How alternative medicine can help in prevention and cure of diabetes?
Before we attempt presenting how complementary and alternative medicine systems like Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH) can help in prevention and cure of diabetes, we need to know about the disease a lot more than we already do.
We may come across a lot of content on diabetes online but that’s more of a doctor or medical expert telling you about the disease and its possible treatments. However, this article has been written purely from a patient’s perspective in a lucid and easy to understand manner, without any complex medical jargon whatsoever. It’s only when we understand what we are fighting against better, we feel encouraged enough to equip ourselves with more information and reach a point of eradicating it.
So, let’s begin with the basics first.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus, called diabetes in short, is a disease that leads to increase in sugar level in the blood. Whenever we eat or drink something, our body digests and assimilates the nutrients and sugar in it which is then picked up by the blood and distributed to the cells in the body. Hormone Insulin produced by the pancreas in our body is responsible for moving sugar from the blood into the cells which is then stored and used for energy. However, if we are affected by diabetes, our pancreas either do not make enough insulin or our body is not able to use the insulin produced. In both the cases, the sugar in the blood is not moved to the cells leading to what we call high blood sugar. This overload of sugar in the blood can damage our nerves, eyes (gradual blindness), kidneys and other organs. Those affected with diabetes (patients) are referred to as diabetics.
What are the different types of diabetes?
Type 1 Diabetes: When the immune system of the body attacks and destroys the insulin producing cells in the pancreas, we become Type 1 diabetic. This is an autoimmune disease and medical researchers have still not been able to find out why this happens. Around one-tenth of the diabetics are affected by this type.
Type 2 Diabetes: This happens when the body becomes resistant to the insulin being produced.
Prediabetes: This happens when the sugar level in the blood is high but not high enough for it to be diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes: This happens during the gestation period, what we generally call pregnancy. The placenta produces insulin-blocking hormones, the sugar does not get off-loaded to the cells and accumulates in the blood.
Diabetes Insipidus: Though it is called diabetes, but it is not related to diabetes mellitus. It is a rare disease wherein our kidneys excrete too much fluid from the body.
Each of the types of diabetes have different causes, symptoms and treatments. Let’s look at the causes and symptoms as of now. When it comes to treatment, we’ll limit our approach to Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy only.
What are the risk factors that make us more prone to getting diabetes?
Our family, environment as well as pre-existing conditions can be the risk factors.
Children and teenagers are more likely to become Type 1 diabetic. We are also more likely to become Type 1 diabetic if we have a parent or sibling who is diabetic or if we are carrying certain genes related to diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes, as mentioned earlier, is more of a lifestyle related disease and we are at risk of getting it if we are overweight, are not physically active, have prediabetes, have had gestational diabetes, are of 45 years or older in age, have a parent or sibling who is diabetic, etc. We are also likely to get Type 2 diabetes if we have high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol and high triglycerides. Even our ancestry puts us at risk. We are more likely to become Type 2 diabetic if we have African American, Hispanic or Latino American, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, American Indian or Asian American ancestry.
What causes diabetes?
It is the environmental factors as well as the genes that are possible causes of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes: As mentioned earlier, it remains a mystery why the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas. According to some researchers, it could be attributed to the genes or it could be a virus that stimulates the immune system to do that.
Type 2 diabetes: Type 2 diabetes has everything to do with our lifestyle, and our genes. Obese people are at a higher risk of being affected. Abdominal fat or the belly fat is worst as it makes the body cells resistant to the effect of insulin. It is hereditary i.e. it runs in the family and the ‘bad genes’ get passed on from one generation to the next, making them more likely to become obese and get Type 2 diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes: Obese women who get pregnant or women who gain excess weight during pregnancy are more likely to be affected by gestational diabetes.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
Diabetics feel hungrier and thirstier than usual. They develop frequent urination, blurry vision, and extreme fatigue or tiredness.
There are some symptoms typical to men like decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction (ED) and weak muscles. Symptoms typical to women include UTIs (urinary tract infections), vaginal yeast infections besides dry and itchy skin.
Type 1 diabetics experience unintentional weight loss. They may experience mood swings too. Type 2 diabetics have sores that are either slow to heal or don’t heal. They may have recurring infections because the high blood sugar level hinders the healing process.
Pregnant women with gestational diabetes do not have any visible symptoms and it gets detected only during 24th week and 28th week of pregnancy wherein routine blood test and oral glucose tolerance test are conducted.
What are the complications one develops after becoming diabetic?
The complications associated with diabetes can be serious but they can be managed with lifestyle changes and medication. Here, medication means options available in complimentary and alternative medicine systems.
High blood sugar damages organs and tissues across the body. Diabetics develop complications like heart disease, heart attack, stroke, neuropathy, nephropathy, retinopathy and vision loss, hearing loss, foot damage like sores and infections that are either slow to heal or do not heal, skin conditions like bacterial and fungal infections, besides depression and dementia.
Gestational diabetes: Uncontrolled gestational diabetes can affect the mother and the baby. The complications that the baby can develop owing to gestational diabetes include premature birth (before the scheduled date), more weight than normal at the time of birth, low blood sugar, jaundice, greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life, and stillbirth (death in the womb after having survived 28 weeks of pregnancy).
The complications that mother can develop include high blood pressure, called preeclampsia in pregnant women, or Type 2 diabetes. Owing to these complications pregnant women may require to undergo C-section, commonly called cesarean delivery. Affected women are also at risk of getting gestational diabetes as and when they become pregnant again.
The word of caution here is that symptoms of diabetes are often too mild to spot. If you have any of the symptoms, we sincerely advise you to consult a doctor or a qualified medical practitioner at the earlier. You can continue exploring more about the disease online later or along with medical consultations.
Do read our other articles on Diabetes:
(1) Self-test kits available in the market
(2) How can we treat diabetes at home naturally?
(3) How can we treat diabetes using Unani medicine?
(4) How can we treat diabetes using Siddha medicine?
(5) How can we treat diabetes through Homeopathy?