ayurveda and prevention

According to estimates of various organizations around the world, one out of four is at risk of dying from non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, cancer, chronic respiratory problems, etc.

These diseases, also known as lifestyle disorders, are a grave issue because they have no complete cure. If you get them, they stay with your whole life. If these diseases can’t be cured, then they surely could be prevented.

Ayurveda Principle – Prevention is better than cure

As the saying goes, ‘Prevention is better than cure,’ Ayurveda perceived the significance of prevention thousands of years ago, which now increasingly is considered as the only way to avoid many illnesses prevalent today.

Ayurveda gives equal importance to the maintenance of health by prevention of ailments and in curing them. The concept of Ayurvedic preventive medicine is called as Swasthavritta.

It means establishing peace of body, mind, and spirit along with social well-being by following healthy regimens.

Ayurvedic offers numerous preventive measures in the form of various dietary regulations, daily routine, seasonal regimens, personal hygiene, rules of proper social conduct, detoxification & purification therapies, spiritual regimens and the most important, avoiding lifestyle errors to prevent any disorder.

Why Ayurveda Focuses on Prevention?

In Ayurveda, preservation of health and prevention from disease is given more importance than treatment of disease. That is why prevention & promotion of health is the first aim of Ayurveda while the second is to treat diseases.

Ayurveda calls a person healthy when he is free from morbidity and is happy mentally, socially, and spiritually. This approach is much needed in today’s stress-filled world.

Therefore, the world is looking towards this traditional medicine to reduce the burden of diseases and for a healthy living.

Ayurveda says that a happy and healthy life is a pre-requisite to achieve the goals of life. But how to stay utterly untouched from illness when there are significant variations in daily regimen and environment? How to stay healthy?

To overcome this problem, Ayurveda advocates individual to observe certain routine activities. These regimens are suitable & beneficial for everyone and could be adopted as per place, time, and situation.

In several Ayurvedic texts, there is a description of proper daily & seasonal regimens and code of ethics.

In addition to this, specific recommendations for the appropriate intake of food, sleep, and proper behavior to maintain a good life have been elaborated.

So, prevention is done on two levels ahara (diet) and vihara(lifestyle). Let’s look at these health regimes one by one.

Suggested read – Ayurveda and Yoga – Find the sublime connection

Ahara – What’s the right diet?

Ayurvedic concept of nutrition is firmly based on the tenet “The kitchen is the pharmacy, and the pharmacy is the kitchen.” The food itself is considered as medicine. A nourishing diet works wonders and keeps us healthy as well as away from pills.

Nowadays, our dietary habits have changed drastically. Our food mainly consists of processed and instant foods. Chemicals, preservatives, harmful colors, taste enhancers have become an integral part of our diet, which does not prevent us from disease but health.

Ayurveda says that food is the basis of our life. Proper diet helps promote immunity and body growth. Therefore, fresh and chemical–free food is needed for prevention from diseases arising due to faulty dietary habits.

Ayurveda stresses on a diet having all six rasas (tastes) because each rasa by its qualities and actions balances Tridoshas. Also, food should be taken according to the need and availability and not as per any diet plan because everyone has different Prakriti (body constitution).

Not only the right food is the key to health but also the way we eat food. Ayurveda mentions various methods of food preparation and rules to be followed while taking a meal. To maintain health and prevent diseases, we should also follow a few rules, such as:

  • The fresh, warm and unctuous meal should be taken
  • The meal should be taken as per your appetite and only when you are hungry
  • The meal should not have foods which are incompatible like milk and fish
  • The meal should be eaten at a favorable place
  • While eating do not hurry, laugh, talk and focus entirely on your food
  • You should eat food depending on your digestive capacity & after considering if it is suitable for you or not

All these advises mentioned in Ayurveda should be followed with due regard to diet to have a healthy and long life.

Vihara – What’s the right way of living?

Ayurveda encompasses various preventive measures which can be adopted in our daily life. These regimens help us to maintain our physical, mental, social as well as spiritual health.

Also, it asks us to be aware of our surrounding conditions and always prevents ourselves from any vulnerable events such as accidents and attacks. It recommends protecting our vital points called as Marma.

The three most important vital points heart, head, and bladder should be protected if possible from any injury to prevent death. The protection of 107 vital points in our body is essential for a healthy living. Any injury to them can leave us handicapped and can even lead to death.

