Each month we will be bringing you videos, interviews and more information about our therapies and therapists, this month we start with a short interview with our resident Ayurvedic doctor, Dr Mathew…
By Dr Mathew
There is a lot of information now available and with further studies taking place on the topic of immunity and autoimmune issues specifically, many diseases that were previously thought as idiopathic or of non-specific reasons are now being understood as of having a strong inflammatory and autoimmunity factor behind them. The greatest example is of type one diabetes and inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and crohn’s. Type 1 diabetes was thought to be purely genetic in origin and sometimes as the absence of insulin producing cells at birth. Now it is understood that our immunity attacks the pancreas leading to Type 1 DM. Similarly, in case of coeliac disease which was understood as an allergy towards gluten which is a protein present in grains like wheat, now we see the significant involvement of improper immunity and inflammatory changes on the intestines.
Before we try to understand about Ayurveda and how it considers autoimmune issues, let’s take a quick look on what autoimmunity is in simple terms. Sometimes with all the research and genetic, epigenetic, environmental, and microbial factors being studied the explanations become very complicated and fail to serve their purpose. The purpose of a study in my humble opinion is to help understand “How and Why” is it happening and to help us take steps to prevent this or treat it in a better way than the currently followed symptom management protocol. Immunity is basically of two kinds, one which is present inside of us from the time we are born and the next is acquired. The second kind which is acquired immunity plays a major role in human survival because it prepares our body to fight with new and more advance threats that tend to originate during our life time. It is very important here to think about how our immune system recognizes whether a factor entering our body is a threat or not. Recent research points to the fact that our immunity is not identifying cells from our body differentiated from alien cells. What activates immunity is whether the cell, tissue or amino acid is serving its purpose of maintaining an equilibrium inside our body or not. Equilibrium is the mechanism which help us maintain same body temperature, same internal atmosphere like blood pressure, enzyme levels, hormone levels etc even when we have a varied diet and expose ourselves to a varied external atmosphere.
The uniqueness in an Ayurvedic method of diagnosis and treatment is that this equilibrium or “dosha” balance is given more importance than the immediate symptom while managing a health condition. Now if we consider a person having diabetes, the method of addressing the blood glucose levels without looking at the well clear autoimmune factor behind it will be like applying daily fresh coats of paint on a dirty wall. The wall will look good from outside, but inside because of the dirt and moisture which is the causative factor is remaining unaddressed. This leads to appearance of other associated hormonal, circulatory, inflammatory, and digestive issues.
Apart from the basic imbalance, two secondary factors are actively involved in causing autoimmune conditions according to Ayurveda.
1) Agni or digestive fire – This consists of all the mechanisms we know and still to be identified which results in the conversion of nutrients from food to body tissues. The effective functioning of Agni is the key necessity for the body developing optimum resistance which comprises of immunity and all other factors that help us withstand unfavorable physical, emotional, and environmental changes. The first line of treatment is getting the digestive system on track, improving available energy levels and developing “proper” resistance. Slightly different from the current treatment methods of using immune suppressants.
2) Ama or metabolic waste – We discussed about the condition where our immunity identifying tissues based on not self and non-self but based on being functional and helpful in maintaining homeostasis or equilibrium. The concept of ama includes the metabolic by products, chemicals, pollutants, and waste products that are not water soluble and eliminated through the normal elimination pathways. This Ama tends to get deposited throughout the body tissues and disrupts its normal function. When there is a vulnerable situation like infection, physical mental or emotional or environmental stress, Ama creates inflammation. So, detoxification is a process that we recommend as part of healing autoimmune and other similar conditions of inflammatory origin.
Ayurveda is not an issue based medical science, it is an imbalance based life science. It makes complete sense in Ayurveda to have multiple symptoms like bloated feeling, feeling cold hands and feet, dry sensitive skin, low metabolism, low blood pressure, joint pains, and anxiousness all because of one single imbalance in the body. Or having acidity, signs of inflammation, headaches, hormonal imbalance, excessive sweating, and skin sensitivities all because of another one. If we look at the symptoms and start treating them separately, we are ignoring the most important factor. What caused all these in the first place? If we look at the cause of the symptoms and take active responsibility for food and activities accordingly, that makes more sense and remedies becomes holistic in its real effect. The survival and continuity in practice of this science since more than 2000 years itself is the biggest proof of its efficacy.
We are doing a masterclass on the topic of autoimmune issues, to discuss in detail the real cause and the remedial measures recommended in ancient Ayurveda on December 3rd 2016 from 2.00pm till 4.00pm. The diet, herbs, treatments, and lifestyle changes that can make real difference in anybody who is suffering from such chronic issues will be discussed. So, I would like take this opportunity to invite all of you for our 5th masterclass on “AN AYURVEDIC PERSPECTIVE OF AUTOIMMUNE ISSUES” at The Alternative Healthcare in Haywards Heath this Saturday afternoon. Let’s all take active and responsible steps together in understanding and extinguishing the real fire, not just clearing the smoke.
