Ayurveda and immunity to stress
In treating stress through Ayurveda, we look at four areas:
Mental stress can be relieved by meditation.
Physiology is addressed by dietary changes that include avoiding stimulants and eating a balanced diet to suit the individual constitution and by incorporating Abhyanga (Ayurvedic herbal body massage) into the daily routine.
Behaviour modification involves adhering to a daily routine, with regular hours for work, sleep and meals and an organised lifestyle.
A suitable environment is created through music, aromatherapy and such other things to soothe and balance the individual’s constitution giving a cleaner and more restful living space.
Ayurveda is a great science with complete detail on all the areas of holistic living.
Ayurveda and panic attacks
Ayurveda considers anxiety as primarily due to aggravation of vata dosha in the nervous system. So, the primary treatment for panic attacks is to balance vata dosha. A full body massage and Shirodhara help to reduce onset of attacks.
Yoga and meditation are recommended for long term relief from panic attacks. Avoiding tamasik (fried, over spiced, over-cooked) foods and consuming brahmi (gotu cola) or chamomile tea regularly are also effective in treating panic attacks and cholesterol.
Panchakarma has been scientifically investigated in relation to cholesterol levels and studies have shown that panchakarma helps to significantly reduce cholesterol. VIP (vasoactive intestinal peptide), a neuropeptide that dilates the coronary arteries, rose by 80% three months after panchakarma. HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol rose 75% after three months in those subjects who had original values that were low.
Other studies have also shown that panchakarma does reduce lipid peroxide levels. During the week of panchakarma treatment, the blood level of lipid peroxide actually went up but in three months after the treatments, the levels were far lower than when the treatment began. If you sweep your room, dust will fly temporarily but soon the room is cleaner than before. Apparently, the ghee, sesame oil and other aspects of panchakarma had loosened the lipid peroxides from cell membranes and set them free, circulating in the blood. In the weeks after panchakarma, the body eliminated these circulating lipid peroxide molecules- and the rate at which new ones were being produced also apparently declined.
Ayurveda and cancer
There are hundreds of varieties of cancer. We do not as yet know the exact cause of many of the varieties of cancer and hence it is very difficult to verify a cure for several of them. However if the cancer is detected in its early stage, then many Ayurvedic procedures and herbs as well as other herbo-mineral products can curtail the advancement of cancer. Similarly some special herbs in the group of Rasayana are very useful in treating cancer, as their use prolongs the quality of life of cancer patients by reducing pain and other discomforts. Following an Ayurvedic lifestyle also reduces the risk of contracting cancer.
Ayurveda and women’s health
According to Ayurveda, the pelvic region is the site of Apana Vata. Apana Vata governs the flow of menstruation in the various menstrual channels as well as the formation, growth and nourishment of the ovum. It also governs conception and growth of the fetus. If it is imbalanced due to improper diet, lifestyle, improper intercourse, stress and age, a number of disorders can arise.
Most women’s diseases arise as a result of this aggravated Apana Vata, so Ayurvedic treatments aim at balancing Vata dosha in conjunction with strengthening, rejuvenating and restoring function to the whole reproductive system.
Ayurveda and PMS
This is also known as premenstrual tension, a term encompassing the emotional and physical symptoms that affect women in the days leading up to their monthly period. Symptoms include mood fluctuations, depression, anxiety, and tenderness of the breasts, swollen ankles, headache and lack of concentration. Causative factors are generally stress, overwork, too much travelling and poor nutrition. Any of the doshas may be involved but it is primarily a Vata disorder due to its psychological nature.
Treatment aims at not only restoring physical health but also promoting a positive attitude in the patient. Digestion must be restored with herbal preparations so that toxins do not accumulate in the minute channels of the body (srotas). The toxins cause obstruction to the free movement of Vata. Cleansing herbs are given to rid the body of toxins and tonifying herbs to strengthen the reproductive system. Diet and lifestyle adjustments are advised such as including yoga and meditation in the daily routine to promote stability and contentment of the mind.
Ayurveda and heart disease
In treating heart disease Ayurvedic physicians use several methods, which result in the reduction for the generation of free radicals, which can contribute to the disease process in the arteries and heart. Meat, cigarette smoke, alcohol and environment pollutants all generate free radicals. By using specific heart food supplements and the Panchakarma process, free radicals and lipid peroxides are reduced.
Ayurveda and hypertension
Ayurvedic medicine treats hypertension according to the metabolic type (Prakruti). Hypertension is found most often in Pitta and Kapha types and is usually due to a combination of genetics and lifestyle. Patients are put on a diet low in sodium, cholesterol and triglycerides. Yogic breathing exercises help to relax the body and stimulate the cardiovascular system and herbs are used in various combinations to reduce hypertension and regulate blood pressure.
Ayurveda and diabetes
Panchakarma begins with herbal massage and an herbal steam sauna, followed by specific medications to loosen the toxins in the body. This is followed by an herbal purge for the liver, pancreas and spleen. Basti treatment ( a specialized form of colon therapy) is specific to remove toxins in a very gentle way and to tone up the digestive tract and then revitalize the system. Since many diabetics have auto-antibodies, this cleansing program is of great help in reducing blood sugar levels. The greatest benefit of Panchakarma is that it reduces the insulin resistance in the tissues in diabetics which is the primary goal in treating the diabetes.
Ayurveda and stroke
Physiotherapy accompanied by herbal medication can alleviate the symptoms of a paralytic stroke. The vitalizing body massages prevent the inactive muscles from atrophying and medication helps to improve the circulatory system. Regular Panchakarma prevents stroke by maintaining normal blood pressure and keeping the arteries healthy. The endothelium of the arteries gets damaged due to accumulation of toxins and subsequent formation of thrombus. These thrombi, when dislodged, can cause stroke. Regular Panchakarma and Ayurveda lifestyle prevents this catastrophe.
Ayurveda and anxiety / depression
Ayurveda offers excellent remedies for stress reduction and for the treatment of chronic depression. Treatments such as Abhyanga and Shirodhara are very effective in relieving deep-rooted tensions and help to remove mental toxins and physical and mental strain. These treatments offer profound relaxation to the bodily tissues and also to the mind. They serve as excellent treatments for insomnia, migraine and other psychosomatic illnesses.
Article written by Dr. U.K. Krishna, Chief consultant at the Indus Valley Ayurvedic Centre, Mysore.
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