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Saturday, 3 April 2010

Chyavanprash meets crocin

A growing breed of allopaths is digging into ancient texts to blend age-old cures with modern therapies. For these doctors, there’s no conflict between allopathy and traditional systems of medicine.

Monday morning. A crowd of about 60 people is silently peering into a crumbling corridor of the dilapidated Red Cross building on Chennai’s Montieth Road. At the end of the corridor, in a tiny, cramped room groaning under stacks of herbal medicine, an elderly khadi-clad siddha doctor, with a stethoscope hanging from his neck, is looking into the throat of a boy with the help of a torch. A minute later, the examination is over and the khadi-clad man applies himself to his prescription pad.
Meet Dr C N Deivanayagam, one of Chennai’s bestknown chest physicians who has worked in some of the city’s biggest hospitals such as the Government General Hospital, Ramachandra Medical College and Tambaram TB sanatorium. Today, at 68, the FRCP doctor has just begun the second innings of his career by setting up a trust called Health India Foundation that integrates siddha and allopathy to treat patients.
At a time when medical journals are churning out studies that often contradict each other's take on the effects of drugs and food on health, there is a growing breed of allopathic doctors which is digging into ancient texts to blend age-old cures with modern therapies. They are doctors who have come to believe that allopathy and traditional systems of medicines don’t have to be in conflict, but can complement each other in restoring health.
Today, Dr Deivanayagam’s trust treats an entire gamut of diseases. He examines patients with the help of a fellow allopath and a siddha practitioner. The state of health, in siddha, is gauged by a curious technique: the urine of the patient is collected in a small bowl in which a drop of gingelly oil is added. The pattern that the drop of oil assumes on the surface of the urine is regarded equivalent to a modern-day master health check-up report.
Dr M Muthukkumar, on the other hand, looks into a patient’s eye — with a magnifying glass, — to detect the exact problem. According to him, any ailment is bound to show up in the form of a certain pattern in the iris: then all one needs to do is prick a few needles in vital points in the body so that blocked energy channels open up and the disease is eliminated.
Dr Muthukkumar is an MBBS doctor-turned-accupunturist who passed out of a medical college in Madurai and went on to practise allopathy for several years until a chance meeting with a traditional Chinese healer changed the course of his career.
Muthukkumar sees nearly 100 patients a day at his clinic in Chennai’s Vijaya Hospital. “In allopathy, you treat a disease by eliminating the pathogens. But not all diseases are caused by pathogens. What about diabetes or hypertension or renal failure? Today, there is not a single drug in allopathy that can touch the pancreas. But we can,” he says. Siddha and acupuncture, like Ayurveda, go back a few thousand years. While Ayurveda uses mostly plants and occasionally metals, siddha includes metals such as arsenic, mercury and gold.
For years Dr Muthukkumar, 54, ran a nursing home in Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district. Then he met a Chinese doctor, Aman Talib, in 1984, at a conference where he openly accused Talib of cheating the public with mumbo-jumbo about needles. A calm Talib turned around to ask a few simple questions: why do patients getting a heart attack report of pain in the little finger, why are men more prone to wearing glasses than women, and so on. Dr Muthukkumar had no answers, but he was intrigued. He found himself chasing Talib for the next six months before the Chinese finally took him under his wing.
Today, Dr Muthukkumar holds every prestigious degree that acupuncture has to offer, and is assisted in his clinic by another allopath-turned-acupuncture enthusiast, Sashi Rawat. Rawat , 23, passed out of a medical college in Pondicherry last January, and did what most ambitious doctors do: enroll in a hospital as a junior resident and simultaneously prepare to train as a surgeon in the US. But fate had other plans. Sashi’s father was a diabetic, and she, in spite of being an allopath, saw hope for him in acupuncture, and brought her father to Dr Muthukkumar.
According to Dr Sashi, her father’s sugar levels have since climbed down to normal, sparking a newfound faith in the ancient Chinese system. Till the other day, she wanted to be a surgeon, but now she believes the world does not need surgery.
“In fact, acupuncture went to China from south India, taken there thousands of years ago by a saint called Boghar, revered in China as Bo Yang,” says Dr Muthukkumar. Dr Muthukkumar and Dr Deivanayagam are not lone rangers in their field. Across the country, several allopathic doctors have found effective cures for their patients’ ailments in traditional medicine and diet, thus developing a new respect for ancient systems of healing.
After finishing his MBBS, Dr Deepak Rokade got a post-graduate diploma in child health, but found his calling in acupuncture. “After practising allopathy for seven years, I realised it had its limitations,” says Pune-based Rokade, 48. “Allopathy treatment for many ailments is only about controlling the disease with prolonged drug therapy. The drugs themselves are responsible for many side effects,” he says.
