Ayurveda is an ancient science of life since time immemorial. Ayurveda, apart from providing various therapeutic measures for diseases, emphasizes on maintenance, promotion of health and prevention of diseases through diet and lifestyle regimens. As per Ayurveda, life is sustained by a tripoid of mental, physical and spiritual factors constituted by body (Sharir), senses (Indriyas), mind (Satwa) and spirit (Atma). The physical world including the human body is derived from the specific combinations of five fundamental entities viz. Akash, Vayu, Teja, Jala and Prithvi which are known as Panchamahabhutas and the soul. Panchamahabhutas form the Tridoshas viz. Vata Dosha, Pitta Dosha and Kapha Dosha, Dhatus (tissues) and Malas (excretory products). Tridoshas carry out the physiological activities and are responsible for the integrity of the human body.
Due to the faulty diet and lifestyle normalcy of the Tridoshas is disturbed and they aggravate in the body. Vitiated Tridoshas disturb the normalcy of Dhatus and Malas causing their vitiation which manifests as various diseases in the body. Thus the health of an individual depends upon the normalcy of the Doshas , Dhatus and Malas.
Health of an individual can be known by following aspects.
- Proper nourishment.
- Proper strength.
- Desire and appetite for intake of food.
- Proper digestion of food ingested at proper time.
- Sleep at proper time.
- Absence of pathological or dreadful dreams.
- Feeling of freshness after waking up in the morning.
- Proper evacuation of faeces, urine, and flatus at the proper time.
- Proper functioning of mental faculties, intelligence and senses in all respect.
- Absence of any kind of pain.
Maintenance of health and treatment of diseases in Ayurveda
Following ways are described in Ayurveda for maintenance of health and treatment of diseases.
- Diet and Nutrition
- Regimen of Personal and Social Hygiene :- Daily routine (Dinacharya), Seasonal regimens (Ritucharya), including basic sanitation and healthy living environment.
Diet plays very important role in our physical and mental health status. Many common health problems can be prevented or treated by consumption of a good diet. The following need to be followed.
- Wash vegetables & fruits properly before cooking.
- Use boiling, steaming, grilling etc. as methods of cooking.
- Whole wheat flour (without sieving) may be prepared for making roti. Roti made out of jowar, bajra, ragi, maize (macca) are also having high fibre content. The use of white bread, nan, roomali roti and other maida preparations should be limited.
- It is desirable to take 50-100 gms/day fibre, when whole grain cereals, pulses and vegetables are consumed daily. It is for our advantage to maintain our traditional cooking and eating patterns.
- Increase locally available seasonal fruits and green leafy vegetables in the diet.
- As far as possible eat freshly prepared food. Reheating and refrigerating tends to lose the taste and nourishment.
- Do eat when you feel hungry i.e don’t avoid mealtimes. Develop the habit of taking meals at regular intervals.
- Avoid overeating.
- Avoid eating too fast or too slow. Food eaten hurriedly does not get digested properly, it does not give a sense of fulfilment. On the contrary one tends to eat more.
- Don’t drink too much or too little water since both hamper the digestion.
- Drinking of luke warm water helps easy passage of motion and urine, enhance digestive power, minimize the diseases related to digestive system and delayed ageing.
- Don’t eat when the mind is unstable because you may eat less or in excess.
- Avoid heavy tasks immediately after meals since the blood circulation is diverted towards the site of action rather than towards digestion of food. It also creates pressure on the heart. After meals don’t sleep immediately. But do take rest for a while before resuming your work. Dinner should be taken at least two hours before sleep.
- Avoid fried foods, restrict intake of ghee, oils. Cook the vegetables with minimum oil.
- Reduce salt and sugar intake.
- Avoid intake of aerated drinks (cola), fast/junk food (Chips, burger, samosa, pizza etc.).
- Increase intake of milk, butter milk, Lassi, coconut water etc.
- Food should be taken after bathing, washing the hands, legs and face and without any disturbance.
- While taking the food, one should not divert his attention to other things.
