Diabetes has been rising at an alarming rate in India, thanks to our unhealthy lifestyle. Diabetes or diabetes mellitus can be described as a group of metabolic diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels either due to inadequate insulin production or due to the inability of the body’s cells to respond properly to insulin, or both.
There are generally three types of diabetes. Type I diabetes is caused where the body does not produce insulin and hence, is referred to as juvenile diabetes or early onset diabetes. Type II diabetes refers to a condition where either the body does not produce enough insulin for proper function or the cells in the body do not react to the insulin produced. Gestational diabetes occurs in women during pregnancy when they have high levels of glucose in their blood but their bodies are unable to produce enough insulin to transport all the glucose into their cells. This further leads to progressively rising levels of glucose. In India, type 2 diabetes is more common than other forms.
It is indeed sad that diabetes can affect anyone, even a baby. Treatments like insulin injections and dialysis are a painful experience. The diabetics not only have to give up eating sweets but also restrict the consumption of several other food items. Bitter gourd or bitter melon is a vegetable that is hated by most of us because of its bitter taste and ugly appearance. But it is indeed a boon for diabetics.
This vegetable is renowned for its numerous health benefits; especially it’s potential to lower blood glucose levels. It was widely used in traditional medicine to treat diabetes and now, it is commercially available in the form of tea, juice, extracts and pills. Though there is lack of proven data regarding its ability in the treatment of diabetes and research is still underway in this respect, consuming bitter gourd or its juice may help in diabetes due to the following reasons.
Benefits of Bitter Gourd for Diabetes
1. Lowers Blood Glucose Levels:
As stated earlier, bitter gourd has been found to be effective in lowering blood glucose levels. Instead of targeting one particular organ or tissue like medicinal drugs, bitter gourd facilitates glucose metabolism in the entire body. This can be attributed to the presence of two essential compounds called charatin and momordicin which play a key role in lowering blood sugar levels.
2. Facilitates Carbohydrate Digestion:
Bitter gourd inhibits the enzymes that are involved in breaking down the disaccharides to two monosaccharides, thereby reducing the amount of glucose released into the blood. Bitter gourd is effective in the treatment of both Type I and Type II diabetes as it influences the transport channels for glucose. This is particularly beneficial in preventing the spikes in blood sugar levels after meals.
3. Increases Insulin Secretion:
Insulin is involved in transporting sugar from the blood to the skeletal muscle and fat tissue. This sugar is then used for energy production. Insulin prevents the production of sugar by the liver and its release into the blood. Type I diabetes, also known as insulin dependent diabetes, is caused by the failure of the pancreas to produce enough insulin for prevention of spikes in blood sugar levels. By increasing pancreatic insulin secretion, bitter gourd can help in treating type I diabetes. Besides, scientists have discovered an insulin-like molecule called polypeptide P in bitter gourd which can lower blood sugar levels in type I diabetics. Hence, consumption of bitter gourd can reduce the requirement of insulin injections to manage type I diabetes.
4. Reverses Insulin Resistance:
Bitter gourd has been found to be effective in the treatment of Type II diabetes. As stated earlier, it is caused due to the failure of the skeletal muscles, fat tissues and liver to respond adequately to insulin. This is called insulin resistance which increases the risk of developing type II diabetes. Research has shown that bitter gourd contains compounds called oleanolic acid glycosides which can improve glucose tolerance in Type II diabetics, by preventing or reversing insulin resistance.
5. Antioxidant Properties:
Thus, high sugar concentrations in the blood increases the risk of both Type I and Type II diabetes which further increases the risk of oxidation and inflammation in the whole body, leading to blindness, diabetic feet, stroke, heart attack or kidney disease. Bitter gourd can prevent all these ailments not only by lowering blood sugar levels but also through its antioxidant properties.
How to Take Bitter Gourd for Diabetes?
Drinking a glass of bitter gourd juice in the morning on an empty stomach can greatly help in lowering blood glucose levels. To reduce its bitterness, you can soak the peeled bitter gourd pieces in water with salt or turmeric for 15 minutes. Then remove the pieces from water and grind them with water along with a few drops of lemon. Sieve the fibrous part and drink on an empty stomach. For the added benefit of boosting your immune system, you can try adding half a piece of amla or Indian gooseberry to the juice.
Hence, if you really want to keep diabetes at bay, set aside the taste of bitter gourd and make it a part of your diet to sweeten your health! I can say that bitter gourd is good for diabetes! Will you agree to this? Feel free to share your feedback!