An overview of diabetes in ayurveda


Sujal Torgal Patil

Long-term complications of diabetes develop gradually. Conventional medicine believes the longer one has diabetes and the less controlled one’s blood sugar is, the higher is the risk of complications. But according to ayurveda one has to holistically approach the disease and take utmost care right from detecting the disease as it degrades the sharir and mana and depletes the essence of dhatus thereby reducing the immune power and producing undesirable complications known as prameha upadrava.

An upadrava is a minor or major ailment which occurs in the course of a disease, although it may result from the main disease itself. While explaining prameha, ayurveda has listed various complications like severe thirst, diarrhoea, hyperthermia, severe debility, anorexia, various skin manifestations like ulcers and carbuncles, etc. Several other conditions have been described as complications dependant on dosha dominance. Given below are common complications associated with diabetes mellitus and their overview and management according to ayurveda.

Cardiovascular disorders: Diabetes dramatically increases the risk of various cardiovascular problems, including coronary artery disease with chest pain (angina), heart attack, and stroke and narrowing of arteries (atherosclerosis). If one has diabetes, one is more likely to have heart disease or stroke. Along with keeping blood sugar in control one must opt for holistic treatment of diabetes or cardiovascular diseases. Make appropriate changes in the diet and lifestyle, adopt yoga and practice asana, pranayam and dhyan on a daily basis.

Nerve damage (neuropathy): Excess sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels causing tingling, numbness, burning or pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and gradually spreads upward. If left untreated, one could lose all sense of feeling in the affected limbs. Lack of sensation may lead to accidental injuries which eventually may not heal. Abhyanga or full body massage with sesame oil is ideal to preserve the functioning of the nervous system. Ideally this should be done every day but twice a week is good enough. The body massage should be followed by ubatan and a bath with warm water. This regimen improves blood circulation and rejuvenates the nervous system. Nerve damage related to digestion can cause problems like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation. In men it could lead to erectile dysfunction. Practising yoga and other forms of exercise help with these complications.

Kidney damage (nephropathy): Kidneys contain millions of tiny blood vessel clusters that filter waste from the blood. Diabetes can damage this delicate filtering system and lead to kidney failure or irreversible kidney disease which may require dialysis or kidney transplant. Excessive fluid retention in diabetic’s body puts strain on the kidneys and hence one should drink appropriate amounts of water with respect to thirst quotient. One should also avoid salty and acidic food.

Eye damage (retinopathy): Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina, potentially leading to blindness. Diabetes also increases the risk of other serious vision conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma. Consult a yoga practitioner and start eye exercises at home. There are a number of ayurvedic formulations for eye disorders which could be taken after consultation. Eat a raw gooseberry everyday when in season, including pure cow ghee in one’s diet and a foot massage every night before bed are beneficial for the eyes. A bath with amla decoction once in a week is beneficial for the eyes, hair and skin.

Foot damage and skin infections: Nerve damage in the feet or poor blood flow to the same increases the risk of various foot complications. If left untreated, cuts and blisters can develop serious infections which often heal poorly. These infections ultimately require toe, foot or leg amputation. Diabetes may leave one more susceptible to skin problems including bacterial and fungal infections. Excessive fluid accumulated in the body is responsible for this plight. One should be watchful of their body especially the feet. Use comfortable shoes at home or outdoor. In case of small ulcers, keep them dry or use turmeric or triphala powder to heal them. Immerse feet in triphala decoction every alternate day. Avoid curd, newly harvested grains, jaggery, bakery products, sleeping during the day, etc. One must include bitter vegetables in one’s diet.

Repeated infections: Due to excessive fluid accumulation, diabetics are vulnerable to infections. It is better to analyse the factors that cause such infections. Lack of hygiene may lead to skin infections and suppressing the urge to urinate may lead to recurrent UTIs.

Ayurveda has treatment modalities like shodhan wherein accumulated doshas are removed methodically. This increases the cure percentage and strengthens the entire body. Rasayan therapy nourishes the dhatus thereby reducing the rate of degenerative changes (neuropathy, nephropathy, lethargy, weight loss, etc.) in diabetics. Counselling is very important for chronic diabetics who may suffer from lack of sleep, anxiety, memory disorders or sexual impotency.

If you are a diabetic or are prone to the same, consult an ayurvedic doctor to increase the chances of cure or qualitative management of the disease. Controlling blood sugar levels is the peripheral management. Being holistically aware and bringing in appropriate diet and lifestyle changes in one’s life from a very early age is the key to dealing with lifestyle disorders like diabetes.


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