A BRIEF SUMMARY AND PERSPECTIVE OF TRAUMA, PTSD, AND AN INTEGRATED APPROACH WITH YOGA AND AYURVEDA

Definition of trauma (per Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

1a: an injury (such as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent

b: a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury

c: an emotional upset

2: an agent, force, or mechanism that causes trauma

Definition of post-traumatic stress disorder (per Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

: a psychological reaction occurring after experiencing a highly stressing event (such as wartime combat, physical violence, or a natural disaster) that is usually characterized by depression, anxiety, flashbacks, recurrent nightmares, and avoidance of reminders of the event —abbreviation PTSD


General category of Trauma and PTSD according to Ayurveda and Caraka-Saṃhitā, assesses this as ManoVikāra” or “ManasVikāra” or “Manas Roga” or “Manas Śārīra Roga” which generally is defined as psychosomatic diseases/illness/disorder.


The above shared definitions of Trauma and PTSD shows a pattern of development where an individual experiences trauma and with that, as a by-product of what the nervous system, and system overall, progresses generally into a PTSD response. This response is exemplary of how the mind and nervous system interact and experience, what some call a “heightened nervous system response'“ which when triggered can sometimes render an individual incapacitated or having an opposite reaction which is to act out in ways that can be abrupt and even possibly harmful towards the self or others. This heightened nervous system response can range from a general ability to perceive the environment with an increased sensitivity to it, to hyper-vigilance (as defined by wikipedia, Hypervigilance is an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors whose purpose is to detect activity. Hypervigilance may bring about a state of increased anxiety which can cause exhaustion) as a result of being triggered by an external factor that could somehow remind the individual of a memory rooted in trauma.

I have recently been inspired to write this article in the name of Trauma and PTSD due to my own reflections of my own journey, along with the interactions of clients, friends, and loved ones. This is a very layered topic, complex, and multi-faceted. This article would be quite lengthy if it was to be written in a way that included the various perspectives that describe trauma and its management. For the purpose of this article, with the intention of keeping it on the shorter side, I have decided to use myself as an example with regard to the process and work involved in achieving a certain level of homeostasis.

In my earlier youth, ages two to 17, I experienced multiple traumas that severely impacted me in ways that carried much weight on my growth and functionality in the world, until recent years. The earliest and first main trauma was the death of my father when I was almost two years old. During those years, I was molested as a child, beaten, heavily disciplined, emotionally and mentally degraded, shredded, and broken down. There was a great deal of economic hardship growing up. I was surrounded by an environment of anger, grief, and anxiety, mostly. I had no sense of self. No self-esteem. No voice. No trust in the world. No sense of safety. Minimal nurturing. No self-worth. No self-acceptance. I had a lot of anger as I entered into my teen years, which coincided perfectly with hormones surging through my blood causing everything to be heightened and magnified, during a period of normal development of any teenager. Let’s add into, not only knowing I existed but the question of why do I exist? Who am I? What do people want me to be? and mix this all up with the certainty that on a deeper level I knew I was gay and had to figure that all out since I was a teenager. I had this edge, aggressiveness, and controlling behavior, when I wasn’t anxious. In ways, they fed each other. Depression would fall in between, which lead to the few suicide attempts until my mid-20’s.

There was this impetus to pursue my degree in psychology so that I could understand a lot of what I had been through and figure out how to help myself because there was this inherent drive to connect with a life that I felt would be possible for myself by taking myself out of the hot seat. I wanted to be “normal” somehow and just had to determine what would make that happen. When I finally started dating guys, one of my boyfriends encouraged me to go to therapy because he said “I refuse to be with someone who was emotionally unavailable.” So, I followed the advice of a dear friend of mine and she told me to see this particular therapist, named Liz, that practiced this profoundly transformative therapy called Core Energetics, which incorporates breath, and movement, not so much “talk therapy'“ and I started connecting with myself in ways I hadn’t imagined. Along the ways I also found my way into yoga and meditation, and the beginning of holistic medicine through various outlets. This all started coming together and was synergistic with my process I was engaged in with Core Energetics. I had a realization that I had been out of my body for so many years due to my traumatic experiences. Massage, Shiatsu, acupuncture, yoga, and even herbs started to help me connect with being in my body. Core Energetics helped me work through the psycho-physical-emotional components of my own “recovery.” What was I recovering from? Answer, was trauma. What was I recovering? Answer, myself beneath the layers of pain and suffering. How was I recovering? Answer, by going through the actual pain in a safer place and away from the actual environment that fostered it to begin with. During my time with Liz I was given two diagnoses. The first diagnosis when I began with her was “Affective Disorder with Mixed Emotional Features.” The second and last diagnosis was “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

Like a magnet, life has had it be the case that I should gravitate towards other individuals who were also recovering from various traumas. What I realized was that many people had undergone trauma. For me, the constant was sexual abuse, but not too far behind was some sort of anxiety and/or addiction of sorts. I became a case manager/social worker and worked more with individuals who were in “the system” and these opportunities presented many reflections for my own inner process. It was quite fascinating to witness that as I was going layer by layer within myself that I would see aspects of myself in others. It is safe to say that I have seen quite a lot and experienced quite a lot in this lifetime and I continue to learn and go deeper within myself.

Yoga (traditional) has been in my life for almost 25 years and Ayurveda, which is a complete system of holistic medicine, for almost 18 years and both have improved the quality of my life immensely by incorporating a creating a way of life, a lifestyle that included getting into my body with the yoga exercises, philosophies, and the Ayurveda that supported me by having an appropriate diet for my body and mind, along with herbs and whatever else was needed. Over the years, and as needed, I have been in and out of the Core Energetics therapeutic setting. This is what has worked for me. It has such a strong element of exploring the emotions through not only the mind but also the body, which tends to be lacking in some therapies. Coupled with the yoga and other hands-on modalities I have indulged in over the years, yoga, CE, and Ayurveda are a staple in my life! One summer, I had the pleasure of working with a trauma specialist, in addition to working with CE and Radical Aliveness (another adjunct technique) and really shifted amazingly to a whole new level I didn’t ever think I would successfully arrive at with both feet planted. It was also during this time that I had this powerful realization that in order for me to truly transform the hardships into victories I had to let go of a story. I had this story for so long that said things like “I am broken”, “No one has had it worse than me”, “I am beyond repair”, “Something is wrong with me”, “I’ll never overcome this.” So on and so forth. I realized that there was some distortion in the comfort of holding onto my story because I didn’t know who I would be if I let go of the story. I willingly let go of the story and the shift happened. What used to seem to keep me bound, no longer had a hold on me. I felt a lightness in my being. I felt a regulation in my nervous system occur that I didn’t think was possible. Sure, I may have moment of being anxious but how it’s managed and how long it lasts is very different these days. I am human and still have human moments, and that perfectly okay!

