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This golden yellow greasy liquid sitting in a mason jar on your kitchen counter is a nutritional powerhouse for the 30.3 million diabetics living in the US. Not just used widely in alternative treatments for diabetes, ghee is great for your hair, skin, body, and digestion. The lubricating agent—discredited for myths such as it increases cholesterol—is a near perfect remedy for those with vitiated vata and pitta doshas, and is one of the most commonly used detoxifying agent in Ayurvedic cleanses. Here’s why Ayurveda experts glorify clarified butter as the elixir for life among all the oils.
From ketogenic to intermittent fasting to paleo, and high-intensity interval trainers to 8-minute abs to pilates, people take up various dietary and exercise regimes to maintain health and manage illnesses. But a disease like diabetes cannot be successfully managed by focusing on only one of the health components in isolation. The 5,000-year-old science of healing, Ayurveda, provides a holistic insight to what’s best for each individual based on his/her unique bodily constitution (prakruti), which is why Ayurveda is popular as a go-to for preventing and managing prediabetes and diabetes.
Doshas and Diabetes
Before we go any further in understanding the implications of clarified butter in managing diabetes according to Ayurvedic sciences, it helps to understand the concepts of doshas and prakruti.
According to Ayurveda, what you should and shouldn’t eat or practice for a balanced life depends on your prakruti. Life forms are known to be made up of the panchmahabhutas, or the five great elements—air, water, ether, space and fire. An individual’s prakruti is the ratio of three bio energies or doshas in the body—vata, pitta, and kapha—which are a combination of the five elements in nature. (Which Ayurveda type are you?) Commonly, any two of the three doshas are predominant in individuals since birth that constitute their personality traits, attitudes and physiological characteristics. Each of these doshas demonstrates specific traits.
- The vata dosha (or the space/air element) is responsible for all bodily movements.
- The pitta dosha, governed by the fire element, is responsible for digestion and metabolism.
- The Kapha Dosha (water and earth element) governs moisture and joint lubrication.
When the three doshas are in balance, you feel healthy, calm, energized, and aware. The doshas can become unbalanced due to poor lifestyle, exposure to triggers like pollution or stress, and unhealthy or wrong dietary patterns. Over time, these imbalances lead to production of toxins, or ama, in the body and eventually manifest as illness or disease. Ayurveda recommends pulse diagnosis (nadi pariksha) to help diagnose the doshas that dominate in your physiology. The Nadi expert can also point to the dosha imbalances and the types of illness you are predisposed to.
Ayurveda mentions diabetes being caused by both hereditary factors as well as accumulative causes—toxins and imbalance in each of the three doshas. For example, type 2 diabetes manifests in the later years of one’s life owing to factors like a carbohydrate-rich diet, lack of or excessive sleep, sedentary lifestyle, and poor cellular metabolism.
Benefits of Clarified Butter/Ghee
According to the Charaka Samhita, one of Ayurveda’s most reputed and ancient classical texts, clarified butter is recommended for
- Good eyesight
- Physical strength
- Diabetes caused by vitiated pitta and vata
- Longevity and nourishment
- Bright skin, tenderness, luster
- Ojas or life force
- Healing injuries
For these qualities and more, clarified butter is part of a sattvic diet—foods and eating habits that are “pure, essential, natural, vital, energy-containing, clean, conscious, true, honest, wise.”
You can buy high-quality clarified butter or ghee in select stores or you can make it at home. Ayurveda experts recommend using cow’s A2 milk for making clarified butter.
RECIPE: Homemade Ghee
- Collect the cream of the milk in a jar for about a week and refrigerate it. If you want the cream to be thicker, boil the milk and refrigerate it overnight. Collect the cream next morning. Over time, the water settles in the bottom while the cream is afloat.
- Pour the contents of the jar in a food processor and give it a churn on high speed for 2–5 minutes. The butter should come apart from the whey.
Transfer butter to a non-stick pan.
- Heat the pan on medium until the butter begins to melt and bubbles up.
