Health care and Disease Management
Health care in Ayurveda is essentially aimed at balancing the dosas and gunas, bringing them into equilibrium. With this goal in mind, management of a disease is designed to diagnose which biomaterials and components are in excess or not and how they can be brought into balance.
Whereas conventional medicine is primarily oriented toward the treatment of disease, Ayurvedic medicine is oriented toward prevention, health maintenance, and treatment. In conventional medicine, drugs are developed based on the concept that the elimination of specific causes of a disease, such as microorganisms, will cure a disease. On the other hand, the belief in Ayurvedic medicine is that a disease is the product of an imbalance in the body and mental elements that reduce the body’s resistance to diseases. If the imbalance is corrected and the body’s defense mechanisms are strengthened by herbal formulas, lifestyle changes, and diet, then the body will resist a disease with a goal of eliminating it. Herbal and herbomineral products regularly used in Ayurveda are believed to strengthen the body’s defenses. Scientific evidence is gradually developing in support of the Ayurvedic concept.
In Ayurveda, health is defined as the state where physical body, senses, and psyche are in original or natural state with respect to body and function. Although the genetic makeup of an individual determines the basic body constitution with respect to dosas (biomaterials) and psychological factors, total health is determined by physical and psychological environment. It is currently believed that the expression of genes largely depends on environmental factors. Consistent with this belief, Ayurveda emphasizes the role of environmental factors, daily routine, seasonal changes, lifestyle, diet, regular exercise, and body tonics (rasayana) in maintaining health. It also emphasizes that all needs of the body and senses must be in balance in order to avoid illness and maintain good health — a scientifically valid concept.
Diagnosis of a disease in Ayurveda is essentially done by inspection, palpation, and interrogation. The specific examination includes the standard eight-point examination: (Ashtavidha Pareeksha).
- Speech and Voice, and
- General appearance
Additional examinations are made to assess digestive capacity, personal habits, body appearance, and patient’s resilience. The other elements of diagnosis are the most recent reason for the illness, warning symptoms, clear symptoms, various diagnostic tests, and pathogenesis. Management of an illness considers elimination of causes of the imbalance of dosas, administration of various herbal formulas, dietary and lifestyle interventions to bring dosas back into balance, elimination of chinta (serious worry), and nurturing the soul to regain spiritual health (Samana).
Ayurveda describes four components of a disease management scheme:
- The Physician,
- The Drug
- The Patient, and
- The Attendant/Nurse
A physician must have proper training, knowledge, and experience. A remedy must be abundantly available, effective, and relatively safe. A patient must provide all information to the physician about the disorder and be compliant. An attendant (a nurse) must have the knowledge of patient care, dexterity, loyalty, and cleanliness.
Management of illness primarily consists of four procedures:
- Cleansing (samsodhan)
- Palliation (samsaman)
- Rejuvenation (kaya kalp), and
- Mental and spiritual healing (sattvavajaya, or psychotherapy)
The management of an illness starts with cleansing and includes five procedures called panchakarma, all of which are not necessarily done at the same time or to all patients.
Panchakarma is a major therapeutic procedure in Ayurveda known to be useful for all diseases of all the body organs and functions because the elimination of toxic products, endogenous or exogenous, can contribute to overall management of an ailment. It is understandable that if the body organs are not eliminating toxic products from the body, toxic symptoms will develop over a period of time. The major cause of body ailments is the toxic products produced by body metabolism, microorganisms, synthetic chemicals xenobiotics, or drugs.
Palliation essentially consists of compound preparations of herbs and minerals for diet and lifestyle interventions. Ayurvedic texts describe seven types of palliation:
- Digestive power enhancement
- Toxic waste (ama) elimination
- Observing thirst/ controlling Thirst
- Physical exercise
- Exposure to sunlight or sunbathing, and
- Exposure to Wind
A variety of formulas are used to improve digestion, eliminate ama, and balance dosas. Fasting also helps in acute indigestion, dysentery, diarrhea, and acute fever.
Basically, Ayurvedic health care is based on the principle that body, mind, and soul must be in harmony for health and happiness. Each of these has to be nurtured for an individual to create health. Ayurveda recommends daily activities in detail, e.g., getting up before sunrise, routine physical exercise, meditation, and diet according to the body constitution with seasonal adjustments in lifestyle and sexual activities to maintain an optimum balance of dosas to prevent illness. Unhealthy lifestyles, exposure to various physical, chemical, and biological agents, extreme weather conditions, unhealthy diets, and overexertion from physical or mental activities are considered the major causes of imbalance of dosas. Cleansing of the body from waste products of the illness is necessary to eradicate an illness and prevent its recurrence. Finally, management of an illness essentially consists of elimination of causes of the imbalance of dosas, administration of various Ayurvedic formulas, dietary changes to bring dosas back into balance, elimination of serious worry, and nurturing the soul to regain spiritual health.
Ayurveda, the traditional health-care system of India, is a complete and holistic healthcare system that contains both preventive and therapeutic aspects. It has a defined diagnostic system covering all physiological functions and organs, as well as specific treatments and management techniques for each disease. Although Ayurveda is thousands of years old, many of its core principles are consistent with modern medicine. Ayurvedic medicine offers a wealth of relatively effective, safe, and economic health-care therapies. Its therapies provide relief for many chronic illnesses such as musculoskeletal disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, diabetes, obesity, allergy , IBS, acidity, Migraine, nervous disorders, etc.