The Power of Turmeric
Turmeric has a long history of traditional use stemming from ancient Ayurvedic medicine. At The Alternative Healthcare centre the main concept is the East meets West approach to health and wellbeing, which includes Ayurveda.
Turmeric is now widely used and its benefits have been well documented and studied. Another name for turmeric is curcumin so you may find supplements branded with both these names. Curcumin, is the yellow pigment found in turmeric, which is the main active ingredient in turmeric It is often referred to as “Indian saffron”, as its deep yellow-orange colour is reminiscent of saffron’s.
Turmeric’s flavour is peppery, warm, and bitter, while its fragrance is mild, yet slightly reminiscent of orange and ginger.
Recently, science has started to back up what the Indians have known for a long time. That it really does contain compounds with medicinal properties. These compounds are called curcuminoids, the most important of which is curcumin as mentioned above.
Main Health Benefits
Inflammation is incredibly important as it helps the body fight foreign invaders and also has a role in repairing damage. Although acute (short-term) inflammation is beneficial, it can become a major problem when it is chronic (long-term) and inappropriately deployed against the body’s own tissues.
It is now believed that chronic, low-level inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic, Western disease. This includes heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s and various degenerative conditions.
Therefore, anything that can help fight chronic inflammation is of potential importance in preventing and even treating these diseases.
It turns out that curcumin is strongly anti-inflammatory, it is so powerful that it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs.
There have been many studies to support these claims for example, Patients with osteoarthritis which has an underlying inflammatory cause showed improvement in pain, physical function, and quality of life after taking curcumin.
Other conditions where curcumin can help are: rheumatoid arthritis, toothache, chest pain, colic, bruises, flatulence and menstrual difficulties.
Anti-oxidant – Cancer Protection
Curcumin exerts very powerful antioxidant effects, Curcumin’s antioxidant actions enable it to protect healthy cells from free radicals that can damage cellular DNA and lead to cancer.
This action is significantly beneficial to areas of the body such as the lining of the colon, where cell turnover is quite rapid – approximately every three days. Because of their frequent replication, mutations in the DNA of colon cells can result in the formation of cancerous cells much more quickly.
Furthermore, curcumin helps the body to destroy mutated cancer cells, so they cannot spread through the body and cause more harm. It has also been shown to inhibit tumor growth
Heart Disease Prevention
Curcumin helps to lower cholesterol and prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. Since oxidised cholesterol is what damages blood vessels and builds up in the plaques that can lead to heart attack or stroke, preventing the oxidation of new cholesterol may help to reduce the profression of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease.
Curcumin reduces the build-up of the protein amyloid-b in the brain. Amyloid-b cause oxidative damage and inflammation in the brain and is one of the main causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Antioxidants in turmeric help to fight this free-radical damage.
How to Select and Store
Turmeric is available as a ground powder but also as the fresh rhizome. Fresh turmeric should be free from dark spots and be crisp. It may be stored in the refrigerator, where it will keep for one month.
How to use it
In Ayurvedic medicine, it is often given with milk as the lipid soluble compounds are more bio-available when dissolved in lipid compounds. Stir 1 tbsp turmeric powder into warm milk to treat painful joints or eczema.
A spicy rice dish – enliven brown rice with cashews and raisins and season with turmeric, cumin and toasted coriander seeds.
Puy Lentil Soup with Fresh Turmeric – Serves 4
Benefits – Helps ease joint pain, lower cholesterol, balance blood sugar levels and aids healthy digestion
250g (9oz) puy lentils
2 tbsp sesame oil
4 shallots, finely chopped
3cm (1 ¼ inch) piece each fresh ginger root and turmeric, peeled and sliced
1 chilli, deseeded and finely diced
2 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
½ tsp coriander seeds, crushed
½ tsp ground turmeric
2 garlic gloves, crushed
750ml (1 ¼ pints) vegetable stock
4 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
- Although puy lentils can be cooked without soaking, it’s worth doing so for at least 2 hours to make them more easily digestible. Rinse thoroughly afterwards.
- Heat the sesame oil with 3 tablespoons of water in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt and cook until they have softened. Add the fresh ginger root and fresh turmeric, followed by the chilli, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, ground turmeric, and garlic.
- Add the lentils and stir until coated in the mix. Cook for 1-2 minutes to absorb the flavours of the spices and shallots, then pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and let the lentils simmer for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the chopped coriander and serve.
For more information on the benefits of nutritional therapy, please contact The Alternative Healthcare centre to book a consultation with myself and see how food can be your healer and help you feel healthy.
There is also a fabulous Ayurvedic café at the centre so you can sample the delights of delicious healthy food.
Blog written by: Nutritional Therapist Birgitta Pain