Rokade was introduced to acupunture by one of his teachers. Subsequently, he learned from Dr Zu Zong Xiong from Beijing. “But the best teachers were my experience and my patients. They taught me a lot,” says Rokade, who’s a consultant with two hospitals and runs his own holistic acupuncture centre that provides free stay for all patients.
Rokade does not stop with acupuncture. “I realised that acupuncture, when combined with panchakarma and yoga, is the best way not only to treat many incurable conditions, but also keep illnesses away,” says Rokade, who has christened his approach as Purnopchar, which literally means holistic treatment. “Recently, I treated a case of ARMD (Age-Related Macular Degeneration, which is partial or full loss of vision due to ageing). The patient regained her partially lost vision within three months. It was a very fulfilling experience. Over the years I have treated hundreds of patients for various diseases successfully,” says Rokade.
Mandakini Aphale, the patient who regained her vision, vouches for it. “I was referred to Rokade by my eye surgeon after allopathic treatment failed. I got lucky.”
Rokade says he has found his Purnopchar approach extremely effective in treating diseases such as arthritis, spondylitis, paralysis, epilepsy, migraine, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, glaucoma, sciatica, lower backache, frozen shoulder, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, acidity, ulcers, bronchial asthma and vertigo.
How does he view allopathy in relation to traditional methods of treatment?
“Allopathy is the basis on which I have built my entire Purnopchar approach. I always say that Purnopchar is allopathy plus acupuncture plus ayurveda plus panchakarma plus yoga, topped with a healthy lifestyle. I only wish more and more allopathic doctors take help of these traditional systems of cure. They will serve as additional tools towards building a far more comprehensive health care system,” says Rokade.
The integration of modern and traditional medicine system is best illustrated by the case of Dr K Rajagopalan, a Padmashri awardee, who was born into a family of Ayurvedic physicians in Kerala. He was taught Sanskrit and Chakra Sastra from the age of 10. “My father, Dr MP Krishnan Vaidhyar, was my first guru. He was a renowned Ayurvedic physician and my role model,” says the chief consultant at the Kottakal Arya Vaidya Sala, who is now 78. After finishing his school, he joined the Government Ayurveda College in Trivandrum in Kerala. After passing out, he took an MBBS degree as well.
Says one of his patients, Uma T, a 41-year-old a homemaker, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and underwent a breast surgery and a cycle of chemotherapy. “I was so fatigued after the surgery that I did not want to continue with the treatment. That’s when my friend suggested I should go to Dr Rajagopalan. Since he was an MBBS doctor he knew all about the therapy I underwent and its side effects. Now, after the Ayurvedic drug regimen and massages, I’m feeling much better,” she says.
How does the Medical Council of India view the integration of traditional forms of medicine with allopathy? With caution. Says Kesavankutty Nair, vice-president, Medical Council of India, “Only those who are qualified in allopathy can prescribe medicines. Otherwise, it is quackery. Other streams like Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani also have their own councils which have been campaigning for the same. But if a qualified MBBS doctor is practising other streams, we don’t object. If they are not properly qualified in traditional medicines, we expect the respective councils to take it up.”
They are both qualified allopaths, father and son, but homeopathy is in their blood. Way back in 1922, their ancestor, whose life was a riches to rags story, was helped by the Tatas to set up a homeopathic drugs store, the first in central India, in Nagpur. Today Dr Kasim Chimthanawala, 65, is standardising homeopathy by making it evidence-based and giving it a scientific standing.
It all started some 40 years ago, when Dr Kasim was the house officer at ward no. 27 of Nagpur’s government medical college, where patients of tetanus and rabies were dying by their dozens. "They were dying due to hydrophobia. I knew some remedies in homeopathy. I asked my seniors to try them. They agreed merely to save the patients’ lives. Luckily, we could save them," says Dr Kasim. After his stint at the medical college, Dr Kasim went to Kolkata and did three condensed diplomas in homeopathy.
"All forms of medicine are good in their own ways. But no system is complete in itself. The question is which to use when? If one can integrate them in the right manner at the right time, the results can be miraculous," says Dr Kasim Chimthanawala. This is what he and his son, Dr Aadil Chimthanawala, 36, are doing. They are using the knowledge of both forms of medicine.
There is no denying the use of all diagnostic tools of allopathy. But we use them first to diagnose the disease and then later to show our results. I can show the block ‘before and after the treatment’ using these tools," says Dr Aadil, who is also an MD.
