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How does hydrotherapy help in diabetes?

How does hydrotherapy help in diabetes?

Water therapy is believed to help diabetics by controlling their blood sugar levels. How far is this true?
Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K

We reach out for a glass of water when we are thirsty or tired. It happens so spontaneously that we don’t realize how much we drink till our thirst is quenched. But for diabetics, experts say there’s a method to drinking water that can affect their health and well-being. Hydrotherapy is all about monitoring your water intake so you can enjoy its benefits.

Hydrotherapy for diabetes

Japanese hydrotherapy or drinking-water therapy is an ancient practice of drinking lukewarm or water at room temperature as soon as you wake up. It is believed to flush out all the toxins in the body and aids in digestion of food. Drinking plenty of water can prevent fatigue and improve your body’s physical performance.

We drink water in varied forms according to our taste. We add natural flavours and ingredients to enhance the taste, to make it more palatable or for health reasons such as weight loss.

According to the findings of a study on Japanese water therapy — conducted by the department of nutrition and dietetics, Manav Rachna International Institute of Research and Studies, Faridabad, Haryana, India — consumption of water with cinnamon was found to help in the reduction of weight, waist-hip ratio and body mass index within eight weeks. On the other hand, plain water therapy had a moderate effect on reducing body composition in the same duration of time.

An ancient practice with benefits

In Ayurveda, hydrotherapy treatment for diabetes is practised according to certain times of the day.

“Our individual body constitution is determined by three natural elements (doshas) — kapha (water and earth), pitta (fire) and vata (air or wind),” says Dr Samarth Rao, ayurveda practitioner, Amruth Ayurvedic Centre, Bengaluru. “These elements are also influenced by the food we eat, its effect on our body functions and our activities at different time (kaala) of the day between sunrise and sunset. Kapha kaala is from 6pm to 10pm, pitta kaala from 10pm to 2am and vata kaala from 2am to 6am and so on.

“Ayurveda says vata kaala is when the wind element (vata dosha) is predominant in our body. This is the best time for water to circulate and hydrate all the organs in our body. It is usually the time when our body is undergoing peristaltic movement or the digestive process. Drinking water at this time before sunrise can aid this process, preparing our body for the day ahead. The ancient ashtanjali (‘eight’ – joining palms) method prescribed involves cupping your palms together, filling it with water and drinking each cupful eight times slowly. However, it also depends on how much water you can take in according to your capacity and body constitution.”

Vinaya Harite, a Chennai-based homemaker who is in her fifties, says she became diabetic when she reached menopause. “When a friend recommended I try hydrotherapy, it piqued my interest,” she says. “I never fail to drink water before I turn in for the night and the first thing in the morning before I brush my teeth. I’ve been doing this regularly for more than two years now. I guess it has helped me because my sugar level is under control and so is my blood pressure. I don’t have any restrictions on eating fruits either.”

Another method of drinking warm water (ushnodaka), especially at mealtimes, has been proven to be beneficial to diabetics.

“In this method, water is boiled and condensed to one-fourth the quantity,” explains Dr Rao. “It is then cooled till it is lukewarm or at normal room temperature. This type of water is called ‘ushnodaka’ and has magical properties. It improves digestion and cleanses the throat. Since drinking water can naturally dilute and flush out the blood glucose in the body, it’s beneficial for diabetics,” he adds.

Drinking warm water at night has been found to relieve constipation too.

Hydrotherapy and diabetes

There has been much discussion and debate on the scientific effects of hydrotherapy on diabetes and whether it indeed helps diabetics stay healthy.

Dr Praveen Gangadhara, consultant, Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre, Bengaluru, says that in his studies and reading on hydrotherapy and diabetes he has not found substantial credible evidence proving the connection between the two. “While there could be direct or indirect effects of hydrotherapy on diabetics, I personally have not come across any patient who has shared their experiences with me,” he says.

Mumbai-based consultant diabetologist Dr Ami Sanghvi says water is especially useful for hydration in a diabetic patient since it has no calories or fat. “According to the American Diabetic Association, unless otherwise specified by your personal physician, the daily water intake requirement for diabetics is the same as that of a healthy person,” she says. “The Institute of Medicine, Washington, US, suggests that men drink about 13 cups or 3 litres of liquid a day; women should drink about nine cups or 2.2 litres. This amount includes water and other beverages.”

Dr Sanghvi also raises the red flag on the water requirements that can change in certain diabetics. “If the blood sugar is going high, you may feel very thirsty and dehydrated, causing you to drink more water. However, if you suffer from a heart or kidney ailment, you may be asked to restrict your fluid intake by your doctor. People with diabetes are advised to have fluids every two to three hours and a little at a time,” she says, adding that the best way to know the specific amount of water you should drink is to consult your doctor.

Until more studies and clinical trials are conducted on the benefits of hydrotherapy in diabetes, and sure-fire evidence and data are shared, it’s safer for diabetics to consult their doctor before embarking on any new therapy or diet.

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