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Dynamic Chiropractic – September 27, 1991, Vol. 09, Issue 20

Ayurveda: The Next Frontier in Healing -- Part II

By Abbas Qutab, MD, DC, FIACA
Editor's Note: Dr. Amaro has asked his colleague, Abbas Qutab, M.D., D.C., F.I.A.C.A., to do a two-part series explaining ayurveda. Part I appeared in the September 1, 1991 issue of "DC."


Qutab is a senior research assistant professor and senior research fellow in neurosciences at NYCC. He is a postgraduate professor of acupuncture with the International Academy of Clinical Acupuncture and co-founder and president of the American Academy of Ayurvedic Medicine.

Dr. Qutab describes ayurveda as the world's oldest system of natural medicine, with its heritage in ancient India. The word ayurveda comes from two Sanskrit words, ayur (life), and veda (sacred knowledge or science).

Ayurvedic medicine describes health as perfect balance. In this context, imbalance is seen as the basic cause of all disease. Ayurvedic medicine therefore strives to restore balance through eliminating imbalance from the most fundamental level of life -- pure consciousness. It can then focus on re-establishing the natural interconnectedness of the four fundamental approaches in ayurvedic science: mind, body, behavior, and environment. Health, in this context, is redefined as perfect balance and wholeness of life.

The basis of ayurveda lies in prevention of disease through strengthening the body's immune system and innate homeostatic self-repair mechanisms so that an individual naturally resists disease. Treatment of any particular imbalance generally includes a combination of therapies such as meditation, massage, yoga, aromas, colors, diet, herbal preparations, etc. These are natural approaches which work by enlivening nature's own inner intelligence within the individual for greater health and well-being, without harmful side effects. While medicine has made great advances in the treatment of disease, it is commonly recognized that a major gap still exists in treating disease at its source rather then merely pacifying symptoms.

All treatments of ayurvedic medicine are based upon one's individual body type or physiological constitution. Constitutional typing is based on three doshas or governing properties in the body. These doshas are vata, pitta, and kapha. They are the controllers of the physiology. When these three are in balance, health is optimal. The objective in treatment, therefore, is to establish balance among these three fundamental principles.

Vata is the property of movement and governs bodily functions concerning movement. Some vata indications include a small body frame, being a light sleeper, and having an aversion to cold weather. The proper balance of vata creates more energy, alertness, quickness, and creativity. Imbalance in vata can cause loss of sleep, high blood pressure, loss of weight, and constipation. Balance can be created through steadying, settling influences (food, spices, relationships, circumstances). The vata season is November-March or whenever the weather is cold and dry.

Pitta governs bodily functions concerned with heat, metabolism, and energy production. Pitta characteristics include thinning hair; sharp, aggressive intellect; a medium body frame and weight. When pitta is in balance, we enjoy good digestion and contentment. Too much pitta may cause loss of strength, skin problems, anger, and heart problems. Seek to cool and soothe body and emotions for pitta imbalance. The pitta season is July-September or whenever the weather is hot.

Kapha governs bodily functions concerned with physical structure and fluid balance. Some kapha indications include a pale, white complexion; an aversion to damp, cool weather; a large body frame; and good long-term memory. When kapha is balanced, we have strength, stamina, good immunity, stability, and good temperament. Imbalance in kapha can cause dullness, depression, joint problems, excess weight, high cholesterol, and coldness. Warm and energize the system for kapha imbalance. The kapha season is April-June or whenever the weather is cold and wet.

Each individual has a specific predominance or balance of one or more of these doshas which is natural and correct. This is what is referred to as one's constitution or body type.

If one of the doshas become aggravated, an imbalance results. This reduces agni -- the inner biological fire -- which is responsible for the proper digestion and absorption of foods. If a person's agni is thrown off, undigested food, or ama begins to accumulate in the intestines and produces toxins. These toxins then circulate through the body and accumulate at points of weakness. Then the condition of imbalance and toxicity begins to appear as the symptoms of disease.

The root cause of most diseases is toxicity and stagnation caused by low Agni, in turn caused by imbalance of the humors. This is true of infectious diseases, as well as of chronic and degenerative illnesses. Only when our immune system is weak, because of toxicity and dosha imbalance, will viruses and bacteria have an effect on us.

To determine one's dosha, or constitutional type, the ayurvedic physician conducts a detailed examination of factors such as body size, shape, structure, skin, hair distribution and color, pulse, tastes, habits, preferences, and many additional parameters.

Through pulse diagnosis, the ayurvedic physician analyzes the state of balance between the doshas to determine the extent to which it may be out of balance. Based on these diagnostic findings, the physician prescribes specific treatments to restore balance to the whole system. For example, if you have excessive kapha dosha, you may find it impossible to lost weight even when eating very little. The ayurvedic physician will first diagnose your body type and specific imbalances, then prescribe a special program to reduce kapha dosha. The program can include a specific diet, herbal treatments, daily and seasonal routines, rejuvenation therapy, and yoga exercise.

Next to stress reduction, diet is perhaps one of the most important changes one can make on the path to better health. Regularly eating the wrong types of food overloads the system and causes imbalance. Still, the wrong type of food for one person may be the right type of food for another. General guidelines like cutting back on fatty, high cholesterol foods, or favoring fresh high fiber foods are useful, but don't account for individual differences and needs. Different body types require different types of food. This knowledge has been part of ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years.

The personalized home health program prescribed by an ayurvedic physician is an essential component of ayurvedic medicine. In treating the disease at its source, while addressing its symptoms, a client is able to assume responsibility for his own personal well-being. In this way, ayurvedic is a path to promoting perfect health and longevity, creating a disease-free society.

Presently, courses in ayurvedic medicine are being offered by the American Academy of Ayurvedic Medicine in conjunction with the International Academy of Clinical Acupuncture. License renewal through New York Chiropractic College has been applied for all states.

Abbas S. Qutab, M.D., D.C., F.I.A.C.A.
Lynn, Maryland

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