Ayurveda: Holistic System of Medicine
Ayurveda is a holistic system of medicine that has been successfully practiced in India to treat illness and disease for thousands of years. The word Ayurveda is formed by the combination of two words –“ayur, which means life and “veda,” meaning knowledge. Ayurveda is regarded as the science of life and it is used to care for human beings.
The main objective of Ayurveda is to promote and maintain balance in order to prevent disease or when necessary use the techniques of balance to strengthen the body and allow the body to heal itself. Health is not just the body. Rather, true health is a combination of the body, mind and spirit all working in harmony on an optimal state.
Diabetes and it’s types:
Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder in which the body is unable to make proper use of glucose which results in high blood sugar and sugar in the urine.
There are three main types of diabetes:
– Type I diabetes,
– Type II diabetes, and
– Gestational diabetes.
The main focus of this article is Type II diabetes. Type II diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and usually presents after age 40 due to poor lifestyle habits. However, as more children are becoming overweight and are inactive, people are experiencing Type II diabetes at even younger ages. Treatment of Type II diabetes of children is difficult, since metformin, the only drug federally approved for treatment of diabetes, has been shown to be ineffective for controlling blood sugar. The next course of treatment is injectable insulin. Many doctors lament that Type II diabetes is preventable with a healthy lifestyle.
Ayurveda’s Approach Towards Diabetes
When Ayurveda approaches diabetes or any disorder, the various root causes are looked at with the goal of balancing the current imbalance (diabetes) while maintaining balance of the original body type. Ayurveda will examine the factors and behaviors that can cause the imbalance. These factors include nutrition, digestion, elimination, physical activity, sleep and the emotional/mental state.
Once the body and illness type are established, recommendations suited to the individual’s specific needs will be offered. Each individual is unique and treatment can vary for each person even if the disease is similar. While it is difficult to make a treatment plan without a thorough evaluation of an individual, there are some recommendations that can be made to use as general guidelines to help manage diabetes. The main areas that will be addressed are diet, exercise, rest and herbs.
Diabetic Type II – Kapha Type Constitution
The Type II diabetic is generally thought of as a kapha type constitution. When out of balance, kapha is subject to excess weight and toxic build up. They can be indulgent and use food and indulgence to quiet their emotional issues. It is as if the person is stuffing down the negative emotions and events in their life with the indulgences.
It is recommended to follow the kapha-pacifying diet. One should limit and avoid sweets (including fruits with exception of lemon, orange or bitter melon), refined flour carbohydrates, fatty foods and dairy products. Choose more fresh vegetables (not potatoes) and bitter herbs. Raw vegetables and herbs help to stimulate digestive enzymes and enhance insulin production.
Animal protein is limited, since excessive intake can damage the kidneys and it has higher fat content. Fat is limited because there is often a deficiency of pancreatic enzymes, making fat digestion difficult, which stresses the body and may cause toxic build up from food that is not able to be digested. The excess fat also causes weight gain, which is one of the causative factors for diabetes. Food should be spiced with spices like turmeric, dry ginger, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon.
Exercise should be done daily, preferably in the morning, and it should be vigorous. The exercise helps with the weight loss and the toxins that harm the body. Exercises that cause one to sweat are very helpful as the sweating is a form of purification. Yoga is also good as it promotes flexibility. Exercise also has another benefit apart from its effect on the physical body. Exercise reduces the stress hormone cortisol and promotes mental relaxation. Ayurveda always looks to balance the body and the spirit.
When a person has lived an unhealthy lifestyle that has contributed to the diabetes, there is an emotional component. The person has not made choices that benefit him and instead makes choices that harm the body. When one is strong mentally, better choices can be made. Meditation is another way to relax and restore one’s self and gain the clarity to make better choices. Meditation is a tool used in Ayurveda to strengthen the spirit state. The physical rest of sleep will also support a stronger mental state. In addition, people who are sleep deprived are at risk for insulin dysfunction.
Herbal remedies are usually given in a blended formula. Ayurveda usually avoids emphasizing single herbs, because a blend works synergistically enhancing the performance of all the herbs. The total effect is greater than the sum of its parts.
Some helpful herbs include:
– Bitter Gourd
Ayurveda offers a multi approach to treating diabetes. There is not one tool, but many that work in harmony together to facilitate healing. It provides recommendations based on the individual’s body and illness type, so that the uniqueness of the individual is treated. Moreover, the individual is looked at as a whole- mind, body and spirit. We are each complex, special and a one of a kind, and we each deserve to be viewed in that way so we can shine in our life. As we shine, we light the way for others to shine in their own way.