By Shivanthie Mendis
At age 38, I was recently diagnosed with Type 2 (T2) diabetes. I thought this was inevitable as I had gestational diabetes during both of my pregnancies – but managed to avoid insulin and remained diet controlled. My father had developed T2 diabetes at the same age and his mother in her early 30’s. I had been diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome in my early 20’s which also increases the risk for diabetes. Given the history – I was actually a little relieved to finally have the diagnosis when I took the Fasting Glucose Tolerance Test back in November. Prior to that, I was always on the pre-diabetic/ insulin resistance subgroup. After diagnosis my GP gave me the standard first line of treatment – Metformin and routine advice about diet and exercise. I thought with Metformin, I was on the mend as it should help to reduce the weight as research stated and I would regain some energy to become a healthier me.
Unfortunately, two months past and my weight started to increase even though I was eating the same foods but making the effort to go to the gym 3-4 times a week. Initially, I thought it must be muscle weight but I was not feeling any better. In fact, I felt exhausted and one night I felt very desperate as I felt there was something seriously wrong with me. I was 71kg – a weight I had never been and with a height of 5’2” – I was heading to the ‘obese’ end of the BMI. I had been a stable (over weight) 67-68kg for the past 7 years, without any success in shifting it. I understood that Metformin may take several more months to have a beneficial effect, but that night I felt real panic that I had lost control of my body and could not stand it any longer. All night, I searched the internet for weight loss programs and looked at over 20 detox programmes offered throughout Australia, Indonesia, India and Thailand. All the while wondering how my husband would cope with our 6 and 3 year old sons on his own while I went to magically ‘cure’ my body with a juice or fasting detox. I was willing to spend anything, go anywhere to regain my health – some health! After falling asleep past 3am – I woke up and went to work the next morning. During my lunch break I looked for a cure again on the internet. Like a God send, a detox program offered through an ayurvedic clinic only 5minute drive from my work came up on my search. The receptionist that answered my phone call was so informative and helpful that I decided to leave work early that day to attend the clinic before it closed its doors.
Ayurveda was not alien to me as I am originally from Sri Lanka and it is a system of medicine and healing used there. However, Western medicines had become the first choice for many people and they resorted to ayurveda when these medicines had failed to cure the last stages of some form of cancer. By that point, ayurveda was also not in a position to heal, therefore it was gaining a reputation as an ineffective and outdated treatment option.
When I met with Dr Pradeep Neupane at Vibrant Ayurveda in West End, Brisbane late January, I was practically on my knees begging for help. I explained how tired I felt, my recent T2 diabetes diagnosis, how my weight was out of control even with regular gym sessions and Metformin. I explained the constant sluggishness, heaviness and the feeling of a cloud over my head that was preventing me from thinking clearly. I work as a senior audiologist at the leading paediatric hospital and I perform my job well. However, by the time I get home, I have no energy for my children and felt like I was running at 30% capacity. I explained that no matter how long I slept for, I always woke up tired and groggy and my feet were stiff and my back hurt and had constant bloating. A recent CT scan I had for back pain had noted indications of arthritis. These were not illnesses that I thought would start to cripple me at the age of 38!
My list of ailments was many, yet Dr Pradeep listened carefully and pointed out that I also had swollen ankles which I was surprised to see. He then asked me about my usual diet. I was very proud to list my healthy green Nutibullet smoothie I had each morning. It contained raw kale, frozen blueberries, cucumber, almonds, chia seeds, whey protein and coconut water. He unfortunately did not look as pleased as I had expected. This was my ‘good deed’ for my body I had been doing most days for years. Even though the rest of the day would be less healthy with a sandwich, a small nachos or rice and curries…not to mention my sugar-tooth always finding its way to a biscuit or a piece of cake around 2-3pm – I had blessed my body with the super-food micronutrient smoothie in the morning. Amen!
From his analysis of my tongue, eyes and pulse, he advised that my pancreas and liver function was not optimal. Dr Pradeep went on to explain that my ‘good deed smoothie’ was not right for me. He explained that currently my digestive system was so weak that I was not able to derive nourishment from the raw foods I was eating, causing me to feel tired. I argued that the Nutribullet was able to breakdown the raw food into minute particles, enabling easy absorption. He disagreed and stated the size of the particle was not the issue but the form the food was in. He explained that when the digestive ‘fire’ is poor, cooked food made it easy for the body to absorb and use for energy. He went on to explain that the undigested food can remain in the system, causing toxicity and symptoms like weight gain, bloating and water retention.
