Unbalanced blood sugar is a concern for modern medicine today and was a familiar subject to the Ayurvedic sages of the past. Unbalanced blood sugar can be the root cause of diabetes, hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia, and weight gain. If blood sugar dips too low, you may feel light-headed and irritable. This could indicate that your agni (digestive fire) is not working efficiently. High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can cause increased need to urinate, weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision and headaches. More dangerously, diabetes, if left unchecked, can increase the risk of heart attack, cause blindness, nervous system issues, and a series of other dangerous complications. While medication, insulin shots, and strict dietary restrictions are helpful and often necessary when trying to control blood sugar, Ayurveda may also offer some support or relief to the person.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, one way to support balanced blood sugar is to cleanse the blood, thereby reducing the amount of ama (toxins) found in the body. Herbs that increase circulation like ginger and cinnamon may be good to help flush excess or unstable sugar. These can easily be brewed into a tea by steeping a cinnamon stick and a slice of ginger in hot water. This tonic is also great in the morning to jumpstart your day. For a heavier dose of herbal support, try Banyan’s Blood Cleanse, which helps the GI tract eliminate efficiently and supports balanced sugar in the blood.
One of the best ways to reset cravings due to low blood sugar is through diet. For blood sugar imbalances caused by irregular eating, the consumption of cold foods, and mental destabilizers like worry and anxiety, try sitting down to three square meals day, at the same time every day, to ground the body. Consider warm, moist foods like kitchari to support vata. For pittas who often find themselves starving, it’s important to reserve the biggest daily meal for lunchtime when agni is at its highest. Pittas would do well to cook with coriander, a cool, blood cleansing spice, and make time for meditation to help support a schedule that isn’t only focused on accomplishing tasks, but also cultivates mindfulness. Kaphas can be at the highest risk for diabetes and more challenging blood sugar concerns. They do well to eat a diet rich in astringent and bitter foods; try lentil soup, cauliflower, pomegranate, green leafy vegetables, and beets. Exercise serves all doshas well, but kaphas in particular benefit from getting on the yoga mat or dusting off the bike in the garage. Exercise helps the body metabolize sugar more efficiently, and keeps weight down.
The Food and Drug Administration recommends adults cap added sugar intake at 12.5 teaspoons (50 grams) of sugar a day. These recommendations don’t take into account naturally occurring sugar like fructose in fruit, just sugar added to processed foods. Consider the sugar contents in a 20-ounce bottle of soda, which contains 65 grams of sugar—fifteen grams over the suggested daily recommendation. That’s only the sugar contents of one beverage! The World Health Organization doesn’t believe the FDA is going far enough. Their recommendations are half of the FDA’s—capping added sugar intake at 25 grams. Check labels for sneaky sugar contents. Commercial ketchup, for example, has four grams of sugar, but that’s only for one tablespoon. How many people only eat one tablespoon of ketchup on their roasted potatoes? In addition to limiting processed foods, check labels for sugar synonyms, like sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, and maltose.
If you are concerned about your blood sugar level, you need to seek your doctor’s advice. But supplementing a doctor’s regimen with Ayurvedic practices—or even employing these practices early on to prevent blood sugar issues—can help you take steps to live a sweet life, in balance.