- After the meals rinse the mouth and hands thoroughly with water. According to Ayurveda the diet is one of the most important factors which have direct impact on three Doshas/humors. To keep these Doshas balanced, our diet should contain all Tastes (Rasas) in a balanced way. For healthy person it is advised in Ayurveda to not to fill stomach full, while taking food. Stomach should be divided into three portions and one portion should be filled by food, second by water and third should be kept vacant for movement of Doshas (Humors). The right quantity of food is decided upon the nature of food substances such as heaviness or lightness and digestive power of the person. Food items like flour products, milk products, sugar cane products, pulses like Urad (Phascolus mungo ), meat etc. are heavy in nature whereas rice, wheat, pulses like moong dal (green gram) etc. are light in nature and easy to digest.
Useful food items for daily use.
- Edibles prepared with cereals like wheat (Gehun/Godhuma) and Barley (Yava)
- Condiments prepared from meat of animals of arid/dry land,
- Jivanti (Holostemma adakodien), Radish (Muli), Basal (Vastuka - Bathua), Terminalia chebula (Haritaki- Harad) (), Indian gooseberry (Amalaka- Amla), snake gourd (Patola - Parval) and green gram (Mudga - Moong), Pomegranate- (Dadima/ Anaar) and Rock salt- (Saindha Namak) are desirable for regular use.
- Fenugreek (methi) has high fibre content and useful in reducing blood glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Green vegetables like Bittergourd (karela), Lettuce leaves, Ladies finger (bhindi), Carrot (gajar), Soya Beans, Drumstik, and Jambu (Jamun) seeds are having beneficial effects for people suffering from Diabetes. However, Curd, Kshara like Kanji (Alkaline preparations), Vinegar, uncooked radish, dried meat, pork, meat of sheep, cow, black gram, bean, tuberous roots, the fibers of lotus (Kamalgutta), sweets prepared by grinding cereals, dried leaves, and molasses are all undesirable for regular use particularly in Diabetes patients.
Personal and social hygiene
Personal and social hygiene can be maintained by following Dinacharya (daily routine ), Ritucharya ( seasonal regimens) and Sadvritta (good conduct) which are described below.
Daily routine (Dinacharya)
It can be summarized as following.
- Wake up early at least 1 hour before sun rise.
- Attending nature’s call (Malotsarg) - bowels, urination etc. Never suppress nor forcefully void the natural urges - Vegavidharan (suppression) can lead to many diseases. For defecation one should always use toilets and it should not be done in open grounds. After defecation, the anal area should be cleaned properly with water and hands should be washed properly with soap.
- Care of Teeth - Usage of fresh stick of Neem (Azadirachta indica), Khadir (Acacia catechu) etc. can clean teeth, and vanish foul smell.
- Nasal drops (Nasya)- Put two drops of sesame oil/ mustard oil/ghee or Anu Talia (An Ayurvedic medicine if available)- It prevents premature greying of hair, baldness and ensures good sleep.
- Mouth wash (Gandush)- Fill mouth with Triphala decoction or other medicated oils - It prevents excess thirst, improves taste and maintains oral hygiene. It is also useful in managing the mouth ulcers and dryness commonly seen in Diabetes patients.
- Oleation (Abhyanga)- application of oil daily e.g. Tila Taila (Seasame oil) - Keeps skin soft, improves blood circulation and removes waste. This helps in prevention of numbness of extremities due to Diabetes. Apply Tila (Seasame) oil or any suitable oil on head in sufficient quantity which enhances the strength of head and forehead and makes hair black, long and deep-rooted.
- Exercise (Vyayama)- Exercise should be done till sweat rolls down from neck, forehead etc. Exercising early in the morning can help remove stagnation in the body and can help recharge and rejuvenate your body and mind for a productive day. Regular exercise is an important step for prevention and management of various ailments.
- Hair should be kept properly and should be cut regularly. Similarly, nails should also be kept clear and should be cut regularly.
- Bath (Snana) - Take bath half to one hour after exercise - Prevents premature greying of hair, baldness, ensures good sleep and physical hygiene.
- Food (Bhojan)- The various aspects as mentioned in the topic diet should be followed.
- Sleep (Nidra)- Keep the environment clean and pleasant. Avoid sleeping in day.- Proper sleep provides health and longevity. Improves complexion and glow. One should take proper sleep every night, which should be between 6-8 hours per night. In summer one can take a small nap during day time also. Too much sleep and too little sleep, both are not good for healthy living. Generally day sleeping is not advisable.
