Diabetes Management In Ayurveda

Today, I will draw heavily on Ayurved Balaji Tambe’s writings to present an insight into Diabetes Management in Ayurveda, the ancient system of Indian medicine. According to Vedic texts, diabetics have nothing to fear provided they are willing to follow some simple disciplines regarding exercises, right diet, and digestion along with regular intake of Ayurvedic medicines

I have travelled all over the globe meeting the elderly and senior people, confirming that any joyful event like the birth of a child or marriage is surely celebrated with sweet offerings but the important question was: What was distributed to the guests on occasions of sorrow or death in the family? Surprisingly, the unanimous answer was that be it any occasion, joyful or sad, what was offered to the guests was always a sweet.

Madhur rasa (sweet taste is the king of all tastes), is similar to shrinagar rasa (romantic mood) and bhakti (devotional mood) which are most popular amongst the nava-rasas – the nine emotional moods of the mind. Naturally, sweet devotion is the highest ideal to be achieved.

Right from the smallest insects, ants, every creature is on a continuous/incessant hunt for sweet. Ants have developed the supreme consciousness for sweets, they sense the signals from the smallest particle of sugar lying on the floor and within no time a large number of ants gather around it.

Each and every atom and cell in our body has a longing for sugar. Even if one consumes karela juice, the body instantly tries to separate and absorb the traces of sugar present in the bitterness. The body doesn’t need really need bitter juices. Bitter juices are required less by the body. The bitter juice has the property of diminution and hence excess consumption can easily lead to the decrease in the essential body dhatus-tissues causing adverse effect on the health of the individual, most common being joint pains.

The two most important organs in the body – heart and the brain – depend mainly on different types of sugar and fats like ghee for their energy (ghee signifies the lubricant while sugar signifies the sweet form of fire required for every transformation of energy). Thus the varying combinations of ghee-sugar, milk-sugar, milk-ghee- honey constitute the sweet juice of life.

Diabetes is a disease that arouses serious concern across the globe. However, the ancient Ayurvedic texts have detailed description on diabetes and its treatment. Ayurveda has mentioned 22 different types of diseases under the category ‘Prameh’. Diabetes, commonly known as madhu-meha in Ayurveda, is one of them.

The phrase prakarshan mehti eeti prameh’ describes the origin of the word prameh. Prameh is known as a disease in which a patient develops a tendency for constant urination or where there is outflow of essential nutrients required by the body. For instance shukrameh is described as one of the types of prameh where there is an outflow of essential fluid (virya/requisite for progeny) or the base of one’s strength through urination.

Of course, when diabetes is declared in a person it becomes absolutely necessary to identify the type of prameh existing in him.

In the explanation of how prameh takes place, one could find this mentioning Kapha Sapitta Pavnashhh dosha. Though all the three doshas i.e. Vata-Pitta-Kapha are responsible for prameh, Kapha dosha ranks first. Charak Samhita has given a brief explanation of Kapha dosha i.e. Bahu Drava Shleshma doshvishesh, implying that the increase in the drava (fluid) ultimately increases Kapha dosha and that creates prameh.

Looking to the reasons given by Ayurveda regarding the creation of prameh one could understand that they all lead to the increase in the Kapha dosha.

Divaswapnavyayaamalasyaprasakta shitasnigdhmadhurmedhya dravannpansevinn purusham janiyaat pramehi bhavishyatiti ||… Sushrut Nidansthan

To sleep during daytime, lack of exercises, laziness, to work continuously sitting at one place, intake of foods increasing fats and inclusion of fat increasing sweets in the daily diet, intake of excessive liquid diet, especially inclusion of curd, new grains, new jaggery, excessive inclusion of recipes made from such foods in the daily diet or excessive consumption of such foods increases the amount of fluid present in the body.

Besides, it increases the fluid-oriented Kapha dosha, which in turn decreases stamina. The vital body elements become dull and fragile due to excessive dampness in the body. It further decreases the digestive fire in the body and with it the rest other digestive fluids also decrease.

The digestive fire, which transforms the juice-blood-flesh in an ascending order and which is capable of nourishing the vital elements in the body decreases tremendously and further adds to the paleness and fragility of the vital body elements and thus finally results into weakness.

Due to increase in the fluid in the body and imbalance of Kapha dosha, it mainly affects the body elements mentioned below

Medosstrashukranbuvasalsika |

Majja rasojjj pishitt che dushyaa ||

The body dhatus or tissues like fat, blood, virya, juice, nerves, flesh, muscle tissue, lymph, and ojas (elixir of life) are the components which are destroyed in the body (components related to prameh, namely dushyaa).

Thus diabetes weakens almost all the seven dhatus (or body tissues). Yet it doesn’t end at this. It also reduces the strength of ojas – the essence of all the dhatus – which in turn affects the functioning of the vital body organs and the overall health and immunity of the person drops down.

