Diabetes mellitus is the leading cause of death and disability worldwide. The term refers to a group of common metabolic disorders that share the phenotype of hyperglycemia. There are two types of Diabetes, Type I or Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM), and Type II or Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM). Complete or near-total insulin deficiency is found in Type I, while Type II is characterized by variable degrees of insulin resistance, impaired insulin secretion, and increased glucose production. The classical symptoms of Diabetes Mellitus are frequent urination, increased thirst, and increased hunger.
Ayurveda considers Diabetes under a wide umbrella of Prameha which means the excess of urine in both frequency and quantity, associated with several symptoms due to dosha or bioenergy imbalances. A detailed description of the 20 different types of Prameha is found in the Ayurveda texts. When unattended, the condition can lead to a chronic metabolic disorder involving multiple systems.
Ayurveda advocates a holistic approach in the management of Prameha from staying away from causative factors to diet and lifestyle corrections, medicines and detox techniques. These interventions can improve the quality of life, stop the course of disease progression and prevent complications.
Causes for diabetes
- Excessive intake of heavy, creamy, cheesy, oily, sweet, salty, cold, and frozen foods, refined carbohydrates, sugar, and yoghurt.
- Lack of exercise, sedentary lifestyle, excessive sleeping during day-time.
- Mental stress and poor sleep.
- Untimely eating habits, excess, frequent meals.
- Unbalanced meals, excess of carbohydrates or proteins.
- Follow a timely meal schedule. Preferably eat freshly cooked and warm foods.
- Include more foods that are bitter, astringent, or pungent in taste.
- Favour foods that are light, dry or warm.
- Prefer ghee, low-fat milk, and low-fat yoghurt.
- Stimulate digestion with 2-3 cups of ginger tea daily.
- Favour lighter fruits such as Indian gooseberry, wood apple, apple, pear, guava, java plum, pomegranate, cranberry, and apricot.
- Reduce sweet and heavier fruits like bananas, watermelon, avocado, pineapple, mango, and figs.
- Favour barley, red rice, corn, millet, and buckwheat.
- Reduce intake of oats, rice, and wheat.
- Favour Mung beans, chickpeas, pigeon peas, red lentils, etc.
- Spiced buttermilk with ginger and pink salt.
- Include fresh vegetables such as asparagus, peppers, onion, garlic, eggplant, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, okra, bitter gourd, ash gourd, Vietnamese luffa, snake gourd, moringa, raw banana, raw jack fruit, raw banana flower, green raw papaya, radish, green bitter astringent leaves, cucumber.
- Cook with condiments and spices like black pepper, asafoetida, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, basil, rock salt, turmeric, cinnamon, mustard, garlic, onion, and ginger.
- Favour lean meats to red meat and seafood.
- Dry cooking methods like baking, boiling, roasting, and grilling are recommended.
- Cultivate an active lifestyle and exercise.
Beneficial yoga postures
- Sun Salutation series
- Seated forward bend (paschimottanasana)
- Tree pose (vrksasana)
- Warrior I and II (virabhadrasana I and II)
- Extended side angle, (utthita parsvakonasana)
- Bridge pose (setu bandha sarvangasana)
- Alligator twist (jathara parivartasana)
- Relaxation pose (savasana)
Some Ayurveda Herbs which have a clinically proven effect on diabetes
- Gymnema Sylvestre stimulates insulin secretion, increases the effects of circulating insulin, and decreases blood glucose levels.
- Pterocarpus Marsupium improves peripheral utilisation of glucose, GLUT4, Hepato glycogen levels, ultimately reducing blood sugar levels.
- Fenugreek seeds have high fibre content and a direct glucose-lowering effect.
- Cinnamon has been shown to improve the body’s ability to use insulin and reduce the rise of glucose in the blood after eating.
- Turmeric increases insulin sensitivity and reduces blood sugar levels.
- Azadirachta Indica (Neem) improves glucose tolerance and is recommended for preventing diabetic neuropathy.
- Momordica Charantia (bitter gourd) helps increase insulin secretion by improving the functions of the beta cells of the pancreas.
- Eugenia Jambolana’s fruit and seeds stimulate the secretion of insulin.
- Coccinia Indica is a powerful anti-diabetic agent.
- Berberis aristata lowers fasting blood glucose levels significantly.
Home remedies and recipes
- Tea made of 5 g fenugreek seeds, 5 g cinnamon, 5 g turmeric, drink twice daily.
- Mix powder of Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), Amalaki (Emblica Officinalis) and gokshura (Tribulus terrestris) in equal quantity in 1 glass of hot water, and take 1 tsp twice daily.
- Half teaspoon of ground bay leaf and turmeric each, twice a day before lunch and dinner.
- 1 glass of bitter gourd juice early in the morning.
- 5 g of Jamun/java plum fruit and seeds (dried and powdered) in hot water twice daily.
- 20 ml of juice of Amla (Embelica officinalis) twice a day.
- Soak 100 g of crushed fenugreek seeds and 25 g of turmeric overnight in 300 ml water and drink twice daily.
- 10 g of Triphala powder with 5 g of turmeric powder in 50 ml of hot water twice daily.
There are many Ayurveda medicines which are clinically proven to be effective in treating diabetes and related complications. An Ayurveda Panchakarma helps boost metabolism and thereby effectively control the blood sugar levels.
Aparna K. BAMS, MD, PhD
Consultant advisor for development of Oneworld Ayurveda and visiting physician
Aparna is one of the few specialists in the world with a PhD in Ayurveda. Born into an Ayurvedic family which operates a traditional Ayurvedic Panchakarma hospital in Kerala, India, she grew up observing her father, the renowned Dr. Padmanabhan Read more »