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Ayurveda

Is A 5000 Year Old Indian Medicine Still Relevant Today?   

As a Chiropractor who practices Ayurveda, I’ve heard this question a lot over the past 25 years.  I always start my explanation of Ayurveda by stating that it is India’s 5000 year old science of Medicine.   But that doesn’t say much.  When most of us think of India, we conjure up images of beautiful Saris, exotic spicy food, and cross-legged Yogis in deep meditation with sweet incense burning around them.  In other words, it all seems a bit mystical and hardly practical in today’s high-tech busy world.   

Therefore, many people wonder if an ancient low-tech system of medicine has any bearing today.  Also, one might think that our modern culture is so advanced that there is little that we haven’t already figured out.  From that perspective, what could human beings know 5000 years ago in a world without computers and microscopes that we don’t know today? 

This was certainly my thought when I first heard of Ayurveda.  I am a licensed and practicing Chiropractor.  My training was very scientific in the diagnosis and treatment of Musculo-Skeletal conditions.  But I was also attracted to Holistic Natural Medicine. However, I soon discovered the field to be very symptom oriented its approach.  For example, a patient with Asthma might be given an herb or nutritional supplement to control the Asthma symptoms instead of a drug.  Less toxic, but basically a symptom=treatment approach. 

As I began to look deeper into Ayurveda however, I discovered a science of natural medicine that was as scientific, comprehensive and detailed as our modern system of medicine.  However, unlike today’s medicine Ayurveda never confuses the parts for the whole.  In other words, no matter how complicated the disease and corresponding treatment, the emphasis on the person who has the disease is never lost.  Never is a patient reduced to a set of symptoms to be simply extinguished with medication. 

So what does Ayurveda actually treat?  Just like today’s medicine, Ayurveda covers anatomy, physiology, gynecology, dermatology, pharmacology, nutrition and even surgery.  Amazingly, Ayurvedic doctors actually did brain surgery thousands of years ago.  Some of the surgical instruments they developed are still used in modern surgery. 

But the question remains about the efficacy of Ayurveda in today’s world and what could these ancient doctors possibly have known then that we don’t know now?  To demonstrate this point let’s contrast medical and Ayurvedic treatment for just one common condition that we see: Asthma. 

In the early Spring of this year a 54 year old women presented in my office with complaints of insomnia, lack of energy, chronic cough and runny nose, pain in the neck and upper back and stress.  She also felt she was taking too many medications.   During the consultation the patient said that her chronic cough and runny nose was due to Asthma.  In fact she was taking 6 medications: 3 for Asthma, 1 for depression, 1 for acid reflux and 1 for her thyroid.  Also, from her history she described long term digestive complaints such as bloating, gas, gastric reflux and constipation. 

Medically, this patient was being well cared for by her doctor.  The doctor had diagnosed the Asthma (inflammation in the lungs that restricts air flow) and given her 3 medications which quite literally kept her alive.  All 3 medications were anti-inflammatory steroids which work great for Asthma symptoms.  Her gastric symptoms were kept in check by reducing the acid in the stomach with Ant-Acid medication.  The patient was under a lot of family stress and her emotions were being maintained with medication as well.  Lastly, her thyroid hormone was low and she was therefore on thyroid hormone replacement therapy, also a very necessary treatment. 

So what could I offer this patient that she wasn’t already receiving from her Medical doctor?  Her diagnosis was correct and the treatment sound.  What else could I do? 

Let’s look back at the patient’s complaints.  She had Asthma and a thyroid condition known as Hashimoto’s disease.  Both of these problems are Auto-Immune disorders.  Ayurveda says that Auto-Immune disorders occur when a certain kind of inflammatory toxin (called Ama-Visha) becomes stuck in a tissue.  The immune system sees the toxin as a foreign body and attacks it thereby creating inflammation.  When this happens in the lungs we call it Asthma.  If the inflammation is severe and chronic enough, the tissue may be permanently damaged or destroyed by the process.  When it happens in the Thyroid we call it Hashimoto’s disease.  If it were in the joints we would call it Arthritis and so on. 

So what was the source of these toxins and how did they get in those tissues?  The clue here was the patient’s history of chronic digestive problems.   Our intestines are home to hundreds of microorganisms.  Some of these “bugs” are beneficial and some aren’t.  The good bugs and the bad bugs so to speak.  The bad bugs are kept in check by the good ones.  If the good ones are weak and depleted the bad bugs take over the intestinal mucosa.  This can create a syndrome called Leaky Gut where toxins, allergens and poorly digested proteins are no longer filtered by the intestinal barrier.  In other words, the bad bugs have an open door policy and will let anything in the blood stream.  Also, since the intestine is home to 80% of the immune system’s lymphocytes, the immune response can be disturbed by this unhealthy gut flora. 

Therefore, the patient’s history of bad digestion suggested the possibility of disrupted intestinal flora giving rise to an overload of toxins in the blood and an over-reactive immune response.  Over time, Ayurveda says this overload of toxins can overwhelm the liver’s ability to efficiently filter the blood.  Once past the liver, the toxins can go anywhere in the body such as the muscles (Fibromyalgia), the lungs (Asthma), the thyroid (Hashimoto’s), the joints (Arthritis), the blood vessels of the  head and scalp (headaches) and so on.  The ancient texts of Ayurveda describe this pathological distribution of toxins in the saying “wherever the clouds go, that’s where it rains”

Treatment for this patient was to put her on a diet of fresh organic food with no preservatives.  Specific spices were prescribed to support the digestion and target specific organ systems enhancing their uptake of nutrients and elimination of waste products.  Pro-biotic support of her digestive system was started to replace the healthy flora and re-establish the intelligence of her digestive system. 

She was counseled about the importance of proper bedtime and daily routine to regulate her hormonal and digestive cycles.  In addition she was given transdermal herbal creams and herbal glycerides were added to her drinking water.  These supplements were designed to support her digestion and cool the hot toxins in the liver and the lungs. 

Lastly, the patient received regular Chiropractic adjustments to restore proper balance of the nervous system and relieve the tension in her chest from chronic coughing. 

What as the result?  Within 2 months of Ayurvedic and Chiropractic care the patient, under the supervision of her doctor completely stopped the 3 Asthma medications, stopped the depression/anxiety drugs, and no longer need the Ant-acid medication.  To date she has lost 15 pounds, energy is much better and quite frankly, she looks great.  The thyroid medication will have to continue because of the extensive inflammatory damage that was done to that organ. 

So is Ayurveda still relevant today?  As many of my patients have discovered, the answer is a resounding YES!  This is not to say that Modern Medicine is irrelevant.  The contributions of Medical Science speak for themselves.  However, Ayurveda still offers much that is not understood by modern science.  In this regard, there is much we can offer patients who desire a non-toxic natural solution to their health problems.   

 If you have any questions about Ayurveda and if it may be able to help you, please email me at docbeech@gmail.com

  
 

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