Diabetes mellitus is a nutritional disorders, characterized by an abnormally elevated level ofblood glucose and by the excretion of the excess glucose in the urine. It results from an absoluteor relative lack of insulin which leads to abnormalities in carbohydrate metabolism as well as inthe metabolism of protein and fat.
Diabetes is a disease known to the medical world since time immemorial. Its incidence is ,however, much higher at present than ever in the past. This is especially true in case of moreadvanced countries of the world due to widespread affluence and more generous food supply.
The most commonly-used screening tests are the determination of the fasting blood glucoselevel and the two-hour postprandial, that is after a meal. The normal fasting blood sugar contentis 80 to 120 mg. per 100 ml. of blood and this can go up to a level of 180 mg. per 100 ml. ofblood two hours after meals. Anything above these norms can be termed diabetic levels.
Diabetes occurs in all age groups, from young infants to the elderly. The greatest incidenceoccurs in middle or older aged persons. It is estimated that 80 to 85 per cent of all individualswith diabetes mellitus are 45 years of age or older.
Symptoms. The word diabetes is derived from the Greek word meaning "to siphon to pass through", andmellitus comes from the Latin word "honey". Thus two characteristic symptoms, namely, copiousurination and glucose in the urine give the name to the disease. The normal volume of urinepassed daily is about one and a half litres. The urine is of a pale colour, has an acidic reactionand sweetish odour. The quantity of sugar present in it varies from one-and-quarter decigram totwo and-a-half grams the total per day in many cases reaching as much as one kg in 15 litres ofurine.
A diabetic feels hungry and thirsty most of the time, does not put on weight, though he eatsevery now and then, and gets tired easily, both physically and mentally. He looks pale, maysuffer from anaemia, constipation, intense itching around the genital organs, palpitations andgeneral weakness. He feels drowsy and has a lower sex urge than a normal person.
Causes. Diabetes has been described by most biological doctors as a "prosperity" disease, primarilycaused by systematic overeating and consequent obesity. Not only the overeating of sugar andrefined carbohydrate but also of proteins and fats, which are transformed into sugar if taken inexcess, is harmful and may result in diabetes. Too much food taxes the pancreas and eventuallyparalyses its normal activity. It has been estimated that the incidence of diabetes is four timeshigher in persons of moderate obesity and 30 times higher in persons of severe obesity.
Grief, worry and anxiety also have a deep influence on the metabolism and may cause sugar toappear in the urine. The disease may be associated with some other grave organic disorderslike cancer, tuberculosis and cerebral disease. Heredity is also a major factor in the developmentof the disease. It has been rightly said, " Heredity is like a cannon and obesity pulls the trigger."Treatment. Any successful method of diabetes treatment should aim at removal of the actual cause of thedisease and building up of the whole health-level of the patient. Diet plays a vital role in such atreatment. The primary dietary consideration for a diabetic patient is that he should be a strictlacto-vegetarian and take a low-calorie, low-fat, alkaline diet of high quality natural foods. Fruits,nuts and vegetables, whole meal bread and dairy products form a good diet for the diabetic.
These foods are best eaten in as dry a condition as possible to ensure thorough salivationduring the first part of the process of digestion.
Cooked starchy foods should be avoided as in the process of cooking the cellulose envelops ofthe starch granules burst and consequently, the starch is far too easily absorbed in the system.
The excess absorbed has to be got rid of by the kidneys and appears as sugar in the urine. Withraw starchy foods, however, the saliva and digestive juices in the small intestine regulate thequantities required to be changed into sugar for the body’s needs. The unused and undigestedportion of raw starchy foods does not become injurious to the system, as it does not readilyferment.
The diabetic should not be afraid to eat fresh fruits and vegetables which contain sugar andstarch. Fresh fruits contain sugar fructose, which does not need insulin for its metabolism and iswell tolerated by diabetics. Fats and oils should be taken sparingly, for they are apt to lower thetolerance for proteins and starches. Emphasis should be on raw foods as they stimulate andincrease insulin production. For protein, home- made cottage cheese, various forms of souredmilks and nuts are best. The patient should avoid overeating and take four or five small meals aday rather than three large ones.
