By Samhitha Gomatam
It no longer shocks school children to see their peers injecting themselves with insulin every day to keep a check on sugar levels. According to a rather disturbing statistic, one in 10 children in India is prone to diabetes. India is already competing to beat US and China, where juvenile diabetes is concerned. What has baffled health professionals in India are the increasing incidences of Type 2 diabetes among children, something that would earlier exclusively occur after reaching 30 or with the onset of adulthood.
Here, we explore the causes of childhood diabetes and natural, holistic solutions to help manage the problem, and bring down insulin dependency.
What causes juvenile diabetes?
When our body digests food, carbohydrates are broken down to simple sugars such as glucose/ galactose/ fructose, which are absorbed into the body with the help of insulin. When the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, too much sugar/ glucose remains in the bloodstream, and causes diabetes.
There are several reasons why this might happen, shares Dr Vikas from Sri Sri Tattva Panchakarma. He says, “While Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, the onset of Type 2 diabetes most often happens in children due to severe stomach infections that may have damaged the pancreas, and are therefore unable to produce sufficient insulin. We’ve noticed that too much consumption of milk products and refined food like biscuits, etc has also lead to increasing instances of Type 2 diabetes among young children in the recent times. Wrong eating habits can really damage pancreatic function.”
In children, we usually see a heavy fluctuation of sugar levels, sometimes going up as high as several hundreds, or going as low as 50-60. These fluctuations can be highly damaging. High sugar levels also affect the eyes and kidneys.
Recognising the problem
While Type 1 diabetes in children can be symptomless, those with Type 2 exhibit these signs:
* Early symptoms are excessive thirst and passage of a great deal of urine, which may cause bed-wetting.
* Getting exhausted in a short span of time.
* Complaints of abdominal pain or vomiting.
* Losing weight and respiratory or other infections.
* Skin and tongue drying up quickly, and smelly breath and sweat.
* Becoming drowsy and going into a state of semi-consciousness.
Helping your child cope with it
The right combination of food, exercise and stress management techniques are at the core of managing this problem. Dr Nisha Manikantan, Director, Sri Sri Ayurveda and bestselling author of Ayurveda Simplified recommends the holistic Ayurvedic approach.
A common mistake that many make is to eat too many times in a day. Ayurveda recommends two meals in a day, at the most three, because eating several times causes the body to produce too much insulin and that causes insulin resistance. Everyone can’t stick to a two-time meal rule because that will vary according to the type of diabetes they have. That we must avoid food with sugar, and high glycemic index is a no-brainer. Older grains of rice can be included in the diet. Ayurveda allows all fruits and vegetables, in limited portions, and some fruits like berries and pomegranates are extremely good for diabetics. Bitter gourd and Indian blackberry are also really effective at controlling blood sugar levels. One apple a day is allowed. Having too many food restrictions can add to stress, where the idea to fight diabetes is to keep stress to a minimum.
Keep up with the body clock
The 2017 Nobel Prize in Medicine went to three scientists for their work on how the circadian rhythms (or the internal clocks) govern human life. Our inner clocks help our body adapt to the drastically different conditions outside and inside the body. Staying in tune with these clocks keeps our body healthy. Our traditional system of medicine has always recommended fixed meal times, and fixed hours of sleep in order to keep in tune with the body’s cycles. This is very important for a child, especially for those in the pre-diabetic stage.
Herbs to help you cope
Amla and turmeric are great herbs that not only increase immunity but also keep complications at bay. Medicines like Mehantaka Vati and Nisha Malaki are a combination of these two herbs and regularly prescribed. Amla is an effective trigger for insulin production.
Regular body detox
Because of the kind of lifestyle we happen to lead, toxins in the form of Ama can form in the body, which is the precursor to a host of diseases that could manifest in the body, including diabetes. Periodic detoxing of the body causes the body’s natural mechanism to fall into place. Panchakarma processes help in a thorough internal cleanse of the body. The result can be seen in the change in the level of energy of the child, the freshness and lightness they experience. Vasti, an ancient Ayurvedic technique can help regulate sugar levels in the body.
We like to move it!
Children should be outside, playing in the real world. They should have more playground time and less screen time. Yoga, Sudarshan Kriya, meditation and other forms of exercise are some of the most effective ways to manage stress, a major cause of diabetes.
Here are some asanas and pranayamas that can help your child:
* Yogic kriyas like Jal Neti and Kapalbhati
* Pranayamas such as Nadi Shodhana, Ujjayi and Chandra Bhedana
(Inputs from Dr Nisha Manikantan, senior Art of Living Ayurveda expert and author of Ayurveda Simplified.)