He has tested homeopathic medicines on heart patients while doing his DNB at the Super Specialty Hospital attached to the government medical college before taking on ‘homeopathic cardiology’ as his specialised field. He now runs a homeo cardiac centre. His father firmly believes that homeopathy treats the cause of the disease and therefore cures it, whereas allopathy merely treats the symptoms.
- Snehlata Shrivastav in Nagpur
Source:The Times of India Health

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Humor is infectious. The sound of roaring laughter is far more contagious than any cough, sniffle, or sneeze. When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. In addition to the domino effect of joy and amusement, laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Humor and laughter strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use.
Laughter is strong medicine for mind and body
Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.
With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health
Laughter is good for your health
Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
The Benefits of Laughter
Physical Health Benefits:
  • Boosts immunity
  • Lowers stress hormones
  • Decreases pain
  • Relaxes your muscles
  • Prevents heart disease
Mental Health Benefits:
Adds joy and zest to life
Eases anxiety and fear
Relieves stress
improves mood
Enhances resilience
Social Benefits:
Strengthens relationships
Attracts others to us
Enhances teamwork
Helps defuse conflict
Promotes group bonding
Laughter and humor help you stay emotionally healthy
Laughter makes you feel good. And the good feeling that you get when you laugh remains with you even after the laughter subsides. Humor helps you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss. 
More than just a respite from sadness and pain, laughter gives you the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope. Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh–or even simply a smile–can go a long way toward making you feel better. And laughter really is contagious—just hearing laughter primes your brain and readies you to smile and join in on the fun.
The link between laughter and mental health
 Laughter dissolves distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing.
 Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more.
Humor shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.
The social benefits of humor and laughter
Humor and playful communication strengthen our relationships by triggering positive feelings and fostering emotional connection. When we laugh with one another, a positive bond is created. This bond acts as a strong buffer against stress, disagreements, and disappointment.
 Laughing with others is more powerful than laughing alone
 Shared laughter is one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships fresh and exciting. All emotional sharing builds strong and lasting relationship bonds, but sharing laughter and play adds joy, vitality, and resilience. And humor is a powerful and effective way to heal resentments, disagreements, and hurts. Laughter unites people during difficult times.
 Using humor and laughter in relationships allows you to
Be more spontaneous. Humor gets you out of your head and away from your troubles.  Let go of defensiveness. Laughter helps you forget judgments, criticisms, and doubts.  Release inhibitions. Your fear of holding back and holding on are set aside.  Express your true feelings. Deeply felt emotions are allowed to rise to the surface. 
Laughter and Relationships
 Mutual laughter and play are an essential component of strong, healthy relationships. By making a conscious effort to incorporate more humor and play into your daily interactions, you can improve the quality of your love relationships— as well as your connections with co-workers, family members, and friends.
Read: Playful Communication in Relationships: The Power of Laughter, Humor, and Play
Bringing more humor and laughter into your life
Anyone can join the laughter movement. All it takes is a willingness to risk some loss of control. The timid ay start with a few shy giggles. The courageous may jump in with deep belly laughter. A sense of humor is not required. There’s more than enough stress to go around and absurdity abounds in our daily lives. All we have to do is believe, let go, clap our hands and laughter will live again. So will we. Laughter is feeling deeply which allows us to live fully.
Source: We Need to Laugh More, Enda Junkins, LMFT.
Laughter is your birthright, a natural part of life that is innate and inborn. Infants begin smiling during the first weeks of life and laugh out loud within months of being born. Even if you did not grow up in a household where laughter was a common sound, you can learn to laugh at any stage of life.
Begin by setting aside special times to seek out humor and laughter, as you might with working out, and build from there. Eventually, you’ll want to incorporate humor and laughter into the fabric of your life, finding it naturally in everything you do.
 Here are some ways to start:
Smile. Smiling is the beginning of laughter. Like laughter, it’s contagious. Pioneers in “laugh therapy,” find it’s possible to laugh without even experiencing a funny event. The same holds for smiling. When you look at someone or see something even mildly pleasing, practice smiling.
Count your blessings. Literally make a list. The simple act of considering the good things in your life will distance you from negative thoughts that are a barrier to humor and laughter. When in a state of sadness, we have further to travel to get to humor and laughter.
When you hear laughter, move toward it. Sometimes humor and laughter are private, a shared joke among a small group, but usually not. More often, people are very happy to share something funny because it gives them an opportunity to laugh again and feed off the humor you find in it. When you hear laughter, seek it out and ask, “What’s funny?”
 Spend time with fun, playful people. These are people who laugh easily–both at themselves and at life’s absurdities–and who routinely find the humor in everyday events. Their playful point of view and laughter are contagious.
