Ayurveda and Digestive Health Aditya Sharma, Ph.D. Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist
History of Ayurveda Ayurveda is India’s traditional, natural system of medicine that has been practiced for more than 5,000 years. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that literally translated means "science of life" or "science of longevity. Ayu means life and Veda means Knowledge. Ayurveda was the system of health care developed by the seers (rishis) and natural scientists through centuries of observations, experiments, discussions, and meditations. Ayurveda provides an integrated approach to preventing and treating illness through lifestyle interventions and natural therapies. Ayurvedais based on the view that the elements, forces, and principles that comprise all of nature - and that holds it together and make it function - are also seen in human beings. In Ayurveda, the mind (or consciousness) and the body (or physical mass) not only influence each other - they are each other. Together they form the mind-body. The universal consciousness is an intelligent, aware ocean of energy that gives rise to the physical world we perceive through our five senses. Ayurvedic philosophy and practices link us to every aspect of ourselves and remind us that we are in union with every aspect of nature, each other, and the entire universe.
Eight Branches (Ashthanga) of Ayurveda • Internal medicine - Kayachikitsa • Surgery - Shalya Tantra • Ears, eyes, nose and throat - Shalakya Tantra • Pediatrics - Kaumarabhritya Tantra • Toxicology - Agada Tantra • Purification of the genetic organs - Bajikarana (or Vajikarana) Tantra • Health and Longevity - Rasayana Tantra • Spiritual Healing/Psychiatry - Bhuta Vidya
Eight Branches (Ashthanga) of Ayurveda Each of these medical specialist is addressed according to theories of: Five elements: Ether, Air, Fire, Water, & Earth Tridosha: Vata, Pitta & kapha Seve Dhatus: Rasa (Plasma), Rakta (Blood), Mamsa (Muscle), Meda (Fat), Asthi (Bones), Majja (Marrow & Nerves), and Shukra (Reproductive Tissues) Three malas: Urine, Stool, and Sweat A health is a dynamic state of balance and integration of body, mind, and spirit.
Elements The Five Elements According to Ayurveda, everything in this universe is made up of five great elements or building blocks. Ayurveda defines a human made of the five great elements and immaterial self. . All substances can be classified according to their predominant element. These five elements are earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Earth • Earthrepresents the solid state of matter. • Earth is considered a stable substance. It manifests stability, permanence, and rigidity. • The body parts such as bones, teeth, cells, and tissues are manifestations of the earth. Water • Water characterizes change and represents the liquid state. Water is necessary for the survival of all living things. • A large part of the human body is made up of water. Our blood, lymph, and other fluids move between our cells and through our vessels, bringing energy, carrying away wastes, regulating temperature, bringing disease fighters, and carrying hormonal information from one area to another. • Water is a substance without stability.
Fire Fire is the power to transform solids into liquids, to gas, and back again. In other words, it possess power to transform the state of any substance. Within our bodies, the fire or energy binds the atoms together. It also converts food to fat (stored energy) and muscle. Fire transforms food into energy. It creates the impulses of nervous reactions, our feelings, and even our thought processes. Fire is considered a form without substance. Air Air is the gaseous form of matter which is mobile and dynamic. Within the body, air (oxygen) is the basis for all energy transfer reactions. It is a key element required for fire to burn. Air is existence without form.
Ether Ether is the space in which everything happens. It is the field that is simultaneously the source of all matter and the space in which it exists. Ether is only the distances which separate matter. The chief characteristic of ether is sound. Here sound represents the entire spectrum of vibration. Example A mountain is predominantly made up of earth element. A mountain also contain water, fire, air and ether. But these elements are very small compared to the earth. So, its classification is the earth.
The SensesThe five elements manifest in the functioning of the five senses of man. This allows the person to perceive the external environment in which he or she lives. They are also related, through the senses, to five actions expressing the functions of the sensory organs.The basic senses and their relationship to the five elements are shown below:
Doshas • According to Ayurveda, the understanding of three Doshas is very important to heal the person’s body. • The unique concept of Vata-Pitta-Kapha holds the potential for revolutionizing the healing systems of the West. • Tridosha Concept: Inside the body, there are three doshas which govern the phyico-chemical and physiological activities. A balance among the tridosha is necessary for health.
Vata, Pitta and Kapha • Vata = Air + Ether • Pitta = Fire + Water • Kapha = Water + Earth
Examples The air principle ignites the bodily fire, but water is necessary to control fire, otherwise the bodily fire would burn the tissues. Vata moves Kapha and Pitta, since Kapha and Pitta are immobile. When Vata is out of balance, the metabolism will be disturbed, resulting in excess catabolism, which is the breakdown or deterioration process in the body. When anabolism is greater than catabolism, there is an increased rate of growth and repair of the organs and tissues. Excess Pitta disturbs metabolism, excess Kapha increases the rate of anabolism and excess Vata creates emaciation (catabolism). In childhood, anabolism and the Kapha elements are predominant because of the physical growth. In adulthood, metabolism and the element of Pitta are most apparent, because at this stage the body is matured and stable. In old age, catabolism and Vata are most evident, as the body begins to deteriorate.
