Treating diabetes with Ayurveda

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diabetes and ayurveda

Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that has become a global health concern. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 422 million adults were living with diabetes in 2014.

Because of its serious health implications, this is an important article to bookmark and share with loved ones suffering from this disease. It offers an alternative to manage diabetes with Ayurveda and guidance to do so by body type.

Ayurveda offers a holistic approach to managing diabetes, incorporating dietary interventions, physical activity, and lifestyle modifications to alleviate its symptoms. This comprehensive approach aims to optimize health and well-being while effectively addressing the challenges posed by diabetes.

ayurvedic remedies

Diabetes as a Metabolic Disease

Diabetes is classified as a metabolic disease. It involves a dysfunction in the way our body produces and uses insulin, a hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. In healthy individuals, the pancreas releases insulin to help transport glucose into cells, fuelling them with energy.

When someone has diabetes, this process is disrupted, leading to elevated levels of sugar in the blood. Over time, these high blood sugar levels can result in serious damage to various organ systems, particularly the nerves and blood vessels, highlighting the systemic nature of metabolic diseases.

Metabolic diseases encompass a wide range of disorders that occur due to irregularities in the body’s ability to convert food into energy and maintain its internal balance. These anomalies can lead to an accumulation or deficiency of energy within cells and may be tied to factors such as genetics, lifestyle choices, and environmental influences.

The commonality among these conditions is the disturbance in the metabolic processes, which are critical for cells to perform adequately. Diabetes is one of the most prevalent forms of metabolic diseases, characterized by an impaired ability to manage and utilize glucose efficiently, which can have far-reaching health implications if left unmanaged.

Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

The main differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes lie in their etiology and the body’s response to insulin.

Type 1 diabetes

This is an autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, leading to little or no insulin production. This type usually has an onset early in life and requires daily administration of insulin for the person to survive.

The cause is often attributed to a combination of genetic predispositions and environmental triggers. Those with a family history of Type 1 diabetes have a higher risk of developing the condition, implicating a genetic component. Moreover, environmental factors such as viral infections, particularly those from the enterovirus family, may provoke the autoimmune response that leads to the destruction of insulin-producing cells.

Type 2 diabetes

It is often associated with insulin resistance, where the body’s cells do not respond adequately to insulin. It’s also partly due to the pancreas not producing enough insulin to overcome this resistance.

This type is more commonly diagnosed in adults and is often related to lifestyle factors such as obesity, physical inactivity, and poor diet, although genetics can also play a role. Managing Type 2 diabetes typically involves lifestyle modifications, oral medications, and sometimes insulin therapy.

Type 3 diabetes

A newer concept that is gaining recognition in the medical community is Type 3 diabetes. This is an informal term sometimes used to describe Alzheimer’s disease due to its potential association with insulin resistance in the brain.

Recent studies suggest that Alzheimer’s could be a metabolic disease where the brain’s ability to use glucose and respond to insulin is impaired, leading to cognitive decline.

The term was introduced as researchers noticed that individuals with insulin resistance, a hallmark of Type 2 diabetes, were at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This type of diabetes notably reflects a dimension where diabetes does not solely affect peripheral glucose and insulin mechanisms but also influences neurological pathways.

While not yet officially classified as a distinct type of diabetes, the concept of Type 3 diabetes underscores the importance of metabolic health in neurodegenerative diseases.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Diabetes

The onset of diabetes can manifest a wide range of symptoms that may be easily overlooked. It’s crucial to recognize these early signs to manage the condition effectively.

Symptoms

  • Increased Thirst and Urination: As excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream, the kidneys work harder to filter and absorb it, which can result in dehydration and the need to urinate more frequently.
  • Unexplained Weight Loss: Despite eating more than usual, people with diabetes can experience weight loss, primarily because the body starts breaking down muscle and fat for energy when it can’t use glucose properly.
  • Fatigue: High blood sugar levels can impede the body’s ability to utilize glucose for energy, leaving individuals feeling persistently tired or fatigued.
  • Blurred Vision: Changes in fluid levels in the body can make the lenses of the eyes swell up, affecting the ability to focus and causing blurred vision.
  • Slow Healing of Cuts and Bruises: Impaired blood flow and high blood sugar levels can slow down the process of wound healing.
  • Tingling, Pain, or Numbness in Hands/Feet: This symptom, known as neuropathy, occurs due to long-term damage to the nerves caused by sustained high blood sugar levels.