Seasonal regimens (Ritucharya)
Ayurveda stresses a lot at the role of seasons on the body and advises that we must change our daily routine depending on the seasons. This is known as Ritucharya. It helps in preserving the health as the season changes.
Tips to combat summer heat
There are certain measures that you can take to combat the summer heat and stay cool and comfortable. Follow these guidelines
The adverse effects of monsoon and how to combat them
- Drink plenty of liquids like coconut water, sugarcane juice, buttermilk or atleast 10 glass of water a day.
- Eat light food- avoid hot, spicy, oily meals and opt for foods high in water content including fruits, salads, soups and buttermilk.
- While going out, wear a white handkerchief or use an umbrella to block sunrays.
- Do outdoor work in the early mornings or late evenings.
- Take frequent baths and showers and apply sandal (chandan) paste to body for cooling the body.
- Wear light - coloured, loose-fitting cotton clothes.
- Smoking can constrict blood vessels and impair the ability to acclimatize to heat, so quit it.
- Your lunch should consist of boiled rice or roti with watery decoction of pulses or curries with thin gravy. Always end it with buttermilk or curd. Make it a point to drink some fruit juice in the afternoon after lunch. Similarly, the menu of supper should contain enough onions, mint and coriander leaves, in the form of chutney, made salty and sour by adding salt and lemon juice.
- The body is weakened during summer, as it is the period of dehydration. The digestive power is also weakened. It is further weakened during the rains. Hence, it is advisable to take moderate diet during the rainy season.
- Avoid sleeping during the day time.
- Use clean drinking water ((boiled and cooled).
- Avoid too much exercise and moving about in the sun after a spell of rain.
- Wear light and clean clothes and try to keep the rooms devoid of humidity.
How to combat the winter cold
- During winter, digestive power becomes stronger and it can effectively digest heavy and large quantities of food. To satiate this, take plenty of food. Consume milk, and new cereals as dietary staples.
- Massaging the skin with mustard oil is good during winter.
- Avoid cold foods.
- Eat plenty of green vegetables and seasonal fruits.
- Cream of milk/ Ghee is good for cracked lips.
- Honey is a good and valuable natural healer. Apply it over cracked lips after diluting it with double the quantity of water.
Activities during spring (basant) season
- During spring season food becomes easily digestible, diluted honey, water boiled with extracts of sandalwood, mango juice, barley, bengal gram (chana) etc can be taken in. It is better to avoid heavy, oily, cold, fatty food & sweet and sour stuff.
- Massage, exercise, and fomentation can be used.
Sadvritta (good conduct) - for conducive social life
- Everybody works for his happiness. Happiness should be shared with others. One should strive to have happiness for all. It is characteristic of our culture.
- One should exercise control on sense organs.
- One should keep handkerchief around the nostrils and mouth while sneezing or yawning to avoid spread of infection.
- One should stop work before one is excessively tired.
- One should avoid addiction to alcohol, tobacco etc.
- Hygiene is the most important part of healthy living. One can remain healthy if hygiene is maintained. Selecting the right food are not only choices but also cooking & consuming them in a hygienic way is equally important in preventing many diseases. Adopting hygienic practices and promoting hygiene in the community, schools and workplace prevents innumerable disease.
- Alcohol consumption: It is advisable to avoid any alcoholic beverages. If alcohol is consumed in excess, it will cause burning, intoxication, swelling, liver disorders etc.
Examples of simple and comfortable exercises
- Make daily exercise a routine.
- Exercise for a minimum period of 30 min. daily, which can be split into intervals.
- Form a habit of using stairs.
- Include exercise in your routine work, develop a habit of walking e.g. to school, market, friend’s house, workplace etc.
Where should I find the time for exercise
- Walking, cycling, jogging, swimming, dancing, playing games/sports.
- Yogasanas, gardening and household, chores-washing, mopping etc.
- At home, at work or during leisure.
- Combine shopping, gardening etc. with exercise.
- Take stairs instead of elevator (upto 3 floors).
- Walk to nearby shop rather than drive.
Source : Manual for ASHA/ANMs on general wellness and prevention of common ailments through Ayurveda