Don't Suffer With Your Auto-Immune Condition—Try Ayurveda
by Catherine Morris | September 18, 2020, updated 5 months ago
Chances are you either have, or know someone who has, an auto-immune disease. This family of ailments is incredibly common, and is becoming even more so. Today, millions of North Americans are battling conditions like Lupus, Celiac disease, Multiple sclerosis, Psoriasis and Rheumatoid arthritis.
There are over a hundred auto-immune diseases, many of them incurable and life-altering. Some are genetic, others appear to be triggered by environmental factors. Whatever the reason, something in the body goes very awry, leading the immune system to mistakenly attack the body's own cells.
Lifestyle is key in managing many auto-immune conditions. Whether it's avoiding flare-up triggers, slowing the progression of the disease, or just maintaining a level of wellness that allows you to get on with life, healthy habits are a must—which is why so many patients end up turning to more holistic treatment plans.
The holistic approach is at the heart of Ayurveda, the Indian healing tradition which aims to help the body self-heal, and which is a good fit for diseases where the body is at war with itself.
The Ayurvedic Approach to Auto-Immunity
Ayurveda treats auto-immune diseases the same way it does other conditions—by restoring balance.
In Ayurvedic philosophy our health is governed by three states, or 'doshas', known as vata, pitta and kapha. These doshas are based on the five elements of ether, air, fire, water, and earth. People may be more of one dosha than another, or a combination of all three, but bringing your particular dosha signature into balance lies at the root of preventing and healing disease.
Ayurvedic practitioner and teacher Jaisri Lambert explains—“Ayurveda is an entirely different paradigm from western medicine. Ayurveda takes into account many more factors than western medicine has within its scope. You have your constitution from conception, then you have your current ratios of doshas. The idea is to restore our natural, innate balance.”
Lambert says Ayurveda takes a different view of auto-immune disease from modern-day medicine, seeing it as primarily a build-up of harmful toxins or 'ama'.
“It is not that the body is attacking itself. It is that toxins have eroded and corroded the cells and the cell walls. The Ayurvedic approach is to restore cell memory, recalling the cell's proper form and function which has gotten distorted. If symptoms have arisen, generally the digestion will be faulty so we look at establishing proper digestion. There are different stages in the recovery process—cleansing toxins, proper digestion, repair, and restoration. How far you can get along that path depends on how long you have had symptoms, and how dedicated the person is to their Ayurvedic thinking.”
With emphasis on digestion, it's not surprising that Ayurvedic treats auto-immune conditions largely through diet. Lambert says every aspect of what ends up on your plate is important, from the quality of the food to its preparation. She advises local, organic and freshly cooked foods that are “pitta and vata pacifying” i.e. anti-inflammatory, alkalising, and nourishing. These can include berries, leafy green vegetables, healthy grains like oats and quinoa, and limited amounts of meat.
Ayurvedic herbs like ashwagandha and giloy, and spices such as turmeric can also be helpful—as can bitter foods in regulating digestion.
Lambert is particularly interested in how Ayurveda treats Multiple Sclerosis, and is co-hosting a free four-week online course on that topic. It is sponsored by the Canada Ayurveda Research and Education Foundation.
MS is a chronic inflammatory condition which destroys nerve tissue in the central nervous system, leading to problems with speech, cognition and movement. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, it is a devastating, progressive, and incurable disease that affects around 2.3 million people worldwide.
Lambert says Ayurveda is not just a dietary plan, but a healthy holistic lifestyle that addresses the mind and spirit, as well as the body, and can help to improve quality of life for people with MS,
The Mind-Body Connection
For Ayurveda practitioners, the mind isn't just connected to the body—it's often a large cause of what's happening below the neck. Stress, unresolved emotions, anger, and anxiety all deplete the body's emotional and physical energies. Lambert says we're frequently careless with these messages, and go beyond our limits and exhaust our system.
“The mind and the body are connected but it's not just connection, it's causative. What happens in the mind can be a cause of diseases”
She says anyone can integrate an Ayurvedic routine into their life, starting with the moment they wake up. Creating a morning ritual is important—add meditation and some self-massage to wake the body up kindly. Lambert expands by adding—
“Our world is more and more toxic with everything from radiation and airborne toxins, to plastics and pesticides. Give priority to diet, and nourish yourself every day. Have self-confidence, and acknowledge yourself as a divine being.”
“If someone with a diagnosis [of an auto-immune condition] or someone suffering side effects from pills comes to me, they are searching for something. I feel like with the knowledge of self care, their overall health is improved and they are healing not just with physical nourishment, but they are also taking a good look at their spiritual nourishment.”
If you're interested in finding out more about how Ayurveda can help address your health issues, reach out to one of Which Doctor's experienced Ayurvedic practitioners today to book an in-person or online consultation.
Catherine Morris is an award-winning journalist with a bad case of wanderlust and a passion for all things health and wellness. Originally from Northern Ireland, she worked as a news and feature writer for media outlets in the UK, South Africa, France and the Caribbean before settling in Canada. Catherine now lives in Alberta with her husband and rescue mutt and spends her time happily exploring the great outdoors with both.