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  • Subject area(s): Philosophy
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  • Published on: 21st September 2019
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The close connection between humans and the cosmos nearly 5,000 years ago in ancient India, initiated the first healthcare system of Ayurveda documented in the Vedas. Over the following centuries, writings known as Samhitas, cultivated and advanced the knowledge of Ayurveda. Ayurveda relies upon the elements of the Earth to diagnose symptoms, treat disease, and maintain health. Whereas in the modern American healthcare system, disease is diagnosed with a standard structure and is treated with mechanically developed compounds, and practices for maintaining health is universal. This system has greatly deviated from the ancient practices of Ayurveda. Personally working in the healthcare field on a dementia unit has provided a profound understanding of the reality of the industry. Especially during the end of life, Americans heavily rely on the healthcare field while the philosophy of Ayurveda is that one is their own best physician. The massive American healthcare system will doubtfully reform to heavily include Ayurvedic practices for the financial loss it would entail regardless of the benefits patients would experience. However, since professionals are highly regarded in the already well adept western culture, a consultation with physicians based off of a self-education in Ayurveda would be advantageous to patients. Ayurveda in conjunction with American medicine would provide a myriad of benefits by adapting the Ayurvedic views of how the body is viewed for diagnosing, disease treatment, and diet.

Primarily, Ayurvedic ideologies recognizes the individuality within humankind, which is the basis for diagnosing disease.  The body is viewed as a combination of the natural elements known as doshas: ether and air (vata), fire (pitta), and water and earth (kapha) and together they are the tridosha. The doshas, control all the internal processing of the body. Each dosha is localized to specific anatomical areas in order to control certain internal processing. Therefore, maintenance and balance of the doshas is crucial for health. The cause of disease largely lies in a dramatic shift of the doshas. The idea of the unique combination of the doshas eliminates the possibility for a standardized human model. The outward physical appearance and the inward internal experience of each person is highly individualized, therefore it is justifiable that the reasoning behind diagnosing disease is also individualized. This directly contrasts the American view of the body with a healthcare system that has been consumed by a “one size fits all” approach. For example, a common cold warrants the same diagnoses in western medicine, but Ayurveda looks at the individual symptoms to determine what dosha is causing the illness. Technology has allowed modern scientists to uncover bodily processing, however the cause, many times, still remains unknown. Utilizing this technology and replacing the American singular view of the body with the Ayurvedic view of the body would provide the cause of the disease with a personalized diagnosis.

Secondly, the way in which Ayurveda treats disease with herbs would greatly complement western medicine. Nature provides its creations with cures and Ayurveda harnesses that by including an extensive section on herbs. The Ayurvedic people who discovered the herbs lacked the technology to understand the chemicals within the plants. However, they understood how each herb affected each dosha based on the six tastes (rasas). The six tastes either increase or decrease each dosha. Specifically, 80 herbs are significant in Ayurveda which are currently being supported by modern day research.  For instance, studies have been conducted using turmeric to treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. There are symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease that strip the patient of dignity and control. Symptoms of irritability, agitation, anxiety, apathy, and urinary incontinence were focused on in this study of Alzheimer’s disease patients. Each patient exhibited a variety of these symptoms and were put on a regimen of 764 mg of turmeric a day. After 12 weeks, in each of the cases, the symptoms were alleviated. Through personal experience of working in a dementia facility, in American medicine, side effects of dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease) are treated with medication as they become overwhelmingly expressed. Therefore, the patient must first experience these debilitating symptoms before they can be treated then must wait for the medication to have an effect. Also, I have noticed that the medication has no effect on urinary incontinence. Remarkably, turmeric aided some of the tested patients in expressing the need to use the restroom which is highly not typical of Alzheimer’s disease. This natural Ayurvedic herb prevented the patients from enduring these disease controlled symptoms which modern medicine lacks. Western pharmaceutical companies rely on the American ignorance of the effectiveness of Ayurvedic natural treatments. This ignorance has led to the multibillion dollar pharmaceutical industry by overburdening the body with unnecessary chemicals. However, Ayurvedic herbs may not be able to treat all disease. Therefore, with consultation of a physician, Ayurvedic herb treatment of disease could be used to limit the pharmaceuticals.

Lastly, Ayurveda largely recommends sustaining a proper diet and eating behaviors to maintain health. Ayurveda greatly emphasizes keeping the body healthy to prevent disease. The Ayurvedic diet necessitates to eat according to personal doshas and to the season. Ayurveda provides food and preparation recommendations to compliment the change in dosha levels. The change in doshas occur individually and also in relation to the season. Therefore, both should be considered when deciding diets. In order to maintain health through diet, as symptoms arise one should address them through a change in diet according to the dosha they are linked to. Treating these symptoms as they arise with diet can bring the body back to a healthy status before the situation worsens. Therefore, this requires diligent attention to the inner bodily processing. Feeling these slight imbalances is crucial for maintaining health directly contrasting American ideology. Americans tend to have the mindset of seeking out help to regain health when experienced symptoms become seemingly unmanageable. Also, health in America is viewed in a collective way especially regarding diet. The American society labels foods as either healthy or unhealthy and believe everyone should adhere to this model. However, with modern technology, seasonal eating has nearly become obsolete, preservatives eliminate freshness, and artificially developed foods have stocked the shelves with expiration dates years into the future. The American society is hypocritical in categorizing foods as healthy when they are in loaded with unnatural chemicals. Additionally, these labels eliminate the possibility for a spectrum with few exceptions. I have witnessed these exceptions by serving patients with a variety of diseases and physician ordered dietary restrictions. One label can prevent a person from eating a set list of restricted foods even though in moderation it may cause no problems. Instead, through the Ayurvedic views on diet with the consideration of physician diagnosed disease, individuals can follow a personalized diet plan. By adapting Ayurvedic views on diet, a more advisable and effective definition of health could be incorporated into American culture.

In conclusion, Ayurveda would enhance patients experience in the American healthcare system. To complement the system, the Ayurvedic beliefs that each body is individualistic, in a natural disease treatment plan, and an adapting diet plan should be added to the American healthcare system. An essential takeaway from Ayurveda is that there is an overarching belief that humans are indeed individuals and should be respected accordingly. Also, there is a high regard for utilizing the Earth for explanations and treatments. Ayurveda impressively prevents humans from experiencing or even enduring suffering by treating the body with sensitivity. On a dementia unit I was able to work with arguably the world’s most fragile population who have accumulated diseases across their lifespan. I witnessed firsthand the suffering the human population is susceptible to. Ayurveda and American healthcare, together, give hope to end this anguish.

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