Over the years, I have worked with clients who have had traumas on the full spectrum. Baby steps, for sure, since it is a very delicate process. I’ve supported friends and colleagues as well. We are all in this together and can support each other as needed. I continue to work on myself daily with all my tools in the tool box that I have and maintain full responsibility of myself. I remember one day sitting in my 12 step group for Survivors of Incest Anonymous meetings and everyone went around the room saying “hi, I am so and so, and I am a survivor of sexual abuse.” The response would be “hi, so and so, welcome and thank you for coming.” So, during this one time, I had this epiphany that I didn’t want to be a survivor anymore. I wanted to live life. When it was my turn to introduce myself I said “Hi! My name is Antonio and I choose to start living today” because I no longer wanted to allow my past to make me a victim any longer where I am just surviving life. I wanted to live it. This is what I have been doing since then and will continue to do so.

it is a duty, pleasure, and humbling honor to work with others in ways that involve a holistic approach in managing trauma and PTSD. I am confident to also share that part of this process has consisted of working with addiction. I’ve had my share and I am no longer weighed down by old addictive patterns. I recently wrote this piece on addiction. This piece is also important because it is very common for those suffering from addiction that they are self-medicating with some sort of externalized form of temporary pleasure that is meant to help the individual temporarily feel better, for whatever reason. It’s a little long, so I hope you have a few more minutes to give me your attention.


THOUGHTS ON ADDICTION...RECOVERY

Addiction- That behavioral and complex thought/emotional process that depends on something outside of us for a sense of completion/satisfaction, but causes perpetual suffering and on various levels depending on the addiction. It’s that substance that we feel we can’t be without. Who would you be if you didn’t have that substance to depend on to feel good? Are you able to stop doing that one thing or does it control you? What is your object of attachment? These are good questions to see what your addiction is for you.

It is a type of disease. It definitely involves a “diseased” mind on some level and the intensity of the disease can manifest in physical dependency. Examples of this include but aren’t exclusive of others are alcohol, heroin, meth, and sex.

Recovery- success involves willingness, full honesty, vulnerability, dedication, disciplined commitment, along with adequate support. Initially, when sobriety starts, that ideally means full withdrawal from the “object of affection”. But the tendency is to find some other vice to substitute which is still counted as a relapse, especially in the beginning.

The honesty piece is a crucial factor that must be emphasized. As honest as we can be with ourselves, the better help we can receive. Lying only perpetuates the self-loathing and deepens the downward spiral into self-destructiveness. Adding to anxiety and depression. Lying consumes us from the inside out and becomes passive-aggressive tendencies which further the additive process, even justifying it more so. For instance, “I’m lying. I feel like shit about it. I’m afraid to say anything. Now I feel isolated. I feel like shit. That drug can make me feel better. I feel bad and guilty about wanting it but I can’t stop myself. I feel like shit. I isolate more. I finally get the “hit” I was looking for. I feel great and shitty at the same time. I crash. I hide.” So on and so forth and as many variations as there are people and people with their addictive tendencies.

The recovery/sobriety support typically includes a group meeting(s), sponsor, networking, medical intervention if needed, a therapist, and loving friends with clear boundaries. Failure to implement all these can cause more harm than good. It’s an investment in yourself until stability is achieved. Then maintenance is essential and can look any number of ways depending on the nature of the person and the substance of addiction.

BUT if someone says they are in recovery and aren’t able to provide some sort of mature and grounded in reality provision around their sobriety, then run!!! This can be a slippery slope and red flag indicating that a relapse has already begun and is rooted in denial. Denial can hurt both the person seeking recovery and loved ones. Blinders on can cause accidents. Don’t be naive. If we are naive to it, this becomes apparent in people who are co-dependent and enablers, then we fall into the cycle with them which becomes this tugging and pulling.

Sobriety, at least for a couple of years (I’m being modest) involves absolutely no substances. Not the main one and not the supplements. You’re either “clean” or not. Maybe as time progresses, for example, there’s a possibility to have a drink if meth was your fix but this depends on the person and the inner work they’ve done. Definitely not meth, ever. There are some who are in recovery for 10 years and can have that one glass but there are others who are absolute and don’t touch a thing. As they say in the rooms “one is too much and 1000 is never enough.” It depends on the person and their personality, whether they have addictive personalities, if it even runs in the family, or not.

Aside from the chemical dependencies that substances such as alcohol and heroin have, which have the highest relapse rates being 90%, which requires utmost care and attention in detoxification, there is the mental component that underlies all addictions. In that, there is some root emotional/thought that exists. There is some sort of trauma embedded in the mind and tissues that must be carefully and gently excavated that is the subtle caveat for the manifestation and presentation of suffering that leads some to these addictions. Getting to the foundation of this is imperative! Otherwise, the person stays stuck and repeats and repeats and repeats this destructive patterning. We each have a responsibility to ourselves to do this work. As painful as it may be at times BUT the weight of this pain is less so than the actual substance of addiction, in the long run. It seems like the drug may be better short term but the long term harm is extensive and deeper.

Lives are lost to addiction daily. The rate is extremely high. The person could overdose, lives are lost to death or seem like the walking dead, hearts are broken, getting raped happens, bankruptcy, debts, poverty, homelessness, loss of friends and family, and even harm towards others. Suicide isn’t an uncommon thought in an active addicts mind. Whether they admit to it or not. Whether they purposely try doing it in one shot or slowly over time as part of a degradation and deterioration process. If they physically remain alive, some people with such active and profound addictions walk around like the walking dead. They walk around with a shell, appearing as a shell. They’ve forgotten who they are and have believed their thoughts. On many levels, we all have this addiction because the mind is slippery and it manifests in subtle ways for some of us.

The mind can create or destroy. It just depends on where it’s focused. When we lose touch with who we are at the core, it becomes eclipsed by a cascade of thoughts that suppress it and convince us of suffering is the only way. Yet, some part of us is yearning to be free. Fundamentally, there are two ways to be free from suffering that are proven to be effective. 1) we die 2) we work through our shit on a daily basis and keep putting in support so we don’t have to do it or be with it alone and eventually the old skin sheds and we morph into the version of ourselves that we yearn for.

On a deeper level, there is so much pain, guilt, and shame they carry. Especially when it’s out of control. It’s a perpetual cycle but there’s either a breaking point where enough is enough and the above-mentioned steps are put in place to secure and reclaim their lives OR death becomes the end of this level of suffering but leaves behind those of us to grieve around the loss as part of this tragedy.

Life is a choice. Dealing with the pain or avoiding it is a choice. The pain doesn’t go away, it just comes out in other ways. The only way out is in and with support. It can’t and shouldn’t be done alone! And that’s if you truly want to live.


