Ayurvedic treatments for diabetes mellitus
by Dr. Surya Bhagwati on Aug 31, 2020
Diabetes mellitus may sound like a specific type of diabetes, but it’s not. In fact, this is the medical term for metabolic disorders that we describe as diabetes, including type-1 and type-2 diabetes. In type-1 diabetes, the pancreas are unable to produce adequate amounts of insulin; in type-2 diabetes the body doesn’t respond properly to insulin. As insulin is the main hormone responsible for glucose metabolism, both types of diabetes result in a dangerous rise in blood sugar levels. Diabetes mellitus refers to this condition of elevated blood sugar levels.
Type-2 diabetes is the fourth leading cause of death in the developed world and also affects an estimated 70 million Indians. Diabetes takes a huge toll on quality of life because of its chronic nature and the need for lifelong care. This makes natural interventions so vital to the management of diabetes, no matter the type. Fortunately, diet and lifestyle interventions have been shown to greatly improve treatment outcomes and can significantly lower the risk of morality. This is where Ayurved has a lot to offer because of its wealth of knowledge accumulated over millennia. Here are some of the main Ayurvedic treatments for blood sugar control.
Ayurvedic Treatments to Control Blood Sugar
Panchakarma is not a single treatment, but as the name suggests is a combination of five therapies. It is one of the most highly valued contributions of Ayurved to medicine as research has increasingly shown the therapeutic practice to help in the management of various lifestyle conditions, including diabetes.
- Quite simply, panchakarma is a detoxification and purification treatment protocol that includes therapies like vamana (emetic therapy), virechana (purgation therapy), basti (enema), raktamokshan (blood purification), and nasya (cleansing therapy via nasal route).
- In Ayurvedic literature, diabetes is linked to the buildup of ama or toxins in the body and vitiation of kapha dosha. In a clinical setting, Ayurvedic physicians can use panchkarma to restore the dosha balance and facilitate the elimination of ama.
- Despite studies investigating the efficacy of panchkarma, researchers have not been able to identify precisely how the therapy helps, but their studies have confirmed the benefits of panchkarma for diabetes.
Healthy digestion and nutrition are regarded as the cornerstones of good health in Ayurved. In fact, every disease can be traced back to dietary, digestive, and nutritional imbalances. This is why your diet takes center stage in any Ayurvedic treatment plan for diabetes.
Ayurvedic Diabetes Diet Facts:
- Sugar may be the main threat, but this doesn’t mean that sweet foods are the only threat. Ayurvedic experts warn against consumption of heavily processed and refined foods, stressing the importance of whole foods. This is strongly supported by evidence. It is also important to focus on low glycemic foods.
- Carb restriction may be a popular approach to fight diabetes, but this is not regarded as ideal in Ayurved. Some of the most nutritious foods are high in carbs and it is the quality of carbs that matters. Complex carbs from fruits, veggies, pulses, and whole grains are regarded as healthy, while those from pastries, biscuits, and other instant foods are unhealthy.
- A whole food diet is also regarded as healthy because high fiber intake from such foods can promote satiety and regulate blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of overeating and obesity.
Ayurved has long stressed the importance of balance and harmony in lifestyle as an essential for health. This means adequate time for rest, relaxation, sleep, as well as optimal amounts of physical activity and work. Unfortunately, this wisdom was largely ignored until recent decades.
Lifestyle for Diabetes Facts:
- Studies have found that exercise or physical activity can not only help with weight management, but can also improve insulin sensitivity. Mild to moderate intensity activity is best suited for diabetics, making walking, biking, and yoga some of the best choices.
- Yoga is perhaps the best form of exercise and an important lifestyle practice as it includes asanas that can specifically target diabetes. It also includes meditative practices that are now established as effective stress reduction techniques. This makes it even more useful as high levels of cortisol can worsen diabetes.
- Evidence from some clinical studies also shows that yoga and meditation may be beneficial to diabetics because of improved psychoneuro-endocrine and immune functions.
Ayurvedic Herbs and Medicine
Ayurvedic herbs are highly valued as a natural treatment for diabetes and they play a central role in the Ayurvedic medicine to help glucose control. They include common kitchen herbs as well as more exotic medicinal herbs. These may be used individually, in specific formulations, as cooking ingredients, or as polyherbal medications. Many of these traditional herbs are now being investigated as potential sources of pharmaceutical drugs to treat diabetes.
Anti-Diabetic Herbal Medicine Facts:
- Guduchi is the most important Ayurvedic herb when it comes to diabetes treatment. Studies show that it helps with regulation of blood glucose and improves insulin sensitivity. It may also lower the risk of complications. Methi seeds have on the other hand been shown to help prevent or delay diabetes onset.
- Some herbs like tulsi, karela, and vijayasar are known to exert hypoglycemic effects, helping control blood sugar levels and reducing the need for diabetes drugs that are otherwise used to manage the condition.
- Babbul tree fruit and seeds of Karranj beej are also regarded as effective natural medicines for diabetes in Ayurved. This has been supported by some research, which suggests that their chromium content supports the action of insulin in diabetic patients.
The treatments listed here are broad and should be helpful for most individuals. However, for personalized treatment recommendations based on your dosha balance make it a point to consult a skilled Ayurvedic physician.
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