Diabetes Mellitus is a front runner among the modern day lifestyle diseases. With increasing shift from wholesome natural foods to refined and sugary foods, and from an active lifestyle involving physical activity like walking to sedentary lifestyles and dependence on locomotives for travel, the incidence of obesity and thereby diabetes mellitus (DM to be short) has taken alarming proportions both in developed and developing countries.
Diabetes mellitus (DM) comprises a group of common metabolic disorders which share a common symptom of a blood glucose that is higher than normal. The complex interaction of genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices determine the type of DM a person suffers from. Depending upon the causes that precipitate high glucose levels, any or all of the mechanisms are implicated in the development of DM, namely reduced insulin secretion, decreased glucose utilization, and increased glucose production.
DM affects a variety of organs, causing blockage in blood vessels supplying blood to the heart muscle. When it obstructs the blood vessels of the retina, it can even lead to blindness if not treated. It is also a major cause of end-stage kidney failure, neuropathy, and gangrene.
The knowledge of DM syndrome has existed in India since the prehistoric age and is well described in Ayurvedic texts. DM in Ayurveda is described under ‘Prameha’. The word ‘Prameha’ literally means watering or excessive passing of urine both in quantity and frequency. Ayurveda describes DM as Madhu-meha, which means ‘urine like honey’ or ‘sweet urine’, similar to Diabetes Mellitus which is a Latin term meaning honey-like sweet urine.
The two broad categories of DM are type 1 and type 2.
Type 1 DM results from autoimmune beta cell destruction, which leads to insulin deficiency.
Type 2 DM is characterized by variable degrees of insulin resistance, impaired insulin secretion, and increased glucose production. Distinct genetic and metabolic defects in insulin action and/or secretion give rise to the common symptom of increased glucose level in type 2 DM.
Causative factors: Includes mainly the Kapha aggravating causes as Kapha has the highest tendency to get vitiated in this disorder. But Pitta and Vata can also bring about this disorder independently, as indicated above.
Some of the prominent causes of the commonest form of DM i.e type 2 DM are as below:
- Excessive intake of newly harvested grains (less than a year) which is rich in carbohydrates
- Sugar and sugary products
- Excessive intake of milk and milk products especially curd/yogurt
- Excessive intake of fish, seafood, and meat, all of which aggravate Kapha
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Excessive sleep
The chief symptoms of DM syndrome according to Ayurveda and modern medicine are below (although most patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus are asymptomatic for years):
- Increased urinary output and increased frequency
- Excessive and frequent thirst
- Unexplained weight loss
Other most common symptoms encountered are lethargy, fatigue, urination several times during the night, erectile dysfunction etc.
- Consumption of foods with a low glycemic index is recommended. Most of them are Kapha pacifying.
- Consuming grains that are a year or more old can be beneficial. Barley and wild rice are highly recommended. Other choices could be quinoa, millet and wheat flour with bran.
- Have 3-4 servings of vegetables every day. Root vegetables and starchy ones like peas should be kept to a minimum or avoided.
- Fruits should be restricted to 1-2 servings and that too with low sugar content.
- Avoid refined flours and sugary foods altogether.
- Have a handful of nuts and seeds every day.
- Do not have more than 2 servings of milk per day. Avoid curd and cheese or take occasionally, though buttermilk is good and can be taken during the day (about 6 ounces)
- Include legumes in your diet.
- Meats of open range chicken and other birds are good. The meat of other domesticated animals is best avoided.
- Mustard and flaxseed oils are recommended for cooking.
- Make sure you exercise regularly
- If you are obese, it can be beneficial to lose weight
- It is best to keep an early to bed and early to rise regimen; avoid sleeping during the day
- A daily massage with mustard oil can do wonders
- Mild fasting is beneficial for obese diabetics (avoid if you are taking insulin or antidiabetic medicines)
- Practice yoga poses and breathing exercises
The age-old proverb ‘prevention is better than cure’ is very applicable in the case of DM (particularly type 2), as it can be effectively prevented from happening if you keep your weight under control, de-stress yourself periodically and follow an active lifestyle!