Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The causes of disease and how to avoid them

Ayurveda teaches us that there are three basic causes of ill health, all of which we can avoid by adopting a way of life in harmony with our particular environment, stage of life and constitutional type. They are

----> the impact of time
----> unhealthy use of the mind and intellect
----> abuse of the five sense(taste, hearing, sight and smell)

Each of these factors has a power upset our doshic balance. Once this happens, the fabric of our system begins to malfunctions.

The law of similarity or dissimilarity

According to Ayurveda the key to disease causation,prevention, and treatment lies in the law of similarity and dissimilarity or ' samanya vishesha' in Sanskrit. This teaches us that like substance increase their like and dissimilar substance reduce their opposing qualities in the mind and body. For example Vata dosha - which has cold and dry qualities - is increased by cold,dry whether, why the fiery nature of Pitta is aggregated by hot,spicy foods and why Kapha itself predominantly heavy, cold and oily in quality - is increased by heavy, mucus-producing foods such as dairy products, as well as by cold and damp weather.According to this law, Vata can therefore be reduced by substances with opposing qualities, such as warm, oily nourishing foods, Pitta with cook,slightly drying substances and Kapha by warm,light and drying qualities.

As a result, all the therapies used to promote good health or treat an illness in Ayurveda - be they foods, natural medicines, exercise routine, methods of mind control or hands-on healing techniques - are defined and applied according to their core properties(hot,cold,dry,oily, etc) and their related effect on the doshas and functions of the mind and body. For example fresh ginger root, which is warming by nature is used to pacify chilly Vata dosha and build digestive fire. Cooling foods such as ghee and peppermint tea take the heat out of pitta. High-impact exercise, which is warming stimulating and energizing, helps to counteract the heavy, indolent nature of Kapha dosha.

This principle is nothing new. When you think about it we already apply it to our everyday lives. When it is cold, we were warm cloths, we quench our thirst with liquid and moisten dry skin with hydrating oils. to lose weight we cut down on sweet, fatty foods, to soothe an overactive mind we take time out to relax or practice calming therapies such as deep breathing, meditation and yoga.These common practices are everyday examples of amanya vishesha n action.

How time influences our health

Time is a common cause of ill health because its impact is constant unstoppable and profound. When we ignore the rigours of time, we are ignoring the rhythm of nature of which we are all part. Consider how, as time passes, the fabric of our minds and bodies alters. Our skin becomes drier, our bones more brittle, joins less flexible and our senses less active. Consider how changes in the season bring with them specific pathogens, bacteria and infections such as influenza and how eating too fast can cause gas, bloating and indigestion.

The stages of life or ageing process

Kapha governs our childhood, which is why up until our late teens we tend to need more sleep and are prone to congestive problems such as coughs , colds and allergies. Pitta rules between the ages of 20 to 55. At this time we are at our most dynamic but are also susceptible to conditions such as 'burn out', peptic ulcers and hypertension due to the intensity of Pitta qualities in the mind and body. Vata takes control in later life. It explains why in old age we sleepless and are prone to degenerate disorders such as arthritis and Alzheimer's.

By understanding the impact of time we start to appreciate why it is so important for us to tailor our diets and lifestyles to suit our time of life. In youth, for example, out bodies are capable of - and indeed thrive on - high-impact exercise, whereas in old age we benefit from more gentle pursuits, such as yoga, which boost circulations and flexibility without straining our joints and bones.

How to seasons influence health

Changes in the season bring different weather conditions as well as various disease-causing organisms. While we can't control the weather, or the prevalence of viruses and bacteria, we can take steps to protect our-selfs by dressing warmly in winter, increasing our fluid intake in summer and eating seasonally fresh foods to build our natural immunity. These are all practical examples of how we already take timely action to manage the impact of the seasons and avoid becoming sick.

Just as the stages of life are governed by a particular dosha, so too are the seasons. The moist, slightly warmer conditions of spring liquefy and aggravate Kapha; in the heat of summer Pitta is increases while the dry,windy and cold weather of autumn/fall and early winter excited vata dosha.

It stands to reasons, therefore, that if your constitution is Pitta predominant, you need to take particular care to avoid heat-increasing foods and activities in summer. Similarly. if you are a Kapha type of person, keep mucus-producing foods such as dairy and wheat to a minimum in spring. In early winter, Vata types need to keep warm and eat plenty of nourishing foods such as soups and stews.

Listening to our internal body clock.

Ignoring the demands of our internal body clock- the timely calls of nature - by suppressing natural urges such as thirst, hunger sexual desire and sleep, can also damage our health.

Sleep is also a vital for our wellbeing. Lack of sleep reduces our IQ and compromises our immunity, allowing mental and physical toxins to build. A short catnap of 10-15 minutes during the day is good for both Vata and Pitta types and helps our bodies to recover from long-distance travel and late nights. Kapha types, however should avoid sleeping in the day as it slows their already sluggish metabolism.

