Dr. Kashinath Dixit
From Central Manchester University Hospitals, UK
Lifestyle modification in the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus – Are ancient Indian methods relevant even today ?
Type 2 diabetes mellitus which is the most common form of diabetes, which is a chronic progressive condition resulting from impaired secretion and action of the hormone insulin. The risk factors for the development of diabetes include a complex interaction between genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. It starts with an initial phase of pre-diabetes which then progresses to early diabetes and ultimately ends up with complete failure of insulin secretion. In recent years, there has been a tsunami of diabetes in India which is continuing to worsen with rapidly reducing age of onset. The very apparent factors responsible for this are stress, sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits, mainly due to adoption of western lifestyle by our people especially the youth.
We now know that in diabetics there are at least eight defects in various organs of the body including brain, which causes abnormal increase in blood glucose levels. There are modern medicines available to target each of these defects but we do not have a single medicine which corrects all the defects. Diabetes, therefore, is thought to be an incurable condition.
Several years ago in a landmark scientific research, Diabetes Prevention Programme (DPP), it was shown that diabetes can be prevented with strict diet and regular exercise more effectively than by taking medicine. In recent years, various scientific studies have shown that strict lifestyle modification can even reverse diabetes, the success of which varies on the duration of diabetes with recent onset having maximum benefit. However, lifestyle modification is important in the management of diabetes at all stages. Western world has recognized the dangers of high fat fast food, sedentary lifestyle and stress. In several well conducted research studies, scientists have shown that plant based whole food diet, regular aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises, stress reduction through various meditation techniques, ensuring high quality sleep, smoking cessation and alcohol de-addiction are all effective in controlling and even reversing diabetes and its complications.
‘Yogashchittavritti nirodah’ which is the fundamental principle of yoga is mainly aimed at calming the mind. Yama and Niyama lays the most important foundation for this. Asanas which are interspersed with co-ordinated breathing is aimed uniquely not just to achieve calm mind but also to provide a combined aerobic, muscle strengthening and flexibility exercises. All the other limbs of Ashtanga yoga from Pranayama till Samadhi aim at achieving deep relaxation. Lifestyle principles of Yoga and Ayurveda also have other excellent principles of diet and sleep. There are also behavior modification principles for de-addiction. A well structured, scientifically proven lifestyle modification programme based on the principles of yoga and non pharmacological aspects of Ayurveda will be of immense use to the mankind in addressing the epidemic of diabetes.
“Stay Positive, Stay healthy”
‘Complementing Tradition with Science’