most beneficial. There are many asanas specifically designed for this. Diabetic patients are advised to start yoga under the guidance of a licensed yoga practitioner.
Yes, Ayurveda can control diabetes. Since the disease is an acquired lifestyle disorder, Ayurveda can trigger the remission process. The focus must be to reduce the dependency on medication (Ayurveda/Allopathy) and to adapt to a newer, improved lifestyle. Efforts must be made to improve your diet, daily routines, yoga or exercise schedule, and stress management techniques.
There are many herbs that help reduce blood glucose levels. Gymnema Sylsvtre is a common herb used in the management of diabetes. The herb prevents absorption of glucose by the intestine and thus helps reduce glucose content in the blood. Moreover, chewing the herb helps destroy the sensation of sweetness in the mouth. Quite aptly, the plant is known as “Madhu Nashini” or “destroyer of sweetness.”
Detox/Panchakarma removes toxins which hamper metabolism at macro and micro levels as the gut and cells are scrubbed out of the Ama (toxins which hinder functions.) It improves gut microbiome, and in turn enhances metabolism. Since diabetes is a metabolic disorder, treating the root cause by optimizing the rate of metabolism is ideal.
Yes, Ayurveda can reverse diabetes. The treatment protocol in Ayurveda is focused on reverse Ppathogenesis. As a result, it takes some time before the restoration of good blood glucose control happens. It is important to remember that the treatment protocols are targeted at genesis of the disorder – i.e. the gut and metabolism.
Also, the mode and type of treatment depends on what stage of diabetes you are in. If you are a recently-diagnosed diabetic, it is easier for the reversal process to start. In a chronic diabetic, the associated risk factors may have set in already and the reversal might be a slower process.
If you are recently diagnosed with diabetes, some lifestyle changes and exercise can easily reverse the disease. It is comparatively easier in this case to control blood glucose. With the right combination of diet, yoga, stress management, and Ayurvedic herbs and therapies you can successfully address insulin resistance and bring back normal circadian rhythms.
In uncontrolled diabetes with chronicity of more than 1 year, a combination of both Allopathy and Ayurveda medication can help bring the blood sugar levels under control. After that, the focus must be on weaning off all medication and getting on the path back to reversal through lifestyle changes, improved diet, yoga, stress management techniques, and Ayurveda therapies.
In chronic diabetes over 5 years old, the associated risks include renal failure, retina damage, cardiovascular problems etc. The reversal of diabetes here again involve diet, yoga, stress management, and Ayurveda medicines and therapies appropriate for this stage. The focus is on preventing further damage and improving the quality of life.
The best time to reverse and get off the medication is in the pre-diabetic stage where the glucose control shows borderline diabetes, and other predisposing factors like sedentary lifestyle, stress, and poor diet/lifestyle habits are confirmed.
Early detection of diabetes can be used as a trigger to start the process of lifestyle improvement. With suitable lifestyle modifications and basic medications, you will be able to reverse the disease completely.