An Ayurvedic Approach To Autoimmune Disease
Autoimmune diseases are on the rise in our country. Many people slowly develop autoimmune conditions without even realizing anything is wrong. Becoming diagnosed can be a long and frustrating affair. It could take up to five years to get an official autoimmune diagnosis. The average person can go to six to ten doctors before it is recognized. That is because the symptoms of these diseases are so vague.
We know that 70% of your immune system is in the gut. Many diseases seemingly unrelated are actually caused by gut problems. You may not attribute allergies, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, mood disorders, autism, dementia and cancer with digestive problems. However, if we do not treat the imbalanced gut issues, inflammation develops and can cascade into a variety of diseases such as: Rheumatoid arthritis, which is most prevalent, Lupus, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Guillotine-Barre Syndrome, Psoriasis, Rosacea, Multiple Sclerosis, Myasthenia Gravis, Vasculitis, Hashimotos Thyroiditis, Type 1 Diabetes-mellitus or Polymylesitis.
Autoimmune disorders occur when your body’s cells fail to recognize each other and mistakenly start attacking friendly cells. The disease and progression varies per individual. Non-specific symptoms at the onset of the disease process make diagnosis a challenge from a western/allopathic medical perspective because allopathic medicine relies on symptomatic treatment. When the inflammation is wide-spread and the disease is well-established, allopathic medicine starts treating the symptoms. But providing symptomatic relief is merely suppressing the cause and complicating the underlying condition.
Ayurveda looks at what is the root cause of inflammation. To discover the root cause of auto-immune disorders, Ayurveda looks at what caused the inflammation and works backwards. So, inflammation is caused by lack of celluar recognition/communication; the breakdown in communication is due to cells being covered with “ama” (a Sanskrit word meaning toxic waste product); the ama is caused by low “agni” (a Sanskrit word meaning digestive strength or fire) and low “ojas” (a Sanskrit word that can be translated as immunity). This means the root causes of auto-immune disorders are low agni and weak ojas. Therefore, the Ayurvedic treatment focuses on restoring agni and ojas. When the digestive system gets irritated then the gut wall gets inflamed causing the inability for the digestive system to detoxify and it cannot get the waste out (ama). I think of the Lymphatic System as something that takes the trash out, takes the waste out of our body. If the Lymphatic System is congested or clogged, the garbage/waste can not be removed.
Autoimmune disorders manifest in different parts of the body and at first glance, appear to be unrelated. But the common factor underlying all autoimmune disorders is inflammation.
Signs of Inflammation
Time Magazine called inflammation the "secret killer." Heat, redness, swelling, loss of use, feeling anxious or frightened, improper sensory coordination, craving sugar even when we know it is bad, severe fatigue, abnormal stress, depression of thoughts, emaciation of tissues, dull complexion, joint connective tissue disorders, leaky gut, diminished motor functions, skin rashes are all signs of inflammation in the body.
Ayurveda is based on a holistic view of treating an individual. By understanding the interplay between the body, mind and consciousness, an Ayurvedic practitioner can help the patient restore balance with diet and lifestyle changes. The speed at which the body returns to balance is entirely dependent on the commitment of the patient to make changes. By targeting the root cause of the disease, Ayurveda can eradicate most illnesses completely.
According to the Journal of American Medical Association, the rate of chronic health conditions among U.S. children rose almost 15 percent between 1994 and 2006, with the largest growth among conditions believed to have an autoimmune link, such as obesity, asthma, and behavioral and learning problems. The New York Times reported that blood test analyses prove young people are five times more likely to have celiac disease symptoms today than their peers in the 1950's.
Some of the most common autoimmune disease symptoms include:
Attention deficit problems
Body rashes, red bumps on facial skin and red flaking skin
Fatigue or hyperactivity
Weight gain or loss
General feeling of malaise
Muscle pain and weakness
Stiffness and pain (Fibromyalgia)
Here are some interesting numbers on autoimmune disease:
Six to 10 is the average number of doctors a person visits before autoimmunity is suspected as the culprit of symptoms
Five is the number of years it often takes for an official autoimmune diagnosis
50 million is the number of Americans living with autoimmune conditions (that’s almost one in six people!)
