The term diabetes was probably coined by Apollonius of Memphis around 250 BC. Diabetes is first recorded in English, in the form diabete, in a medical text written around 1425. It was in 1675 that Thomas Willis added the word “‘mellitus’” to the word diabetes. This was because of the sweet taste of the urine.
Diabetes mellitus (DM) has been described as a ‘silent’ epidemic. Its presentation can either be a slow onset
and asymptomatic progression leading to secondary complications, or rapidly emerging symptoms leading to complications and/or coma. The projection is that by year 2030, an estimated 366-438million (i.e., 7.8% of the world population) people will have diabetes, an increase of 54% compared to that predicted in 2010 (Wild et al. 2004, Whiting et al.2011). As part of seeking for answers to intriguing questions in diabetes, some authors were more descriptive, analytic or pessimistic rather than scientific in their search. Developmental milestones in diabetes reflect improvements in the understanding and management of the condition. Then overview of the history of diabetes, starting from the ancient time to the present millennium helps to showcase the advances that have been made in diabetes in medicine and health.
Diabetes is a chronic illness that happens when the body is unable to provide enough insulin for cells to function. The lack of insulin triggers excess sugar production in the blood. And this is known as glycosuria and hyperglycemia. This means that your body has way too much glucose, and it can obstruct the regular functions of your nervous system, heart, eyes, blood vessels, and kidneys.
Listed below are some common signs of diabetes:
• Rapid weight loss
• Blurry vision
• Skin infections
• Increased thirst
• Excessive hunger pangs
• Wounds heal slowly
• Extreme fatigue
• Frequent urination
Over 3,000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians mentioned a condition that appears to have been type 1 diabetes. It featured excessive urination, thirst, and weight loss.
In ancient India, people discovered that they could use ants to test for diabetes by presenting urine to them. If the ants came to the urine, this was a sign that it contained high sugar levels. They called the honey urine.
condition madhumeha, meaning
Diabetes insipidus has no link with diabetes mellitus. While it also leads to thirst and urination, it does not affect the body’s production or use of insulin. Diabetes insipidus results from a problem with a hormone called vasopressin that the pituitary gland produces.
By the fifth century C.E., people in India and China had worked out that there was a difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. They noted that type 2 diabetes was more common in heavy, wealthy people than in other people. At that time, this might have implied that these individuals ate more than other people and were less active.
Nowadays, the ready supply of processed food has weakened the association between wealth and eating more, but obesity, diet, and a lack of exercise are still risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
The term diabetes mellitus comes from the Greek word “diabetes” (to siphon or pass through) and the Latin word “mellitus” (honey or sweet).
In 1776, Matthew Dobson confirmed that the urine of people with diabetes could have a sweet taste. According to an article that the journal Medical Observations and Enquiries published, he measured the glucose in urine and found that it was high in people with diabetes. Dobson also noted that diabetes could be fatal in some people but chronic in others, further clarifying the differences between type 1 and type 2.
By the early 19th century, there were no statistics about how common diabetes was, there was no effective treatment, and people usually died within weeks to months of first showing symptoms.
The early Greek physicians recommended treating diabetes with exercise, if possible, on horseback. They believed that this activity would reduce the need for excessive urination.
Other treatment options have included:
A “non irritating” milk-and-carb diet, for example, milk with rice and starchy, gummy foods “to thicken the blood and supply salts” or milk and barley water boiled with powders of fenugreek and wormseed ,narcotics, such as opium ,foods that are “easy of digestion,” such as rancid animal food, tobacco, green vegetables etc.
In 1910, Sir Edward Albert Sharpey-Schafer proposed that diabetes developed when there was a lack of a particular chemical that the pancreas produced. He called it insulin, meaning island, because the cells in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas produce it.
In 1921, Frederick Banting and Charles Best introduced an extract of pancreatic islet cells from healthy dogs into dogs with diabetes. Doing this reversed diabetes and marked the discovery of the hormone insulin. They worked with two other scientists to purify insulin that they took from the pancreas of cows and produce the first treatment for diabetes.
In 1980s, the first blood glucose monitors became available for home use, providing an accurate way to monitor blood sugar. People who use insulin have to measure their glucose levels to determine how much insulin they need and how well their treatment is working.
In 1986, the insulin pen delivery system appeared. These prefilled syringes, which come in specific measures, are a safe and convenient way of delivering the required dose of insulin. The 1990s saw the invention of external insulin pumps.
In Ayurveda, diabetes mellitus falls under the Prameha category. Prameha comes from the original word “Mih sechane”, and that means “water that dilutes everything in the body.”
Ayurveda defines each person as a unique combination of three doshas namely Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The imbalance of each Dosha causes health issues that are linked to the imbalance. Diabetes is a Kapha Dosha imbalance disease. However, just being a Kapha dominant person does not signify diabetes. When the Kapha dosha is not counterbalanced with a balancing diet and lifestyle, it can slow down the metabolic processes due to weak agni thereby manifesting diabetes. A person who is Kapha dominant should ensure that there are enough Vata and pitta elements in their food and habits.