In conclusion, I get trauma, PTSD, and addiction, believe me. I also know that these are quite complicated at times and I by no means am claiming to be a licensed expert in the field such as a psychologist or clinical social worker but I have had extensive experience on both sides of the fence, with important tools combined such as therapeutic models such as Core Energetics/Radical Aliveness, yoga, Ayurveda, meditation, stress management techniques, and massage which have caused me to feel successful in my own process and in my life at this point. It is possible! With the right support and willingness, a lot can be accomplished. All that’s needed is gentleness, patience, diligence, dedication, and remembering you’re human. This was that path that worked for me and I understand that some variation of this integrated approach would be highly beneficial for many individuals. It brings me great joy when I get to work with individuals who come in to see me and are willing to have me support them in whatever way I can, with whatever tools I have, and I am deeply touched when I see the transformations, shifts, leaps and bounds that happen in this “recovery” process.

Public Service Announcement: If you or someone you know is dealing with similar issues, please feel free to connect with me. If I can help, I will. If more is needed, I can offer some resources to support in figuring it out. This wasn’t meant to be done alone. It can’t!

REFERENCES/ARTICLES:

Concept of Psychosomatic Disorders in Ayurveda

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/d0a4/e28379e78379fca1e69b4b08ca8ffc6db728.pdf

Diagnosis and Management of PTSD

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14705759

Complimentary and Alternative Medicine for PTSD

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4177524/

A Modern Ayurvedic View of Trauma

https://shrifreedom.org/ayurveda/trauma-in-ayurveda/

Trauma Redefined in DSM-V

http://tpcjournal.nbcc.org/trauma-redefined-in-the-dsm-5-rationale-and-implications-for-counseling-practice/

PTSD AND TRAUMA

https://dsm.psychiatryonline.org/doi/abs/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596.dsm07

Yoga as a Treatment for PTSD

http://accurateclinic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Yoga-as-an-Adjunctive-Treatment-for-Posttraumatic-Stress-Disorder-A-Randomized-Controlled-Trial-2014.pdf

What is Trauma Informed Yoga?

https://www.eomega.org/article/what-is-trauma-informed-yoga

Definition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/post-traumatic%20stress%20disorder

Definition of Trauma

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trauma









DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed by a qualified professional/practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.

PRACTICAL SUMMER TIPS TO STAY HEALTHY

This is the time of year when nature is in its full glory, splendor and delight. Aliveness has infused in the atmosphere and many of us are feeling ignited and inspired by this. It is the natural tendency for heat to have this effect. As heat increases, the activity of molecules increases with speed. This speed can translate into a variety of ways that encourage celebrations of vitality ranging from traveling, to meeting up with more friends, hosting lunches, dinners, and other soiree’s. As in the winter time when the holiday’s are upon us, so it can happen in the heated months, where we can over do ourselves, and then when the following season hits, we feel handicapped somehow. In Ayurveda, we call this Pitta Season because it is the season of heat. In some locations a dry heat, and in others a more moister/humid heat. The qualities of Pitta are Hot, light, slightly moist/dry, sharp, and oily.

Here are some general considerations as the days progress into summer the summer months, as shared through the amazing science of Ayurveda.

1) STAY HYDRATED. If you’re not exactly sure of how or if you’d like options to optimize hydration, check out THIS link.

2) SUN EXPOSURE. Ayurveda suggests avoiding the peak time sun for many reasons. Though being exposed to sunlight can have a biochemically stimulating affect ranging from increasing metabolism, increasing vitamin D, detoxification, increased energy and circulation, and uplifting and inspiring, it can also have a depletive affect that ends with feeling wiped out at the end of a day or even before then, depending on how much sun exposure you’ve had. We want to harness the power and energy of the sun in a mindful way that cultivates it for our health and longevity. We know that, for instance, too much sun exposure can predipose certain individuals to skin cancers. Overexposure to sun can also increase the aging process by breaking down the necessary structures of the skin, causing wrinkles. Similarly, lack of proper hydration while playing in the sun can increase wrinkles.

3) MINIMIZE ALCOHOL. Alcohol has an stimulating affect on the blood. Summer time also has a stimulating affect on the sun. Adding the two together can increase the possibilities of dehydration and increasing inflammation. It’s like adding gasoline to a fire. Remember to stay hydrated and to slow down on the intake of alcohol.

4) COFFEE INTAKE….should be monitored. Stay hydrated even around drinking coffee and other caffeinated beverages, should you do so. Check out THIS article for information on coffee.

5) REST. It’s not uncommon that certain cultures like, Italy and Mexico, that during the hot days and after lunchtime, people take afternoon “siestas.” Taking a nap is like this, which not only acts as a reset but also serves to cool the body down. Why do you think long haired dogs sleep more in the summer? It’s because they are conserving energy and attempting to cool down. Sleeping/resting/napping has not only an anti-inflammatory quality to it but it also engages the parasympathetic nervous system that is designed to restore the body and, in some ways, the body cools down from over activity. So just because nature says to expand a lot during this time of year, it’s still important to be mindful not to over due it because this can lead to depletion which sets the ball in motion for other health issues to arise, if not sooner, then later.

6) MEAL TIME. Still get your 3 meals (for some 3-5 smaller meals) in and eat seasonally. Why not.? Nature is producing an abundant of crops this time of year. Take joy and pleasure in it. For some constitutions, such as Pitta-predominant individuals, it may be too hot to eat. So eat more cooling veggies and fruits. Don’t cook so much. Definitely don’t bake if you don’t have to. Grilling is great if you’re outside, but not in direct sun (see point #2.) Cook under an umbrella while sipping a hydrating beverage.

7) MINIMIZE COLD ANYTHING. As tempting as it may seem, especially when it’s 100 degrees F outside and you want to take in a substance that is cold/icy/frozen. Although this may seem supportive in the moment, short-term, the long-term risks may not be worth it. Any substance with these qualities will in fact dry you out more. Some constitutions, such as Vata predominant individuals, will feel it faster and reap the repercussions with symptoms such as allergies or dryness. Pitta predominant individuals may feel the need to keep taking in more of these qualities without full satisfaction. Kapha predominant individuals will most likely increase weight. Check out THIS article for more thoughts on this.

8) GET OUT. Get out there in nature. Go hiking, camping, jet skiing, canoeing. Again, try to avoid being in too much direct sun or this will “zap” you, causing your system to get compromised. Definitely avoid vigorous activities such as biking or running under the direct heat of the sun, during peak hours. Sweating in excess/ being drenched in sweat, is not ideal and causes more harm than good, on many levels. Strolling at night under the moonlight or starlit night is much better on the nervous system. Maybe do a little of both. Get your exercising in during the day, and then take a calming cooling walk at night.

9) GET A MASSAGE. Massages during the summer can add to the spa like feeling afterward. Massage is good anytime of year. Check out THIS article. Reiki, Shiatsu, Thai Bodywork, Thai Massage, Bowen Sessions, CranialSacral Sessions, and even Marma sessions can all benefit the body and be perfect treatments to do during the summer time.

10) HAVE FUN! Remember to simply have fun. Laugh a lot. Play a lot. Life is too serious at times and this is the balance to it. It’s that simple. Make light of things. This is the time of year to enjoy so much, in so many ways. Try to recall yourself as a child and what you did for pleasure. How does that translate to you being an adult? Think about it . Have a great summer!

