If there was a way to prevent almost every disease known to man, what would modern medicine look like? Would morbidity and mortality of the United States population change drastically? Would our view of diseases from a physiological perspective change? Would health care strategies change? As it turns out, there might be an answer to disease prevention stemming from an ancient medical system called Ayurveda. Ayurvedic medicine focuses on the prevention of disease using foods to balance the body's energy. If the fundamental concept of the Ayurvedic diet were to be integrated into modern medicine, the population wouldn't have to suffer from any of the known preventable diseases; diseases such as autoimmune disorders, pulmonary and heart diseases, or even cancer. If we incorporated what mankind knew and practiced five-thousand years ago into what we know now, we could not only boost our immune systems and feel better, but live longer and healthier, disease-free lives.
Furthermore, as modern science progresses, so does its understanding of how the human body functions. Thus, science has made large strides in understanding the physiological impacts of nutritional deficiencies, and how these deficiencies impact aspects of human growth, development, and immunity. Through the understanding of population trends, and the specific role the human diet plays on the health of a demographic population, modern medicine is able to understand the factors needed for disease prevention. Knowing that diet has a significant impact on the way the body prevents disease, further research may suggest that the Western diet may encourage diseases, such as colon cancer, breast cancer, among other life-threatening diseases, (The Cancer Project, http://www.cancerproject.org/survival/cancer_facts/meat.php).
Studies have shown a correlation to the types of food consumed and the overall health of the individual. Eating too much of the wrong foods can cause an abundance of health issues, stemming from free radical damage and inflammation. Many Americans also have the propensity to be overweight, or even obese. In fact, sixty-three percent of men and fifty-five percent of women were shown to have a BMI of greater than 25, which makes them a prime candidate for coronary heart disease and high cholesterol, (Must, et al, 1999). According to the 2000 census data, almost 47 million have metabolic syndrome, (Ford, et al, 2002). Free radicals are found to play a major role in atherosclerosis, most cancers, and many other chronic conditions leading to pulmonary heart disease, (Voelker, 1998).
By incorporating the Ayurvedic diet, and adding plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, the body is able to stabilize and cleanse itself naturally. Committing to such a lifestyle change may be beneficial for anyone, but primarily for those seeking the prevention of disease, or for those trying to prevent disease progression. More importantly, eating the right type of foods to balance and nourish the body's specific needs will ensure their health and well-being.
In Ayurveda, the state of well-being is referred to as the swastha. It is important to understand that the primary focus on health is to prevent diseases, instead of allowing disease to take control of the body. Using foods to balance the body helps to nourish and build up the immune system, which is vital for staying disease-free. Balancing the body's energy, or prana, as it is referred to in Sanskrit, is done by eating certain foods based on the energetic tendencies of each individual. These tendencies, or doshas, are the body's subtle energy, vital for maintaining health, vitality, and physical well-being. Thus, an individual's physiological, psychological, and spiritual health depends on how well the physical, mental, and spiritual balance is maintained, and if an equilibrium between the doshas are kept.
The Doshas are subdivided into three parts. Vata, the first and main dosha, comes from prana, the main life force energy, which prevails in all living things. The other two doshas: pitta and kapha, emerge out of vata. This triad of energy, if kept in balance, provides the bioenergetic force which we need to stay healthy, ward off diseases, and keep us alive.
The doshas exist because of the five elements. In Ayurvedic medicine, the building blocks of all matter, including life, exists from air, fire, water, earth, and ether. These five elements are part of our organs, tissues, bodily functions, life cycles, seasons, and even our diets. It is important to understand these five elements when balancing and maintaining the doshas through our lifestyle and diet.
For instance, vata is governed by wind, and corresponds to movement, the breath, and the peripheral nervous system. Vata's qualities are cold, dry, airy, subtle, mobile, sharp, hard, rough, and clear. Vata represents the elements of air and ether. Foods to balance vata constitution include warm, heavy, oily and dense foods that are mostly salty in the winter and sweet in the summer. Foods, such as cheese, butter, cream, and yogurt, steamed vegetables, heavy sauces, and hot teas are perfect for balancing vata in the summer time. Warm soups, broths, chili, and stews are great for the winter diet. Fried foods can be taken in moderation either season, while warm cereal for breakfast should be the norm. An individual with a strong vata constitution should avoid cold, dry foods, such as salads, iced drinks, raw foods, and caffeinated beverages, (Ayurveda For You, http://ayurveda-foryou.com/treat/foodplan.html). .
For kapha, which is considered part of the two lesser doshas, is governed by water. Water corresponds to phlem, bodily tissues, stability, and protection. Kapha's qualities are cold, wet, heavy, dense, slimy, gross, stable, sticky, soft, smooth, cloudy, and muggy. Kapha represents water and earth. Foods to balance kapha include hot, dry, light, or raw foods. Breakfasts with whole-wheat pancakes, or whole-wheat toast is ideal. Hot teas and other liquids are favorable. Light meals with raw vegetables is recommended, with more sour foods in the summer and spicy foods in the winter. Kapha should avoid sweet, salty, and oily foods, as well as frozen or rich desserts, ( Ayurveda For You, http://ayurveda-foryou.com/treat/foodplan.html).
