Diabetes can cause a number of health issues and complications, but you can use bitter Gourd or karela to manage blood sugar level, naturally.
A disease is a particular abnormal condition, a disorder of structure or function in the living organism that affects part or the entire organism. As far as science and medicine is concerned there are several deadly diseases, one of them being Diabetes. At 16.7%, India had the highest share of the world’s diabetics in 2015 after China (26%). It is a chronic disease that has no cure. But there are few remedies that can be used to manage diabetes and bitter gourd or karela is one such ingredient. And that’s what we are going to discuss in this post – how to use karela or bitter gourd for diabetes.
With proper medicines and disciplined lifestyle, a diabetic person can live a life of a normal human being. So, if you are diabetic and wondering about how to manage your blood sugar level naturally, then do not get disheartened. Because a little bit of change in your diet and lifestyle habits can help you manage blood sugar level much effectively. Karela or bitter gourd can be used like a natural remedy for diabetes.
Today in this post, we are going to discuss about how to use karela or bitter gourd for diabetes management. For the sake of clarity, I have divided this post into two halves. In the first half, we’ll give you the details of Diabetes and in the second half we’ll learn about how “Karela” or Bitter Gourd can be used in managing diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus is the medical term derived from the Greek word “diabetes” meaning “siphon” and the Latin word “mellitus” which means “sweet”. The “sweet” part is due to the fact that it leads to excessive sugar in the urine making it sweeter, which is how the ancient people used to detect the disease.
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that is characterized by high blood sugar and either insufficient or ineffective insulin. In other words, your body becomes resistant to insulin making it unable to use the insulin it produces which further lead to the dangerous build-up of glucose in blood.
This excess glucose can lead to the diabetic symptoms like nerve pain and kidney damage. In serious cases, diabetes can lead to renal failure, coma or even death. In addition, diabetic patients are at a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases like strokes or heart attacks.
Types of Diabetes
There are various types of diabetes like:
- Type I Diabetes
- Type II Diabetes
- Gestational Diabetes
Type I Diabetes
Type I Diabetes is also known as “Juvenile Onset Diabetes” or “Insulin Dependant Diabetes”. It is caused by damage to the pancreas, which contains beta cells, which makes insulin. The deficiency of insulin occurs due to the decline in the number of beta cells. In most people with Type I diabetes, the immune system makes a mistake, attacking the beta cells and causing them to die. Without the beta cells, the body cannot produce insulin. Glucose then builds up in the blood and causes diabetes.
The warning signs of type I diabetes:
- Frequent urination
- Unusual thirst
- Extreme hunger
- Unusual weight loss
- Extreme fatigue
- Trouble seeing
- Going into a coma
Type II Diabetes
Type II diabetes is also known as “Adult Onset Diabetes” or “Non Insulin Dependant Diabetes”. It is the most common diabetes with around 90% falling into this category. With Type II diabetes, glucose builds up in the blood – not because not enough insulin is present, but probably because cells lose their insulin receptors and become less sensitive to insulin. Type II diabetes usually (though not always) occurs in individuals who are over 40 years of age and who are overweight.
The warning signs of type II diabetes
- Any of the Type I symptoms
- Frequent infections
- Blurred vision
- Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
- Tingling/numbness in the hands or feet
- Recurring skin, gum or bladder infections
- Sometimes individuals are said to have no symptoms
This is diabetes, which is triggered by pregnancy generally in the middle or late pregnancy. Having gestational diabetes does, however, put mothers at risk for developing type II diabetes later in life. Risks to the baby include abnormal weight gain before birth, breathing problems at birth, and higher obesity and diabetes risk later in life. Risks to the mother include needing a cesarean section due to an overly large baby, as well as damage to heart, kidney, nerves, and eye.
The warning signs of gestational diabetes
- Blurred vision
- Excessive thirst and urination
- Nausea and vomiting not associated with normal pregnancy
- Weight loss
- Increased rate of infections, particularly in the urinary tract (bladder), vagina, and skin
Remedies for diabetes
- Controlling blood sugar (glucose) levels is the major goal of diabetes treatment, in order to prevent complications of the disease.
- Type 1 diabetes is managed with insulin as well as dietary changes and exercise.
- Type 2 diabetes may be managed with non-insulin medications, insulin, weight reduction, or dietary changes.
- The eating habits should include fruits, vegetables, whole wheat, brown rice, steel-cut oatmeal, beans and lentils
The ultimate goal of managing diabetes is to control the blood sugar level and Karela or the bitter gourd can help you do this naturally. That brings us to the second and the most important part of the post which is how to use bitter gourd to manage diabetes.
What is “Karela” or Bitter Gourd?
The Bitter Gourd also known as bitter melon or “Karela” (in India) resembles a cucumber but with ugly gourd-like bumps all over it. It is the edible part of the plant “Momordica Charantia”, which is a vine of the “Cucurbitaceae” family and is considered the most bitter among all fruits and vegetables.
There are two varieties of this vegetable –one that grows about 20 cm long is oblong and pale in color and the other around less than 10 cm long, oval and darker green in color.
It thrives in hot and humid climate that is tropical and subtropical climate and thus common in Asian countries, South America, parts of Africa and the Caribbean.
Often people find it difficult to consume due to its bitterness. However, try it, at least for its healthful virtues.