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed by a qualified professional/practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.

HIV PAPER (FULL LENGTH)

(Note: HERE is the link for where it was also published in academia through the California College of Ayurveda)

Crossing the Bridge Where East Meets West:

An Ayurvedic and Allopathic Perspective on the Management of HIV and HIV-Related Inflammation







by

Dr. Antonio (Vishnu) A. Aragona AD

Submitted to the California College of Ayurveda in partial fulfillment of the academic requirements

2018







ABSTRACT

When it comes to the successful treatment of HIV and inflammation there is no one size fits all approach. Nor is it the case that any one medical system alone can be the end all and be all resolution to such a complex condition. Both the Allopathic Medical model and Ayurvedic Medical model can work along each other in supporting an West meets East approach to management. HIV has been around for quite some time and both allopathic medicine and Ayurveda have an understanding of how individuals affected by such a disease can find harmony within themselves and within the balance of ancient medicine and conventional medicine.

Inflammation seems to be a common condition associated with HIV, and from there this situation can affect the overall health on various levels. Allopathy (Conventional/Western Medicine) can support by continuing its scientific studies to “find a cure,” while providing medications that help virologically suppress the virus, manage inflammation, and Ayurveda can provide support by sharing its wisdom of a deeper understanding of inflammation and the effects of such an intense virus, through a body-mind-spirit approach. It is with the intention of this paper to join both Ayurveda and Allopathy in an effort to fully achieve an even more optimal outcome with individuals affected by HIV. What may that outcome be? Possibly the complete resolution or a more balanced way of living with this condition.

INTRODUCTION

HISTORY OF HIV/AIDS:

It is unlikely the case that in 2017 there is anyone who isn’t familiar with HIV. It has had a devastating, worldwide effect since the beginning of the 1980s; the mortality then was high and spread like wildfire in major cities and certain parts of the world.

What is HIV? HIV stands for “Human Immunodeficiency Virus.” This is the virus that can lead to AIDS (Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome) when left untreated. Once the disease has spread to this stage, mortality increases and the individual can have a short lifespan from that point. With the intervention of medications, HIV can be managed and AIDS prevented.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) is a federal agency that supports health promotion, prevention, and education when it comes to public health. According to the CDC, there is no known effective cure for the HIV, but it can be controlled.1 AVERT is an international group geared towards the education and prevention around HIV. Here’s a general timeline of the progression of this disease according to AVERT: 2

Pre-1980

It is widely believed that HIV originated in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo around 1920 when HIV crossed species from chimpanzees to humans. Up until the 1980s, we do not know how many people were infected with HIV or developed AIDS. HIV was unknown and transmission was not accompanied by noticeable signs or symptoms.

While sporadic cases of AIDS were documented prior to 1970, available data suggests that the current epidemic started in the mid- to late 1970s. By 1980, HIV may have already spread to five continents (North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Australia). In this period, between 100,000 and 300,000 people could have already been infected.

1980s

1981

In 1981, cases of a rare lung infection called Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) were found in five young, previously healthy gay men in Los Angeles. At the same time, there were reports of a group of men in New York and California with an unusually aggressive cancer named Kaposi’s Sarcoma.

In December 1981, the first cases of PCP were reported in people who inject drugs.

By the end of the year, there were 270 reported cases of severe immune deficiency among gay men - 121 of them had died.

1982

In June 1982, a group of cases among gay men in Southern California suggested that the cause of the immune deficiency was sexual and the syndrome was initially called gay-related immune deficiency (or GRID).

Later that month, the disease was reported in haemophiliacs and Haitians leading many to believe it had originated in Haiti.

In September, the CDC used the term 'AIDS' (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) for the first time, describing it as AIDS cases were also being reported in a number of European countries.

In Uganda, doctors reported cases of a new, fatal wasting disease locally known as 'slim'.

By this point, a number of AIDS-specific organizations had been set up including the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF) in the USA and the Terrence Higgins Trust in the UK.

1983

In January 1983, AIDS was reported among the female partners of men who had the disease suggesting it could be passed on via heterosexual sex.

In May, doctors at the Pasteur Institute in France reported the discovery of a new retrovirus called Lymphadenopathy-Associated Virus (or LAV) that could be the cause of AIDS.

In June, the first reports of AIDS in children hinted that it could be passed via casual contact, but this was later ruled out, and it was concluded that they had probably directly acquired AIDS from their mothers before, during or shortly after birth.

By September, the CDC identified all major routes of transmission and ruled out transmission by casual contact, food, water, air or surfaces.

The CDC also published their first set of recommended precautions for healthcare workers and allied health professionals to prevent "AIDS transmission.”

In November, the World Health Organization (WHO) held its first meeting to assess the global AIDS situation and began international surveillance.

By the end of the year the number of AIDS cases in the USA had risen to 3,064 - of this number, 1,292 had died.

1984

In April 1984, the National Cancer Institute announced they had found the cause of AIDS, the retrovirus HTLV-III. In a joint conference with the Pasteur Institute they announced that LAV and HTLV-III are identical and the likely cause of AIDS. A blood test was created to screen for the virus with the hope that a vaccine would be developed in two years.

In July, the CDC states that avoiding injecting drug use and sharing needles "should also be effective in preventing transmission of the virus."

In October, bath houses and private sex clubs in San Francisco were closed due to high-risk sexual activity. New York and Los Angeles followed suit within a year.

By the end of 1984, there had been 7,699 AIDS cases and 3,665 AIDS deaths in the USA with 762 cases reported in Europe.

In Amsterdam, the Netherlands, the first needle and syringe program was set up with growing concerns about HTLV-III/LAV.

1985

In March 1985, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensed the first commercial blood test, ELISA, to detect antibodies to the virus. Blood banks began to screen the USA blood supply.

In April, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) hosted the first International AIDS Conference in Atlanta Georgia.

Ryan White, a teenager from Indiana, USA who acquired AIDS through contaminated blood products used to treat his hemophilia was banned from school.

On 2 October, the actor Rock Hudson dies from AIDS - the first high profile fatality. He left $250,000 to set up the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR).

In December, the U.S. Public Health Service issued the first recommendations for preventing mother to child transmission of the virus.

By the end of 1985, every region in the world had reported at least one case of AIDS, with 20,303 cases in total.

1986

In May 1986, the International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses said that the virus that causes AIDS will officially be called HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) instead of HTLV-III/LAV.

By the end of the year, 85 countries had reported 38,401 cases of AIDS to the World Health Organization. By region these were: Africa 2,323; Americas 31,741; Asia 84; Europe 3,858, and Oceania 395.

1987

In February 1987, the WHO launched The Global Program on AIDS to raise awareness; generate evidence-based policies; provide technical and financial support to countries; conduct research; promote participation by NGOs; and promote the rights of people living with HIV.

