The Power of Integrative Medicine, when all else fails

Integrative medicine is grounded in the definition of health. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Prof Vd. Gunvant Yeola, renowned Ayurveda Physician, talks about the effectiveness of Integrated treatment and the principles that go behind it. 

Integrative medicine seeks to restore and maintain health and wellness across a person’s life by understanding the patient’s unique circumstances and addressing  their physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect health. Through personalized care, integrative medicine goes beyond the treatment of symptoms to address all the causes of an illness. In doing so, the patient’s immediate health needs as well as the effects of the long-term and complex interplay between biological, behavioral, psychosocial and environmental influences are taken into account.

It also involves patients and doctors working to maintain health by paying attention to lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, quality of rest, family life, social life etc.

The defining principles of integrative medicine are:

  • The patient and practitioner are associates in the healing process.
  • Body, mind, spirit and social conditions are the factors that influence health, wellness and disease and are taken into consideration.
  • Use of all other healing sciences to facilitate the body’s innate healing response.
  • Effective interventions that are natural and less invasive are used whenever possible.
  • Good medicine is based in good science. It is inquiry-driven and open to new paradigms.
  • Not only is the treatment planned but the broader concepts of health promotion and the prevention of illness are paramount.
  • The care is personalized to best address the individual’s unique conditions, needs and circumstances.

In addition to addressing and handling the immediate health problem(s) as well as the deeper causes of the disease or illness, integrative medicine strategies, also focus on prevention and foster the development of healthy behaviors and skills for effective self-care that patients can use throughout their lives.

Ayurveda is an ancient healing system based on traditional wisdom that originated in India many years ago and focuses on the balance of the body, mind and consciousness. Now recognized as an important integrative tool, its use is rapidly spreading across the globe. It manages client illness at multiple levels by addressing other causes such as stress, lifestyle and emotional patterns. Its ability to reduce symptoms and sometimes reverse imbalances has captured the interest of the scientific world due to positive findings. This has been documented by various evidence-based research programs.

Since modern or conventional medicine has got a better understanding of Psycho–neuro–immune-endocrinology axis, many drugs and topical applications for the various imbalances have been developed. However, most would agree that there is still a limited knowledge of what causes the initial imbalance and malfunctioning of this axis. The traditional western approach generally prescribes substitution or chemical therapy and/or surgery. Since this approach has risks associated with the treatment plan itself, many physicians/scientist are looking to Ayurveda and other alternative systems with new hope.

Ayurveda’s comprehensive understanding of Psycho-somatic (mano-kayik vyadhi) disorders applies a natural and holistic approach that may significantly help prevent and reduce the challenges. Its foundation is a ‘tri-dosha’ theory which views the individual’s constitution as a mixture of ‘Vata,’ ‘Pitta,’ and ‘Kapha,’ which are the three distinct combinations of the universal five elements of wind, space, fire, water and earth. A person’s unique combination of these elements and the effects of the past lifestyle and dietary choices are considered when developing a personalized care program. However, since Ayurveda is a science of body, mind and consciousness, it is not enough to merely focus on just physical symptoms and imbalances; the client’s mind and consciousness also play a major role, especially in Neuro-psycho-immuneo-endocrinology axis imbalance. In this way, Ayurveda goes well beyond the physical level when addressing any imbalance or disease condition.

For example, in the case of cardiac diseases which are described in ayurved as ‘Hridrog’, along with modern medicine if we include an Ayurvedic regimen, the patient may experience significant healing support and potential reversal of some of the structural and/or functional imbalance of the cardiovascular diseases. In addition to an organic, natural diet, music therapy, yoga and meditation, it is important for the client to partake in ‘Panchakarma,’ a gentle, yet deep Ayurvedic cleansing program. Panchakarma is an ancient Indian healing modality involving the successive application of oils on the skin and then to the entire body for the purpose of penetrating through the skin and removing fat-soluble toxins at the cellular level. Certain purification procedures like Vaman (medicated emesis), Virechan (medicated purgation), Basti (medicated enema) are useful for detoxification. Some treatments are generally done on a frequent interval or on regular basis for a period of seven to twenty one days, depending on the severity of the imbalance and whether it’s a chronic condition. After the cleanse, since the cells are no longer coated with toxins, the cellular ‘fire’ called as ‘Dhatwagni’ and intelligence is improved and healthy functioning is restored at the deepest level. Shirodhara is another ancient tradition whereby warm oil is poured on the forehead area. In addition to inducing a state of blissful and deep relaxation, the oil stream on the forehead facilitates a channel opening. Shirodara, is an extremely powerful healing tool, which can initiate and deepen healing and improves the health of endothelium layer of circulatory system. Integrative approach to preventive cardiology is the need of an hour.

A brief summary of the Ayurvedic understanding and management of Psycho– neuro–immune-endocrinology axis imbalance/disorders is as follows:

  • Application of three folded treatment plan viz. Yukti-vyapashraya Chikitsa (objectively planned therapy) Sattvavajaya Chikitsa (psychological therapy) and Daiva-vyapashraya Chikitsa (spiritual therapy).
  • Changes in diet, lifestyle, and emotional communication patterns can assist in the removal of both physical and emotional toxins.
  • Certain emotions have direct effects on the immune and endocrine system. Ayurveda addresses this area by balancing the energy centers during Panchakarma.
  • An organic, natural diet appropriate to the individual’s unique constitution should be followed and modified as the seasons change.
  • Follow rules and regulations of eating mainly related to time, quantity, quality and preparation of food.
  • Yoga and meditation should be incorporated into the client’s lifestyle routine to promote grounding, mindfulness and connection to spirit.
  • Ayurveda highly recommends both Panchakarma and Shirodara, explained in detail above.
  • Finally, after PanchaKarma, specific herbs may be recommended to further support continued healing, based on the affected Psycho– neuro–immune-endocrinology axis and the associated imbalances.

Ayurveda offers a promising integrative regimen that balances body, mind, emotions and consciousness. The health improvements experienced by clients who choose Ayurveda along with conventional treatment plan often create a deep shift, which creates confidence and increases faith, which then further supports an even higher level of overall healing. Countless clients have benefited from integrating traditional health care and disease management with the ancient traditions and wisdom of Ayurveda.

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