Pitta is also part of vata and is governed by fire, which corresponds to the body's agni, or digestion, metabolism, thermogenesis, and the growth and transformation on the cellular level. Pitta's qualities are hot, light, sharp, penetrating, flowing, soft and smooth. Pitta's elements are fire and water. Foods to balance pitta includes cold, moderately heavy, and dry foods, such as salads with minimal dressing. Sweets are favorable, but shouldn't be eaten in large quantities. Cold cereals or bagels are great for breakfasts; while cheese, whole-grains and vegetables are recommended for lunch year round. Individuals with a kapha constitution should avoid those foods which are hot and wet, pungent, and very sour or bitter, ( Ayurveda For You, http://ayurveda-foryou.com/treat/foodplan.html).
Most importantly, adding balancing fruits and vegetables to the diet, such as grapefruit, avocado, berries, artichokes, asparagus, carrots, cucumber, green beans, yams, squash, bell pepper, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, eggplant, garlic and horseradish can all boost immunity and aid in disease prevention. For example, artichokes are shown to provide antioxidants and lower cholesterol, (Bundy, 2008). Many berries, such as cranberries, have antioxidants that reduce free radicals and can prevent plaque build-up; and cranberries also prevent urinary tract infections, (Blumenthal, p.73).
For vata constitution, steamed, boiled, or even some fried vegetables such as squash, parsnip, okra, artichoke, asparagus, leeks, onion, watercress, beets, green beans, carrots, cucumber and zucchini are the best. Sweet, raw fruits can also help balance individuals with the vata constitution, such as, berries, dates, peaches, mango, figs, bananas, kiwi, melons, plums, and citrus fruits such as grapefruit, oranges, and lemons, (wong, http://altmedicine.about.com/cs/2/a/ayurveda.htm)..
For kapha constitution, eating vegetables raw, grilled, baked, or broiled such as bell peppers, broccoli, green beans, horseradish, okra, onions, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, garlic, peas, peppers, turnips, and leafy greens like spinach help in balancing. Most fruits, however, are aggravating to the kapha constitution, except for berries, apples, pears, mango, peaches, pomegranates; and dried fruits such as prunes or raisins, (wong, http://altmedicine.about.com/cs/2/a/ayurveda.htm)..
For the pitta constitution, consuming raw, cold vegetables such as cucumber, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, bell pepper, celery, lettuce, sprouts, peas, and parsnips are the best for balancing this dosha. Fruits that balance include avocado, dates, figs, grapes, apples, melons, pineapples, pears, and mango, (wong, http://altmedicine.about.com/cs/2/a/ayurveda.htm)..
Also, adding more whole grains such as amaranth, buckwheat, millet, oats, quinoa, teff, and wild rice are great additions to the diet, and will improve overall health and well-being. Vata dosha balances well with oats, wild rice, wheat, and amaranth. Kapha dosha balances best with grains such as buckwheat, corn, granola, millet, amaranth, oats, quinoa, rice, and rye. Pitta dosha balances with cooked oats, barley, rice, wheat bran, and wheat granola, (wong, http://altmedicine.about.com/cs/2/a/ayurveda.htm)..
Meat, such as fish, lobster, poultry, grass-fed beef, and wild game are also great for maintaining health. Individuals with the vata constitution can enjoy almost all meats, such as poultry, grass-fed beef, eggs, and seafood. Individuals with a kapha constitution can enjoy the dark meat of poultry and eggs, but should avoid red meats altogether. Also, pitta constitution can enjoy chicken, turkey, egg, shrimp, and freshwater fish, (wong, http://altmedicine.about.com/cs/2/a/ayurveda.htm).
Incorporating the Ayurvedic diet, and what we know about foods in Allopathic medicine would be beneficial in diagnosing and treating illnesses in clinical practices. Allopathic medicine focuses on the way the lymphatic system handles diseases, and how the immune system plays an integral roll for the health and well-being of each individual. It is best understood that when the immune system is weakened, either by stress, environment, or life-style choices, the body becomes more susceptible to disease.
However, in recent years, discoveries in certain food preferences deepen the understanding of pathophysiology and the science of disease prevention. The World Health Organization now recognizes that key factors within a diet plays an integral role in the health of a population. Then in 1997, The American Institute for Cancer Research linked certain chemical compounds in animal proteins to certain types of cancers. Compounds, such as heterocyclic amines and polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons are now known to be linked to certain cancers such as prostate, colon, and breast cancer. The further consumption of hormone-induced animal tissues and surplus of saturated fatty acids within the diet may also contribute to and even accelerate the growth of cancer in hormone-sensitive human tissue. Only the consumption of antioxidants, fiber, and certain phytochemicals help to rid the body of harmful carcinogens found in animal protein, and also offers protection from cancer cell growth, (The Cancer Project, http://www.cancerproject.org/survival/cancer_facts/meat.php)
When we look at Ayurvedic medicine, the focus is on keeping the body in balance so that disease is not able to take hold of the body. Disease, in this regard, is viewed as an imbalance of the body's state of well-being, or swastha; and the body's life source, doshas, which are vital for maintaining health, vitality, and physical well-being. Keeping this triad in balance provides the bioenergetic force which is necessary for optimum health. This balance of energy is specifically important because disease is thought to take hold of the body when the agni, the body's fire digestion, becomes impaired and can only be fixed through diet. The end result, when the doshas are balanced, the body's equilibrium is restored and, with it, immunity from disease as well.
In summary, the way to prevent most diseases is through incorporating modern medicine with the ancient wisdom of Ayurvedic medicine. By incorporating the Ayurvedic diet as a means of disease prevention, the incidence of morbidity and mortality of the United State's population would decrease, while medicine's view of pathophysiology would expand to allow for new discoveries in health. With the Aurvedic diet, mankind wouldn't have to suffer from any more preventable diseases, thus would have stronger and healthier immune systems, and would be able to live longer, disease-free lives.
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