In March, the FDA approved the first antiretroviral drug, zidovudine (AZT), as treatment for HIV.

In April, the FDA approved the western blot blood test kit, a more specific HIV antibody test.

In July, the WHO confirmed that HIV could be passed from mother to child during breastfeeding.

In October, AIDS became the first illness debated in the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.

By December, 71,751 cases of AIDS had been reported to the WHO, with 47,022 of these in the USA. The WHO estimated that 5-10 million people were living with HIV worldwide.

1988

In 1988, the WHO declared 1st December as the first World AIDS Day.

The groundwork was laid for a nationwide HIV and AIDS care system in the USA that was later funded by the Ryan White CARE Act.

1989

In March 1989, 145 countries had reported 142,000 AIDS cases. However, the WHO estimated there were up to 400,000 cases worldwide.

In June, the CDC released the first guidelines to prevent PCP - an opportunistic infection that was a major cause of death among people with AIDS.

The number of reported AIDS cases in the USA reached 100,000.

1990s

1990

On 8 April 1990, Ryan White died of an AIDS-related illness aged 18.

In June, the 6th International AIDS Conference in San Francisco protested against the USA's immigration policy, which stopped people with HIV from entering the country. NGOs boycotted the conference.

In July, the USA enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against those with disabilities including people living with HIV.

In October, the FDA approved the use of zidovudine (AZT) to treat children with AIDS.

By the end of 1990, over 307,000 AIDS cases had been officially reported with the actual number estimated to be closer to a million. Between 8-10 million people were thought to be living with HIV worldwide.

1991

In 1991, the Visual AIDS Artists Caucus launched the Red Ribbon Project to create a symbol of compassion for people living with HIV and their carers. The red ribbon became an international symbol of AIDS awareness.

On 7 November, professional basketball player Earvin (Magic) Johnson announced he had HIV and retired from the sport, planning to educate young people about the virus. This announcement helped begin to dispel the stereotype, still widely held in the US and elsewhere, of HIV as a ‘gay’ disease.

A couple of weeks later, Freddie Mercury, lead singer of rock group Queen, announced he had AIDS and died a day later.

1992

The 1992 International AIDS Conference scheduled to be held in Boston, USA was moved to Amsterdam due to USA immigration rules on people living with HIV.

Tennis star Arthur Ashe revealed he became infected with HIV as the result of a blood transfusion in 1983.

In May, the FDA licensed a 10 minute testing kit which could be used by healthcare professionals to detect HIV-1.

1993

In March 1993, the USA Congress voted overwhelmingly to retain the ban on entry into the country for people living with HIV.

The CDC added pulmonary tuberculosis, recurrent pneumonia and invasive cervical cancer to the list of AIDS indicators.

Over 700,000 people were thought to have the virus in Asia and the Pacific.

By the end of 1993, there were an estimated 2.5 million AIDS cases globally.

1994

In August 1994, the USA Public Health Service recommended the use of AZT to prevent the mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

In December, the FDA approved an oral HIV test - the first non-blood HIV test.

1995

In June 1995, the FDA approved the first protease inhibitor beginning a new era of highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART). Once incorporated into clinical practice HAART brought about an immediate decline of between 60% and 80% in rates of AIDS-related deaths and hospitalization in those countries that could afford it.

By the end of the year, there were an estimated 4.7 million new HIV infections - 2.5 million in southeast Asia and 1.9 million in sub-Saharan Africa.

1996

In 1996, the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) was established to advocate for global action on the epidemic and coordinate the response to HIV and AIDS across the UN.

The 11th International AIDS Conference in Vancouver highlighted the effectiveness of HAART leading to a period of optimism.

The FDA approved the first home testing kit; a viral load test to measure the level of HIV in the blood; the first non-nucleoside transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) drug (nevirapine); and the first HIV urine test.

New HIV outbreaks were detected in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, India, Vietnam, Cambodia and China among others.

By the end of 1996, the estimated number of people living with HIV was 23 million.

1997

In September 1997, the FDA approved Combivir, a combination of two antiretroviral drugs, taken as a single daily tablet, making it easier for people living with HIV to take their medication.

UNAIDS estimated that 30 million people had HIV worldwide equating to 16,000 new infections a day.

1999

In 1999, the WHO announced that AIDS was the fourth biggest cause of death worldwide and number one killer in Africa. An estimated 33 million people were living with HIV and 14 million people had died from AIDS since the start of the epidemic.

2000s

2000

In July, UNAIDS negotiated with five pharmaceutical companies to reduce antiretroviral drug prices for developing countries.

In September, the United Nations adopted the Millennium Development Goals which included a specific goal to reverse the spread of HIV, malaria and TB.

2001

In June 2001, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly called for the creation of a "global fund" to support efforts by countries and organizations to combat the spread of HIV through prevention, treatment and care including buying medication.

After generic drug manufacturers, such as Cipla in India, began producing discounted, generic forms of HIV medicines for developing countries, several major pharmaceutical manufacturers agreed to further reduce drug prices.

In November, the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced the Doha Declaration which allowed developing countries to manufacture generic medications to combat public health crises like HIV.

2002

In April 2002, the Global Fund approved its first round of grants totaling $600 million.

In July, UNAIDS reported that AIDS was now by far the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa.

Also in July, South Africa’s Constitutional Court orders the government to make the HIV drug nevirapine available to all HIV-positive pregnant women and their newborn children following a legal challenge by the Treatment Action Campaign.

In November, the FDA approved the first rapid HIV test with 99.6% accuracy and a result in 20 minutes.

2003

In January 2003, President George W. Bush announced the creation of the United States President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a $15 billion, five-year plan to combat AIDS, primarily in countries with a high number of HIV infections.

In December, the WHO announced the “3 by 5” initiative to bring HIV treatment to 3 million people by 2005.

2006

In 2006, male circumcision was found to reduce the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission by 60%. Since then, the WHO and UNAIDS have emphasized that male circumcision should be considered in areas with high HIV and low male circumcision prevalence.

2007

In May 2007, the WHO and UNAIDS issued new guidance recommending “provider-initiated” HIV testing in healthcare settings. This aimed to widen knowledge of HIV status and greatly increase access to HIV treatment and prevention.

2010s

2010

In January 2010, the travel ban preventing HIV-positive people from entering the USA was lifted.

In July, the CAPRISA 004 microbicide trial was hailed a success after results showed that the microbicide gel reduces the risk of HIV infection in women by 40%.

Results from the iPrEx trial showed a reduction in HIV acquisition of 44% among men who have sex with men who took pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

2011

In 2011, results from the HPTN 052 trial showed that early initiation of antiretroviral treatment reduced the risk of HIV transmission by 96% among serodiscordant couples.

In August, the FDA approved Complera, the second all-in-one fixed dose combination tablet, expanding the treatment options available for people living with HIV.

2012

In July 2012, the FDA approved PrEP for HIV-negative people to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV.