He advised me to undertake a two week ‘Panchakarma’ / Detoxification treatment offered at the clinic. I did not need to take time off work but needed to attend the clinic for approximately 2 hours on 9 of the days for massages and steams (and several enemas…mmmm)! The price was much more reasonable than those I had contemplated about the night before in Bali, Sydney and Byron Bay. The tough part for me was that the detox involved vegetarian food for the duration of the two weeks. Light porridge for breakfast, lentils-rice-veges for lunch and dinner. By this point in my desperate search for better health, if he had told me that I could only eat Brussels sprouts for two weeks, I would have agreed.
I went home armed with a tongue scraper, sesame oil and some herbs which he asked me to start taking and written information about what was ahead. I admit the herbs were not pleasant in taste and the GP given Metformin was a pill to take in comparison! But I was determined to get better health and to complete this treatment properly. I also started to drink warm / hot water and detox teas. I was advised to rest as much as possible during the detox and avoid any unnecessary activities (so I gladly put my gym membership on hold). I understood it was a time to rest my body and digestion in order to heal it. I decided to stop taking Metformin but monitored my blood sugar closely even though Dr Pradeep had said it was fine to take. I ate the vegetarian diet and avoided dairy. I never felt starved as I was eating 3 meals a day but much smaller quantities than what I would normally. After about 4 days into the detox, I realised that I never experienced sugar lows and I never got the light headedness or the shaky hands if a meal was delayed. My husband informed me that I was no longer snoring when sleeping on my back. After a week, I was pleasantly surprised to see a 6kg drop. The heavy cloud that had been over my head had began to lift. I did not have my energy back but I am not quite sure if I remember what it’s like to have energy to get through the day. I felt weak yet clear headed and sharp. I knew there was a change in me. My Dad had to travel to Darwin for work for 5 days and was surprised at how well I looked when he returned. It was a real treat to get ready for work and put on clothes and not have that feeling of being ‘stuffed’ into them and clinging everywhere. My skin was clear and I could touch my face and feel my cheek bones. The change I was seeing motivated me to keep going and the massage treatments were pure bliss. The therapists were very professional and had a good understanding of the detox process and principles of ayurveda.
During the detox, I began to read a lot about ayurveda and what foods were going to help me long term and what would unbalance me. I started to understand about different body types (vata, pitta and kapaha) and realised I was a poster girl for a Kaphadosa body type and how unbalanced I had become. The different foods that are appropriate for the different body types became clear. My husband had the same smoothie as I in the morning but had strong digestive power and never suffered from weight gain no matter what or how much he ate. During my learning, I listened to many Youtube lectures and talks on ayurveda and about ayudrvedic cooking. I was arming myself with the knowledge to empower myself to regain my health.
Ayurveda is a system of medicine and healing that has been practiced in many countries surrounding India for over 5,000 years. Even though it is steeped in history it is relevant to us today. Yoga and ayurveda go hand-in-hand, yet somewhere along the way when yoga made its journey to the West – it let go of sister ayurveda’s hand and rose to stardom on her own. Who doesn’t take a yoga class these days and no one disputes the health benefits of yoga. It is when yoga is combined with ayurveda that the full system of mental and physical healing can be practiced and achieved.
Weighing 63kg, I no longer feel groggy when waking up in the morning and no stiff feet, heaviness or bloating. Rapid weight loss was not the focus of this detox but I feel it is my body’s response for allowing rest, healing and being treated with respect. I am now in my final days of the Panchakarma detoxification and although the massages have been a treat, the enemas have been more of an embarrassment rather than a real discomfort…I look forward to what is ahead. Before the detox, my fasting blood sugar levels were close to 7mmol/L (on Metformin) and now it is 4.9mmol/L (without Metformin). I believe that I have reversed my T2 diabetes completely. I understand that I cannot continue to eat this mono-diet for much longer but if I go back to my old eating habits, my detox will be in vein. Armed with my newfound knowledge about ayurveda and about ME…I know I am on a path to better health. I am finally starting to feel like the person I am meant to be.
I am not writing this article for any recognition or achievement but in hope that it may open the eyes of someone else who is struggling with diabetes, weight loss or other health condition and to think twice before committing to the easy to swallow pill – but search for the root of the health issue and find healing. There are ayurveda clinics all over Australia and I hope you will find a path to better health in these clinics. There is much information on the internet and books at local libraries to help you gain some understanding of ayurveda and how it may help you. I can sum up ayurveda quite simply from a very early conversation I had with Mahesh, one of the massage therapists at the clinic. I asked him – “Is there some herbs the doctor can give me to get rid of my sugar carvings?” He simply replied“No – but he will find out why you get those cravings and treat that.” (The writer’s views expressed are personal).