Time and Doshas Dosha Day Time: 10am to 2pm Pitta 2pm to 6pm Vata 6pm to 10 am Kapha Dosha Months: June – October Pitta October – February Vata February – June Kapha
Digestion • According to Ayurveda, digestion is the key element of health. The health of the digestive system is the single most important long term determinant of your health and well – being. • Ayurveda believes that an imbalanced digestive system is the root cause of most disease. Such as stress plays a key role in the health. • Ayurveda had recognized the importance of the environment in the total health. Everything in our environment is composed of doshas that interact with our own doshas. We are affected by everything else which goes on in this universe as we are part and parcel of this cosmos. • Also, the weight gain to be an imbalance of the digestive system. Nutrients are not metabolized properly and this creates a type of sluggish congestion. • Ayurveda’s recommendations focus on keeping your digestion strong. Good digestion nourishes the body.
Taste (Actions, Sources and Imbalances) In conclusion, the six tastes affect the doshas, is very useful in coming up with proper diet in case of imbalances in our doshas.
Digestive Health • The health of the digestive system is the single most important long term determinant of your health and well – being. The digestion is the key element of health. • The digestive fire is an important concept in Ayurveda which activates all biological processes. • In sanskrit term, called Agni. Agni has been described as the spiritual force of metabolism, or "digestive fire". • It is manifested by enzymes and acids that break down the food in your stomach and intestines (like a fire), so that the cells of your body can assimilate the nutrients. • When digestive agni is strong, the enzymes and acids do a thorough job of breaking down and metabolizing the foods you eat. So, they can provide proper nourishment for your cells and tissues to function and replenish themselves. • Agni also destroys harmful bacteria, microorganisms, and toxins in your digestive tract.
The Stages of DigestionAccording to Ayurveda, digestion occurs in three stages
Indegestion and Ama (Toxins) FormationImproper digestion results in the accumulation of ama (Toxins).
Digestive HerbsTriphala (Amla, Bihara, Harada)A complete body cleanser Amalaki (EmblicaOfficinalis)Bibhitaki (TerminaliaBellirica)
Triphala (Amla, Bihara, Harada)A complete body cleanser Haritaki (TerminaliaChebula) Properties Improves digestion, Reduces serum cholesterol, Improves circulation (potentiates adrenergic function), Contains 31% linoleic acid, Cardio-protective effect, Reduces high blood pressure, Improves liver function, Anti-inflammatory Anti-viral properties, Expectorant, Hypotensive.
Psyllium Husks • Psyllium Husks provide an all-natural way to cleanse the intestines of toxins. • A rich source of water-soluble fiber • An essential part of any detoxifying program • All natural digestive cleanser • As early as in 1998, the FDA already approved a health claim on psyllium: "3g to 12g soluble fiber from psyllium seed husk when included as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease" • Important Note: consume with adequate amounts of fluids.
Senna LeavesAn herbal laxative to support regularity.Mainly use for constipation and inflammatory skin conditions.Senna Leaves Chemical Structure of Sennosides
Peppermint Leaves Peppermint calms the muscles of the stomach and improves the flow of bile, which the body uses to digest fats. Treating symptoms of IBS, such as pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
Ginger Root (Zingiberofficinale) • Ginger root stimulates gastric juices and provides warming and soothing effects for colds and coughs. • Promotes bile secretion by the liver. • Ginger root is effective in relieving nausea associated with an upset stomach and motion sickness. • It increases digestive secretions and eases gas and indigestion. • It has ability to reduce nitric oxide provides relief from joint pain associated with arthritis, and anti-inflammatory properties. • Ginger Root has hot properties and ability to make you sweat provides increased immunity.
Fennel Plant and seedsThe major chemical compound found in fennel, terpenoidanethole, is believed responsible for fennel's ability to inhibit spasms in smooth muscles such as those in the intestinal tract. Fennel leaves and seeds use as a carminative, a gas-relieving and gastrointestinal tract cramp-relieving agent.