Even in our day-to-day life we could find that though there are no visible symptoms, no suffering is discernible in a diabetes patient, yet the functioning of the heart, brain, urinary bladder and other vital organs slows down gradually. The circulation of blood in the body and the coordination between the various organs does not take place efficiently and thus it provides invitation to variety of troubles.

No doubt, in a diabetic person, the ojas (strength) decreases gradually. A diabetic person does not receive the vital sugar, virya etc implying that the body does not absorb these vital nutrients and thus results in the destruction of vital elements. This unabsorbed sugar by the body accumulates in the blood and passes out through the urine. Hence, as a remedy, one has to do the following:

* To make such an arrangement so that the overall functioning of the digestive system takes place smoothly.

* To make such an arrangement so that the functioning of the urinary bladder takes place properly, there is increase in the creation of virya and therefore increase in the strength.

* To make such an arrangement so that the sugar level in the blood decreases.

* Lastly, but most importantly, it is necessary to make such an arrangement in the body so that the diabetic person is able to digest the sugar.

Though Ayurvedic science describes diabetes as a type of prameh, the fact is that it actually extorts the elixir of life from the individual. Keeping the person from enjoying the sweetness in life, diabetes is commonly understood as leading to increased accumulation of sugar in the blood and passage of sugar in the urine.

It is generally believed that diabetes is usually difficult to cure; it can only be managed. But considering that sugar is the most essential nutrient for the body, the actual problem in diabetes is the inability of the body to digest the sugar and that the essential body organs are deprived of sugar.

Here the root cause lies in the disturbance in the digestive system leading to improper digestion of sugar and the dysfunction of the stimulation and activation of the pancreatic glands that secrete insulin which is needed for metabolism of sugar in the body.

While treating diabetes the Ayurvedic way, the best results are observed in kapha-pitta type of diabetics where as pitta-vata types are more difficult to treat. In their case, though the disease may not be cured completely, yet enough sugar maybe provided to the body and the blood and urine levels of sugar can be kept under control.

This is possible naturally only if the patient is ready to follow the Ayurvedic disciplines and takes the medicines regularly. Initially, or until the time diabetes is completely cured, one can take medicines that reduce blood sugar levels or even insulin externally.

But the patient shouldn’t be under the delusion that now since the sugar is under control there is no need to worry.

Rather, one needs to make efforts to cure the root cause of the disease and take care that the brain, heart, and nerves get the required energy. If this is neglected, many complications of diabetes are seen in the future in the form of cardiac disorders, hypertension, obesity or emaciation, loss of sensation in the legs, weakness in the eyes with reduced visibility etc.

Diabetic patients have nothing to fear provided they are willing to follow some simple disciplines regarding exercises, right diet, digestion along with regular intake of Ayurvedic medicines keeping in mind the do’s and don’ts.

Meditation and healing music helps the person to enjoy mental harmony and peace. Many have freed themselves from the clutches of diabetes by undergoing Ayurvedic panchakarma therapy, which includes purification of the entire body through the treatments of virechan (laxative) and basti (enema), improving the digestion and rejuvenation, bringing a new spark of energy in the life of an individual.

Diabetes is a dreadful disease. Slowly but surely, it deprives one from the joy of living and creates an open invitation for other more serious diseases. Not only does the diabetic patient undergo the trauma of impotency, lack of sensation in the legs, but is also easily susceptible to cardiac arrest or paralysis.

A diabetic patient should adhere to the advice of the doctor and follow the required treatment, but in the quest of keeping the blood sugar normal, many times the sugar levels drop down drastically and this could put the patient’s health in grave danger.

True, a diabetic person should keep away from heavy sweets, barfis etc but a little sugar needs to be taken regularly. Sugar extracted from certain roots is difficult to digest, but the sugar extracted from the sugarcane is easy to digest.

Just a little sugar or sugar in milk or sherbet or pudding can be taken every day. The sweets made from mawa of milk or chick pea is difficult to digest. Chickoo, mango shrikhand and alcohol are a strict no-no for the diabetic patient. Similarly, cauliflower, cabbage, chavali, green peas and non-vegetarian food need to be avoided.

Rice and potatoes, when taken in appropriate quantities avoiding excess intake, can be included in the regular diet. Milk, Ayurvedic ghee (made in accordance with Ayurvedic guidelines) should be eaten regularly. It is a proven fact that milk and Ayurvedic ghee do not increase diabetes.

Family tensions, overeating at odd times, excessive indulgence in sex are all very close friends of diabetes and need to be avoided. Eating a small quantity of sugar, which could be easily digested, walking for 20-25 minutes daily, yoga, exercises, meditation and listening to healing music for mental peace and harmony is a sure path that will make you free from diabetes.

That diabetes can be cured is itself the sweetest news.

Thank you Dr Balaji Tambe

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