Health and Ayurveda

Thursday, January 24, 2008

STRESS MANAGEMNET: An Ayurvedic Perspective

Stress is a demanding situation where an individual is struggling to cope-up to the expectation. It can be psychological, financial emotional, social, biological or constitutional. A highly efficient or capable individual may also be stressed if the situation demands more than his limits. Stress essentially originates at the level of mind and emotions and percolates down bringing imbalances at physical body level.

Continuous long time stress leads to a breakdown of the system resulting in various mental and physical health problems. Unless the imbalances are corrected at all levels there is no escape from the stress and its hazards. Ayurvedic sages like Charaka and Susruta were royal physicians and there are references in the classics written by them of special therapies and herbal preparations called Rasayanas given to enhance the physical and mental efficiency.

Modern age fast life is exciting as well as overtaxing. So the level of stress is also high lots high and lots of people are suffering from its hazards. Stress can cause various mental and physical health problems that manifest in different ways. It may appear as excessive hunger leading to overeating where in some people it cause lack of appetite or anorexia. Stiffness of neck and shoulders, headache, lower back pain, vision problems, irregular bowels, hyperacidity, extreme tiredness are some of the physical manifestations of stress.

Mental manifestations include high irritability; sleep disorders, nervousness, lethargy, giddiness, vertigo, laziness, abnormal dreams, etc. It is observed that a group of people having same nature of work in the same atmosphere probably with same stress level develops different symptoms. The above study reveals the need of considering each individual as a particular entity and the management should also be personalized. Every being has resources to make him capable to cope with these conditions. The holistic approach of Ayurveda and Yoga tackles these hazards through multidimensional solution in its own natural way. It focuses on the impact of the mind on body are not two independent units and any problem affecting the mind affects the body. Since life is a combination of Sareera, (physical body), Indriya (Sense organs), Sathwam (mind) and Athma (soul), all the aspects of life should be considered during assessment of any health condition and its treatment. An individual assessment and management would be ideal for stress that manifest as mentioned above.

Ayurveda believes that there are only two controllable factors for health and disease – Ahara (food) and Vihara (life style). Life style means the routines including sleeping pattern, exercises, nature of work, habits, bath, etc. Food and routines planned according to the individual constitution (prakruthi) and health status help to prevent possible health problems and to improve the sense of well-being.

Carefully planned programme with traditional Ayurvedic therapies, Rasayanas, Yoga, Pranayama and Meditation in combination with planned food and routines will definitely help to overcome the stress, rejuvenate oneself and to build up self confidence to face any situation. Therapies such as Abhyanga (Soothing massages with special herbal oils), Sirodhara, Kadevasthy, Greevavasthy, etc, initially work at the physical level to soothe the aching muscles and tensed nerves and then making an impact upon mind. Administration of Rasayana strengthens the body, mind and provides high energy levels. At the same time, individually selected yoga, meditation and Pranayama (breathing techniques) programmes calm down the mind and bring back the natural rhythm of the mind and body to start a new life afresh. A planned food and lifestyle as per the basic body type (Prakruthi) and doctors recommendations will help to prevent the impact of stress.
  • Your body is not a machine. Give sufficient rest to body and mind after a stretch of work for self- repairing and recharging.
  • Whenever you are in a crisis never be panicky as excess mental tension or nervousness deteriorate your efficiency. Assess the situation, find a proper solution and go for it.
  • Proper food and daily routine is the foundation of your health. Eat balanced food in moderate quantity in correct timing. You can fix the time according to your schedules but stick on to it. Our body has a tendency to get tuned to the regular routines. If you are having breakfast at 8 am for a week your stomach will be ready to receive the food in the same time on the 8th day. If you are not taking food at that time it may cause hyperacidity or even ulcers.
  • Drink sufficient quantity of water, as it is the best medicine to cleanse your system. A proper intake of water improves the urine out put, motions and sweat- the three routes of elimination. Water reduces Pitta which is the manifestation of fire in our body and responsible for high irritability, hyper acidity and problems with increased urine and sweat take more sodium out.
  • Better to continue regular, moderate and suitable exercises as it helps to tone up the system, relieves the tension and improves the sense of well- being. Note that excessive exertion can cause deterioration of health. Sudden stoppage of regular exercise is worse than not doing it at all.
  • Proper sleep is very important as it gives relaxation to your body and mind. It is like pouring water in the radiator of your car after driving up a steep mountain road. Sleep at least six hours a day.
  • Continue regular yoga, Pranayama and meditation as it will help you to impart both physical and mental balance, improve concentration and work efficiency.
  • Note that smoking and alcohol intake is not the remedy to relieve stress. Regular indulgence in these deteriorates the condition.

