Where to Ordain with Blood Sugar Issues

Hello,

This is mostly for the monastics, but if anyone has any information it would be appreciated. I feel that it makes sense for me to ordain. However, I do have a slight issue that I need to find out how to overcome. If I don’t eat 3 meals a day, my blood sugar drops too low and I get light headed. Does anyone know of any monasteries that allow provisions for people to ordain if this is an honest issue?

I don’t care for food. I am slim and have never had much of an appetite or desire for food. I eat so survive, not for pleasure. I know that the Theravada monasteries, as far as I am aware, require only 1 meal. I stayed at Nanachat and I had a hard time. I made it to Anigarika. Before I went forth in this first step, I was able to eat slowly and fill my bowl so I had sufficient calories to store for the day. My metabolism is super super fast which I believe is why I get light headed and have a hard time thinking if I don’t eat enough.

Any help would be appreciated. I see such benefit I could give by ordaining and dedicating my life to realizing what the Buddha taught and furthering study of the dhamma so I could teach others in a meaningful way.

Thank you for reading.

:pray:

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Oh, the issue at Nanachat was that I was told by my trainer Bhikkhu that I had to be done eating before the Abbot was done no matter what and should be done well before that.

Before this, I was able to eat enough to survive as I could eat slowly and sufficiently.

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In Burma they have 2 meals before noon. I’m not sure if that changes anything for you. I am not ordained, and am trying to, within the framework of my physical situation (I am disabled, so its complex) to observe the 8 precepts. I have some glucose issues as well. I eat twice a day (took months to adjust) and overall it has been helpful in my practice and life in general.

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Shouldn’t you sort out the diabetes with medicines before embarking on ordination? I think if you tell your GP or doctor that diet control is not possible and to help you get it under control first, they should take the necessary steps.

with metta

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I know at the nuns monasteries I have visited in Australia they are willing to make allowances for health, but mainly with including things like hard cheese. I’ve also noticed that our Sri Lankan bhikkhu friends have all sorts of ‘evening allowables’ outside of the usual lollies, dark chocolate, ghee and non-dairy milks we take at ‘tea-time’.

I believe that most of the Western monasteries have breakfast and although it’s spoken about as ‘simple’ I’m yet to find such a thing. There are all sorts of things available to cater for different people’s health needs. Monasteries in SE Asia probably aren’t so flexible.

With or without health issues it’s a good idea to travel around and visit before ordaining. It seems the people who go with the intention of being lay-stewards also get a bit more leeway in terms of the foods allowable at ‘tea-time’

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That’s absurd. Your trainer bhikkhu was heartless and wrong. When I was at Nanachat, an anagarika with eating issues, after struggling to get by, was given permission by Ajahn Sumedho, who was visiting at the time, to eat fruit outside the meal time. Sometimes in their rush to enforce enlightenment on everyone young monks forget about the whole “be kind to people” thing.

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Amitabha, the following link may not be helpful, but I noticed from your bio that you are in Canada, and I thought of Ajahn Sona. I have never met Ajahn Sona, but he does seem from his talks and practice to be a thoughtful and interesting person, and he might be able to offer you some guidance within Canada. When I was a samanera in Fang, Chiang Mai, Thailand, the wat had a canteen (open at 5 am) where one could, after 430 am chanting and meditation, get a quick small bowl of rice gruel with an egg on top before the morning pindabaht, and then there was the substantial midday meal. One of the resident dorms had some cheese at times, and when we’d meet there in the evening to study (the library was there) and there’d be instant coffee and cheese in the small fridge that the lay residents used, if one needed it at night. Many times I did, and other times I did not, but I know that feeling of 8 pm mild dizzy hypoglycemia when the day’s intake of calories didn’t quite match up with the day’s teaching/sweeping/study activities.

Here’s the Birken link with North American monasteries: http://birken.ca/becoming_a_monastic Perhaps visits to some of these might be helpful to you on your quest. Perhaps your fellow Canadian Ajahn Sona ( or Ajahn Passano, a lovely abbot in northern California whom I have met) might be of good counsel to you.

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@amimettalove

Hi , r u insulin dependent or non dependent ? I.e. Type 1 or 2 ?
The ideal level reading is empty stomach at 6 , after meals 2 hours is 7.5 to keep your health at moderate situation to prevent body from deteriorates further .
Fyi , Cinnamon powder is a kind of blood sugar controller and good for stomach . 1 teaspoon mix with warm water twice a day .

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Is this your own experience?
I have just sprinkle of cinnamon with my porridge and tea or late.

Yes , I took cinnamon almost every day . It also help to alleviate if you have rheumatic problem .
Bitter gourd is a blood sugar controller , it is considered a kind of insulin substitute (p-insulin) . It has anti-diabetic properties, including charantin, which has been confirmed to have a blood glucose-lowering effect, vicine and an insulin-like compound known as polypeptide-p. These substances either work individually or together to help reduce blood sugar levels.
Another one is garlic . Garlic is known to increase the amount of insulin released and regulates blood sugar levels .
Not only these things maintaining your blood sugar levels but good for your heart as well .
However , exercises is very important if you want to maintain long-term health .

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I think this is hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) not diabetes. Isn’t there glucose tablets that you can swallow, I think it is categorized as medicine not food, especially for low blood sugar.

hi amimetta,

When I lived in Thailand on one meal a day for seven years, it never really dawned on me that taking a different approach with regards to food can help alleviate the mental/physical duress of going against the stream. And as there is an ‘ācariya-vāda’ system in most modern thera-vāda monasteries you unfortunately have to live at the whims of an abbot? Who as you maybe experienced doesn’t necessarily always have much metta-bhāvanā. So the options to explore are either ordaining and then living alone, in which case you have more conventional freedom to experiment with what works, or trying to find a monastery that fits your needs enough that you feel the holy life is working…, hope it works out for you, don’t giveup

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I think it would be a sensible to not hand out or accept medical advice on a forum dedicated to EBTs. Even if you have the best of intentions. People’s personal circumstances vary and advice, though well meaning, could cause more harm than good.

