Conventional Medicine View of Diabetes
Diabetes Mellitus is one of the most common and deadly diseases in the modern world – it is the fifth leading cause of death by disease in the United States1. There is an estimated 387 million people worldwide affected by diabetes, according to the International Diabetes Federation. Diabetes is also known to contribute to other health problems though, so those afflicted may also suffer from heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and amputations.
By definition in modern medical view, diabetes is “a chronic metabolic disorder in which the body is unable to make proper use of glucose resulting in hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and glycosuria (sugar in urine). 1” The three main types of diabetes are Type I, Type II and the less common gestational diabetes.
Type I diabetes is ultimately an autoimmune disease. The person’s own immune system destroys the beta cells in the pancreas. These beta cells produce insulin, so eventually the pancreas stops producing it altogether. People with Type I diabetes take insulin every day just to survive.
Modern science doesn’t exactly know what causes the immune system to turn on itself though the increase in the prevalence of diabetes could be attributed to a steady change in what and how we eat and higher levels of stress. Genetic, environmental and viral conditions are also considered. If a diabetic person doesn’t receive insulin, they can slip into a diabetic coma.
Type 1 symptoms include:
However, the most common form of diabetes is Type II, with around 95% of people who have the disease suffering from this kind1. It might stem from a poor diet because around 80% of people who have Type II diabetes are also overweight1. The other difference between Type I and II is that with Type II the pancreas is actually producing enough insulin in the beginning but for a currently unknown reason the body can’t use it effectively. The symptoms are the same but with added problems like frequent infections and slow-healing wounds.
Ayurvedic View of Diabetes
The Charaka Samhita described diabetes as far back as 3000 years ago. The symptoms and cause were well understood and documented. In the Vedic period it was called Prameha, meaning frequent urination. The word Madhumeha was also used to refer to diabetes – it translates directly as the flow of sugar into the body.
Sushruta took it even farther and divided diabetes into two categories. Sahaja is most similar to Type I in that it was described as hereditary, stemming from defects in the genes of the parents. It is also similarly described as juvenile onset diabetes. The people who suffer from Sahaja are typically Vata types with thin, dry skin, low appetites and a very active personality.
Apathyanimittaja is similar to Type II diabetes. It is usually acquired later on in life because of poor diet and lifestyle2. The sufferers are usually overweight. Because of this and Ayurveda’s holistic approach, Ayurveda is considered to be a viable approach for combatting Type II diabetes.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, the ultimate cause of Type II diabetes is a build up of toxins in the tissues that result in imbalances in all three Doshas. This accumulation of toxins comes from poor nutrition, weak digestion, strained nervous system, stress and too little or too much sleep. Working to help your clients bring the Doshas back to their natural state of balance (Prakriti) is the basic healing method for diabetes (and all other diseases too).
When a client comes to you with diabetes, have them fill out a thorough questionnaire detailing their family medical history, their own personal health history, diet, sleeping patterns, career and how the disease has progressed over time. Because of each person’s unique constitution and needs, even two people with similar symptoms of Type II diabetes may have different treatment methods. Analyzing and documenting your client’s pulse, tongue, nails and eyes can also play an important part of the initial consultation.
If your client’s imbalance is moderate, a healthy diet is usually sufficient for healing. If the Doshas are moderately imbalanced, Ayurvedic medicines and a healthy diet will likely need to be prescribed. But if Type II diabetes is present that typically means that the Doshas are extremely out of balance. In that case, Ayurvedic herbs, a disciplined healthy diet and possibly Panchakarma will need to be used for thorough healing.
Diabetics who are thin and have symptoms of excess Vata Dosha should not participate in Panchakarma. Instead they should take rejuvenating Ayurvedic medicines and a healthy diet. But obese diabetics who typically suffer from Type II instead of Type I diabetes can benefit greatly from Panchakarma.
Ayurvedic Diet to Heal Diabetes
In Ayurveda, food is medicine, ausadam. Below are some basic diet tips for healing diabetes, especially Type II.
Ayurvedic Medicines to Support the Healing of Diabetes
Ayurvedic Medicines for Diabetes Prevention
Role of Ayurveda in Type 1 diabetes:
Role of Ayurveda in pre-diabetes:
Role of Ayurveda in Type II diabetes:
Like healing from any disease, focus on moving forward little by little and continue to encourage your clients even when results don’t immediately show themselves. It can take time to reverse the effects of diabetes, but with moderation in all things and a change in diet, exercise and lifestyle, it is possible for your clients to heal from diabetes and live a long, healthy life.
Contributing Editor: Dr. JV Hebbar
The purpose of this article is to provide information about Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health problems please consult a trained health professional. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained Ayurvedic practitioner or doctor, call (800) 215-9934 or e-mail us and we will provide you with our affiliated practitioners. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.
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Ahh, Kapha. A Dosha that we all have, made up of earth and water. It gives us many of our best human qualities, such as our grounding, stability and warm emotions. When in excess however, it can have negative consequences on our overall health.
To reduce or pacify kapha, Ayurveda has given us dietary, lifestyle and herbal treatment strategies. To reduce Kapha, emphasize stimulation, exercise, lightening, warming and drying in your diet and lifestyle.