Complications

If left untreated or inadequately managed, diabetes can lead to severe, life-threatening complications. High blood sugar levels over a prolonged period can cause damage to various body organs and systems. Some of the most pivotal risks include:

  • Cardiovascular Disease: Diabetes dramatically increases the risk of various cardiovascular problems. This includes coronary artery disease with chest pain (angina), heart attack, stroke, and narrowing of arteries (atherosclerosis).
  • Kidney Damage (Nephropathy): The kidneys contain millions of tiny blood vessel clusters that filter waste from your blood. Diabetes can severely damage this delicate filtering system, leading to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease.
  • Nerve Damage (Neuropathy): Excess sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels that nourish nerves, especially in the legs. This can cause tingling, numbness, burning, or pain. Severe forms of neuropathy may lead to further complications and can result in limb amputation.
  • Eye Damage: Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina (diabetic retinopathy), potentially leading to blindness and other serious vision conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma.
  • Skin Conditions: Diabetes may leave you more susceptible to skin problems, including bacterial and fungal infections.
  • Hearing Impairment: Hearing problems are more common in people with diabetes.

Managing diabetes with the appropriate treatment and a healthy lifestyle can help prevent / mitigate these severe complications. Regular check-ups and monitoring of blood sugar levels are essential to avoid the long-term detrimental effects of this chronic disease.

Western Medicine Approach to Diabetes Treatment

Commonly, Western medicine addresses diabetes through a blend of lifestyle recommendations and medications such as metformin, which is frequently prescribed to lower blood glucose levels.

In addition to its glucose-lowering effects, metformin may lead to various side effects that patients should be aware of. Some of the most common include gastrointestinal disturbances such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort.

A metallic taste in the mouth has also been reported. More rarely, metformin can cause a serious condition called lactic acidosis, which is a buildup of lactic acid in the blood and can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Moreover, long-term use of metformin may be associated with a decrease in vitamin B12 levels, potentially leading to anemia or neuropathy if not monitored and managed.

For individuals with Type 1 diabetes, or those with Type 2 diabetes who require additional intervention, insulin therapy is regularly utilized to maintain blood sugar at normal levels.

One of the key distinctions between Ayurveda and conventional methods of treating diabetes lies in their approaches. In the Western world, we often tend to be reactive, waiting until symptoms manifest before taking action. However, treating diabetes with Ayurveda takes a proactive and preventive stance, prioritizing early intervention to maintain well-being.

Understanding Diabetes through Ayurveda

In Ayurveda, diabetes is known as “Madhumeha” and is classified under “Prameha” which are a group of urinary disorders. It’s primarily associated with poor diet and lifestyle choices, leading to an imbalance of the three doshas – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.

While both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes involve the fundamental issue of glycemic control, Ayurveda highlights distinct pathophysiological mechanisms underlying these conditions.

Kapha diabetes

An aggravation of Kapha (earth and water element) can cause diabetes. Excessive Kapha in the body can accumulate as a result of a sedentary lifestyle, overeating, particularly of sweet, oily, and heavy foods, or consuming food that is cold and slow to digest.

This buildup of Kapha can weigh down the function of the pancreas, a critical organ in glucose regulation, by slowing down its metabolic activities. Consequently, this diminished pancreatic function impairs the transformation of food into energy, leading to elevated blood sugar levels.

As the body attempts to eliminate the excess glucose, it results in frequent urination, a hallmark symptom of diabetes. This self-perpetuating cycle of Kapha imbalance and organ inefficiency underscores the importance of lifestyle changes in managing and preventing diabetes from an Ayurvedic perspective.

Vata diabetes

Long-term and juvenile-onset diabetes, commonly referred to as Type 1 diabetes, is more Vata dominant.

According to Ayurvedic principles, Vata accumulates in the large intestine, which is the primary seat of this dosha. From there, it can move and affect other parts of the body. In the case of Type 1 diabetes, the irregular movement of Vata may travel to the pancreas, disturbing its natural function.

This aggravation hinders the pancreas ability to produce insulin, a pivotal hormone for regulating blood sugar levels, thus leading to the chronic condition of diabetes.

Pitta diabetes

On the other hand, in Type 2 diabetes, where the body either resists the effects of insulin or doesn’t produce enough to maintain a normal glucose level, Ayurveda identifies an excess of the Pitta dosha.

Pitta, symbolizing the fire and water elements, generally accumulates in the small intestine, which is its primary seat. When imbalanced, Pitta can overflow and spread to the liver and pancreas, organs crucial for digestion and glucose regulation.