Ayurveda refers to diabetes as Madumeha which literally means ‘sweet urine’. It refers to the increased blood sugar level in the blood that causes excess sugar in the urine. Ayurvedic texts had described diabetes under ‘Dhatupaka Janya Vikruti’. The texts also describe a tendency to inherit the disease. Ayurveda defines Ojas as the very essence of life, when this is lost, the strength of all the bodily functions are lost. In diabetes, Ojas is lost through the urine and hence diabetes is sometimes called Ojomeha or the loss of Ojas through the urine.
Ayurveda classifies diabetes into two types; Avarana and Dhatukshaya. The first type is caused when the channels of the body are blocked by the aggravated Kapha Dosha or other tissues of the body. This is the usual cause of adult-onset diabetes. Ayurveda defines the bodily tissues as Dhatus. When these tissues are affected or depleted it causes the second type of diabetes. This is usually the cause of juvenile diabetes.
The digestive fire (Agni) should be kept at a strong level so that digestion is optimum. The largest or heaviest meals of the day should be around noon. A light breakfast and dinner are ideal. To avoid aggravation of Kapha Dosha, food should be eaten warm and cold food should be avoided. The Kapha dosha will also gets aggravated by sweet and sour tastes. So, avoid food that has these tastes dominant. A Kapha dominant person should add warmth by sipping on warm or hot water throughout the day. Water that has been stored in copper is a traditional aid to diabetes treatment. Since the metabolism and digestion are slow, snacks in between will strain the digestion further. The intake of certain Ayurvedic herbs and formulations that aid the digestion and enhance the digestive fire is advised for insulin resistance treatment.
Hypoglycemia treatment according to Ayurveda goes beyond medication and diet. Stress is a big factor in aggravating diabetes. Making an effort to avoid stress or manage it properly goes a long way in helping the body balance of doshas. Adequate sleep is also one of the lifestyle changes recommended for Ayurvedic treatment for diabetes.
Each stage of life has a dominant Dosha. Childhood will be predominated with kapha dosha, in puberty pitta will be increased and vata will be predominant during third age span i.e from the age of 50 to death. As per this, during Childhood, when children given with a Kapha aggravating diet or lifestyle it can trigger the manifestation of Type 1 diabetes. Treatment of Type 1 diabetes in Ayurveda looks at rebalancing the Doshas through a combination of internal and external Ayurvedic treatment as well as lifestyle changes. It identifies the stress factors in the body and tries to relieve them. Type 2 diabetes is called Apathya nimittaja in the Ayurvedic texts. It is caused by an aggravated Vata Dosha along with aggravated Kapha Dosha. It is compounded by a sedentary lifestyle and habits. Type 2 diabetes treatments includes Ayurvedic medicine to balance the Doshas and lifestyle changes to better manage it.
Here are a few home remedies:
– Mix one part of guduchi, a part of shardunika, a part of kudki and 2 parts of punarnava and mix them well into a diabetic-friendly herbal mixture. Drink this herbal mixture for two to three times a day and consume with warm water.
– Increasing the intake of turmeric in the diet is also beneficial in diabetes management.
– Drinking Water in Copper Vessel: Since time immemorial, drinking water from copper vessel has been considered very healthy for overall functioning of body; this practice may help prevent fluctuation of blood sugar levels. The water stored in a copper vessel is called ‘Tamra Jal’ and it helps in balancing of all three doshas.
According to Ayurveda, diabetic patients should definitely have a stock of methi dana in their home. You can consume methi dana sprouts or drink fenugreek water the first thing in morning.
Bitter Is Better: In addition to refraining from sweets, loading up on bitter ingredients like bitter gourd, amla and aloe vera have also been found effective in managing and controlling diabetes.
All ailments in Ayurveda are due to some imbalance in an individual’s doshas. Type 1 is described as an imbalance of the Vata dosha. Type 2 is an excess of the Kapha dosha. Eating regimented meals that contain less fatty foods thrice a day is very important. Avoid dairy products and opt for skimmed milk and low-fat yogurt. Ginger tea helps stimulate digestion, which is very beneficial in reducing the excess Kapha in your system.
Use Your Spices Wisely: There are many spices that have shown antidiabetic properties. For instance, asafoetida, turmeric, cinnamon, mustard and coriander, use them in your meals, drinks and manage diabetes naturally.
Here are some examples of exercise you can incorporate into a daily routine:
• Take a brisk walk
• Participate in a yoga, tai chi, or qigong class
• Go dancing
• Take an aerobics class
• Swim or do water aerobics
• Go for a cycle ride or use a stationary bike indoors.
Yoga and meditation:
“Yogastah kuru karmani” is a Vedic saying that can be translated as “established in union, perform action.” Engaging in mind-body practices, such as meditation and yoga, helps establish the union of body, mind, and spirit, out of which true healing occurs. Often, once people begin a regular meditation and yoga practice, they notice that they start to perform spontaneous right action and make choices that are more aligned with good health. They begin to exercise more and choose the proper foods with less struggle and effort.
In addition, both meditation and yoga have been shown to reduce stress, which plays a significant role in the development and control of diabetes. When we face situations that we perceive as stressful, our body increases the production of “stress” hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin. Chronic stress can lead to insulin resistance, which in turn elevates blood sugar levels. With regular meditation or yoga, the levels of stress hormones in our bodies decrease, resulting in better blood sugar control.
If you are diabetic and are considering an Ayurvedic way to fight it, get in touch with a certified Ayurveda expert to learn more about natural ways to deal with the condition. Do not make any drastic dietary changes on your own.