Bring humor into conversations. Ask people, “What’s the funniest thing that happened to you today? This week? In your life?”
Creating opportunities to laugh 
  •  Watch a funny movie or TV show.
  • Go to a comedy club.
  • Read the funny pages.
  •  Seek out funny people.
  • Share a good joke or a funny story.
  • Check out your bookstore’s humor section.
  • Host game night with friends.
  • Play with a pet.
  • Go to a “laughter yoga” class.
  • Goof around with children.
  • Do something silly.
  •  Make time for fun activities (e.g. bowling, miniature golfing, karaoke).
Developing your sense of humor: Take yourself less seriously
One essential characteristic that helps us laugh is not taking ourselves too seriously. We’ve all known the classic tight-jawed sourpuss who takes everything with deathly seriousness and never laughs at anything. No fun there!

 Some events are clearly sad and not occasions for laughter. But most events in life don’t carry an overwhelming sense of either sadness or delight. They fall into the gray zone of ordinary life–giving you the choice to laugh or not.
Ways to help yourself see the lighter side of life:
Laugh at yourself. Share your embarrassing moments. The best way to take ourselves less seriously is talk about times when we took ourselves too seriously.
Attempt to laugh at situations rather than bemoan them. Look for the humor in a bad situation, the irony and absurdity of life. This will help improve your mood and the mood of those around you.
Surround yourself with reminders to lighten up. Keep a toy on your desk or in your car. Put up a funny poster in your office. Choose a computer screensaver that makes you laugh. Frame photos of you and your family or friends having fun.
Keep things in perspective. Many things in life are beyond our control—particularly the behavior of other people. While you might think taking the weight of the world on your shoulders is admirable, in the long run it’s unrealistic, unproductive, unhealthy, and even egotistical.
Deal with your stress. Stress is a major impediment to humor and laughter.
Pay attention to children and emulate them. They are the experts on playing, taking life lightly, and laughing.
Checklist for lightening up
When you find yourself taken over by what seems to be a horrible problem, ask these questions:
Is it really worth getting upset over?
Is it worth upsetting others?
Is it that important? 
 Is it that bad?
Is the situation irreparable?
Is it really your problem?

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Ayurveda is like the kamasutra

Ancient ayurvedic knowledge can be your ticket to rippling muscles and abed- busting sex life. Why, then, is it not your Health Remedy No 1?
Ayurveda is to most of us something that's ours, something we claim but something we know next to nothing about. What's ' alternative medicine' to the rest of the world is- to us- what our moms or grandmoms forcefed us during fevers, sprinkled on cuts, and rubbed on our backs in the summer.
As we grow older and move to aspirin and protein supplements, we continue to use balms and herbal shampoos but forget the overall good health simple twigs and herbs can give us. Why? Is it because we seek instant gratification in our jet- age lives? Or is it because we haven't been kept in the loop about how traditional plants are a solid way to stay healthier? The answer: Both. Sure, everyone wants things " now," and there's nothing wrong with it- we have so much to do and so little time. But this is precisely why Ayurveda is more relevant today.
"Ayurveda is relevant as the shift in medicine from reductionist to holistic is taking place. Lifestyle- related immunological and noninfectious diseases have an answer only in holistic methods, not in quick fixes," says Rangesh Paramesh, BSAM, MD ( Ayurveda), and author of Ayurveda- Health Tips for Daily Use , who is also head of new product initiatives at the Bangalore- based The Himalaya Drug Company.
By "holistic" ayurvedic practitioners mean that while ayurveda may not match the " quick results" of allopathic medicines, it can effectively target the multifactorial and multi- targeted effects of a disease to evolve a long- term solution. " It treats the root cause of disease rather than focusing on the symptoms," says Anupam Dikshit, MSc, DPh, PhD, professor of ayurveda at University of Allahabad.
Here's how: ayurveda seeks to maintain (or help regain) a balance of three substances or doshas : wind/ spirit/ air ( vata ), phlegm ( kapha ) and bile (pitta). A balance in the doshas ensures that various channels in the body are free to transport fluids from one point to another. And the way to open up blocked channels is either through sweat or through herbal intervention ( or through balance and moderation, be it in terms of food, sleep, hygiene or the intake of medicine).
