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Octogenarian keeps diabetes at bay with Naturopathy

Octogenarian keeps diabetes at bay with Naturopathy

Idukki-based KR Janardhanan cites his example to say type 2 diabetes can be managed at any age with a healthy lifestyle and diet
82-year-old KR Janardhanan from Kerala explains how he managed to reverse type 2 diabetes through a Naturopathy based diet and lifestyle
KR Janardhanan

KR Janardhanan, a service pensioner who resides in Kerala’s Idukki district, is still going strong at the age of 82. Neither diabetes nor old age has affected him in any way. He was prescribed medication after being identified as having type 2 diabetes four years ago, but he stopped taking it six months ago as his blood sugar levels have returned to normal. Thanks to his simple yet active lifestyle and consistent food practices based on Naturopathy, he managed to defeat diabetes. Janardhanan is an example of the unsung heroes who have managed to prevail over the global health menace of type 2 diabetes and achieve remission through sheer grit and a regimented, disciplined lifestyle.


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Active social life

What probably helped Janardhanan was not a high-quality life but consistency in maintaining a minimum quality despite his busy schedule. He strongly feels that his long-standing, reliable pattern of living has kept him in control of his body and health despite maintaining an active social life. 

Born in Kottayam in 1940, Janardhanan joined a state government project to eradicate malaria in the late 1950s. He worked all over Kerala after joining the education department. He was not only a government employee during this time, but also an active social worker involved in social movements.

Switching to naturopathy

He says there were no particular health reasons that suddenly made him concerned about his health; rather, when he turned 50, he started following a strict diet modelled on naturopathy. “Except the occasional migraine and tonsillitis, I never had any significant health problems,” he says. “But the change was significant once I made some dietary changes and strictly followed them.”

He stopped eating eggs, meats, fish and dairy products as well as tea and coffee. This regimen also gave him an inner sense of being at ease with his body. “This were significant — a reason enough to continue what I had started,” he says.

“I can remember losing weight as a major accomplishment after I started doing this actively from the mid-1990s. I used to occasionally drink and smoke until my thirties. However, I never ate too much. Detoxication emerged as a key process in the new naturopathy diet, which is more preventive — unlike allopathy, which is largely curative. Diet was also meant to clean up the body through many means, including fasting,” he says, referring to the years in his fifties when he adhered to a strict naturopathy diet.

During this time, he strictly followed a diet of raw as well as partially cooked vegetables for breakfast, a little rice and more vegetables and fruits for lunch, and one or two chapathis for dinner. He also used to consume herbs like punarnava (hogweed) and Indian bael as directed by a naturopathy doctor he used to consult.

“There was also a time in between when I used to substitute lunch with a combination of a few coconut pieces, jaggery and banana, besides whatever half-cooked or raw vegetables (like carrot) I could get. The fibre-rich food was the main focus,” says Janardhanan, who also recalled a support system for naturopathy followers that was gaining momentum in the 1990s. “There were plenty of articles about naturopathy and similar diets in newspapers. There were many little magazines, including one called Prakruti.”

After giving up coffee and tea, he switched to drinking a coriander tea recipe, often sweetening it with jaggery. “Sugar was nowhere in the picture [for me] from the 1990s,” he says. He has now been doing this for the past 20 years and more. And he would suggest it as “a viable alternative for those who are addicted to regular tea or coffee”. He also completely gave up processed and packaged food items, but occasionally relished homemade savouries and sweets, especially vermicelli payasam or kheer (a popular milk-based delicacy in Kerala).

Janardhanan’s life became much busier after he retired from service as a gazetted officer in 1996 and became involved in many socio-political projects and activities, including Janakeeya Aasoothranam (People’s Plan Campaign), a well-known decentralisation project of the Kerala government (1996-2001) in which he worked as a resource person for his district. The partially voluntary work involved travelling across Idukki, a hilly, forest region in the Western Ghats. He says the 20 years following his retirement were the most active and busy of his life.

Diabetes at 78

Despite following a healthy life, diabetes mounted a sneak attack on him later on in life — at the age of 78 following a prostate surgery in 2018, a year after he was first diagnosed with prostate complications.

“The medication that I was given during the surgery and hospitalisation had probably triggered it,” he says. “I was diagnosed with diabetes before I got discharged from the hospital.” He was prescribed medication and had to take it for the next three years.

It’s possible that the only thing his doctor could fault Janardhanan for is his water consumption, given that he travels across Kerala using public transportation or walks several kilometres every day in his village. His blood sugar levels started to hover around 200 all the time. 

Tackling diabetes

Despite the diabetes diagnosis, he continued with his earlier diet plan after completing the course of prostate medications. He did not cut back on his daily activities and continued to push on with his earlier naturopathic diet. Since Janardhanan lived in a rural area even during the pandemic, except during the bouts of total lockdown, he continued to move around and remain active in his immediate social circles.

The only minor addition was that he also stopped taking jaggery in his usual coriander tea mix. “Other than stopping jaggery, there was nothing much to do,” he says. “Food items with sugar were totally stopped, including some homemade snacks, and a morning walk was added to the routine.” His favourite vermicelli kheer also figured among the blacklisted food items.

Janardhanan started to strictly monitor his blood sugar levels — using a glucometer at home on a weekly basis, at the lab once every month and consulting with the doctor once in two months. During his prostate-medication period, he had high postprandial blood sugar (after food) readings that used to fluctuate between 180 and 200 mg/dL (above 140mg/dL is considered diabetic). In early 2022, he was asked to discontinue diabetes medication after his sugar levels consistently came down to lower than 110 mg/DL.

“I was told to stop taking my diabetes medication about six months ago because my blood sugar levels had normalised,” he says.

Asked about his diabetes-management strategy, Janardhanan says lifestyle practice matters a lot. He suggests staying away from caffeine and foods high in fat, oil and sugar, and consuming more fibre-rich vegetables. “And drink lots of water,” he says. “The diet and my active social life are keeping me going.”

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