For the first time, the majority of people eligible for treatment were receiving it (54%).

2013

In 2013, UNAIDS reported that AIDS-related deaths had fallen 30% since their peak in 2005.

An estimated 35 million people were living with HIV.

2014

In September 2014, new UNAIDS “Fast Track” targets called for the dramatic scaling-up of HIV prevention and treatment programs to avert 28 million new infections and end the epidemic as a public health issue by 2030.

UNAIDS also launched the ambitious 90-90-90 targets which aim for 90% of people living with HIV to be diagnosed, 90% of those diagnosed to be accessing antiretroviral treatment, and 90% of those accessing treatment to achieve viral suppression by 2020.

2015

In July 2015, UNAIDS announced that the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) relating to HIV and AIDS had been reached six months ahead of schedule. The target of MDG 6 – halting and reversing the spread of HIV – saw 15 million people receive treatment.

In September, the WHO launched new treatment guidelines recommending that all people living with HIV should receive antiretroviral treatment, regardless of their CD4 count, and as soon as possible after their diagnosis.

In October, UNAIDS released their 2016-2021 strategy in line with the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), that called for an acceleration in the global HIV response to reach critical HIV prevention and treatment targets and achieve zero discrimination.

2016

The number of people in Russia living with HIV reached one million. Newly released figures also showed 64% of all new HIV diagnoses in Europe occurred in Russia.

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UNAIDS announced that 18.2 million people were on ART, including 910,000 children, double the number five years earlier. However, achieving increased ART access also means a greater risk of drug resistance; the WHO released a report on dealing with this growing issue.

2017

CDC officially announces that HIV Undetectable individuals have zero capacity for transmission of HIV in individuals without a condom.3

In viewing the timeline, one can clearly see the progression and advancements in management of HIV. This current model is supported by scientific research based on western methodology. The continuation of this paper will share both the Western perspective and Eastern perspective, specifically Ayurveda, and management of HIV.

WESTERN PATHOLOGY

Bio-physiology of HIV: How does HIV work?

According to the CDC, AVERT, and the overall medical community, HIV is a virus that is spread through bodily fluids such as blood and semen that then attacks a cell called the T-Helper Cell (CD4.) Over time, the virus affects the immune system so much so that it makes it harder for the body to fight off infections, and diseases such as cancer, among many others. 4, 5 HIV virus cannot multiply on its own. The virus enters the immune host cell and forces the cell to replicate infected strands of itself, and continues this cycle of replication and destruction of immunity by infiltrating other cells. The process of the destruction of the T-helper cell multiplication of virus is called the HIV Life Cycle. AVERT has delineated clearly the stages of infection. 6

Stage One: First, the virus attaches to a T-helper cell and inserts itself.

Stage Two: Once the virus has entered into the cell it enters into the nucleus, changes the genetic material at this level and forces control over the nucleus.

Stage Three: The virus has taken control and then it causes the cell to replicate itself.

Stage Four: New HIV particles are released into the body to find other cells and continue this replication process, until the whole body is infected.

Here’s an image of what the virus looks like in comparison to the T-Helper Cell.7

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What does the actual manifestation of HIV infection look like outwardly? That generally depends on the individual and their level of immunity prior to infection. Some individuals may develop beginning stage symptoms immediately while others may not have any symptoms for quite some time; meanwhile, there may be a slow and steady decline of immune function that causes significant alarm often prompting an individual to get tested. We will discuss testing below in the next section under Western Management.

The CDC outlines the general stages of infection as such:8

Stage One: ACUTE HIV INFECTION. Within 2-4 weeks of viral exposure, a person may experience flu-like symptoms, which may last a few weeks.

Stage Two: CLINICAL LATENCY (HIV Inactivity or Dormancy.) It is during this phase that there may not be any symptoms. This duration of how long the latency period varies, lasting anywhere up to several years. It is possible and likely that without the (ART) medications, an individual is considered to be infectious. Whether symptoms develop or remain latent during this stage depends on the level of the individual’s immune response. This stage applies to even if the virus is present and dormant, or what is known as ‘virally suppressed’ due to ART/HIV medications. If/when unmanaged, the virus will increase as the CD4 response decreases. Immunity is compromised and a whole domino effect of health issues can ensue.

Stage Three: ACQUIRED IMMUNODEFICIENCY SYNDROME (AIDS). It is at this stage that the immune system has broken down and an individual develops varying symptoms ranging from swollen lymph nodes, weakness, weight loss, and other symptoms. CD4 cells are measured according to whether the cells reached below 200 cells/mm. When CD4 reaches below this number and the individual has two or more opportunistic infections, this is defined as AIDS. People at this level are very contagious and the average life span, from this point, tends to be up to three years after the AIDS diagnosis. Meaning, that within this time frame of the AIDS diagnosis the individual can die.

WESTERN MANGEMENT

Prevention

It is pretty well understood in today’s society that HIV can be prevented any number of ways. In fact, when the HIV virus was understood in the 1980s the primary means of prevention was the usage of condoms. Then, in the 1990s PEP was introduced. PEP stands for “Post Exposure Prophylactic,” which is a medication regimen administered within the first 72 hours to any individual who may have been exposed to the virus. This medication can be obtained through a primary physician or the emergency room. PEP prevents the virus from infiltrating the cells of the body.9

In 2012, PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylactic) was introduced into the public after scientific evidence indicated that PrEP can be used to prevent the exposure to HIV. PrEP is used as a preventative means for those who would like to be proactive in eliminating the chance of becoming infected. The CDC supports the usage of this medication in the efforts of reducing HIV infections by more than 90%.10 Individuals are recommended to take a pill called Truvada, once a day. This has been one of the greatest breakthroughs in the field of HIV, and across the world, in order to finally prevent HIV from spreading as quickly.

Lastly, in 2017 what has finally come to scientific recognition across the board is that engaging sexually with an individual who is HIV positive and is Undetectable, is another concrete means to preventing the perpetuation of HIV. The CDC released a statement on their HIV page stating “The goals of HIV treatment are to improve health and prevent transmission of HIV. The best marker of successful treatment is reducing the amount of HIV in the blood and elsewhere in the body to very low levels. This is called viral suppression. Three different studies of the prevention effectiveness of viral suppression to reduce the risk for sexual HIV transmission have shown similar results: across thousands of couples and many thousand acts of sex without a condom or PrEP, no HIV transmissions were observed when the HIV-positive person was virally suppressed. This means that getting and staying virally suppressed is not only the best thing people living with HIV can do to maintain their health, but also one of the best ways to prevent new infections through sex. CDC is working with other federal agencies to ensure that we consistently and accurately describe the prevention effectiveness of HIV treatment and viral suppression for sexual transmission of HIV. We will update our messages accordingly.”11 A study of serodiscordant couples (couples where one partner is HIV positive and the other is HIV negative) has also shown that HIV cannot be transmitted as long as the HIV-positive individual remains under ART.12

What public health forums, medical, and scientific authorities continue to support is that education around such matters is a fundamental necessity in addressing public health concerns. Getting educated and knowing these details can significantly help with navigating HIV, and other STI’s (Sexually Transmitted Infections/formerly STD’s, Sexually Transmitted Diseases.) Therefore, being educated, knowing your partner, taking precautions such as condoms and/or PrEp are keys to preventing the spread of HIV.

