Ayurveda does not claim to have the secrets to immortal life or to hold the cure to every disease known to man. But, it does come pretty close.
As a repository of scientific medical knowledge gathered over a period of more than 2,000 years, classical Ayurvedic texts contain astute observations and recommendations for the treatment of a wide range of health condition. More importantly, it provides us with guidelines for the maintenance of optimal health and wellbeing to avoid illness. With its emphasis on natural remedies and harmony with nature, Ayurveda is for all practical purposes a lifestyle based on natural science.
Instead of being used as an alternative in desperate situations, it should in fact be the first line of treatment, with allopathic medicine only being used in exceptional circumstances when required. This approach to health care with an emphasis on prevention and natural treatments can transform health care and greatly improve the quality of human life.
The Benefits of Ayurvedic versus Allopathic Treatment
As the most researched and comprehensive body of natural medicine, Ayurveda has a lot to offer when it comes to the maintenance of human health.
There has been growing recognition of its relevance, with studies funded by the World Health Organisation (WHO) also emphasizing the need for such natural treatment interventions. This shift towards natural medicine and Ayurveda is being encouraged because of a dawning recognition among health care experts about the risks and side effects of over medication or frequent use of over the counter (OTC) and prescription drugs.
The use of allopathic medications to treat common conditions like the cold, flu, and so on can be counterproductive as they often weaken immune function and have other side effects, which can be serious in cases. Although Ayurvedic medications alone may not suffice in the treatment of every illness, their use can reduce the need for prescription drugs, which translates into fewer or no side effects.
Health Centric versus Disease Centric
One of the biggest grievances that health care experts have with allopathic medicine is that treatment emphasizes the use of powerful drugs and medications to treat diseases, rather than helping prevent them in the first place. Moreover, most allopathic medications used to treat diseases work by suppressing symptoms, while ignoring the real root of the problem.
For example, chronic conditions like lower back pain are often simply treated with NSAIDs or painkillers. This is precisely why the allopathic system is sometimes described as a ‘disease management system’ rather than as a health care system.
This is one of the most important differences between allopathy and Ayurveda.
A striking feature of Ayurveda is its holistic approach that looks at the individual as a whole and also as a part of nature. The guiding principle is always on the maintenance of the natural balance, whether we talk of the doshas or dinacharya. These concepts underlie every recommendation and they don’t just provide symptomatic relief, but also work to fix imbalances that give rise to disorders. The importance of preventive health care is something that has long been emphasized in Ayurvedic medicine, only gaining greater recognition in the mainstream medical community in recent years. This is why diet therapy and yoga are increasingly becoming a part of standard treatment protocols.
Intuitive Risk Assessment
While blood, imaging, and genetic testing have greatly benefited humanity, allowing allopathic doctors to make more accurate diagnoses, there are limitations to the system. The cost of testing can sometimes be prohibitive and very often, practitioners are forced to recommend a broad range of unnecessary tests as they cannot narrow down the risks. This is where Ayurveda can once again help, not just by identifying risks, but also helping doctors make better assessments so that they can only recommend testing when necessary.
The Ayurvedic diagnostic system requires an understanding of the patient’s natural balance of doshas or prakriti, which can help reveal risks that are otherwise overlooked. Genetic testing is just not practical or affordable to the wider population, but in some studies it has helped confirm these Ayurvedic principles. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that the system could be used to identify population groups at risk of conditions like Parkinson’s disease – they found the risk to be highest among those with dominant vata dosha. Ayurveda can therefore help to identify risk groups at little cost and can also help to prevent or delay progression of the diseases.
Fighting the Drug Resistance Epidemic
The rise of drug resistant superbugs is regarded as the greatest and fasting growing public health threat worldwide. While the problem cannot be oversimplified, most experts and studies agree that one of the biggest drivers for this rise of drug resistant diseases is the overuse and abuse of antibiotics. Drug resistance is basically a problem wherein, standard drugs that were once effective no longer work. This is most notable when dealing with bacterial infections like tuberculosis, where bacterial strains have now evolved to develop a tolerance or resistance to drugs, making them ineffective. To spell it out, antibiotics that were only a century ago life-saving have now become ineffective because of excessive reliance on allopathy.
Ayurveda is perhaps one of the best remedies to counter this crisis as it provides populations with natural treatment options for common conditions, reducing the need for antibiotics and other allopathic medications. This not only helps with preventing and overcoming infections, but it also helps preserve the efficacy of antibiotic drugs, so that they can be used in extreme situations when they are actually needed.
Reducing the Financial Burden of Health Care
Although financial costs should never be your primary concern when it comes to health care, they are a big concern for obvious reasons. Spiraling costs of conventional medicine have made many treatments unaffordable and public health care systems are strained, as are low income households. A shift towards Ayurvedic medicine can greatly help reduce costs, as Ayurvedic medications are made from cheap and easily accessible natural resources. Ayurvedic therapies and techniques like abhyanga and yoga are in fact lifestyle practices that cost practically nothing, while reducing the onset of disease.
The benefits of Ayurveda of allopathic treatment have become increasingly clear in recent decades and it is time we recognize its role in public health. While allopathic medicine is not without its benefits, both disciplines to be used in a complimentary or integrated manner, so that we are less reliant or expensive drugs and treatments that pose a higher risk of side effects.
Dr. (Mrs.) Surya Bhagwati (BAMS, DHA, DHHCM, and DHBTC) is the lead Ayurvedic physician at Dr. Vaidya’s. She is a qualiﬁed Ayurvedic practitioner who brings a wealth of experience spanning over 25 years in the science. Prior to Dr. Vaidya’s, she has worked at the prestigious Saifee Hospital in Mumbai where she still continues her association in a consulting capacity. Her expertise lies in the prevention of chronic ailments.
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