Friday, June 21, 2019

Ayurveda and Aging

Well-documented evidence exists for treating aging and age-related disorders, including dementia, with Ayurveda. The ancient Indian medical system included geriatrics as 1 of 8 medical divisions. Geriatrics was termed Rasayanatantra. Cognitive function was well-recognized and Sanskrit terms existed such as Buddhi for intelligence and Cittanasa (Citta meaning mind and nasa meaning loss of) for dementia. A normal human life span was considered to be 100 years, and it was believed that this could be lengthened to as long as 116-120 years through the use of preventive treatments, provided they had been started during late youth or middle-age. The full text of this 1999 study, entitled "Dementia and Ayurveda," can be viewed here.


Background and Principles


Ayurveda is a traditional medicine of India which is more than 5000 years old and is said to have divine origins from Lord Brahma which date back to the beginning of the human race. It is beyond a medical system in that it is seen as a "science of life" or longevity, and as such it is more similar to what we refer to as a lifestyle. Its concepts about health and disease promote the use of herbal compounds, special diets, and other unique health practices. As a Vedic science, its teachings are used for the development of full human physical, mental, and spiritual potential.

Ayurveda makes use of correspondences among five cosmic elements: earth, air, fire, water, and space.  One’s individual nature is mirrored by their body type or dosha. The doshas are bioenergetic forces that reflect the three main governing principles of nature. These are vata (air), pitta (fire), and kapha (earth-water). Every person is made from a unique combination of these three principles or doshas, and as a result, different proportions of each exist within each person. A person’s dosha depicts their eating, exercise, and sleep habits, and even where they prefer to live. There are three gunas, or qualities of the mind which determine spiritual and mental health, seven dhatus, or tissues that sustain the body, as well as three malas, or waste products. Additionally, there are ojas, or end products of perfect digestion, agnis, or enzymes, and srotas, which are channels and vessels within the body.  All of these energies must be balanced for an individual to achieve balance and optimum health.

Ayurvedic medicine supports the belief that spiritual growth begins with prevention based on a balanced lifestyle that is in harmony with the cycles of nature; all living creatures, whether human, plant or animal, must live in harmony with nature in order to survive.


Treatment Methods


Meditation - can include breath awareness, moving meditation, or yoga.

Prayama - is deep diaphragmatic breathing that is used to clear the body of carbon dioxide and increase oxygen intake to provide the body with vital energy.

Tongue Scraping - removes toxins and bacteria from the tongue more efficiently than a toothbrush.

Oil Pulling - removes toxins and bacteria from the mouth and helps detox the body. Organic, cold-pressed coconut or sesame oil is swished around in the mouth for 15 or 20 minutes and then expelled.

Massage - can lower blood pressure, increase muscle tone, decrease stress, and increase the flow of lymph which in turn reduces edema.

Sweating or Swedana - allows impurities to be released from the body via the sweat glands, exiting through the pores of the skin.

Basti or Enema - is a therapeutic treatment which introduces herbal oil through the rectum in order to lubricate the intestinal tract thereby flushing out toxins.


Lifestyle Recommendations


Eat your largest meal at lunchtime, because the digestive fire is at its peak when the sun is also at its highest peak, from 12 to 1 PM. Get plenty of sleep in a dark room, laugh out loud, drink warm water and ginger tea to increase Agni (digestive fire), and use 6 tastes - sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and astringent - in every meal. These are considered the 6 tastes of Ayurveda. Don't eat while emotional and take your time while eating for proper and complete digestion of foods. Eat in silence in order to appreciate you food; there will be less of a chance of overeating.

Milestones in the Development of Ayurveda

Sources

Chandler, K. (1987). Modern science and Vedic science: An introduction. Modern Science and Vedic Science 1(1 ). Retrieved from https://research.mum.edu/modern-science-and-vedic-science-journal/modern-science-and-vedic-science-an-introduction/

Department of Ayurveda, Government of India. (n.d.). Milestones in the Development of Ayurveda. Retrieved from http://www.pxelsolutions.com/ayurvedic-medicine/milestones-in-the-development-of-ayurveda/

Koopsen, C., & Young, C., (2009). Integrative health: A holistic approach for health professionals. Sudbury,  MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Manyam, B. V. (1999) Dementia in Ayurveda. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 5(1). doi: http://doi.org/10.1089/acm.1999.5.81

Micozzi, M. S. (2001). Fundamentals of complementary and alternative medicine. New York: Churchill Livingstone

Sharma, H., Chandola, H., Singh, G., & Basisht, G. (2007, November 30). Utilization of Ayurveda in Health Care: An Approach for Prevention, Health Promotion, and Treatment of Disease. Part 1—Ayurveda, the Science of Life. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 13(9), 1011-1020. doi:10.1089/acm.2007.7017-a

The Chopra Center. (2017, April 21). 15 Ayurvedic practices to improve your health. Retrieved from https://chopra.com/articles/15-ayurvedic-practices-to-improve-your-health

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