The doctors of the future will give no medicine but will instruct his patients the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause of prevention of disease.

Thomas Edison

What west realized in the wake of the 20th century, an ancient system of healing, known as Ayurveda practiced 5000 years ago. Unlike Allopathy that gave symptomatic relief, Ayurveda believed in its cure. It healed the body and the mind of the patient and treat diseases for which modern medicine has no cure, like diabetes.

According to Ayurveda, the human body is created from five elements: earth, water, wind, fire, and ether. Their presence in different proportions decides the mind-body type expressed as tri-doshas: Vatta, Pitta, and Kapha. As long as there is a dynamic state of balance between the mind, body, and environment, the individual remains healthy but any disease is a repercussion of the years of imbalance between this tri-doshas, which needs to be corrected for a healthy lifestyle.

Vata is dry, cold, light and controls all movement (micro and macro) in the body. If Vata gets deranged, it causes pain. Pitta or bile is fiery in nature and it is responsible for digestion and metabolism. Kapha is watery in nature and it lubricates. It is the nourishing element of the body and all soft organs are made by Kapha.

Treating Diabetes with Ayurveda

In patients with diabetes, their body is unable to regulate its blood glucose levels resulting in hyperglycemia. This malfunction is often due to a faulty mechanism, where the pancreas secretes insulin but grows resistant to it. Consequently, the body refuses to pick insulin to use glucose for energy and the glucose begins to idle in the bloodstream and escapes in urine.

Ayurveda has long recognized diabetes as a Maharog and it even finds mention in Atharvaveda, one of the four sacred Vedas of India. Ayurveda has developed a detailed system of classification of the disease that it calls Prameha (excess urination) or Madhumeha (Sweet Urination) based on the underlying imbalances caused by the dominance of a particular dosha namely Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.

There are 20 kinds of Prameha of which 4 types are caused by Vata, 6 types caused by Pitta and 10 types have Kapha as a predominant or starting dosha. Also, the patients are divided on the basis of or Sahaja Prameha(caused due to hereditary factors) and Apathya Prameha (Diabetes resulting from unwholesome living). A further division of patient into Sthula (fat or Obese) and Krisa (Frail or physically weak) patient is made in order to devise an appropriate treatment protocol.

While Type 1 Diabetes is considered to be predominantly Vataja dominated Prameha, the causes of Type 2 diabetes can lie in Vata, Pitta or Kapha imbalances.

Classification of Diabetes in Ayurveda

Ayurveda not only explains diabetes as a disease related to excess urination (Prameha) and sweet urination (Madhumeha), it also devised a rudimentary test for diagnosing diabetes.  Obviously, when our blood sugar will rise above a certain limit, it spills over into the urine. This spillover sugar in urine was tested by ancients through ants. If ants got attracted to the urine of the patient, it was taken as a confirmation of the disease. As basic as it could be, this test could confirm only those cases that have at least 2 percent of sugar levels in the urine but it reflects the scientific vigor of the ancient medical practitioners.

Usage of modern diagnostic tools in Ayurveda for diabetes

With changing times Ayurveda’s treatment for diabetes has started to rely heavily on modern diagnostic tests to give an accurate diagnosis of the disease and its management protocols.

Along with Nadi pariksha (pulse reading), the study of Prakriti or constitution and lifestyle of the patient, with respect to diet, weight, stress, and sleep, Ayurveda physicians are also increasingly using modern diagnostic tools to understand the classification and gradation of diabetes. The results of Fasting Blood Sugar, Post Prandial Sugar, urine sugar, Hb1AC along with turbidity of urine, the existence of pus cells and epithelial cells in urine are all used in identifying the correct classification of dosha responsible for causing diabetes.

Ayurvedic treatment for diabetes

Based on the classification a personalized regimen is prepared for the patient that provides details of diet, exercise, and yoga, bio-purification or panchakarma, Rasayana or rejuvenation along with medication. Ayurveda medication is largely herb based that work on many levels. They first help in improving the effectiveness of insulin, then they improve the body’s general metabolism and finally they improve cell receptors sensitivity to insulin and ability to absorb sugar.

The focus of the regimen is tackling the root causes and regaining the equilibrium of the body. Many patients are able to manage their diabetes with lifestyle changes, especially when these changes are made early on in the development of the disease. Pre-diabetes can be totally reversed with timely intervention. Though exercises are vital for all kind of diabetes they are more important for diabetes resulting from Kapha Dosha. Vigorous exercises, however, are not recommended for a frail patient with Vata dosha predominant diabetes or Type 1 diabetes.

The aim of Ayurveda is to increase the Rogi Bal or strength of the patient while decreasing the Rogbal or strength of the disease.  It takes years of imbalance for a disease to manifest itself, its management, therefore, requires a very patient and holistic approach aimed at regaining the equilibrium of body, mind, and soul. Treating diabetes with Ayurveda ensures that root causes of the disease are addressed.

Dr. Prasanna Kulkarni

Doctor Prasanna Kulkarni, MD in Ayurveda has been working as Clinical Registrar at I-AIM healthcare Center for the past 7 years. He has over 19 years of work experience in treating patients with Ayurveda and specializes in treating lifestyle disorders especially diabetes and obesity.