Ayurveda is not a solution to T1D
The memories of being in ICU are really very hard to get over; I remember mine as if it happened yesterday. I had no sense of what was happening around me. Every part of my body felt extreme pain as I tried to move while answering the doctor's questions. My family had to rush me to the ER in the wee hours as I was unconscious and almost stopped breathing. As I slowly opened my eyes, I saw my family standing besides me, teary eyed. I was already in trauma and was given the news that changed my life - I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
As I regained my senses and my BG and other parameters were brought under control, I was shifted to the recovery ward. The doctor then explained what happened to me in the last 4 days - DKA, T1D and a lot of medical jargon, certainly not easy to understand when you are just brought out of the ICU. Type 1 Diabetes kept echoing in my brain as I really didn't know that 20-something adults like me could have it and that it needs more attention than Type 2 Diabetes which is more common.
The doctors asked if I ever did a blood glucose test or felt unusual lately. Those questions took me a year back when a random blood glucose test done at work showed an alarming ~250 mg/dL reading. At that time, I was consulting an Ayurvedic doctor to get rid of my acidity related problems as most Ayurvedic treatments claim to find the root cause of any illness and eradicate it. Initially, I was skeptical about following her bizarre instructions and consuming the bitter powders with honey and milk, tablets, medicated ghee, and syrups with the pungent odor which made me vomit. But hey, no pain - no gain! I religiously followed every instruction and started noticing a difference after a quarter. She literally became my new God as she did something extraordinary that the allopathic medicine could not do to me to get better.
I called my doctor in much distress after receiving my BG report of the test done at work and asked for an urgent appointment. She assured me that it was impossible to have such high BG on her watch. She expressed the possibility of my sample being misplaced with someone else's and asked me to take typical fasting, postprandial and HbA1c tests at another lab where she normally sends her patients. To our disappointment, my latest HbA1c showed 6.2% which was a clear indicator of at least pre-diabetic stage. I was so freaked out - I didn't want to take tablets for the rest of my life. I didn't even like to eat sweets that much. (that was me - living with misconceptions about diabetes!) I was so desperate to do absolutely anything to get rid of that number and become a 'non-diabetic' again and that's when she trapped me! She promised to reverse my diabetes and started charging me roughly about INR 8000 a month. She knew I was a software professional working at an MNC and had previously expressed that a trainee software engineer like me must be earning more than a doctor like her with 15+ years of experience. Urgh! I still regret how my well educated brain did not even think of seeking a second opinion of a registered diabetologist.
For a few more months, I patiently continued with her medication as I thought Ayurvedic treatment takes time to show positive effects. Meanwhile, I was focused on improving my overall health. I was already eating self-cooked simple Indian meals every day on time. I was practicing Yoga and Pranayama to relieve stress in general. I was preparing for a full marathon. I used to follow such a healthy lifestyle that girls my age would envy me. I was confident that if at all I have diabetes, it would be reversed as I was at my physical best. Little did I know that I was risking my life by consuming Ayurvedic medicines for diabetes! All I needed at that time was INSULIN because the beta cells that produce insulin in the body were destroyed in an unknown autoimmune destruction in my body causing the high BG in the first place. The more days passed by, the more beta cells in my pancreas died.
After 4 months, I took the standard fasting, postprandial and HbA1c tests hoping for a miraculous diabetes reversal. Guess what, my HbA1c was elevated from 6.2% to 6.9%! My face turned pale as I looked at my report; my doctor was still in denial. She explained her reasons, and I fell for them, yet again! She convinced me how pharmaceutical companies decrease the parameters these days in order to increase their sales. She also told me that there was an imbalance in my hormones as I was exerting a lot more than I should, and added a few tablets which costed me a few hundreds more. I was so naive to believe her lies that I did not even think of consulting with an endocrinologist/diabetologist to interpret the reports.
I still gave her treatment the benefit of doubt and continued for a couple of months. Her medicines did not show any charm this time. I could see my hard earned money being wasted for no good reason. I suspected that she might be deceiving me when she could not explain the ingredients and their (cheap) prices used in her medicines. Thus, I expressed my wish to discontinue her treatment. She was clearly upset to lose a potential lifelong patient like me. (A tip: ask questions to doctors because you are the one at the risk of your health and money.)
Interesting to mention that after leaving her treatment, I did a cycling expedition to Leh with no insulin therapy or any other medication (scary enough, huh?). I did notice some weight loss post my expedition. I also noticed that I was taking more bathroom breaks than I would normally take; very classic symptoms of diabetes. But hey, we were taught to keep ourselves hydrated enough during that expedition. So I convinced myself about my tiny bladder. And who wouldn't lose some weight after such kind of an adventure? Alas, ignorance is not bliss, sometimes!
