AYURVEDA FOR A HEALTHY EUROPE – A differentiated approach of lifestyle diseases

The focus of Ayurveda is on the individual rather than the disease, on life quality rather than on mortality as most discussions on lifestyle diseases tend to be, says  Dr. Simone Hunziker, MD

In Europe, like in other parts of the developed world, lifestyle has, in an ever-accelerated process,evolved into an omnipresent threat to life, as a consequence of industrialization, digitalization, urbanization, and new social and food patterns.But today, at the global level, as much as two-thirds of the global mortality are due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs). By observing the statistics in the fruitless global debate on lifestyle diseases, the only concern seem to be about the quantifiable aspects like mortality and longevity.

Yet, in a primary care consultation in Europe,one encounters numerous lifestyle disorders that are not directly related to mortality, but, cause suffering on a daily basis, undermining the collective well-being and economic strength as much as mortality. While poor diet, tobacco, alcohol and sedentarism are incriminated for the NCDs that increase mortality, the real villains are stress, inadequate sleep, unorganized hectic life, overwork, overexertion, negative professional environment, social tensions, digital addiction and many more.

Non-communicable or lifestyle diseases are chronic and its treatment most often involves increasing lifespan without actually improving its quality. Therefore, it is good to focus on the quality of life than merely postponing the ending.

How can Ayurveda in this context contribute to a healthy Europe?

Ayurveda, the knowledge of life, rooted in the philosophical schools of Samkhya and Yoga considers that the purpose of any human incarnation is the awakening of the consciousness until one reaches Moksha (liberation) from the apparent and the illusionary scenario of the creation. Consequently, Ayurveda is at the service of quality of life and longevity that ensure optimal conditions for that journey. It considers the trilogy of body, mind and spirit to constitute one inseparable entity. Whatever affects one aspect of the organism will also impact the others.

For maintaining and restoring the life balance of any organism, Ayurveda involves differentiated methods based on time-tested and documented concepts. This includes preventive medicine as well as  curative medicine.

Long before the manifestation of any organic disease,one could identify the underlying disorders and manage them at an early stage in an individualized and global approach. According to Ayurveda, the pathological process evolves through six stages and the organic manifestation occurs only at the fifth stage. This means that any disease can be diagnosed during the first four stages before it can affect at the organic level. Yet, even early diagnosis becomes relevant only when prevention fails.

As a medical system and a philosophy of life,Ayurveda’s scope lies in its preventive mechanism. This helps it pursue collective health and wealth.Preventive medicine is the subject matter of the discipline called Svasthavrtta that conveys codified and time-tested concepts regarding seasonal and daily routine in general as well as individual rules regarding nutrition, activities, sleep and sexuality.

Sadvritta is an ethical regimen that gives access to a harmonious individual and social life. Both play an important role in curative medicine too. Without respecting their principles one can neither maintain nor restore health in a sustainable way. Both are based on the universal principles that find their appropriate expression in time and space, every era and every part of the world.

For instance, the traditional rules for healthy lifestyle in Europe, although less differentiated and individualized, are mostly compliant with ayurvedic principles. This applies as much to seasonal rules as to food habits.In contrary, most of modern nutrition and lifestyle concepts do deviate from ayurvedic concepts. Yet, when one applies the latter in the modern  Europe, the results are self-explanatory.

Unlike for the spirit, where the ethical regimen is of general value, there are comparatively few generalized rules for lifestyle when it comes to the whole organism. This is due to the fact that each person has an individual constitution (prakriti) that remains unchanged throughout the whole life, defining his or her strengths, weaknesses, needs and tendencies. On the other hand, any disease or functional disorder can manifest in various forms according to the peculiarity of the individual’s patho-physiological disorder (vikriti) that needs to be treated specifically. This manifests from the first stage of the pathological process.

The person is thus understood as a whole in his or her natural and social environment and on the other hand as a unique individuum in a unique situation that has to be assessed and cared for by taking into account all the variables. Therefore, the educational aspect of the therapeutic process involves, encouraging the patient to become an active and responsible partner and this is very crucial. At the same time, it represents the conditio sine qua non for life quality and wealth.

Thus, Ayurveda’s answer to a health scenario that is dominated by chronic lifestyle diseases of individuals having delegated the responsibility of their health to the system, is thus individualized and differentiated prevention, global approach, education and active participation of the person, early diagnoses and treatment. These are the ingredients for sustainable collective health.

Dr Simone Hunziker, MD

Medical and Academic Director, SAMA-Swiss Ayurvedic Medical Academy

Founding President, Indo-Swiss Ayurveda Foundation (ISA)

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