- Reduce the heat and let it simmer. The milk solids will burn up a little.
- Strain the content in the pan into a jar.
Your home-made clarified ghee is ready for use!
Uses for Ghee
Diabetes affects the function of all the major internal organs including digestive metabolism. It affects the vagus nerve that controls how quickly you empty your bowels. When this function is impaired due to diabetes, the digestion is slower and undigested food stays longer in the body and turns into ama, or toxins.
- Aids digestion and helps in purging the body of toxins
- Lubricates the body and intestines, helping cure constipation which, if not treated, can create a host of diseases in the body.
- Keeps the digestive tract clean and healthy thus increasing the performance of glands including the pancreatic gland responsible for secretion of insulin.
- A crucial source of good cholesterol and one of the healthiest and safest sources of soluble fatty acid.
- High in butryic acid, short chain fatty acid, ghee helps in maintaining the health of the cells in the intestinal wall. The acid helps manage the wear and tear of the intestinal lining which protects from extreme heat and toxins carried through food or antibiotic medicines. It also protects the colon from ulcers and colitis.
Easy to absorb
Ghee is an excellent agent for absorbing fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K.
Fights skin problems
Believe it or not, diabetes affects the skin. Often, skin conditions like rashes, itching, red patches are an indicator that you must get yourself examined for diabetes if you are predisposed to it. Also, skin problems are linked to digestive system which is again directly affected by diabetes. Clarified butter is highly recommended in detoxifying diets in Ayurveda as it clears up toxins in the body while improving one’s digestion.
Rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Diabetes is closely linked to heart disease; it is a major contributor to heart disease morbidity, the leading cause of death in the US. Research suggests that the omega-3 fatty acids present in ghee are extremely beneficial to prevent coronary heart disease. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can also help reduce insulin resistance in diabetic patients.
Fights Oxidative Stress
Intake of a spoonful of ghee every day can reduce oxidative stress in type 2 diabetes patients as it is rich in antioxidants. Oxidative stress is the imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. It is linked to insulin resistance, diabetes, neuropathy, and other microvascular complications. Antioxidants in your diet help the body fight off rogue radicals that cause premature aging and hamper cellular metabolism.
Ideal for Massage/Panchakarma
Ayurveda also recommends Panchakarma treatment for diabetes using clarified ghee. Panchakarma—a full body treatment that addresses the doshic imbalances, detoxifies and rejuvenates the system. It includes a routine with yoga, meditation, oleation, herbal medication, herbal massages, and a diet to support the detoxification process—all tailored to every individual’s Doshic constitution, imbalances and needs. Undergoing Panchakarma periodically allows the body to detox and all the body’s internal mechanisms to fall into place.
Also, there are certain types of massages that use ghee to regulate cellular metabolism. A Shirodhara treatment helps dealing with stress. Ayurvedic texts recommend usage of ghee in various purgation processes for its cleansing properties. In one of the purgation processes, medicated ghee is administered in generous quantities. The greasy yet light liquid collects toxins from cellular level in the intestines as it passes through the organs and is purged out of the body.
Rich Source of Vitamins
A big downside to diabetes is that poor cellular metabolism and reduced insulin production can also affect the body’s ability to fight related illnesses like liver diseases and eye conditions. But diabetic symptoms are manageable with some changes in your lifestyle and diet. An important aspect of which is the inclusion of foods rich in nutrition and minerals to boost immunity and improve cellular metabolism. This is where ghee comes into the picture.
- Vitamin A, present in ghee, is important for eyes, hair, skin, and immune health.
- Vitamin K2, a vitamin found rarely in food but plays an essential role in blood clotting, heart health, and bone health, is present amply in clarified butter.
- Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that may help reduce free radical damage and slow the aging process of your cells.
The linolenic acid present in ghee is believed to reduce cardiovascular risk which is a prominent issue for diabetics.
Since diabetics need to take good care of all the grease they consume, diabetes experts now recommend the use of healthy fats like ghee for diabetic patients instead of using common cooking oils.