Ayurveda and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Ayurveda is a system of traditional medicine that has its roots in ancient India. It is translated as “The Science of Life,” and is more than 5000 years old - perhaps the oldest healing system on Earth.
Unlike today’s modern medicine, Ayurveda treats the whole person, not just symptoms.
Though it is quite complex, it essentially maintains that there is supreme intelligence and order in everything. There are five elements that make up the universe (including the human body): Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. A balance of three doshas is stressed: vata (wind/air), pitta (bile) and kapha (phlegm).
According to Ayurveda, these three principles are important for health, because when they are in balanced state, the body is healthy, and when imbalanced, the body has disease. Understanding this balance is the key to natural health and longevity.
I was first introduced to Ayurveda through reading Deepak Chopra’s book Perfect Health almost a decade ago and was quite intrigued. Since then, I have studied quite a few books on Ayurveda, had a number of Ayurvedic treatments, and even trained to become a polarity therapist, which is rooted in Ayurveda. Though I have a good grasp of the basics, I do not pretend to be an expert. If you see something here that piques your interest, seek out a trained Ayurvedic physician or practitioner in your area.
In Ayurveda, Rheumatoid Arthritis is called Amavata. RA is caused by “ama,” which is produced by poor digestion, a result of an imbalanced digestive fire. Left unchecked, ama can become toxic. Imbalanced vata (associated with wind/air) picks up the ama and carries it to kapha areas of the body (e.g. joints) where it becomes sticky and blocks nutrients to those areas. The body sees the sticky ama as an intruder, thus triggering an immune response.
It is interesting to note that modern medicine also suggests a link between poor digestion (leaky gut syndrome) and rheumatoid arthritis.
So how did I get this ama in the first place, you ask?
If you aren’t aware of your body composition (which is your primary dosha? The Chopra Center
has a free quiz to find out!) and working to keep your body systems in a balanced state through lifestyle and diet means, you will start to accumulate ama. Causes of amavata:
- Foods/habits incompatible with your constitution
- Poor digestion
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Consuming too much fat
Ayurvedic Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis, in a Nutshell
- Avoid the formation of ama by increasing the body's fire (ginger is good for this).
- Get rid of the already formed ama (turmeric is helpful here).
- Reduce of inflammation in joints (I use natural anti-inflammatory supplements like turmeric, ginger, fish oil, quercetin, etc.)
- Balance Vata. Vata likes:
- Routine (eat, sleep, get up, etc. at the same time everyday)
- Warmth (try to avoid cold, windy days and stay warm)
- Serenity (yoga and meditation can help you here)
- Nourishment (Follow a vata pacifying diet and do abhyanga, a self-oil massage every evening. The Chopra Center has some great abhy oils and Surya food spices formulated for each dosha.)
Ayurvedic professionals will have other methods and treatments for achieving these goals that you might want to try too.
Common Ayurvedic Herbs Used to Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis
Herbs are very important in Ayurveda. Here are some more commonly used ones that can be helpful in treating rheumatoid arthritis (again, before you use them, it's wise to consult with your doctor):
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