Diabetes is a huge issue in India. According to various surveys done by global health organisations, it is estimated that 61 million Indians between 20 – 79 years live with diabetes. This number is expected to increase to 101 million by 2030. In addition, more than 77 million Indians are pre diabetic – i.e. they have a high risk of getting diabetes due to high glucose levels in the blood.
When we talk about diabetes, this is what you’re dealing with – it is a metabolic disorder which hinders the body’s ability to store and convert glucose to energy. The body naturally produces a hormone called insulin in sufficient quantities to break down the glucose which comes from food. If our body does not produce enough insulin, the muscles cannot absorb glucose from the blood, resulting in high blood glucose levels, a condition known as hyperglycemia. There are two kinds of diabetes, type 1 and type 2; where type 1 is generally diagnosed at childhood and type 2 usually comes from being overweight or due to unhealthy lifestyle choices.
Contrary to popular belief, being a vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Various factors make us more susceptible, the most obvious being our love for high carb foods. Besides being ‘carbohydrate junkies’, our penchant for junk food – sweet, salty, deep fried, doesn’t do us any favours. Healthy home cooked food with low quantities of fat & salt, limiting carbohydrates and upping our intake of fibre rich foods can go a long way in helping control the onset of diabetes. Going raw can make a massive difference to the way your body metabolises your food. Your snack of choice should include lots of raw, diabetes friendly fruits and vegetables – spinach, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber, oranges, apples, grapefruit, all types of berries for an anti-oxidant boost, melons and peaches for their high vitamin content, just to name a few. Mind you, these need to be consumed whole and raw. Juicing can make them lose some of their benefits, especially if you’re straining your juice!
It’s these lifestyle choices that we make that matter. With some careful thought and a little bit of discipline, it is possible to alter the course towards lifestyle related, type 2 diabetes. Besides these basic dietary changes, upping your physical activity can help control diabetes and improve the overall quality of your life.
An increasing number of people with diabetes are turning to yoga to help them manage the disease. There are specific asanas that help with the management of diabetes by stimulating the pancreas. Cleansing practices called shatkarmas and breathing exercises or pranayamas like kapalbhatti along with deep, full yogic breathing to help massage the internal organs are extremely effective and great at lowering stress levels. Mini fasts called shankhaprakshalan along with asanas and cleansing practices are also advocated. It is crucial, however, that all this be done under expert supervision and in a safe environment! Meditation and relaxing practices like yoga nidra also work wonders for your mental wellbeing and is the ideal way to balance energies and manage the disease burden or better yet, prevent its onset.
My aunt, Usha Dhiman who has now managed juvenile / type 1 diabetes for 55 years, has coped with the disease excellently due to her active lifestyle and positive nature. She says, “Yoga cannot cure diabetes but can certainly help in controlling it and gives the patient another tool to help cope with the stress related to the everyday rigors of controlling it. Regular practice of yoga helps in reduction of weight which in turn can help better control diabetes. It’s better than any other form of exercise as it gives the patient the mental strength to cope with the disease, besides helping physically by controlling the sugar levels in the blood more efficiently. “