Testing

Testing is available through various means. An individual can meet with their primary care physician, or they can go to a general testing site in their local area. There is also an HIV testing kit that can be purchased through a local pharmacy called OraQuick. This test kit can even be purchased through Amazon.com.

The home test kit is easy to follow with instructions. Within 20-30 minutes a general reading can be obtained determining whether someone has been exposed to the virus. If a test result shows positive, this is when the individual is suggested to contact a doctor to follow up with further testing and obtain the necessary treatment. Should an individual not use the home test kit and visit a local testing site, the same rule can be applied. If they find their result to be positive, they are encouraged to meet with the appropriate medical authority to follow up. Finally, if an individual simply asks their physician to be tested, the physician sends the blood for analysis. Once an outcome is obtained, and if the individual is found to be HIV-positive or “reactive to HIV antibodies,” another test is done to definitively confirm their positive result, or not. It is a rare situation that there are “false positives;” in these cases a retest is recommended within a certain period of time. Should the test be conclusive and the individual is HIV-positive (Poz) then treatment is the next step. If the individual is HIV-negative or “non-reactive,” they are asked to return in a few months for a retest if there is an indication that the individual is a high risk. Additionally, they are usually encouraged to use the necessary precautions to prevent exposure through prophylactic means such as the use of condoms.

How does the blood test work? According to the CDC, there are three main tests implemented to determine someone’s HIV status. NAT’s (Nucleic Acid Tests), Antigen/Antibody Tests, and Antibody tests. NAT’s look for the actual virus in the system. This test is expensive and is typically used if the individual is aware that they were in high risk exposure and showing early signs and symptoms. The Antigen/Antibody Test look for both antigens (foreign substances that show up in the blood and the body shows an immune reaction to) and antibodies (is the immune response/defense to something foreign.)13

It is important to emphasize that an essential component to prevention of spreading HIV is through testing. When someone knows their status they are usually able to obtain the necessary medical assistance to ensure the management of the virus. The lack of testing is one of the reasons why HIV continues to spread because there are individuals who do not know their status. Therefore, the first step is to get tested.

Medications

While it may be suggested that individuals pursue a healthier lifestyle with diet, exercise and relaxation, medical intervention via pharmaceuticals is the primary means of treatment for individuals with HIV. It is understood within the medical community that medications are the key aspect to maintaining health and prolonging the life of someone living with HIV. Once an individual begins a medication regimen they are encouraged to remain compliant and follow up with their physician as necessary. Coming off the medications is discouraged for the entire lifespan of the individual.

Medications have come a very long way since the 1980s where the primary medication administered consisted of concentrations of AZT, which had numerous side effects. The medications were called “cocktails” because there could be any number of pills prescribed in any one sitting, and multiple times a day. Some individuals could easily take eight to ten pills, two to four times a day. In modern times, many medications consist of single dosages. Simply one pill a day. Although an HIV positive individual may take one pill a day, the science behind formulations continues to advance because in one pill there could be three different medications addressing different entry points in support of immunity within the cell and following the stages mentioned below.

As mentioned in the section on Bio-Physiology of HIV and the stages of infection, according to AVERT drug treatment is designed to counter the effects at the various stages.14

Stage One: This is where the various medications, designed to support immunity, involve what is called the “Infusion or Entry Inhibitors.”

Stage Two: Drugs that are administered for this stage are called NRTI’s, meaning “Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors.”

Stage Three: There hasn’t been any drug indicated for this level of development.

Stage Four: Drugs that are designed to stop this stage are called “Protease Inhibitors.”

According to the CDC and National Institute of Health, the earlier someone tests HIV positive and begins adherence to medication, the better the long-term outcome for health.15 This is the next step, after testing, that is a crucial component to the prevention and management of HIV. Medication adherence/compliance increases an individual’s capacity to become HIV Undetectable. With this, it is known that Undetectable = Un-transmittable.16, 17, 18, 19, 20

HIV and Inflammation

A critical point in understanding HIV is that it involves inflammation, —not only as a byproduct of the initial infection of the virus—, but also the domino effect the virus has over time. This is a huge area currently under research showing many possible insights to prevention and well-being.

The term inflammation is a generic term, to indicate some process/progression of pathology, and an emerging field and a fairly new concept for medicine within the past seven years. Dr. Axe states that “modern medicine focuses on treating symptoms, not addressing the root cause of an issue. Arthritis is inflammation in the joints. Heart disease is inflammation of the arteries. Instead of taking a medication to reduce joint pain or lower cholesterol, we would be better served by reducing inflammation in the body.”21 Inflammation has been linked to many conditions such as cancer, heart disease, liver failure, dementia and autoimmune disease. This understanding of inflammation can be applied to the process around the HIV virus.

What is inflammation? First, it is safe to say that inflammation is not always a bad thing. Known as Pyroptosis, it is the body’s natural response to damaged cells that have been afflicted by exogenous causes such as viruses and other causes of infections or trauma to the body. When the body suspects that it has been exposed to some trauma or pathogen/foreign invader chemical messengers act locally, causing blood vessels to dilate so that more blood rich in oxygen and immune-chemicals are brought to the area. When the white blood cells, which include Helper T-cells (CD4) and Killer T-cells (CD8 cells), antibodies, clotting factors and pro-inflammatory cytokines, and many others arrive they send out their own chemical signals, to invite other cells within the immune system to respond to the injury/infection.22 The end result is healing of the tissue.

According to Dr. Axe, there are two different types of inflammation. “One type is Acute Inflammation, and the other is Chronic Inflammation. Acute inflammation lasts only for a short term as part of the body’s immediate immunological response. When the threat has been addressed the body turns the signals off and harmony is returned to. Whereas, chronic inflammation lasts for months and years as a result of failure to eliminate the cause and minor, repeated exposure to the agent.”23 Tissue damage typically occurs as a result of infection along with scarring. The body remains in a constant state of arousal and defense, and within this state antibodies are produced that end up attacking healthy cells.

