Diabetes and Ayurveda Treatment (1)
What is Ayurvedic treatment, is there an Ayurvedic treatment for diabetes, how does the treatment work, what is the prognosis when using Ayurvedic treatment. Why are more and more people using it as an alternative way to treat their diabetes? All of these questions and more will be answered in the following article.
Ayurveda is the oldest surviving healing system in the world. The word is a form of alternative medicine and the traditional Indian medical system and is composed of the words “Ayu” for life and “Veda” for knowledge. Roughly translated, Ayurveda means “the science of life” and encompasses the care and treatment of people. In a nutshell, the two main goals of Ayurveda are the complete elimination of diseases and disorders of the body, and secondly, the prolongation of life and the promotion of perfect health.
To do this, Ayurveda takes into account the general life pattern of the individual, including their diet, behavior, health and occupation. But before we get into all of that, the question may be asked as to why anyone would want to choose this ancient system of medicine in the first place. What is the appeal of such a system today versus the modern, more widely accepted scientific treatment of diabetes? Well, the reason is not far to seek.
First, diabetes is generally viewed as a disease that cannot be cured, only treated. Essentially, this management involves the subject maintaining their fasting blood glucose level within a medically established or recommended range (between 70 and 100 milligrams per deciliter or mg/dl). Where he is able to do so, many of the symptoms of the disease and its attendant complications will in most cases disappear.
For many people, this is not a cure in the truest sense of the word, as the person will still be limited to a high-fiber, low-carbohydrate, low-fat, smoke-free, no or limited alcohol intake, a continued exercise program, and blood sugar control.
Following this line of reasoning, it is fair to say that any “cure” that neither rejuvenates the beta cells (the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas) as a Type 1 cure would require, nor helps overcome the body’s insulin resistance as would in the case of a Type 2 cure, cannot really be called one. While stem cell research – be it through today’s undifferentiated embryonic stem cells or today’s (induced pluripotent) stem cells – gives us hope for a cure for type 1, treating type 2 remains relatively a management case.
Additionally, a modern medical approach to treating or managing type 2 diabetes requires dedication and discipline. In addition, the drugs used can have side effects. For example, the use of the drug metformin is known to cause heart attacks. Again, the use of insulin to treat diabetes must be well regulated and timed so as not to inadvertently induce hypoglycemia or the reverse hyperglycemia.
Well, if one wants to be honest in one’s analysis, we can equally say that the Ayurvedic method of treating diabetes is arguably also a management method. However, the trump card it may have over the modern approach is that, being both preventive and holistic in its medical approach to treating the body, it does not carry the risk of complications associated with pharmaceutical treatments.
In addition, it has been scientifically determined that some herbs used in Ayurvedic treatment actually stimulate the production of beta cells, but others promote the body’s sensitivity to insulin. This then arguably represents a highly viable alternative treatment option for diabetes.
In classical Ayurveda, diabetes was given the name Prameha, which means excessive urination. It was also known as Madhumeha, which is interpreted as the flow of sugar from the body. Here, too, it was similarly called Maharoga (major disease), since almost all parts of the body are affected. According to Ayurveda, Prameha (diabetes) is divided into 4 main types (and 21 types in total). The Kapha type, which is itself divided into 10 types, the Pitta type, which is divided into 6 types, the Vata type, which is divided into 4 types, and the Sahaja, which corresponds to type 1 diabetes.
The main causes of prameha (diabetes) are said to be lack of exercise and eating foods that contain too much ushna, snigha and guru nature. Although it is also recognized that Sahaja diabetes is hereditary and caused by defects in the genetics of the patient’s parents.
In Ayurveda, diabetes is classified in several ways; first into the two categories of lean diabetic and obese diabetic. The second classification is according to the causes of diabetes – Sahaja prameha (congenital) and Apathyanimittaja prameha (due to overeating and bad habits) and finally classification according to Dosha. The first two are clear. But what is dosha?
To understand what dosha is and how Ayurvedic treatment actually works, we must first understand the philosophy or “science” behind Ayurvedic treatment of diabetes.
First, Ayurveda states that the entire physical structure and function of man is based on the combination of any two of the five great elements (Bhuttas). This combination will prevail and as such will determine your nature. It is this nature that is known as the dosha. These combinations are further categorized into Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Vata has to do with movement, kapha with the functions of metabolism, energy production and heat, while kapha deals with bodily structure and fluid balance.
The Ayurvedic view is that disease is caused by an imbalance of these qualities (Vikruiti). The treatment of type 2 diabetes therefore, like all diseases in this system, requires restoring balance (prakruti) by detoxifying the body of the causative toxins that block circulation and dosha imbalance and the normal functioning of dhatu ( tissue) cause.
Ayurvedic treatment is remarkably modern in its approach to treating diabetes. Because just as a doctor may take a patient’s risk factors into account when making diagnoses and recommendations, Ayurveda treatments also take into account family history (i.e. genetic predisposition), gender, age, physical constitution (body mass index analysis), stage of the disease, disease, diet, etc. This means that the treatment is tailored to the specific needs of each individual and that in most cases the treatment, especially the dosage, differs from patient to patient, even if they suffer from the same disease and symptoms.
The basic step of a diagnosis, which can take up to an hour, is therefore to find a person’s (Dosha), i.e. Vatta, Pitta or Kapha. Once found, the dosha imbalance is determined by asking several questions about his or her dietary habits, sleeping habits, behavior, age, height and weight, place of residence, occupation, medical reports, health problems, etc.
By knowing the dosha, the Health Advisor can assess dosha attributes of the patient that are out of balance and prescribe the necessary changes to bring them back into balance. The health advisor uses pulse, tongue, nail and eye examinations. The health of multiple organs as well as the mental state of the individual can be inferred from this study, and the observation and documentation of this will assist the healthcare practitioner in managing the disease. By the way, it should be noted that Ayurvedic diagnosis does not exclude additional diagnosis through laboratory and clinical tests.
How does the Ayurveda practitioner treat the diagnosis of diabetes once diagnosed? Remarkably, (at least the first two approaches) show similarities to western diabetes management practice. Firstly, if the doshas are only slightly out of balance, increased activity and a reduction in diet will do the trick.
The administration of medicine (herbs) is required when the doshas are moderately out of balance. This will serve to neutralize the imbalanced dosha and together with dietary restriction and increased exercise will provide sufficient relief. However, if the doshas are severely out of balance, Panchakarma (five detoxification actions) must be administered in addition to diet restriction, exercise and medication. However, panchakarma is more suitable for the fat or obese diabetic, not the slim one, who demonstrates excessive vata dosha should focus more on medication and diet that increase dhatus (rebuilding or toning of the body).
So, in summary, Ayurvedic practice consists of four basic nodes, namely reduction (through exercise), detoxification, nourishment and tonification (through diet), and balancing (through all three). To achieve this, several active ingredients are used in calibrated amounts. Namely, they are food, exercise, routine and herbs. We’ll delve into the role each plays in our next article.
Thanks to Robert Barron