The ‘fire’ of Pitta, steeped in its hot and intense nature, can gradually compromise the organs’ functions. If this fiery energy invades the pancreas, it may lead to an inflammatory state, disrupting the insulin-producing beta cells. This can result in a compromised capacity to manage blood sugar levels, contributing to the perpetuation of diabetes.

Treating diabetes with Ayurveda

Ayurvedic Treatment for Vata Diabetes

Treating diabetes with Ayurveda for Vata dosha focuses on a grounding and nourishing diet. Consume warm, cooked foods that are naturally sweet, sour, and salty in taste to balance Vata. These include grains like rice and wheat, and fruits such as bananas and mangos. Soak legumes before cooking to increase digestibility.

Vata dosha nutrition guidance

Adding small amounts of ghee (clarified butter) to meals can help lubricate and soothe the dryness often associated with Vata imbalance. Furthermore, gentle exercises like yoga, tai chi, or walking are beneficial in maintaining stability and warmth in the body.

Also, keep a regular routine, avoid cold and raw foods, and seek environments that are calm and serene.

Ayurvedic Treatment for Pitta Diabetes

Treating diabetes with Ayurveda for Pitta dosha involves choosing cooling dietary practices. Foods that are bitter, sweet, and astringent can help balance Pitta’s fiery nature. Choose barley, oats, and cooling fruits like melons and pears. It is also beneficial to include plenty of vegetables with high water content.

Pitta dosha nutrition guidance

You should avoid spicy, oily, and fried foods that can exacerbate Pitta. Instead, incorporate cooling spices such as fennel and coriander in their meals. Moderate-intensity exercises that do not overly heat the body, such as swimming and cycling in cooler environments, are ideal.

It’s also important for Pitta individuals to practice stress management techniques and to ensure you have adequate time for relaxation.

Ayurvedic Treatment for Kapha Diabetes

For individuals with Kapha diabetes, stimulating and energizing activities and foods are ideal to counteract the tendency towards lethargy and heaviness. A diet that includes pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes helps to balance Kapha’s earthy qualities. Light grains such as corn, millet, and rye, as well as fruits that are less sweet like apples and pomegranates, are beneficial.

Kapha dosha nutrition guidance

It is vital for Kapha types to minimize sweet, salty, and oily foods which increase weight and sluggishness. Incorporating spices like turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon can be helpful in maintaining healthy metabolism.

Regular vigorous exercise, especially in the morning, helps to circulate stagnant energy and heat, promoting alertness and weight management. Grounding yet stimulating yoga poses and breathing practices can also aid in balancing Kapha dosha.

Home Remedies for Treating diabetes with Ayurveda

  • Turmeric: Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric has an active compound called curcumin that can help regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
  • Shillajit: An ancient herbal substance primarily found in the Himalayas. Shillajit is often used in Ayurvedic medicine to restore energetic balance and is said to have a potent effect on blood sugar control. It contains fulvic acid, which can help improve cell function and has been linked to improved glycemic control. It is traditionally consumed by dissolving a small amount of resin in water and taken twice daily.
  • Cinnamon: This common spice can mimic insulin and increase glucose transport into cells and support treating diabetes with Ayurveda. It can also help lower blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity. Sprinkle cinnamon on various dishes or taken as a supplement.

Find more remedies to treat diabetes with Ayurveda on Prana app.

Other helpful strategies

  • Stone Therapy: Yellow Sapphire and Yellow Topaz are gemstones that possess therapeutic properties. These that can aid in the management of diabetes. Yellow sapphire can harmonize and replenish the solar plexus chakra, which is associated with the metabolic system and the regulation of pancreatic functions. Wearing this stone may support the body’s natural energy flow, potentially aiding the stabilization of blood sugar levels.
  • Pranayama: This ancient yogic practice involves the control and regulation of breath, which can affect the autonomic nervous system. Thus potentially improving the body’s response to stress and aiding in the management of blood sugar levels. Techniques like Kapalbhati Pranayama and Anulom Vilom Pranayama help stimulate pancreatic function. They can also support and regulate the energy flow in the body, which could be beneficial for individuals managing diabetes.

Get access to our home remedies library for 100+ diseases on Prana app.

Note: While treating diabetes with Ayurveda is possible, it should complement, not replace, conventional medical treatment. Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels and consistent communication with your healthcare provider is essential.

As with any health condition, especially one as complex as diabetes, a multi-faceted approach that includes medical advice, lifestyle changes, and possibly alternative therapies is the most prudent path forward.

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Hi! I'm Monica

My life purpose is to help women achieve physical, mental, and emotional alignment, improve their digestion, balance their hormones, and feel more confident in their own skin.

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