It literally felt like the lull before the storm when my honeymoon period with T1D was about to finish.
My body tried its best to sustain with a little bit of in-house insulin that my beta cells were producing until it finally gave up after Diwali that year. That Diwali, I ate sweets like I never had them before. My parents wondered since when had I started loving sweets as I wasn't a fan. I would often crave for sweets during my periods; thus, I explained my newly found sweet tooth. And it was Diwali, peeps! Not eating sweets in Diwali is a crime!
The change of seasons after Diwali gave me a viral infection which normally doesn't bother after one round of antibiotics but this time, it got worse. It wouldn't show any improvement even after taking strong antibiotics prescribed by a general physician in my society. He suspected that I might have dengue fever, but the test showed negative. I continued to show severe symptoms of DKA but the physician said it's just dehydration and exhaustion and asked my family to keep me hydrated with glucose water. (Just wow! No wonder the glucometer showed HI when I was was rushed to the emergency room the next morning.) I was unconscious during this whole time and put on life support and IV Insulin Infusion after being admitted.
My birthday was just around the corner, and never in my dreams had I imagined celebrating in hospital! My time was up, yet my body didn't want to give up. I was re-born on my birthday, quite literally! Isn't it something worth celebrating after going through this much? The doctors in the ICU were compassionate enough to let my family visit me beyond the visiting hours. However, the most memorable moment during my stay at the hospital was when the nurses from the recovery ward noticed my birthdate on my discharge summary and gave me a birthday card. Such little acts of kindness do make a huge difference, isn't it! :)
As I introspect, I go back to the time when I was consulting the Ayurvedic doctor. I don't deny that I wasn't equally ignorant. But I trusted my Ayurvedic doctor (more than I should have) and she stabbed me in the back. Never once did she ask me to consult a diabetologist. Who would want to lose a goose that laid golden eggs? Money is important in everyone's life, and I understand that doctors cannot run their lives just on goodwill from their patients. But what about the lives of the patients, their families, and their hard earned money?
Post diagnosis, I slowly accepted pricking myself more than ten times a day to check my BG and inject insulin as my new normal. I had to bear a significant monetary loss along with emotional suffering. I was trying to make peace with it but could not just let go of the feeling of betrayal. 6 months post diagnosis, I texted the Ayurvedic doctor and she replied. I sent her all of my reports and the discharge summary along with a long text explaining what had happened to me. She did not have the guts to reply, acknowledge her mistake and at least apologize. Is a simple sorry really that expensive? It is indeed a shame that she still calls herself as a messenger of Dhanvantari, the Hindu God of Ayurveda; she was in fact, a messenger of Yama, the Hindu God of Death for me.
In this era of the Internet, the word ‘diabetes’ has become the most commonly Googled disease as it has affected almost every family in the world. Even though abundant information about it is easily available on the internet, it is most unlikely that every mentioned theory/remedy applies to us as T1Ds. There is a lot of research yet to be done to find a cure for diabetes. An eternal flame called as The Flame of Hope was kindled by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on July 7, 1989, that honors Sir Frederick Banting's discovery of insulin, as well as all those who have been affected by diabetes. It serves as a reminder that even though the discovery of creating human insulin in labs helps to control diabetes, it does not cure it. Ultimately, it stands for the hope that a cure will soon be found. It will only be extinguished when a cure for diabetes is developed.
Having learned my lessons the hard way has definitely made me a stronger person; but I do not wish others to go through the same ordeal in order to become strong. It boils my blood when I see fake doctors, dietitians, and nutritionists around the world claiming to cure T1D while The Flame of Hope is still burning withstanding wind, rain, and snow. These con artists only intend to take away money from patients and trap them into false treatments that are not scientifically proven to cure or reverse diabetes. People living with diabetes are eagerly waiting for the day when The Flame of Hope is finally extinguished.
This is the time for us to take strong actions against such scams that are luring diabetics into money snatching schemes. They give examples of our forefathers who relied only on Ayurvedic medicines to treat themselves, and live happily for more than a hundred years. There was no replacement for insulin then and there is no replacement till today. While we try to find the perfect balance between having a peaceful life like our forefathers and living in the digital age in order to improve the quality of our lives, believing myths of curing T1D with no solid and scientific proof will only put us in danger.
Think a dozen times before blindly following. Instead of wasting your time, energy, and money, encourage your children to pursue research to find a real cure for diabetes or do it yourself! If you cannot do these things, at least do not spread any false information on social media. You have a chance to save the life of a stranger who could fall prey to diabetes reversal scams; do not lose that chance.