Diabetes mellitus is characterised by an abnormally high level of blood glucose and by the excretion of the excess glucose in the urine. It results from an absolute or relative lack of insulin which leads to abnormalities in carbohydrate metabolism as well as in the metabolism of protein and fat.
The most commonly-used’screening tests are the determination of the fasting blood glucose level and the blood glucose level tested two hours after a ineal. The normal fasting blood sugar content is 80—120 mg per 100. ml of blood; this can go up to a level of 160 mg per 100 ml of blood two hours after meals. Anything above these levels can be termed as diabetic levels. Diabetes is common among older, obese people.
Causes and Symptoms
A diabetic feels hungry and thirsty most of the time, does not put on weight, and gets tired easily, both physically and mentally. He looks pale, and may suffer from anaemia, constipation, intense itching around the genital organs, palpitations, and general weakness. He feels drowsy and has a lower sex urge than a normal person.
Diabetes has been described as a prosperity disease, primarily caused by overeating and consequent obesity. Not only is the overeating of sugar and refined carbohydrates harmful, but an excessive intake of proteins and fats, which are transformed into sugar if taken in excess, may also result in diabetes. Grief, worry, and anxiety also have a deep influence on the metabolism and •nay cause sugar to appear in the urine.
Bitter Gourd: Among the several home remedies that have Proved beneficial in controlling diabetes, perhaps the most important is the use of bitter gourd. It has lately been established that bitter gourd contains a hypoglycaemic or insulin-like principle, designated as ‘plantinsulin’, which has been found valuable in lowering the blood and urine sugar levels. It should, therefore, be included liberally in the diet of the diabetic. For better results, the diabetic should take the juice of about four or five karelas every morning on an empty stomach. The seeds can be added to food in a powdered form. Diabetics can also use bitter gourd in the form of a decoction by boiling the pieces in water or in the form of dry powder.
Indian Gooseberry: Indian gooseberry, with its high vitamin C content, is considered valuable in diabetes. A tablespoon of its juice, mixed with a cup of bitter gourd juice, taken daily for two months, will stimulate the islets of I^angerhans, that is, the isolated group of cells that secrete the hormone insulin in the pancreas. This mixture reduces the blood sugar in diabetes.
Jambul Fruit: Jambul fruit is another effective home remedy. It is regarded in traditional medicine as a specific against diabetes because of its effect on the pancreas. The fruit as such, the seeds, and fruit juice are all useful in the treatment of this disease. The seeds contain a glucoside ‘jamboline’ which is believed to have the power to check the pathological conversion of starch into sugar in cases of increased production of glucose. The seeds should be dried and powdered. One teaspoon of this powder should be mixed in one cup of milk or water or half a cup of curd, and taken twice daily.
The inner bark of the jambul tree is also used in the treatment of diabetes. The bark is dried and burnt. It will produce an ash of white colour. This ash should be pestled in mortar, strained and bottled. The diabetic patient should be given ten grams of this ash on an empty stomach with water in the morning, and twenty grams in the afternoon, and in the evening an hour after taking meals.
An equal quantity of amla powder, jamun powder, and bitter gourd powder also makes a very useful remedy for diabetes. A teaspoon of this mixture once or twice a day would be effective in checking the progress of the disease.
Grapefruit: According to Dr Joe Shelby Riley, a well- known expert in nutrition, ‘Grapefruit is a splendid food in the diet of a diabetic patient. If grapefruits were eaten more liberally, there would be much less diabetes. If you have sugar, use three grapefruits three times a day. If you do not have sugar, but a tendency towards it and want to prevent it, use three a day.
Fenugreek: The seeds of fenugreek have been found effective in the treatment of diabetes. Fenugreek seeds, when given in varying doses of 25 gm to 100 gm daily, diminish reactive hyperglycaemia in diabetic patients. Levels of glucose, serum cholesterol, and triglycerides were also significantly reduced in the diabetes patients when the seeds were consumed.
Bengal Gram: Experiments have shown that the intake of water extract of Bengal gram enhances the utilization of glucose in both diabetic and normal persons. Tests were conducted at the Central Food Technological Research Institute in Mysore on a chronic diabetes patient whose insulin requirement was of the order of forty units a day. When kept on a diet which included liberal supplements of Bengal gram extract, the condition of the patient improved considerably and his insulin requirement was reduced to about twenty units per day. Diabetes patients who are on a prescribed diet which does not severely restrict the intake of carbohydrates, but includes liberal amounts of Bengal gram extract, have shown considerable improvement in their fasting blood sugar levels, glucose tolerance, urinary excretion of sugar, and general condition.
Black Gram: For a milder type of diabetes, two tablespoons of germinated black gram, taken with half a cup of fresh bitter gourd juice and a teaspoon of honey, is said to be useful. It should be taken once daily for three to four months. A restriction should be placed on the intake of carbohydrates. Even in severe cases, regular use of this combination, with other precautions, is useful as a health-giving food for the prevention of various complications that may arise due to malnutrition in diaD
Mango Leaves: The tender leaves of the mango tree are considered useful in diabetes. An infusion is prepared by soaking 15 gm of fresh leaves in 250 ml of water overnight, and squeezing them well in the water in the morning. This filtrate should be taken every morning to control early diabetes. Parslane: The seeds of parslane are useful in diabetes. A teaspoon of the seeds should be taken every day with half a cup of water for three to four months. It will increase the body’s own insulin and help in curing diabetes.
Other Foods: Besides bitter gourd, certain other vegetables have been found useful in diabetes. These include string beans, cucumber, onion, and garlic. Tea made of the pods of string beans is valuable in diabetes.
The primary dietary consideration for a diabetic is that he should be a strict lacto-vegetarian and take a low-calorie, low-fat, alkaline diet of high-quality natural foods. Wholegrains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and dairy products form a good diet for the diabetic. Emphasis should be on raw foods as they stimulate the pancreas and increase insulin production. Home-made cottage cheese and various forms of soured milk such as curd and buttermilk are the best sources of proteins.
Exercise is also an important factor in the treatment of diabetes.
Light games, jogging, and swimming are recommended. Yogic asanas such as bhujangasana, shalabhasana, dhanurasana. paschimottanasana, sarvangasana, halasana, and shavasana will be beneficial.