When it comes to managing type 2 diabetes, Bengaluru-based diabetologist Ashwitha Shruti Dass is a doctor who walks the talk. Diagnosed with gestational diabetes and later type 2 diabetes, Dr Dass understands the perils of errant blood glucose, both at a professional and personal level.
“I have tried and tested what works and what doesn’t when managing type 2 diabetes,” says the thirty-five-year-old doctor. She swears by an exercise routine and a controlled, well-thought-of diet to manage type 2 diabetes. “This has helped me control my sugar levels very well. There are no shortcuts,” she explains.
For Dass, her evening treadmill runs are sacrosanct. It’s her gadget-free, ‘me time’ to keep her weight and diabetes in check.
Dass’s husband, who is a dental specialist, is also a dedicated fitness enthusiast. “Being married to someone who is very particular about fitness also pushed and motivated me into following an exercise routine.”
When it came to her career, Dass realised her true calling early. She wanted to be a diabetologist long before she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. “Both my parents were diabetics but the most compelling reason was losing my father to diabetes-related complications, when I was in second year of college,” recalls Dr Dass.
Dass says she always knew that by pursuing diabetology she could help people with diabetes.
Today Dass is a doctor. She shuttles between the role of Health-Check Consultant (while she is preparing for her MRCP exams) at Manipal and offering online consultation to diabetics at Sugar.fit. She offers consultation to diabetics on managing their sugar levels by prescribing the required medication and insulin according to their condition.
Managing type 2 diabetes
The year 2016 was a turning point for Dass as she got selected for Manipal Fellowship after finishing her MD Pharmacology. While her most cherished dream came true, she also unexpectedly became pregnant with twins. A little apprehensive at the beginning, Dass decided to balance her fellowship at the endocrinology department and twin pregnancy at the same time.
Being the only resident at the endocrine department she often ended up running the whole show by herself. “It wasn’t a cake walk but I loved what I did so I managed it along with my pregnancy,” says Dass.
She was also gaining pregnancy weight. “When I was five months pregnant, people would ask if I was ready to deliver any day now,” she says with a chuckle.
Considering her family history of diabetes and PCOD, Dass always checked her sugar levels which she says were normal.
As she approached her 24th week of pregnancy, her gynecologist advised her to stop running in the corridors or taking the stairs. She thinks this may have triggered her sugar levels.
“I feel reduced activity is directly proportional to sugar going up,” explains Dass.
She was put on insulin. She checked her sugar levels six times a day along with managing the hospital and being pregnant.
By the 30th week she was advised to sit at home and not work. “As I was required to move even less at home, the sugar levels started surging even more,” says Dass.
She was now on 30 units of insulin, but she ensured her sugar didn’t shoot up further. “If sugar is not managed, it often results in delivering big babies,” she explains. Soon after delivery, her sugar levels came back to normal and Dass was off insulin or medication.
After delivery, while Dass’s hands became full with learning the ropes of motherhood, her own health and selfcare took a backseat. Six months later she started developing numbness in her hands. She thought it was because of holding her babies but when she checked her sugar levels, it had shot up to 456.
She was put on medication and insulin while the kids were on formula milk much to her mother’s disapproval.
Dass knew that the cause of this surge was due to ignoring her checkups and the 20 kg weight gain which needed to be dealt with. Due to weight gain she also developed a vertebral disk problem. She underwent surgery for that. In the same year she had to go for another surgery to remove her gallstones.
Running away from high sugar
After the surgeries, Dass started to focus on weight loss by running on the treadmill with a vengeance. “I started slowly and soon I was running at the speed of 9 or 10,” she explains.
Dass gave up on rice, sugar and maida (refined flour) but didn’t shy away from including two small dosas in her diet every day. The only fruit she ate was watermelon.
Another thing that worked for her was adopting intermittent fasting. Dass had her breakfast at 7:30 am and her next meal would be at 7:30 pm, after returning from hospital. She only had sugar free coffees in the hospital. Along with fasting Dass also started taking vitamin B and C supplements because she wanted to avoid vitamin deficiency.
“My HBA1C came down to 7 percent from 14 percent within a few months,” says Dass.
Dass also realised that during the evenings her sugar levels dropped (with HBA1c 5.4) and she felt giddy. “That was an indication that I didn’t need insulin anymore,” says the diabetologist. Next, she was advised to only take tablets which was also reduced to one tablet a day. It was a big win.
Today, Dass feels fitter and happier losing 20 kgs but still feels the need to tone up. “Apart from running on the treadmill, I feel the perfect exercise routine is clubbing both cardio plus weight training which I’m going to pursue,” she says. Usually, her cardio also includes running behind her two five-year-olds. “They keep me on my toes,” she jokes.