Late nights increase Vata and decrease Kapha, depleting our system and so reducing our immunity factor. If you stay awake after 11 PM, Pitta will kick in, which is why many people find it harder to fall asleep easily or sleep deeply thereafter. Another bonus of be before 11 PM is that it enables you to get up earlier, ideally before 6 AM. Vata rules at this time of day, which is why it is known as brahma murta.It's also helpful to get us early if you suffer from constipation- Vata controls all bodily movements including the process of eliminations. Getting up before 6 am can therefore help to promote regular bowed motions.

All of these time-related factors have the power to upset our natural equilibrium. This is why Ayurveda puts such great emphasis on adopting a disciplined daily routine to suit our specific environment, time of life and constitutional type.

The Power of mind

Once we accept that our mind and body are inextricably linked, it makes sense that our thoughts and emotions have the potential to affect not only our state of mind but also our physical wellbeing. Every thought and emotion actually triggers a biochemical reactions within the body, which is why keeping our mind healthy is such a vital part of preserving our overall health. Just as positive emotions boost energy levels and our enthusiasm for life, negative emotions such as anxiety, guilt, envy, fear and anger - deplete our system and can trigger many health problems, such as depression.

Stress and disease

Stress is common cause of illness in the modern world. There are many triggers; our work-life balance, relationships with friends and family or simply pushing our bodies too far with late nights, alcohol and inadequate diets. Whatever the reason, stress is thought to cause many problems, including high blood pressure, asthma, anxiety and even heart disease.

Depending on which of the doshas is upset, stress manifests itself in different ways. If Vata increases, fear , anxiety, insomnia, feeling so isolation, loss of appetite and weight loss usually follow. In Pitta aggravation we may suffer from heartburns, hypertension or ulcerative colitis, while Kapha types become lethargic, despondent and try to eat their way our of trouble.

The key to manage stress is self-knowledge and awareness. we may not be able to alter the pressures around us but if we know our mind-body type- and use it to identity our personal hot spots - we can reduce its impact on our health by adapting our diet, lifestyle and mental approach and through the use of rejuvenating natural therapies.

A unique feature of Ayurveda medicine is 'rasayana' or rejuvenation therapy. Only Ayurveda has a specific branch of medicine dedicated to building our core immunity factor on a psychological and physical level. It is a useful tool we can build into our everyday lives to overcome the impact of conditions which as stress.

Negative thoughts and emotions

Ayurveda  sees negative emotions as mental toxins. As well as upsetting the mind they have a direct impact on our physical state. Feat, for example, is often accompanied by tummy upset. Seeing negative thoughts and motions as mental toxins can help us find ways to eliminate these disease-causing agents. In the same way that we detoxify our physical body, we can detoxify our mind.The secrete lies in the practice of mind control, that so on our ability to capture, rationalize and replace these thoughts with healthier, more positive perceptions.

Here are some simple ways to eliminate mental toxins

Apply the principles of 'samanya vishesha' to your mind. If you are feeling fearful, think of situation that make you feel safe and secure. If you are angry, try meditating on a peaceful scene or situation.
Don't bury your emotions. Instead,recognize them and take steps to resolve them. If you are having relationship problems, for instance, ignoring them won't make them go away - you need to act it.

Use your intelligence to measure the quality and accuracy of your thoughts. Are they a valid response, a mis perception or an over-reaction?

Talk to a friend or a therapist. Sharing your worries with other helps to process problems, cleanse the mind of negative thoughts and to correct faulty perceptions.

Practice 'pranayama/ and meditation.

Doing what's right!

One of the great pearls of Ayurvedic wisdom is its focus on 'wise living'. By setting our self wholesome standards of behavior and ethics, we avoid many negative emotions such as guilt and fear.
Yoga- which is an integral part of Ayurveda - teaches us that 'right conduct' is the path to peace of mind and therefore a key method of achieving good health.

  1. non-violence in our thoughts, words and deeds
  2. truthfulness
  3. cleanliness of mind and body, through the purity of the foods we eat and our standards of personal hygiene for example
  4. contentment;being satisfied with our inner self
  5. practicing self-restraint.
Wise Living and the environment

The need for wise conduct does't just apply to ourselves - we can see its impact, or lack of it, all around us. It has a power to positively or negatively affect our surroundings and therefore our collective and individual health.

Consider how commercial activities around the world are polluting and denuding the environment and are linked to a surge in health problems, such as asthma and infant skin conditions.

Knowing better

Wise living also means listening to that 'inner voice' , the one that tells you when a particular path is not the right one.

Exercise is   good example of an activity that we all know is good for us but which we often avoid. Lack of exercise is the root of many disease common today, such as obesity, heart problems and diabetes. The trick is to find a form of exercise that suits you, whether it's talking a brisk walk, climbing the escalators everyday on you way to work, going to the gym, practicing yoga or simply doing some vigorous housework.

