Ayurveda for Diabetes
Diabetes is a serious disease that affects quality of life and may even shorten a person’s life span. Diabetes decreases the body’s ability to use blood sugar for energy. Diabetics have blood sugar levels that are out of balance and require treatment to be maintained within a normal range. Ayurveda provides natural treatments for type 2 diabetics that can help control the diabetes, and improve blood sugar levels in conjunction with conventional medical treatment.
Using Ayurveda to Treat Diabetes
In Ayurvedic philosophy, people, their health, and the universe are all related. It is believed that health problems result when these relationships are out of balance. In Ayurvedic medicine, herbs, metals, massage, and other products and techniques are used with the intent of cleansing the body and restoring balance. This is believed to help treat illness and promote wellness. Ayurvedic practitioners expect patients to be active participants in their treatment, because many Ayurvedic treatments require changes in diet, lifestyle, and habits.
It is well recognized that important aspects of diabetes management are nutrition, exercise, and emotional harmony. Ayurvedic treatments are centered on the improvement in these three areas of health and well-being. Ayurvedic practitioners will ask a patient questions to determine his or her primary dosha, or the type of natural forces at work in the body, and the balance of doshas. The practitioner will ask about diet, behavior, lifestyle practices, and the most recent illness and symptoms. Physical characteristics such as teeth, skin, eyes, and weight will be observed. An Ayurvedic practitioner will create an individualized plan to bring harmony and balance to each patient’s doshas. This leads to the control of the diabetes and the prevention of long-term complications.
Remember, do not stop taking prescription medications or alter insulin injections without first consulting your Medical Doctor.
How Can Ayurveda Help with Diabetes?
According to Ayurveda, diabetes is primarily a Kapha disorder (Kapha is the dosha that governs the physical being). Ayurvedic practitioners address diabetes using a multi-pronged approach. First, they address diet modification, eliminating sugar and simple carbohydrates, and emphasizing complex carbohydrates. Protein is limited, since excessive intake can damage the kidneys. Fat is also limited because there is often a deficiency of pancreatic enzymes in individuals with diabetes, making fat digestion difficult. A cleansing program is begun with herbal massages and an herbal steam sauna, and then is followed by fasting to cleanse the body. Then an herbal purge for the liver, pancreas, and spleen are conducted. Colon therapy is next, first to cleanse the digestive tract and then to reconstitute the system.
Additionally, Ayurvedic practitioners use herbal preparations, Yoga, and breathing exercises to help diabetics. Herbs that may be used for diabetes are: Jambhul (Eugenia jambolana) Powder, Gurmar (Gymnema sylvestre), Sagar gota (Ceasalpinia crista), Bel (Aegle marmelos), and Turmeric. Regular strenuous exercise is required and Yoga to reduce stress is encouraged.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda (“ah-yer-vey-duh”) is from an ancient Hindu word that means “science of life.” It originated in India and continues to be used by millions of people worldwide. Ayurvedic medicine is based upon the theory of balance and wholeness of the universe and the body. The principles of Ayurveda state that a person comprises body, mind, and spirit, with health being the holistic union of the three. Ayurveda focuses on healthy living with therapeutic measures that relate to physical, mental, social, and spiritual harmony.
Ayurveda describes three bioenergetic influences, or doshas, that act upon our health. These doshas are the natural forces at work in the body. Each of these doshas is defined by two of the five natural elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth.
- Vata dosha, representative of space and air, helps to govern the function of the nervous system.
- Pitta dosha, the fire and water principle, is most closely associated with the digestive system.
- Kapha dosha, characterized by water and earth, governs most of our physical being.
What Causes Diabetes?
The pancreas (an organ located behind the stomach) releases insulin to help the body store and use the sugar obtained from food. The body breaks down the sugars and starches from food into glucose, which is the basic fuel for the cells in the body. Insulin allows the glucose from the blood to enter the cells.
The main types of diabetes are: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. Type 1 diabetes may be called juvenile-onset or insulin-dependent diabetes. Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes and may be referred to as adult-onset or non-insulin-dependent diabetes. Gestational diabetics develop the disease during pregnancy and it often resolves after the delivery of the infant.
Diabetes develops when: the pancreas does not produce any insulin (type 1), the pancreas produces very little insulin (type 2), or the body does not respond appropriately to insulin (type 2). With diabetes, glucose is not available for cells to function properly, and the high levels of glucose in the blood can damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves, or the heart. Type 1 diabetes requires injections of insulin to allow the cells to use glucose for energy. Type 2 diabetes can be treated by making adjustments in nutrition, exercise, and mental stressors.
Finding an Ayurvedic Practitioner
When seeking care from an Ayurvedic practitioner, feel free to ask about the practitioner’s training, licenses, certifications, and experience. There is no formal regulation of the practice of Ayurvedic Medicine in the United States, so it is up to you to decide if the practitioner is right for you. Professional organizations for Ayurvedic practitioners, such as the National Ayurvedic Medical Association, are working to unite the professional and guide the regulation of Ayurvedic education and licensing.
American Diabetes Association provides additional information on diabetes.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: provides information on the state of Ayurveda in the US today.
The Chopra Center offers some additional background and education on Ayurvede Medicine.