There is an explosion of at home DNA test kits offering users a chance to understand their heritage while finding the medications or weight loss plans that will work with their genetics. The technology is impressive, but we are more complicated than our genetic code. These tests can offer useful information, but fail to mention that environment plays a large role in how our genes are expressed. We are more nurture than nature. Which copies of our genes “kick in” to repair our cells, depends on interactions within our environment. This reinforces the role of holistic medicine, which considers the whole person. Many forms of personalized medicine have been available for thousands of years.
Holistic practices blend conventional and alternative therapies to allow life force energy to flow freely. Care is tailored to the whole person, their unique needs and desires, treating the body in a way that harnesses their own healing powers. Techniques give the mind hope while the body’s own mechanisms restore balance. This includes a healthy diet, getting plenty of rest, living in tune with nature, and gentle exercises like yoga.
Stress & Inflammation
Newer doesn’t always mean better, in fact our modern lifestyle can be worse for our health. We are busy and reporting higher levels of stress despite having access to more forms of leisure than ever. Our culture encourages sedentary, solitary electronic activities. Many of us feel scattered as our brains are not designed to connected to devices all day long. With little time for lunch, even health-conscious people grab prepackaged food or reheat leftovers. These are only some behaviors that drive chronic inflammation in the body.
Research is emerging that stress drives autoimmune disease and depression. C-reactive protein (CRP) is just one of several markers that can be measured in the blood that signals inflammation in the body. The level, determined only partially by genetics, increases with a sedentary lifestyle, stress, and exposure to environmental toxins. Doctors may see elevated levels in arthritis, lupus, and depression that doesn’t respond to antidepressants, etc. CRP may even play a role in the development of cardiovascular disease and dementia.
Self-care practices like yoga and meditation decrease inflammatory markers in the body. These findings encourage us to view self-care as a medical necessity. With so much driving our stress, a massage once a month or a yoga class once a week is not enough to combat the negative effects of cortisol and other stress hormones on our bodies and mind. Ideally, self-care is a daily commitment to a routine that promotes balance in mind, body, and spirit.
Ayurveda Is Ancient Self-Care
A daily self-care routine specific to a student’s needs is the cornerstone of Ayurveda, medicine originating in India 5,000 years ago. The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda focuses on improving digestion to decrease inflammation in the body through a personalized routine of diet and other practices are dosha specific. According to Ayurveda, there are three doshas or life forces that exist everywhere in nature: vata, pitta, and kapha. A combination of doshas exist in all living organisms but one is usually more dominant than the others.
Each dosha manages different aspects of our body and mind; it’s essential to keep them balanced to improve overall health and reduce risk of illness. Signs of imbalance vary by dosha.
Vata imbalance is attributed to an excess of wind element causing dryness. The skin may appear dry and rough. There is a tendency toward weight loss, pain, anxiety, restlessness and worry. Dryness in the gut contributes to constipation. People with vata imbalance may experience joint pain, weakness, decreased concentration, and insomnia.
Pitta imbalance is excess fire element: excessive body heat, inflammation, skin diseases, rashes, heartburn, peptic ulcer, excessive sweating, excessive thirst, and excessive hunger. Pittas can be hot tempered with aggressiveness and irritability.
Kaphas are calm and earthy but when an imbalance occurs there is slowness, congestion, and cold. This presents as pale-complexion, lethargy, excessive sleep, dullness. Respiratory symptoms include asthma, bronchitis, colds and allergies. Excessive weight gain, yeast infections, and lack of motivation are also common.
An ayurvedic practitioner can determine basic constitution and design a care routine specific for a client’s current level of health, appearance, and unique personality. Daily routines begin with measures to decrease levels of toxicity or ama in the body and restore balance.
Ama Reducing Measures (Detox)
Include lemon honey water first thing in the morning, sipping hot water throughout the day (except pitta), intermittent fasting and more. Detoxification protocol may include herbal preparations.
Dosha Specific Diet
The focus is on choosing foods that will pacify your dosha and strengthen digestive fire (agni). The traditional Ayurvedic diet is lactovegetarian; there are general dietary guidelines for all doshas. Light and purification diets are prescribed for patients who wish to reduce weight or ama.
Other Routines (Dinacharya)
Start in the early morning with meditation, yoga asanas, lymphatic stimulation (garshan), oil massage (abhyanga), etc.
An immersive experience during a retreat can eliminate mental fogginess and remove the feeling of being blocked. More intense purification can occur between seasons at a center that offers panchakarma.