The factors which could be controlled to prevent us from advancing towards disorder are described here one by one.

Dinacarya – Daily routine of a healthy person

Our daily routine decides our state of health. Dinacarya is the daily ritual of self-care. Ayurveda has designed this daily routine for a healthy person to connect us to our nature.

Today’s busy lifestyle doesn’t have any space for self-care, which is a matter of great concern. This altered lifestyle is proving hazardous to our health, and hence, there is an urgent need to incorporate these daily regimens as mentioned in Ayurvedic texts.

  • A healthy person should arise from sleep early before sunrise
  • After analyzing one’s own body, he should get void of waste products
  • Clean the teeth with the material having bitter, acrid and astringent tastes
  • Clean the tongue with a flexible strip of metal or a plant twigs
  • Use herbal medicine for cleaning nasal cavities, oral medication for gargling, inhale herbal smoke and chew betel leaves to kill oral bacteria and enhance digestion
  • Massage body with oil particularly on head, ears, and soles
  • Practice physical exercises as per body’s capacity to increase muscle strength and increase stamina
  • Massage with powdered drugs to dissolve away fat and clarify skin
  • Take a bath with warm water
  • Wear clean apparels, scents, ornaments
  • Dressing and cutting of hair, beard, nails, etc. should be done regularly
  • Use comfortable footwear to protect feet

Ritucarya – Seasonal codes of living

Doshas accumulating in a particular season are to be pacified in that season itself to prevent their further progression into the aggravated state which is the sole cause of disease.

Ayurveda through ritucarya teaches us to modify our diet & lifestyle in response to the change in climatic conditions. Ritucarya is an essential preventive measure to protect ourselves from various seasonal and lifestyle disorders.

The entire year is divided into six seasons late winter, spring, summer, rain, autumn, and early winter. With each season the state of doshas keep changing, and hence Ayurveda describes dietetics and regimens for each season.

Winter

  • take unctuous, sour, salty and heavy diet
  • use honey, milk, cane juice, fat, oil, new rice, hot water
  • do massage, apply oil on the head
  • avoid light food and underfeeding
  • avoid cold diet and drinks

Spring

  • perform emetic therapy
  • avoid heavy, unctuous, sour and sweet diet
  • avoid sleeping during the day
  • take barley, wheat, and meat

Summer

  • take sweet, cold, liquid and oily diet
  • take ghee, rice, milk, plenty of water
  • avoid salty, sour, acrid, hot and spicy food
  • avoid physical exercise
  • can sleep during the daytime

Rainy season

  • avoid daytime sleep, excessive exercise, moving in sun
  • use honey in diet and drinks
  • take sour, salty and unctuous food
  • take barley, wheat, rice, vegetable, and meat soup
  • drink boiled and cooled water mixed with little honey
  • wear light & clean apparel

Autumn

  • choose sweet, light, cold and bitter foods
  • take rice, meat, barley, wheat
  • use ghee prepared with bitter medicines
  • perform purgation and bloodletting therapies
  • avoid taking a sunbath, fat, oil, curd, alkaline food preparations
  • avoid daytime sleep, frost, and winds

Sadvritta – Rules of Good Conduct

Ayurveda mentions several rules to maintain the mental and social aspect of healthy individuals. Sadvritta is a range of social behavior and ethical code of conduct towards oneself and one’s surroundings.

Sadvritta builds up the personality of a person and brings happiness & contentment. It includes various mental, social, emotional and ethical rules which should be followed by everyone,

  • Lend as much help as possible to poor, sick and mentally ill
  • Worship God, teachers, old ones, physicians, rulers and guests
  • Always talk of relevant topics in a pleasing manner
  • Never trust anybody excessively or be too suspicious
  • Never reveal enmity towards anybody
  • Never put much strain on the senses nor let them remain inert
  • Always have empathy and oneness towards everyone
  • Stay even minded in both prosperity and calamity
  • Always develop positive insights into other minds
  • Avoid keeping knees in an upright position for long
  • Never cast the eyes continuously upon tiny objects
  • Do not sell, brew, offer and accept alcohol
  • Follow the world experimentally
  • Be compassionate, do charity and show selfless devotion to the cause of others

It is written in Ayurvedic texts that whoever will follow these etiquettes will attain longevity, health, prosperity and fame.

Adharaniya & Dharaniya Vega – Execution of Natural Urges

Vegas are natural urges and are usually involuntary in nature. They are inevitable for the maintenance of proper health. But if Vegas are habitually suppressed continuously, homeostasis gets disturbed and leads to a series of diseases.