Aloe Vera • Traditionally, aloe was used topically to heal wounds and for various skin conditions, and orally as a laxative. • Today, in addition to traditional uses, people take aloe orally to treat a variety of conditions, including diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, and osteoarthritis. People use aloe topically for osteoarthritis, burns, and sunburns. • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved aloe vera as a natural food flavoring. • Constipation • Treating bowel disorders where there is inflammation • Immune boosting • Anti-inflammation
Rishi Cleansing Formula Psyllium Husk - This is one of natures best sources of soluble fiber. It can help detoxify, cleanse, and refresh your total digestive system. Psyllium's high fiber content has the ability to stimulate, contractions in the colon so as to help flush out mucus and toxins. Bonus! Psyllium has found to have positive results with individuals with blood sugar or cholesterol issues! Senna Leaves - This natural herb, known as the cleansing herb, has been used in Asia for centuries. Senna contains natural glycosides that stimulate the colon to increase fluid activity so as to help dissolve the mucus build up in the colon walls. Senna works wonders in softening eliminations for ease of movement. Propriotary Herbal Blend Fennel Seed- Fennel seed is an herb that can help in gas relief and help with gastrointestinal calming and cramps.Peppermint Leaves- This herb helps curb gas and fights spasms in your intestinal tract. Peppermint refreshes the colon and helps maintain healthy digestion.Papaya- This magic melon of the tropics is loaded with digestive enzymes needed to digest protein and fats. These natural enzymes help to breakdown food so your digestive system doesn't have to struggle.
Rishi Cleansing Formula Slippery Elm- The bark of this tree is a great source of mucilage, which can help coat irritated digestive system linings.Buckthorn Bark- This herb has been popular in Europe since the 13th century to help to ease constipation. Buckthorn helps the colons ability to have better contractions for better elimination. Triphala- It's the basis of all ayurvedic medicine. It is a precise herbal blend of the fruits of three trees. It is widely used in medical preparations for detoxifying and helping to help promote optimum colon cleansing and health. Ginger Root- It contains special compounds that the German Commission E has approved to help prevent indigestion. It can help fight muscle spasms in the colon and breakdown proteins. Acacia Gum- The bark from this tree has been used medically for centuries especiallyin Australia. It has proven to be effective for loose bowels and its astringent capabilities to cleanse & refresh the digestive tract. Aloe Vera- This member of the lily family is rich in complex sugars, enzymes, minerals and amino acids. The fatty acids found in Aloe Vera are believed to alkalize digestive juices and help prevent the colon flushing out impurities and mucus.
Herbal Digestive Stimulant Tea Dry Ginger, of Black Pepper , Nutmeg and Cloves, Fennel, Coriander (all equal part). Add to one cup of hot water and leave it for 5 minutes, or boil it. Drink before meal to increase appetite and improve absorption. Pitta type use with care. Decrease Kapha, increase Vata and Pitta. Use: Lack of appetite, indigestion, nausea, vomiting, intestinal gas, malabsorption, Candida, metabolic disorder, cold, cough, congestion, and poor circulation.
Imbalanced Digestive System • Ayurveda believes that an imbalanced digestive system is the root cause of most disease. Such as stress plays a key role in the health. • Ayurveda had recognized the importance of the environment in the total health. Everything in our environment is composed of doshas that interact with our own doshas. • We are affected by everything else which goes on in this universe as we are part and parcel of this cosmos. • Also, the weight gain to be an imbalance of the digestive system. Nutrients are not metabolized properly and this creates a type of sluggish congestion. Ayurveda’s recommendations focus on keeping your digestion strong. Good digestion nourishes the body. • According to Ayurveda, there are two aspects to the food and nutrition: • The physical food we eat, digest, and assimilate. The organs of the digestive system plays a big role to process the food. • It is what we consume through your mind-body. What we see, hear, taste, smell, feel, and think are all important for our well being and impact our health considerably.
Panchakarma or Purification Therapy A cleansing process known as panchakarma is recommended to purge these unwanted or accumulated toxins in the body. The five purification therapy is a classical form of treatment in Ayurveda. These specialized procedures consist of the following: • Therapeutic vomiting or emesis (Vaman) • Purgation (Virechan) • Enema (Basti) • Elimination of toxins through the nose (Nasya) • Bloodletting or detoxification of the blood (Raktamoksha)
The Ayurvedic Massage An important part of Ayurveda is the massage treatment. These treatments are different for every type. Vata types profit more from a gentle treatment with quiet and relax movements. Pitta type prefers more and deeper movements. Kapha type desires a firm treatment with fast and firm movements and little oil. Benefits are detoxification, improve digestion and blood circulation and others.
Ayurvedic MassageAyurvedic Body Massage Sirodhara
Yoga • The very word "yoga" comes from a Sanskrit word meaning "to yoke"—in other words, to join mind, body and breath. • There are 40 types of yoga, but Americans are most familiar with hatha yoga, which focuses on poses, stretches, breathing exercises and meditation. • Intensive types yoga are more physically demanding and require a greater degree of flexibility to negotiate the difficult poses. • Research also indicates that yoga helps alleviate the digestive problems, discomfort associated with backache, PMS, headaches, arthritis, and other illnesses. • Yoga relaxes and calms the nervous system, detoxify, and energize the body. • Eastern philosophy holds that yoga heals by releasing prana, the body's vital energy. • Western practitioners believe yoga's deeply relaxing breath work allows the body's healing abilities to take over.