Taking an Alternative Approach

I was raised somewhere between the Eastern and Western worlds. No, not physically. I’m talking about philosophically. My dad is a family dentist and forensic odontologist and is a firm believer in Western medicine. More than that, my dad’s approach to the world involves logic, science, and reason. Things are true because of rigorous testing, scientific proof, but still with a healthy amount of skepticism. For him, there is a logical and scientific answer to most happenings in the world.

My dad’s view of the world contrasts that of my mom’s. My mom takes a more spiritual approach to life. She practices and teaches yoga and meditates twice a day. She believes in karma, chakras and energy flows, and the power of the universe. While my mom does not reject Western medicine, she takes a more holistic approach to the body, following many of the teachings of Ayurvedic medicine. When my dad says to take an ibuprofin, my mom suggests natural herbs and foods or yoga positions.

I feel fortunate to have been exposed to and raised within this dichotomy of viewpoints and beliefs. It has led me to be open and accepting of alternative medicines and approaches to wellbeing. I accept that there isn’t always a logical explanation for everything, sometimes you have to suspend your disbelief, to not think in black and white terms. However, I still retain some skepticism, and an appreciation for Western medicine and all the advancements it has brought.

While accepting of the benefits of Eastern medicine, I have traditionally viewed my diabetes in strictly Western medical terms. My pancreas doesn’t work, therefore I give insulin to convert the sugar in my body into energy. I thought it was ridiculous when I would read that acupuncture or certain herbs could lower blood sugar or “cure” type 1 diabetes, there is no cure. However, I’ve recently started questioning how I can believe that alternative medicines can be helpful or beneficial in some contexts, but not in others. While I do not think that these alternative medicines are a valid cure for diabetes, I am becoming more open to the idea that certain herbs may play a role in how the body absorbs and responds to glucose. I have therefore decided to see if there is some value in the Ayurvedic approach to diabetes management.

Without going too much into it, in Ayurvedic philosophy, the five elements (earth, air, fire, water and space/ether) combine in pairs to form three forces or interactions called “doshas”. The doshas are constantly moving in dynamic balance, one with the others. Every living thing in nature is characterized by dosha. Basically illness or disease happens then when the doshas become out of balance in a person. There are three active doshas:

  • Vata (air and ether)
  • Pitta (fire and water)
  • Kapha (water and earth). 

In a book called, “The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies” by Vasant Lad, I found this explanation of diabetes:

“Diabetes is a metabolic kapha type of disorder in which diminished functioning of agni (digestive fire) leads to a tendency toward high blood sugar.”

The description of remedies included diet modification, cleansing programs, and the ingestion of various different herbs, many which I have never heard of. After consulting my mom, we decided that taking Turmeric capsules would be the best method to try since it was said to lower blood sugar and increase glucose metabolism (among having a plethora of other beneficial properties).

So that’s what I’ve started to do, in addition to insulin therapy of course. I have to admit, I am still skeptical. It seems a little far fetched that this plant will be able to help stabilize my blood sugar, but I’m giving it a try and trying to be open to the beneficial possibilities, if not for my diabetes, for the many other benefits Turmeric is said to provide. I will keep you updated on what I find.

Has anyone else had success with alternative medicine or Ayurveda?

Here are a few links:

USDA Benefits of Compound in Turmeric Spice Studied
http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2009/090521.htm

National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine- NIH
http://nccam.nih.gov/health/turmeric/ataglance.htm

California College of Ayurveda
http://www.ayurvedacollege.com/articles/students/turmeric

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