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A letter from a diabetic to fellow diabetics
Rathin Datta FRCS (England, Edinburgh & Glasgow).FFIMS (Athens)
A letter from a diabetic to fellow diabetics
PHOTO : Cycle of items cause Diabetes

My Diabetes Mellitus (DM) was detected when my age was 70yrs. Trigger point was when I was mentally devastated, my wife died of cancer within a short period of 5 months. She had the most ferocious of all cancers GIST (gastrointestinal stromal tumour) and had four major surgeries in four months before death took over.

Devastated, physically I was no better. My weight in May, 2002 was 72 kg and in December it showed 48 kg i.e. a drop of 22 kg seven months later. My pulmonologist friend used to joke and comment that the branded shirt that my daughter bought me in USA, when worn looked like being hung on a hanger. So a check-up to find out what was wrong  was on -- 82 tests followed  and at the end my physician  friend declared that every test was within normal limits but I was a Type II  Diabetes patient.

Deabetes Mellitus patient and that too, a pretty bad one. Blood sugar level as recorded was fasting 200mg, PP was 450mg.
The precipitating cause was intense strain - both physical and mental - during the previous months. The predisposing factor was known – my maternal granddad died from Diabetic Gangrene, my maternal grandma died from Diabetic Coma and my mother died from Diabetic Coma as well. DM is very much a familial disease.
Tablets were prescribed, strict diet restrictions were imposed and enough physical exercising was advised. Nothing much happened. Weight loss climbed another 2 kg.

My children took over.

Both live in the USA. I saw an Endocrinologist cum Diabetologist in California. His advice was marvelous. (He said he knew that I was a decorated Surgeon).    Look Doc!   God has sent us to this world, He has also sent plenty of food for us to eat and survive. But eat judiciously. Say you need 2000 calories per day - being an intellectual person who does not do any hard labour, you should eat so much that at the end of the day only 2000 calories is produced in your body and burnt. Maintain a proportion of 60:20:20 of carb:protein:fat.

Eat everything that is eatable and you can tolerate - only honour the QUANTITY and the CALORIE value as in the chart. Eat enough vegetables to fill you, enough fruits and nuts, only see that there is enough fibre and the three colours i.e. green, red & yellow are represented. Eat enough veg. and fruits - this will look after your need of vitamins and antioxidants.

Just avoid the following:-

1. Processed food,

2. Foods with high glycaemic values i.e. refined cereals like maida, white bread/pasta/foods cooked with high trans-fat i.e. nimki, singara (samosas) which are fried in vanaspati/margarine

3. Alcohol  in excess.

His assistant gave me a chart where the calorie value of every food item was listed. This sounds formidable but when my daughter-in-law and daughter sat and discussed, they thought   it was not at all difficult. How?
It is a known fact that middle class Bengali menu of Sukta, Dal, Panch miseli tarkari/labra, macher jhol, chatni and the takdai beautifully cover the requirements. Nothing special is necessary; only control the  quantity of bhat/roti. The first few days weigh the rice/atta as per the chart. It may be mentioned that brown rice and wheat are equally good (wheat only contains a little more protein).

Sweets! Why not?--but take out the calorie it contains from other stuff while you have your next meal. Do your normal exercises, do not overdo it and stop thinking that you are a diabetic. Only precaution - check your blood sugar regularly, avoid going into Hypo or Hyper glycaemia, keep  blood sugar  level steady, keep the record meticulously. The PROF was very specific -- give Diabetes Mellitus the due respect, it will respect you. After the initial shock was over, hesitant start ended, going was easy.

I have been following the Professor's advice and have regained my lost weight; normoglycaemic status i.e. normal controlled blood sugar level and have maintained it without any fuss for all these years. I had other illnesses, injuries, Pneumonias (with my damaged lung following a Jeep accident in 1991) during the following 12 years but DM never bothered.

I never   knew Bengalis are born Diabetologists. As soon as I told some body or someone knew I had high blood sugar, advises flew in "bhat chharun, ruti khan or matir nicher sabji khaben na, raate ruti khan,  toilakta  machch  khaben naa, dimer kusumta fele diye khali sada bhagta  khaben etc. i.e. do not eat rice, take roti at night, do not eat veg grown underground, do not  consume fatty fish, egg is a no no - if you want to  have, take only the white, throw away the egg yellow.  What to do against this barrage of advices? I pulled out the knowledge that was imbibed in me while I trained in Dietetics & Nutrition at Pune in the late eighties (Maharashtra Institute of Science and Technology),  also consulted several experts in Nutrition of the country. The opinions expressed are suitable for treating as Trash.

I attended Ruby General Hospital as a Consultant Surgeon. My adjacent cabin had Dr. S D , a very competent  endocrinologist  & Diabetologist. When he saw my prescription he asked for a printout  since he fully agreed with the Professor.  So I was surprised when I heard (our clinics were separated by a half wooden wall  only) him telling his patient that  he should continue what his house physician had advised i.e. no bhat at night, no oily fish, no underground veg etc.  His reply to my query was simple - Look Dada, Calcutta is inhabited by very learned people. They think they know all about Diabetes. If I tell him that he can  eat everything including rice, oily fish, underground veg etc (within 2000 calories/day) I lose a patient and a consultation fee. Hazards of private practice !!!

Diabetes mellitus is a killer, crippling disease if untreated or badly treated, but nothing to be afraid of if you are under a good and sensible Diabetologist.

DM is not a new disease, it has been there for ages. The Egyptians recorded in 1500 BC  i.e. 3500 years back, our own Susruta in 500 BC recorded Madhumeha, meaning sweet urine  which attracted  ants, he also did not forget that Medaroga i.e. obesity as the risk factor. It has been a long journey to 1921 years after Christ that Drs. Banting and Best invented Insulin, now widely used for treating Diabetes.

Diabetes is increasing worldwide particularly in developing world i.e.China (93 million people with Diabetes) and of course in India (63 million patient). It is feared that by 2030  the number will touch 100 million). WHO has  declared the 14th of November as the World Diabetes Day -  the day marks the birthday of Dr. Frederick Banting who conceived the idea  with Dr. Charles Best, leading to the discovery/invention of Insulin.

My apology to the readers: this is a feeble effort to touch the tip of the Iceberg that Diabetes is, with hope that more competent Diabetologists would take over. I do not pretend to be an expert, have only recorded my feeling as a Diabetes afflicted patient.

At the end my message to fellow diabetics is very simple: "eat less, eat on time, eat right, walk more, sleep well & on time and smile.

Avoid tension and remain well & live long!!


Rathin Datta, FRCS (England, Edinburgh & Glasgow).FFIMS (Athens) 

Surgeon & Sports Medicine Specialist

Padmashree Awardee, winner of the Bangladesh liberation war honour 

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