Dr. K. Jayarajan
Chief Medical Officer,
AyurvedaGram Heritage Wellness Centre, Banglore

Eat Healthy Live Healthy

Good health is not an upshot of fortune, but fairly something, one can accomplish through hale and hearty lifestyles. The role of nutrition in maintaining health and to thwart disease is a hot topic of tete-a tete, nowadays. The contemporary nutritional regimes vary from erstwhile ones, globally. Socio-economic development along with advancement in food supply has transformed our food choices as well as our eating behaviours. Current scenario divulges two sort of eating etiquette – one of strict “dieting” and other of passion for “fast- food”. Methods of food production, processing and preservation have also advanced rapidly over the past few decades. These renovations, however, bestows favourable as well as detrimental effects on public health.
A balanced diet is one that comprises the exact blend of carbohydrates, fats and proteins and ample quantity of vitamins and minerals. It also contributes the precise quantity of calories to meet with ones energy requirements. Furthermore, it supplies adequate fiber and water to enable efficient functioning of the digestive system. The key to health eating is a sundry nutritional regime with accent on ample fluids, high – fiber carbohydrates, a moderate consumption of fats, sufficient protein and adequate sum of vitamins and minerals. However, no single food can provide all the nutrients that one requires. Even, the intake of two or three varieties may not satisfy all the energy requirements. The optimal strategy is to eat as many different kinds of naturally occurring foods. There is not much requisite for complicated computations using nutritional value tables of foodstuffs. Intake of a well-assorted and wide-ranging diet that comprises cuisine from all foremost food groups would indeed impart favourable domino effect.
Nutritional requirements vary in individuals, on the basis of energy expenditure and physical functions. As a rule, carbohydrates should provide approximately 55% of one’s energy needs, protein nearly 15% and fat about 30%. However, as cited earlier, the energy expenditures vary, as mentioned in the table.
The prime dietary problem is the excessive food consumption, both quantitatively as well as qualitatively. Over- eating can heap on any hereditary tendency, ranging from obesity to diabetes. Many people eat surplus food that they attain superfluous protein, carbohydrate and fats, than required.
Any calorie intake that surpasses the energy requirement, turn out to be fat in the body, which may either invigorate the production of new fat cells or enlarge the existing fat cells, the resultant of which is obesity. Population studies illustrates that, obesity is awfully allied with diabetes, coronary heart disease, gout, hypertension and disorders of reproductive system.
All fats contain almost the same calorie per serving, no matter what be the magnitude of high density or low-density lipoproteins. Henceforth, a high intake of fat definitely leads to obesity. Therefore, decreasing the consumption of fat is the foremost action in precluding obesity. Similarly, consuming too much refined carbohydrates such as white flour (Maida), white sugar, polished white rice etc. tend to contribute to obesity. Furthermore, these refined stuffs are very much devoid of fiber content, which turns out to be a causative factor for bowel disorders, especially constipation. Intake of dietary fiber promptly mitigates constipation by enhancing the bulk of stools and curbing the relocation period through the bowel. In addition to this, high-fiber carbs are capable of modulating the absorption of glucose during digestion, thereby playing a pivotal role in the management of diabetes.
Another significant dietary problem is the varying eating behaviours, the foremost among them being affinity to fast food. Eating at fast food bistros is trendier, these days. Although they impart speedy service and are extremely convenient for the busy society, the health tribulations they pose are execrable. Majority of the fast foods are of high calories, high fat, increases level of sodium and low fiber content. These render all ranges of health problems ranging from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) to cancer. The villainous ingredient of fast foods is monosodium glutamate, fondly called as ajinomoto, which is commonly used for enhancing the flavour. The reactions of ajinomoto ranges from headache to even partial paralysis. It acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain, stimulating the brain cell activity. Researches demonstrated a glutamate link with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinsonism. So, however convenient may it be, it is better to avoid fast foods or telling more pragmatically, never make it a daily routine, atleast that could curtail the detrimental effects.
Many statistical studies prove that dietary factors possess a salient role in instigating cancer. The finest statistical correlation, derived from population surveys, is between dietary fat and several cancers. It becomes evident that the incidence of cancer is relatively high in countries where fat and low-fiber intake is high, compared to others. Certain food additive like nitrites, used to preserve meat is a proven factor for the causation of caner. Likewise, benzopyrene, a substance found on charred surfaces is also a known cancer causing dietary factor. So resorting to dietary fiber (unrefined foods), Vit. C rich foods (orange, gooseberry, guava etc.) Vit. A rich foods (green leafy vegetables, carrot etc.) and avoidance of high fats (red meat, egg yolk etc) would definitely reduce the risk of cancer.
  • Avoid too much fat.
  • Change to low-fat milk
  • Cut-out butter, egg yolk, ghee etc.
  • Switch on to vegetable oils (sunflower oil, safflower oil etc.)
  • Avoid red meat (beef, mutton, pork etc.)
  • Remove skin of poultry when cooking, as it contains much fat.
  • Grill or bake food rather than frying.
  • Avoid refined foods.
  • Opt for fiber-rich complex carbs (whole grain products, brown rice etc.)
  • Drink plenty of water (8-10 glasses daily)
  • Include more fresh fruits and vegetables in daily diet.
  • Eat when hungry; tackle your appetite cues.
Dr. K. M Reshmitha MD (Ay)
Lecturer (Swasthvritta),
Parassinikkadavu Ayurveda Medical College, Kannur.