“Diabetes is not curable. But you can keep it at bay!
It is early in the evening. You just had a late, heavy dinner, and you are full, but something is still missing. You just can’t put your finger on it, and it suddenly flashes on you – you missed your dessert-the eternal ‘muh meetha (mouth sweetening)’ moment. You stare into the fridge, the light illuminating frozen dinners and boxes of leftovers, and then your eyes go to what you have been searching for – that box of sweets that your relatives had brought the other day, bless their hearts. As you dive into the divine world of ‘pedas’ and ‘rasgullas,’ the old newspaper wrapped around the packet catches your eye. Right before you can sink your teeth in, you see an article on Diabetes peeking into your soul, questioning your decision with a headline that announces, ‘1.5 million deaths are directly attributed to diabetes each year’. You remember talking with your relatives yesterday about how their 48-year-old neighbor had kidney failure due to high sugar and died last week. You congratulate them on their audacity to bring sweets, and an eternity of inner monologue later, you keep those sweets, untouched and virgin-like, back in the fridge as you stare at them longingly. At the same time, you close the fridge door and walk away.
Excuse my amateurish attempt at humor, as there is nothing humorous about Diabetes. There are currently nearly 80 million people with Diabetes in India, and by 2045, 135 million Indians will have the disease. Worldwide, the number is even scarier, as according to the WHO, 422 million people around the globe have Diabetes, and the number is expected to rise.
Diabetes is a “slow poison.” It is a disease associated with other conditions like high blood pressure leading to heart attacks, kidney failure, blindness, and other ailments. Diabetes is not curable, but it can be managed. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to understand how you can live a decent lifestyle by enjoying sweets in moderation and at the same time get your Diabetes controlled. Unfortunately, there is no drug known to mankind that can cure Diabetes. While a significant armamentarium of medications can help control your blood sugar, some come at the cost of having side effects. Many effective diabetic drugs have fallen into disrepute because they do not protect the heart. The present dictate to pharmaceutical manufacturers is only to discover medicines that have proven protection for the heart. The simple reason being a diabetic mostly dies due to heart disease or its complication.
It is essential to understand that medications, even when taken appropriately, do not cure or treat diabetes mellitus. This disease is called a lifestyle disease, and its treatment requires extensive lifestyle changes, with medications secondary to it. Millions of people have successfully been able to keep their Diabetes absolutely in control after engaging in radical lifestyle changes. Though it sounds complicated and impossible, it will disrupt your regular work and almost certainly entail giving up your profession. Fortunately, such fears are uncalled for because all you need to do is practice yoga for half an hour 4/5 days a week, including 10 minutes of mindfulness and meditation. You might be thinking that it is a long prescription. It is not. Unlike our teeming millions of “asana experts,” that fill the yoga space in social media with their verbose claims of how they do challenging yoga postures (asanas) or post pictures of themselves bent at every joint. Unfortunately, none of that is yoga! More importantly, this is different from the yoga you need to do. Whether you would like preferable call some of them ” monkey dances” is something I will let you decide. Yoga is a practical and effective lifestyle modification that involves Asanas (Postures), Dharana (Mindfulness), and Dhyana (Meditation). Whether you believe it or not, at least seven of the eight components of yoga are essential to induce a lifestyle change. Yoga space has been unfortunately polluted by half-baked experts who need clinical training. Whether yoga works or not in Diabetes is not based on my personal experience. I would then be no different from the “erudite” neighborhood yoga practitioner or Guru who believes their experience is all that is required to prove that it works. Unfortunately, clinical medicine, including yoga therapy, is a scientific proposition propelled by research and not by witch doctors’ voodoo medicine!
Regular walks, combined with specific yoga poses like Dhanurasana and multiple twisting poses, can be helpful for people with Diabetes, as it helps burn off the excess sugar that has built up in their bodies and stimulate insulin production. In addition, Surya Namaskara, or Sun Salutation, is a sequence of 12 powerful yoga asanas, which is another effective way to reign in your rising blood sugar level. However, it can be modified by doing a faster variation that consumes more calories.
Another point on which modern medicine agrees with yogic principles is that stress exacerbates Diabetes. When stressed, your body releases hormones that can cause blood sugar to increase and blood pressure and heart rate. In addition, multiple studies have found that yoga can improve anxiety and stress. Depression and anxiety are common reactions to stress, and practicing yoga regularly can-do wonders for your mental health. However, asanas or postures have minimal effect on reducing stress on bringing about respite to mental aberrations like anxiety or depression. Thus, it is essential to practice the entire gamut of yoga, which includes concentration, mindfulness, and meditation.
Last but not least, ‘you are what you eat’ might be quite literal for people with Diabetes. Indulging your sweet tooth urges might make you sweeter, literally, by increasing the blood sugar level in your body. This, unfortunately, has multifarious unseen ramifications, including blocking blood vessels leading to heart attack, stroke, or even amputations! People who have Diabetes should be aware of how essential it is, in addition to their yoga practice, to maintain a disciplined approach to their Ahara (diet). Yoga is effective in bringing blood sugar levels under control, particularly when combined with dietary modifications. If you have Diabetes, the most important thing you can do for your health is to pay close attention to what you put in your body, basically your diet. A diet that includes plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits, and raw veggies is low in calories and fat and contributes to an alkaline diet of high-quality natural foods. Avoid overeating by eating modest, frequent meals.
Yoga’s many health benefits include aiding in the management of Diabetes without leading to its dangerous complications. Yes, you can indulge in sweets, cakes, and chocolate occasionally, but remember that the central teachings of yoga are self-control and discipline, as well as avoiding overindulgence. So, when you practice yoga regularly and follow its principles, it is your best insurance to lead a healthy and long life.