Look at it this way: If you bathe, clean your teeth, skin and eyes regularly, eat well and get in some exercise, you're going to be in good shape all your life. If you can't do these regularly- and none of us can- use the means as prescribed in ancient texts to make sure your pipes and tubes- nerves, arteries, veins, oesophagus and intestines- are clog- free. And these texts are ancient. " The knowledge on how to lead a long and healthy life- and fix the diseases or ailments that are obstacles- has evolved after deep discussions between sages," says Dr Rangesh. Ayurveda traces its origins to the Atharvaveda and there have been continuous additions, such as the Sushruta Samhita , written some 3,000 years ago and the Hundred Prescriptions, written by the philosopher/ doctor Nagarjuna.
Now, of course, the government's Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha ( CCRAS) monitors traditional medicine in the country. This has become important because traditional knowledge is being lost, and because a proliferation of herbal brands has made control necessary.
There are more than a million herbs and plants that ayurvedic practitioners use to create formulations. There are barks, roots, fruit, leaves, oils… an endless list of nature's bounty. Fortunately for you, there's little need to become a botanist or a gardener.
Or to grind handfuls of these before ingesting them.
Though each herb has its own specific use- from boosting your libido to blasting cholesterol- we've zeroed in on the top, most potent plants you can easily incorporate into your life to become and stay healthy, happy and muscular.
Pickle it, boil it in water and drink it up, make a chutney- this one tops the list as the most versatile fruit. Amla (also called amlaki) is rich in antioxidant polyphenols such as emblicanins, vitamin C and pectin, which help in inhibiting platelet aggregation and lowering LDL cholesterol. It is also used as a tonic to prevent ageing of skin cells and as a digestive aid because it inhibits free radical damage. Amla is an ingredient in many formulations, including chyawanprash . It has been credited with improving eyesight and regulating blood sugar levels too.
Mixed in everything from tea to curry, tulsi is another Indian staple. The leaves contain eugenol, which has anti- bacterial properties. Studies have also revealed that tulsi has chemicals that help in antimicrobial and antiinflammatory usage, as well as being essentially useful in respiratory tract infections. Added bonus: Chewing a couple of leaves gives you fresher breath.
This plant yields seeds or a powder that contains thymol, which helps against diseases of the digestive tract and to treat fever. " While travelling anywhere in the world, including India, ajwain can come to your rescue when you're not sure about the quality or source of water. Just chew one spoonful for a few minutes and it wash down with warm water," says Dr Dikshit.
This is a resin produced by the stem of the mukul myrrh tree, and is used to counter obesity. It can also help increase a person's metabolic rate. The extract contains guggulsterones, which help raise HDL ( good) cholesterol, and lower LDL ( bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, says Dr Rangesh, apart from helping reduce platelet stickiness. It is also used as an aphrodisiac. Guggul is extremely potent in its raw form and has to be treated with cow's milk.
Another Indian staple, this rhizome contains shogaols, zingerone and gingerols, which give it its flavour and have analgesic and antibacterial properties.
It also stimulates the production of saliva. Ginger is said to have arthritis- related pain relieving and LDL cholesterollowering properties. " It is used in two forms- fresh (known as ardraka) and dry ( known as sunthi). It is one of the principal ingredients of Trikatu, an ayurvedic preparation," says Dr Dikshit. Sunthi is also used as an aphrodisiac and libido- enhancer.
If you can incorporate at least a few of these plants into your diet, you'll be ready to name your great, great grandchildren.
Ayurveda offers effective treatment against rheumatoid arthritis, skin diseases, neurological disorders that affect loco- motor functions and allergic respiratory disorders," says Dr Rangesh.
Do remember that ayurveda is all about the " balance." Seek advice from a qualified practitioner who'll outline an authentic product. For your part, store any herb in a place free from contamination by air, advises Dr Dikshit."Ayurveda is preventive and you can see positive changes in the respiratory and digestive system, better sleep, more energy or a relaxed state of mind," he says.
But in these days of labdominant medicines, can there be an ayurvedic future? " Plant molecular biotechnology and nanotechnology help unravel the secrets of formulations.
This, in effect, will make ayurveda relevant in the treatment of new age diseases.
Advances in science have enabled us to isolate molecules to enhance their benefit," says Dr Rangesh, who believes, however, that isolating molecules in herbs can lead to a " one drug to one target relationship", which "undermines the herb's total benefit." Apart from adding these plants to your diet, what should be understood is that healthcare has to be based on integrated approaches to medicine that combine the best of conventional medicine with ayurveda. "The key to good health through ayurveda is knowledge of one's unique prakruti (constitution), and a genuine ayurvedic doctor can assess one's prakruthi with accuracy," says Shankar.
Armed with this, "one can select a diet suitable to one's constitution, plan the daily regimens suited to one's nature and gather early warning signs about the diseases one is predisposed to."
Courtesy: Mail Today

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