Posted on: by Alistair
Clients often tell me that they have a genetic pre-disposition to diabetes because
diabetes runs in my family.
This is a statement that I have found difficult to accept at face value. While it is true that many people today have immediate or extended family members who have been diagnosed with type II diabetes mellitus, it is also true that the progression and incidence of diabetes has changed dramatically over the past 20 to 30 years. If diabetes was truly a genetic disease then the rate of progression would largely remain constant, as a percentage, of the population.
The best way to better understand diabetes is to watch this video from the Khan Academy. Using Khan’s explanation, cells simply stop responding to the insulin the bloodstream and the body is overwhelmed by excessive amounts of glucose. But why does the intelligent function of the body go awry?
Perhaps we can look at successful studies involving diet as a means to understand why the body has this reaction. Recent studies have found that diabetes remission is possible with diet and exercise, eating lentils or beans will reduce long term mortality associated with diabetes and eating whole grains reduces a risk of developing diabetes. A clear trend shows that eating whole foods and exercising regularly reduces the risk of developing diabetes and can reverse the symptoms associated with the disease.
It seems that when we eat processed, easy to access simple carbohydrates (such as high fructose corn syrup, white sugar, candies, etc) our cells are overwhelmed by the constant supply of refined glucose and inevitably become unwilling to further accept a substance which they have in abundant supply. It also shows how injecting insulin, while helping to remove excess glucose from the bloodstream, does not solve the cause of the problem.
When we switch to eating complex carbohydrates (such as unrefined wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, etc) the body is not hit with a surge of glucose. Instead the body receives this necessary component of energy in smaller, more acceptable doses. This slow absorption of energy gives us less of a “sugar high” and a more stable, sustainable experience of food as fuel.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, diabetes is a disease where an imbalance in the body has progressed to bheda, or the sixth and final stage of the disease process. Bheda means diversification and indicates that the body has not just one disease but many, a stage where a single ailment (the fifth stage of disease) has diversified and attracted complications.
The signs of impending diabetes, according to Ayurveda, are thick saliva and a tendency to shiver or spasm when passing the last drops of urine. An adult drooling in their sleep also indicates a pre-diabetic condition, a Kapha disorder and a sign of Agnyashaya (pancreas, literally “agni organ”) dysfunction or too much Kledaka Kapha in the Amashaya (stomach). This illustrates the complexity of diabetes and it’s affect on many tissues – including rakta (blood), rasa (plasma) and meda (adipose).
Despite this, diabetes can be relatively simple to treat. Notice that I didn’t use the word easy. Treating diabetes in the pre or acute stages brings more hope for recovery than beginning treatment in the later, chronic stages. But treatment is always hard work and most importantly requires changes to diet and an increase in exercise, emphasizing a more active lifestyle.
The best approach to prevent or reverse the effects of diabetes is to reduce risk factors by exercising, avoiding processed and unnaturally flavored foods, drinking natural fruit juices (or better yet, water) and choosing natural foods at every available opportunity. To educate yourself on how you can prevent diabetes and for the treatment of diabetes it is necessary to seek an experienced health care professional who can diagnose the root cause and work with you to remove the underlying imbalance.