These diseases may be seen to have no direct relation upon the system involved where the Vega is suppressed. As all urges are mainly managed by Vata dosha, their suppression causes vitiation of Vata, thereby leading to severe diseases.

The suppression of natural urges contributes highly in causing various disorders, yet this matter is never taken seriously. In today’s fast-forward world, every person tries to suppress these urges to continue with work. But controlling urges gradually takes the form of severe diseases of which we are unaware.

To prevent such disease, Ayurveda stresses on non-suppression of such thirteen natural urges which we control at will at some point of time. It is clearly stated in Ayurvedic texts that these Vegas are not to be suppressed at any condition. Never suppress the urge of

  1. Flatus & belching
  2. Defecation
  3. Urination
  4. Thirst
  5. Hunger
  6. Sleep
  7. Sneezing
  8. Cough
  9. Panting
  10. Yawning
  11. Vomiting
  12. Ejaculation
  13. Tears

Not all the urges have got to be satisfied. There are some urges which need to be suppressed. Control of some psychological urges is necessary as they cause physical and socio-psychologically disturbances.

One desirous of well-being should suppress urges relating to rashness, greed, grief, fear, anger, vanity, shamelessness, jealousy, excessive attachment, speaking of harsh words, back-biting, lying, violence, adultery, theft, and other evil deeds.

Panchakarma – Prevention by Cleansing Therapy

Panchakarma is the line of treatment to eliminate the vitiated doshas from the body to purify the whole body and restores normal strength. These five-fold treatment procedures are:

  1. Emesis
  2. Purgation
  3. Enema with oil
  4. Enema with decoction
  5. Nasal cleansing / Blood-letting

This therapy is, however, more preventive importance than treatment has. Ayurveda introduced this concept for promoting health. It is recommended that doshas accumulated in the body during the transitional phase between two seasons.

Vata, Pitta & Kapha in a healthy person are to be expelled by elimination therapy in the months of July-August, October-November, and March-April, respectively. Panchakarma is to be administered in this appropriate time before accumulated doshas start a disease.

Swasthya Urjaskar – Invigorator of Health

Ayurveda offers two types of medicines. Some tone up the health of a healthy person, and some others remove the ailments of a patient. The medication of the first category is mostly Rasayana (rejuvenators) & Vajikarana (Aphrodisiacs).

Rasayana is a collection of drugs, diet, and regimens which promote longevity by preventing aging and diseases. Over time the process of wear and tear increases in the body, which results in exposure of the body to several illnesses. This ultimately leads to death.

Rasayana by nourishing cells & tissues of the body and enhancing their immunity arrests this process of decay and prevents the formation of disease. Apart from preventive utility of this therapy, even patients who are already suffering from diseases can derive benefits from this.

Rasayana drugs such as Amalaki, Ashwagandha, Guduchi, Pippali, Bala, Bhallatak, Shankhapushpi, Shilajatu etc. are commonly used. Daily use of milk and ghee (clarified butter) also acts as Rasayana.

A favorite example of Rasayana is Chyawanprash, which is still very much in vogue.

These drugs are anti-oxidant, anti-aging, and immuno-modulator. Few of them also promote intellect and cure several specific diseases.

Vajikarana therapy aims at procreating healthy progeny for a healthy society. This therapy improves the potency and virility of humans. Thus it prevents the dysfunctioning of reproductive organs and maintains health.

Vajikarana drugs are needed to be taken regularly even though an individual is free from diseases. These drugs help in the maintenance of an excellent physique.

Prevention – Need of the Hour

On looking at the current trends of incurable disorders, modern sciences also have begun emphasizing on prevention through dietary and lifestyle modifications.

But Ayurveda since time immemorial focussed on prevention rather than cure. So, we must reap the benefits of the solutions offered by this ancient science.

Preventive methods mentioned by Ayurveda are easy to follow in our day to day life and are in accordance with environmental variations.

Sadvritta, an essential regimen granted by Ayurveda is much needed in today’s society for a happy social and mental health. For prevention, it is crucial that bad dietary & behavioral habits should be given up gradually and should adopt healthy habits.

These guidelines are undoubtedly useful for humanity. Such unique rules by Ayurveda outscore conventional medicines when it comes to the prevention and management of non-communicable or lifestyle disorders.