What are the nutritional benefits of Bitter Gourd?
The vegetable is low in calories but rich in various nutrients. It is dense with vitamins like B1, B2 and B3, C, magnesium, folate, zinc, phosphorous, manganese, and high dietary fibre. “Karela” also contains iron, almost double the beta-carotene of broccoli, double the calcium of spinach and double the potassium of a banana. Bitter melon contains a unique phyto-constituent that is said to have a hypoglycemic effect called charantin. There is another compound Polypeptide P similar to insulin that has been often suggested by doctors as insulin replacement in some diabetic patients.
The vegetable is said to cure various blood disorders, cholera, gout, asthma, piles, psoriasis, respiratory disorders, Toxemia and eye problems. It also kills the cancer cells, boost our energy level and strengthen our immune system.
Despite all these health benefits, there is in particular one disease where “Karela” benefits maximum and that is the deadly disease Diabetes Mellitus.
Bitter gourd for diabetes – the perfect remedy
Besides being a food ingredient, “Karela” has often been used as an herbal remedy for treatment of Diabetes mainly the Type II Diabetes that is mostly common. As already said, there are three active compounds that are charantin, vicine and Polypeptide P which are said to have anti-diabetic effect. Bitter gourd help in lowering sugar levels in blood and urine. Bitter gourd juice is even more effective and has been shown to significantly improve glucose tolerance without increasing blood insulin levels. The lectin present in glucose acts on the peripheral tissues, suppressing appetite and henceforth reducing the blood sugar concentrations.
In 2007, a research published in the “Journal of Clinical Epidemiology” could not show any benefits of Bitter Gourd on Diabetics but another article published two years later in the “British Journal of Nutrition” stated that more research and tests must be conducted before concluding the vegetable’s effectiveness on Diabetes. However, it did not completely rubbish its possibility.
In January 2011, the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology” published an article that focused on an experimental study conducted for around a month. The results showed, when the Type II Diabetic patients were given 2,000mg of Bitter Gourd daily, their blood glucose had actually reduced although the hypoglycemic effect was less than a 1,000-mg/day dose of metformin.
How to use bitter gourd for diabetes?
Bitter gourd is very effective in managing diabetes and hence it should be included in your daily diet. You may like to cook it or make juice, use it the way you like it. But for best results, you should use it as a juice, in early morning.
Here are a few important tricks on how to use bitter gourd for diabetes management.
- Choose fresh unripe gourds, as ripe ones are too bitter.
- Store them in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days, as keeping them in room temperature will speed up the ripening process making them bitterer.
- Clean them in cold running and wash with a clean vegetable brush. Slice the vegetables and take out the seeds. Before juicing or cooking, you can soak them in salt water to lessen the bitter flavor.
- The smaller variety is bitterer than the larger one. You can add carrot or apple juice and a teaspoon of honey if you want. However, for the diabetic patients it is also advisable to drink “Karela” juice along with green apple juice.
Here’s how to make fresh bitter gourd juice
If you are a diabetic patient, then Bitter Gourd Juice is necessary item that must be included in your daily diet chart. Drink the juice early in the morning for best results. Make sure you take fresh gourds. Drink the juice in empty stomach and if you are overweight, remember it helps in metabolism of fat as well. Many fail to drink it due to the bitter taste. However, a bitter drink is always better than ill health? Right?
Note down the simple steps to make the juice
- Take bitter gourd and few lemons. You can use a bit of turmeric to make it more effective
- Take the gourd and peel the top skin. If you are Ok with that, then you can keep it
- Cut the gourd into fine pieces.
- You may like to add salt after rubbing it with turmeric. Then wait for a while and then extract the juices from it. This step is to reduce bitterness and is optional
- When the water completely gets strained, put the pieces into mixer and crush properly
- Sieve it if you want. You can also add lemon juice to add taste and have that tangy flavor.
How to make bitter gourd tea?
Besides having Bitter Gourd Juice, you can also prepare Bitter Gourd Tea.
Here are the simple steps;
- Wash the bitter gourd or leaves and then chop them to get around 6-8 tablespoons
- Boil around 0.5L of pure drinking water in a stainless steel pot, and add the dried bitter gourd/leaves. You can use 2 cups of chopped pieces of gourds in same amount of water as well. Multiply the amount if making more
- Simmer it around 10 minutes at low to medium heat with the lid on
- Turn off fire, remove pot from stove and wait for about 10 minutes
- Strain the leaves and pour tea into a vacuum flask
- Sip it warm throughout the day
Over to you
Diabetes can be disastrous if not prevented and controlled early. Diabetes is also called as a slow poison because it creates several complications. And hence it is important that those who are diabetic take proper precaution and manage it early on; whether you are taking medicines, changing lifestyle or using remedies, that totally up to you. But in my opinion, it’s better to tweak lifestyle and use natural remedies than taking pills and insulin supplement.
You must have heard the popular proverb saying, “When there is a will, there is a way”. Therefore, if you love yourself follow the healthy lifestyle habits and I am sure you can fight diabetes easily.
What else do you think one can do to manage diabetes naturally?
Eliana the chief editor at bodyandbeans is a professional yoga instructor and a fitness freak. She has done her master’s in history from Kolkata University. She is passionate about healthy eating and living practices.