70 is the percentage of your immune system found in your GALT — your “gut-associated lymphoid tissue”
The Gut Connection
Studies in respected medical journals, such as the Lancet, the British Medical Journal and the International Journal of Gastroenterology have suggested that leaky gut causes autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and many other diverse health issues, including allergies, autism, depression, eczema, psoriasis, metabolic syndrome, and possibly many more diseases that are now being seen as autoimmune conditions for the first time.
Natural Treatments for Autoimmune Disorders
There is not one magic pill for autoimmune disease. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned, please do not ignore them or think they will go away. Lifestyle medicine prevents 80% of all chronic disease. Early detection and prevention is the best solution for autoimmune disorders. Here are suggestions to help prevent or manage autoimmune diseases (AI):
Choose Foods Wisely
That means, avoid triggers and heating foods such as: chilies, garlic, wheat, tomatoes, corn, beets, cheese, milk, mushrooms. Emphasize and add cooling foods such as: cilantro, coriander, coconut, fennel, watermelon and leafy greens.
Prepare Foods Properly - Practice Ayurvedic food combining rules to ensure optimal digestion. The general guidelines are: eat fruit alone; don't heat honey; don't eat cheese with meat, fish, tomatoes or wheat.
Eat At Appropriate Times - Eat your largest meal at midday when the digestive fire is strongest. Eating between 10 am – 2pm is optimal for digestion. Eating your evening meal at least 3 hours prior to retiring for the evening helps prevent acid reflux and promotes complete digestion. Ideally, the evening meal is eaten at sunset or soon thereafter.
Support Digestion Naturally - Walking after meals and sipping a digestive tea such as the fall digestive tea helps support the digestive process.
Sleep is the most powerful anti-inflammatory. The body resets itself with sound sleep. Our bodies work on circadian cycles that are predominantly influenced by the light of the sun and moon. Getting to bed early (by 10pm) and rising early helps to repair the body.
Lifestyle stressors such as your job, family, partner or money should be managed. The immune system is always listening to our thoughts. Thoughts spread to every cell in your body where they lay dormant and can erupt later. Candace Pert wrote "Molecules of Emotions" which show how the chemicals inside our bodies form a dynamic information network that links the mind and body. Basically negative thoughts have the potential to create disease. Here are some ways to clear negativity from your cells and your life:
Meditation or Prayer - pray or meditate before eating to reset agni and clear negative emotions. This helps to balance our emotions and balanced emotions keep agni strong.
Yoga - Practice yoga or other gentle stretching to restore movement, open energetic channels and offset the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
Consider food as medicine. The following household spices have been used successfully in Ayurveda for thousands of years in prevention and treatment of disease. There are no side effects, but you should always consult with your doctor or Ayurvedic practitioner before making any changes to your diet.
Ginger - Fresh ginger root cleanses the digestive system of ama by restoring agni. Add to soups, stews or make ginger tea.
Turmeric - Turmeric powder is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It is best to use in its natural form (powdered or root) rather than taking capsules. When cooking with turmeric, heat it in fat (ghee or oil) to release fat soluble properties; combining it with black pepper will boost the effectiveness by over 1,000%.
Pippali - Pippali is an anti-inflammatory and an immunomodulator (active agents of immunotherapy). It improves bioavailability of other herbs by enhancing agni and thus clearing ama. It tastes similar to crushed black pepper and you can sprinkle on your food in the same manner as you would season a dish with black pepper.
Panchakarma is a Sanskrit word meaning five actions. It is a holistic cleansing and rejuvenating program for the body, mind and consciousness. Consult with an expert Ayurvedic practitioner to determine if panchakarma is right for you.
Here at Ayurvedic Living we do in person and phone consultations to help you get back your health and well being. Give us a call at 541-280-2517 or send us an email.
This article is intended to be educational and not a substitute for the skill, knowledge and experience of a qualified medical professional dealing with the facts, circumstances and symptoms of a particular case. Because each person and situation is unique, the author urges the reader to check with a qualified health-care professional before following any advice in this article. It is the responsibility of the reader to consult a physician or other qualified health-care professional regarding his or her personal care.