Abusing our senses

How we use of abuse our sense of taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing actually affects our health. Like our bodies, our senses need a balance of wholesome exercise and rest. As with all our mental and physical functions, a biochemical actions occurs every time we use our senses, which means over, under or misuse has a direct impact on our core being.

Straining your eyes can cause headaches(overuse),getting water in your ears can lead to hearing problems(misuse), while lack of sunlight can trigger despondency and lethargy. Sensory overload is a big problem today and a common cause of stress due to the steady assault of e-mail,mobile phone calls, TV,noise and air pollution , for example.

Using our senses wisely

Just like the rest of our body, we need to use our senses wisely and give them healthy doses of exercise.

Positive form of sensory exercise-so often underestimated - include aromatherapy({smell),massage(touch),listening to soothing classical music or mantras(sound) and eating wholesome foods which are fresh, in season and free from preservatives(taste)

We also need to find space in our busy lives to ' take time out' and rest our senses. Yoga is actually designed to 'still' the mind and the senses, rather than simply promoting flexibility and muscle tone. By concentrating on a certain posture or pattern of breathing, meditating on a mantra or visual image, we can detach ourselves from our senses, giving them time to rest and ourselves the chance to get in touch with our inner being which is the key to tranquility and well being.

The important of good digestion
What ever the cause of an illness, an invariable and critical step in its development is a faulty digestive system, according to Ayurveda. When our digestive capacity is compromised we lose our ability to build healthy tissues and nourish our immune system, allowing disease to take hold.

'Agni' in term used in Ayurveda to describe our digestive fire and metabolic processes.

What and how we eat changes according to the seasons. Physical, mental and emotional factors all have the power to upset agni and allow undigested food substances called 'ama' to buildup in the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract.Ama is highly toxic,heavy,sticky substance, which coats the GI tract before invading our tissues and impeding metabolic functions. The result is malnourishment and a breakdown in immunity.

Detecting AMA in your system

One pf the easiest ways to detect the presence of ama is to check your tongue and stools. Typically, the tongue will have a whitish coating, while the stools will be heavy(tending to sink rather than float), dark, smelling and possible contain some mucus.You may feel tired,especially after eating, and have symptoms of indigestion, such as bloating and wind as well as bad breath.

Three types of faulty digestion

Ayurveda teaches us that there are three types of improper digestion:

Erratic digestion is 'sometimes quick and sometimes slow' and is typical of Vata aggravation.
It can be triggered by an erratic routine, eating and sleeping at odd hours oft he day and night, for example. You can treat it by including more sweet and pungent flavors in your diets such as fresh ginger root, cumin and fennel, taking Ayurvedic remedies such as Trikatu and Hingvastaka churna before you eat and eating at regular times of the day.

Rapid digestion is a sign of Pitt aggravation. The excess heat and quick-moving properties inherent in Pitta dosha mean we burn up food too quickly, once again leading to malnourishment and debility.
You can combat it by increasing the use of mild,sweet flavors in your diet, such as buttermilk and complex carbohydrates which balance blood sugar levels. Useful Ayurvedi remedies include Shatavari,(asparagus racemosus), guduci(Tinospora cordfolia) and Amalaki(Emblica officinalis).Eat small regular meals and avoid hot spices , fried foods , coffee and alcohol.

Sluggish digestion is the principle cause of ama and the root cause of many diseases, including rhematoid arthritis,diabetes and obesity, according to Ayurveda.

Use more bitter and pungent flavours in your cooking to combat it, such as fresh ginger root and cinnamon, and adopt a lighter diet. The Ayurvedic remedy, Trikatu, is often used to treat mandagn. Eat simple, small meals and leave at least 4 hours between each meal.

All forms of inadequate digestion result in malabsorption and derangement of one or more doshas, as well as causing upset to the tissues, channels of the body and our ability to properly form and eliminate waste products.

Keeping your digestion healthy

Good digestion is an invariable goal of Ayurvedic medical intervention. To achieve it we must first purge the GI tract and tissues of the body of undigested toxins through a light diet or period of fasting, plus ama-digesting herbal remedies like Trikatu.

The Ayurvedi system of holistic medicine, its rationale for purgation and efficacy, rests on the premise that unless we eat and behave appropriately for our mind-body type, undigested food substances build up in our GI tract, aggravating certain doshas which then invade the tissues of the body and upset our natural balance. After time and depending on our innate digestive capacity, these become deep-rooted toxins that can only be removed - and our constitutional balance restored - by one of five internal methods of GI purgation(panchakarma).

Protecting our immunity

According to Ayurvedc wisdom, our immunity is a by-product of each of the seven tissues of the body, particularly our reproductive tissue. Once our digestion is impaired, these tissues become malnourished, so our body's ability to produce the vital essence - known as ojas(immunity) - is reduced.

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