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I suppose ‘if there is a will, there is a way’… if that doesn’t sound too harsh. I’m sure there is a way around this problem- it will be a good experience when it comes to dealing with defilements- not to give up but keep looking at different ways of overcoming them.

It is about determination (viriya) and wisdom (panna).

with metta

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I’m currently at Bhavana Society in West Virginia where Bhante Gunaratana is abbott and they allow people to eat after noon if they have a valid medical reason. (And you should come because they need residents and who doesn’t love wood-stoves in winter time :blush:).

Also, CC-ing @Bhikkhu_Jayasara on this just in case I’m wrong. :sweat_smile: :grimacing:

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Hello everyone, I don’t have much to add to this one other then, as Bhante Sujato has stated, people do make allowances.

as Brenna knows, which is why I think she tagged me, I too have some issues related to low blood pressure and/or sugar,( I haven’t quite nailed it down as it’s complicated and multi-faceted and related to my weight loss surgery) in that if I am not getting what I need nutritionally I am prone to passing out, and have done so on 3-4 occasions since coming to the monastery, once in the shower and once over my desk, not pleasant experiences.

After one such session that was witnessed by some of the residents it scared everyone enough that I can have a vegan protein shake or some crackers etc.

The problem comes, at least for me, in that I have food issues in general, so it can sometimes become an issue between want and need, I have emotional eating and food coping mechanisms that can easily take advantage of a valid issue.

one thing I have found though, is that even with my smaller then normal stomach, for the most part two meals a day is plenty for me, if I limit my physical activity and be very mindful of getting the right amount of nutrition, like protein etc.

I have heard of places that make you rush your eating, I’ve never heard of this finishing before the Abbot thing though, to me both sound like bad practices, eating so fast, especially for developing mindfulness and helping your digestion.

Don’t take the experience and rules from one place though and expect it to be the same elsewhere, monasteries can be very different in how they are run, even in the same tradition. You can find a place that fits you best.

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Food is a medicine for the body.
If you have to take some food because of your illness it will not break your precepts.
What Buddha’s concern is about food abuse the same way the drug abuse by some people.

Thanks for sharing this Bhante. I deal with some similar issues and its valuable to hear how you have addressed it :slight_smile:

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Bhante, if your blood pressure is low and you are prone to passing out, you may have a similar issue that I deal with, being low aldosterone. This condition is ameliorated by taking salt. With low aldosterone, the adrenals don’t produce enough of this hormone, which controls the potassium/sodium balance in the body. So, when aldosterone is low, the body excretes too much sodium in the urine with water and this causes postural hypotension. If you get dizzy when standing, it is a good chance your aldosterone is low. I went to a specialist a number of years ago and he said the only thing you can do is increase your salt intake. Dissolving salt in water is a good idea because it makes the water absorb more easily where as adding salt to food can cause dehydration.

I don’t know if this will help you, but it might be worth dissolving some salt in your water and see if this changes anything for you.

I also want to thank you for taking the time to respond about this. I am serious about ordaining and I just want to find a place where it would be feasible. If I could not eat at all, I truly would, but the body needs what it needs. I know many many monastics have no problems with 1 meal a day and I hope I can get my body to adapt to this somehow or be fortunate enough to be allowed provisions to avoid negative health consequences while pursuing liberation for the benefit of myself and so I can share wisdom with others for their benefit.

:pray:

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While many conditions are out of your control due to being a monastic, there are a numbers of things that you can control—of which a combination of many of them might result in positive changes (or rather, mitigating). I’m not aware of your knowledge of nutrition and physiology, but these would be helpful:

  1. Learn about nutrition/what you eat, particularly everything that has to do with glycemic index and glycemic load. Understand what foods are available to you, and which ones are problematic, and which are less so—honey, jasmine rice (which has a GI of 110) versus basmati rice (GI of 60), watermelon being a very high-GI fruit, etc.—and study them thoroughly.
  2. Understand your condition (particular to you). Ask doctors during checkups, read medical journals, study university textbooks, etc.
  3. Understanding the human body, its organs, its systems, its hormones (insulin especially)—and how these relate to your diet, activity levels and how you physically feel.
  4. Eat healthy; avoid junk food, soda, fruit juices, sweets, processed sugar, etc.
  5. Understand the concept of attempting to mitigate blood crashes and spikes. What partially mitigates these are fiber, fat and protein (know you fats). Eating something of high-GI, when eaten with ample fiber, protein and fat is not the same as eating a piece of cake on an empty stomach, at all.
  6. Know you body well and listen to it.
  7. Exercise.
  8. Progressively and realistically adapt the body to your diet (once the other changes are in place).
  9. Get your health in a solid state while you are not ordained.
  10. Look into supplementation to counter diabetes, particularly with magnesium, before being ordained, and during if you have someone to provide you with supplements.

Read this post and this post.

Here is a good glycemic index/load chart:
Table of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load.pdf (334.3 KB)

Do note that all or most of these might or might not be enough, depending on your diet as a monastic, your current health and your condition. I’m also not a doctor, so any information previously mentioned should be consulted with your doctor beforehand, of which any negative results due to having not done so or due to incorrect application would be your responsibility.

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