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.