Diabetes mellitus is among the group of metabolic disorders marked by high level of blood glucose resulting from the defects in insulin production, insulin action or both. Diabetes is of two types:
- Type I Diabetes Mellitus or Insulin Dependent Diabetese Mellitus (IDDM)
- Type II or Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM).
The prevalence of diabetes mellitus is increasing worldwide. Due to changing lifestyle, sedentary living habits, more and more people are suffering from diabetes mellitus. The complete or near total insulin deficiency is found in type 1 diabetes while type II diabetes mellitus is characterized by variable degree of insulin resistance, increased glucose production and impairment in insulin secretion.
What are the symptoms of Diabetes Mellitus?
The classical symptoms of Diabetes Mellitus are:
- Polyuria (frequent urination)
- Polydipsia (increased thirst)
- Polyphagia (increased hunger)
Other symptoms include:
- Inflammatory lesions
- Wasting of muscles
- Excess sleep
- Burning sensation
- General debility
- Fungal infections
Concept of Diabetes in Ayurveda:
Originating in India, Ayurveda is a traditional medicinal practice with roots tracking back to 1000 BC. Ayurveda connects prakriti (physical), purusha (spiritual), and physiologic processes to promote a healthy relationship between the mind, body and soul.
Diabetes is known as Madhumeha in Ayurveda. ‘Madhu’ means sweet and ‘Meha’ means to flow or urination. Ayurvedic literatures vividly describe about the etiology, pathogenesis, prognosis, complications, its management and scientifically attribute the relationship between diet, lifestyle, environmental and genetic factors.
In Ayurveda, 20 forms of diabetes have been mentioned. It can be further categorized into three groups based on the Dosha dominance. These are:
- Kaphaj prameha: 10 forms
- Pittaj prameha: 6 forms
- Vata prameha: 4 forms
Cause of Diabetes according to Ayurveda:
Diabetes is predominantly a Kaphaj disorder according to Ayurveda where the function of Agni (digestive fire) is diminished. The low digestive strength leads to low metabolic rate in the body which leads to the build up of sugar levels in the blood. It is believed that although diabetes is a Kaphaj disorder but it is also influenced by the activity of Vata dosha and to some extent the Pitta dosha in the body.
It can occur through two modes of pathogenesis:
- Avarana: Through the blockage of paths or channels in the body. Increase in Kapha dosha or fat or muscles in the tissues cause the blockage of the channels. This can lead to the onset of diabetes.
- Dhatu kashaya: Depletion of dhatus or tissues in the body. Ojas is considered as the essence of digestion and hence essence of life. In diabetes mellitus, this essence of life is lost from the body through the excretion in the urine.
Charak Samhita and Sushrut Samhita (ancient Ayurvedic texts) have defined Madhumeha as the disease in which the patient passes frequent urine which is characterized as sweet.
Therapeutic Modalities and Advocacy for Diabetes:
- Nidana parivarjana (Avoidance of etiological factors) such as faulty lifestyle, wrong dietary habits, mental stress, awakening in night and sleeping during the day time.
- Ahara (Diet) such as intake of katu-teekshna (spicy), kasahaya ras (astringent), ushna (hot), laghu (light) and ruksha (dry) food items.
- Vihara (lifestyle modification) such as doing exercise, yoga and pranayama.
Treatment of Diabetes according to Ayurveda:
In modern medicine, insulin is the only treatment for type I diabetes and conventional modern medicine provides a number of drugs for controlling the blood sugar levels in the patients of type II diabetes. However, after prolonged treatment, patients have to switch over to insulin. Such patients come under category of insulin dependent diabetes mellitus.
The Ayurvedic treatment focuses on eradicating the etiological factors as the main line of the treatment. The two major components of Ayurvedic treatment of diabetes mellitus include sanshodhan (bio-cleansing) and sanshamana (palliation). In addition to this, regulation of diet and exercise special emphasis has been laid along with the use of herbal and herbo-mineral preparations.
In Type I diabetes mellitus a subdiabetes categorised as Diabetese Insipidus is caused due to auto-immune disorder, the formation of ama (toxins accumulated due to altered digestion) has to be treated first and then other line of treatments are applied.
People who are suffering from juvenile form of diabetes and taking insulin, their body becomes weak with time and they are infection prone as well. The best approach for them is to take Ayurvedic remedies side by side to prevent complications. Herbs widely used in such cases are Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), Bhumiamalaki (Phyllanthus niruri) along with the restricted diet which comprises the intake of bitter and astringent foods.
The use of Ayurveda in diabetes, a chronic yet treatable disease, has shown a marked improvement on patient outcomes in various studies.
In addition to the treatment, exercise and diet are the two important adjuncts to the primary treatment of diabetes. In Ayurveda, diet is prescribed according to the age, season, environmental factors and body constitution of the patient. Food prepared by barley, green gram etc. are beneficial for the patients suffering from diabetes.
Single plant drugs that are beneficial in diabetes are Amalki (Emblica officinalis), Karela (Momordica charantia), Methi (Trigonella foenum-graecum), Shilajit (Asphaltum), Giloy (Tinospora cordifolia), Devdaru (Cedrus deodara), Twak (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), Khadira (Acacia catechu), Bimbi (Coccinia indica), Tejpatta (Cinnamomum tamala), Meshasringi (Gymnema sylvestre) etc. Intake of herbs that have bitter quality is quite beneficial.
- Herbs such as Neem (Azadirachta indica) has traditionally been used in Ayurveda to purify the blood. It maintains healthy glucose levels therefore indicated in diabetes mellitus.
- Guggul (Commiphora mukul) has been traditionally used in Ayurveda to detoxify the body in a gentl way and for supporting proper nutrition by stimulating the body’s metabolism and eliminating waste products. It also helps in removing excess sugar and fat from the body by its scrapping actions.
- Consumption of Triphala with Aloevera juice is also beneficial for the patients of diabetes mellitus.
Yoga: Yogic exercises that pacify kapha dosha should be done. One such pose is Mayurasana (peacock pose). Other exercises include Surya Namaskar (sun salutation), leg lifts etc.
Anulom vilom pranayama (alternate nostril breathing) is a good pranayama for diabetic patients.
With Ayurvedic approach, diabetes can be managed successfully without having any side effects.
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