The following diet should serve as a guideline.
Upon arising : A glass of lukewarm water with freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Breakfast : Any fresh fruit with the exception of bananas, soaked prunes, a small quantity ofwhole meal bread with butter and fresh milk.
Lunch : Steamed or lightly cooked green vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes,spinach, turnip, asparagus and mushrooms, two or three whole wheat chapatis according toappetite and a glass of butter-milk or curd.
Mid-afternoon : A glass of fresh fruit or vegetable juice.
Dinner : A large bowl of salad made up of all the raw vegetables in season. The salad may befollowed by a hot course, if desired, and fresh home-made cottage cheese.
Bedtime Snack : A glass of fresh milk.
Flesh foods find no place in this regimen, for they increase the toxaemic condition underlying thediabetic state and reduce the sugar tolerance. On the other hand, a non-stimulating vegetariandiet, especially one made up of raw foods, promotes and increases sugar tolerance.
Celery, cucumbers, string beans, onion and garlic are especiallybeneficial. String bean pod teais an excellent natural substitute for insulin and highly beneficial in diabetes. The skin of thepods of green beans are extremely rich in silica and certain hormone substances which areclosely related to insulin. One cup of string bean tea is equal to one unit of insulin. Cucumberscontain a hormone needed by the cells of the pancreas for producing insulin. Onion and garlichave proved beneficial in reducing blood sugar in diabetes.
Recent scientific investigations have established that bitter gourd (karela) is highly beneficial inthe treatment of diabetes. It contains an insulin-like principle, known as plant-insulin which hasbeen found effective in lowering the blood and urine sugar levels. It should, therefore, beincluded liberally in the diet of the diabetic. For better results, the diabetic should take the juiceof about 4 or 5 fruits every morning on an empty stomach. The seeds of bitter gourd can beadded to food in a powdered form. Diabetics can also use bitter gourd in the form of decoctionby boiling the pieces in water or in the form of dry powder.
Another effective home remedy is jambul fruit known as jamun in the vernacular. It is regarded intraditional medicine as a specific against diabetes because of its effect on the pancreas. Thefruits as such, the seeds and fruit juice are all useful in the treatment of this disease. The seedscontain a glucoside ‘jamboline’ which is believed to have power to check the pathologicalconversion of starch into sugar in cases of increased production of glucose. They should bedried and powdered. This powder should be taken mixed in milk , curd or water.
The patient should avoid tea, coffee and cocoa because of their adverse influence on thedigestive tract. Other foods which should be avoided are white bread, white flour products, sugartinned fruits, sweets, chocolates, pastries, pies, puddings, refined cereals and alcoholic drinks.
The most important nutrient in the treatment of diabetes is manganese which is vital in theproduction of natural insulin. It is found in citrus fruits, in the outer covering of nuts, grains and inthe green leaves of edible plants. Other nutrients of special value are zinc, B complex vitaminsand poly-unsaturated fatty acids.
Exercise is also an important factor in the treatment of diabetes. Light games, jogging andswimming are recommended. Yogic asanas such as bhujangasana, shalabhasana,dhanurasana, paschimottanasana, sarvangasna, halasana, ardha-matsyendrasana andshavasana, yogic krisyas like jalneti and kunajl and pranayamas such as kapalbhati,anuloma-viloma and ujjai are highly beneficial.
Hydrotherapy and colonic irrigations form a very important part of treatment. The colon shouldbe thoroughly cleansed every second day or so, until the bowel discharge assumes normalcharacteristics. Bathing in cold water greatly increases the circulation and enhances the capacityof the muscles to utilise sugar.
The diabetic patient should eliminate minor worries from his daily life. He must endeavor to bemore easy-going and should not get unduly worked up by the stress and strain of life.