In HIV-positive individuals, it can be understood that “Pyroptosis,” which is this process of inflammation associated with the infection of the HIV virus, causes CD4 Helper T-cell depletion. Gilad Dotil, et al. and Tessa Bergsbaken, et al. state “Pyroptosis corresponds to an intensely inflammatory form of programmed cell death where cytoplasmic contents and pro-inflammatory cytokines including IL-1β, are released. This death pathway thus links the two signature events in HIV infection––CD4 T-cell depletion and chronic inflammation––and creates a vicious pathogenic cycle where dying CD4 T-cells release inflammatory signals that attract more cells to die.”24, 25 In understanding how inflammation is associated with the HIV virus in its host, insight can be gained in determining the potential towards increased longevity and health within the HIV-positive individual. Inflammation is commonly associated with regard to the natural aging process due to deterioration and diminishing immunity, which is commonly seen in the elderly and the multiple health issues they express. When it comes to HIV, the individual infected with the virus has an acceleration of deterioration due to the heightened quality of inflammation based on the immune-response to the viral infection over time. Inflammation has been shown to be higher in HIV-positive individuals versus HIV-negative, exhibiting increased rates of heart disease, neurocognitive diseases, liver disease, liver failure, opportunistic infections, and cancers.26, 27

Below is an image showing the HIV Pathogenic Cycle and process of inflammation.28

Leaky Gut Connection, Immunity, and Inflammation

Research has shown that the gut possesses 70% of the body’s immune cells a high concentration of CD4 cells.29 This immunity within the gut is called GALT (Gut-Associated Lymphoid Tissue.) It protects the body from germs in food and has been shown to incur damage from the HIV virus. When inflammation occurs in the gut, it weakens the immune response and allows germs to pass through and “leak” into circulation. This is one of the main means in which inflammation can spread systemically. This process is generally known as “Leaky Gut Syndrome.”30, 31 Studies will continue to investigate this and its application to the health of individuals who are affected by HIV.

Management of HIV-related inflammation

As previously mentioned, there are several studies currently supporting the conclusion that while it is known that HIV-positive individuals show not only an increase in inflammation, but also an acceleration of the aging process, compared to HIV-negative individuals that age and display the natural course of aging. Because of this, research is seeking out methods in reducing inflammation. According to Benjamin Ryan, who quotes Deeks stating: “the long-term damage caused by HIV-related chronic inflammation may be easier to prevent when people are younger, as opposed to reversing the damage once people are elderly.”32

There is an overall approach in management of inflammation that involves:

*Healthy eating: anti-inflammatory foods, eating more vegetables, fruits, eliminating refined/excess/process sugars and foods

*Staying active: exercise

*Quitting smoking: since this is known to increase inflammation

*Maintaining a healthy weight: since being overweight contributes to inflammation

*Keeping the HIV virus managed with the appropriate ART medications: getting on ART earlier supports the reduction of inflammation, since science has shown that letting the virus increase in the body causes a higher rate of inflammation.33

Barriers

The topic of barriers is a topic worthy of much attention. A barrier in prevention around HIV involves the fears associated with getting it, some fears around how someone contracts it whether sexually or through drugs like needle sharing, or other direct blood contact from a detectable HIV-positive individual. Additionally, when HIV was first observed in the early 1980s it took the world by storm. Most individuals who were exposed to the virus were dying, seemingly quickly, and AIDS had become a fast growing epidemic. So much loss and devastation, to so many communities, left an intense imprint upon society. Since then science has prevailed in working on a “cure for the virus,” and managed to take AIDS to a simply managed condition considering it a chronic but manageable condition similar to diabetes; as for HIV, the impression left from the 1980s is slowly dying, but not completely gone. Clearly AIDS still exists in places such as Africa and Asia/South Asia. This is because there is a lack in medical care for many reasons ranging from fear of seeking medical support, fear from finding out so getting tested isn’t an option, fear from getting tested but not wanting families/friends/communities finding out, or just that the medications are not available. Here in the USA, HIV is still higher in the African American and Latin American Communities.

Discrimination and stigma still circulate, creating fear for individuals in becoming more proactive in the management and reduction of HIV. Discrimination and stigma are the main reasons why people are apprehensive about getting tested, disclosing their status, and taking the medications.34, 35, 36 But it is hopeful that there are organizations such as the WHO (World Health Organization), Positive Alliance, Action AIDS, Matthew Shepard Foundation, Ryan White, GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis), AVERT, and many more, designed to counter discrimination and stigma, with the intention of reducing HIV in the world.

If society can be more open-minded, and see HIV for what it is today versus what it was back when it was profoundly activating AIDS, and if communities could dissolve their judgments around anyone who is HIV-positive, and see them as people who are living with a condition that is manageable and easy, like diabetes, then this would make the overall intent of reducing HIV more effective.

AYURVEDIC PERSPECTIVE

Ayurveda is known as the “Science of Life” and is the oldest most complete system of integrated health and medicine. Ayurveda has its roots in nature and the five elements: Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. In configuring these elements into categories, the ancient Ayurvedic masters/doctors classified them into what is called Dosha, or “Biological Humor.” Therefore, there are three doshas and they are as follows: The combination of Space and Air elements fall under the principle of Vata. Vata is the term that refers to the nervous system and catabolism. Pitta, is the term that encompasses the fire and water elements and governs hormones, digestion and metabolism. Kapha, is the final principle that involves the water and earth elements, governing immunity and anabolism.

When Ayurveda considers inflammation, there is the understanding that many systems can be affected because eventually all the elements are affected. Health is considered ideal when there is balance within these five elements, and when one is affected, the others will surely follow. According to Ayurveda, there are the concepts of Prakriti and Vikriti. Prakriti is defined as the baseline constitution or primary constitution that is determined by birth, environmental factors, and karma. Vikriti is the deviation from the natural state of balance that is inherently designed per the individual. This is why Ayurveda is such a unique system of medicine because it shows that not every person can be treated the same and that optimal care is when individuals are uniquely understood for who they are, how they feel and think. Everything is connected!

In Ayurveda, 80% of diseases are considered a result of Vata imbalance because Vata oversees, primarily, the mind/brain and nervous system. What stresses the mind will eventually stress the body; some examples of symptomology that are common in Vata predominant individuals (Ectomorphic) include insomnia, constipation, anxiety, fear, breathlessness, ADD/ADHD, Multiple Sclerosis, involuntary tremors, alzheimers. Next, Ayurveda says that 40% of diseases are a result of Pitta imbalances, which shows up as inflammation. For Pitta predominant individuals (Mesomorphic) examples of such ailments includes anything and all the symptoms ending in “itis” such as gastritis, conjunctivitis, iritis, diverticulitis, types of cancers and viral infections. Finally, Kapha governs 20% of imbalances, relating to accumulation of sorts. With Kapha predominant individuals (Endomorphic) there are examples including edema, diabetes, depression, sluggishness, fibroids, candida and certain types of tumors. As mentioned previously, that when one of the elements are out of balance so too shall the others be somehow affected. In this case, when all the doshas are afflicted the pathology is considered Sannipatika, meaning the progression has affected Vata, Pitta, and Kapha (all the doshas.) Generally, when pain is experienced the Ayurvedic understanding is that the aspect of Vata is primarily out of balance. When inflammation is present, this is an indicator that Pitta is somehow imbalanced and when swelling is present, Kapha is out of balance.

The ancient texts of Ayurveda, written in the Arthava Veda (one of four Ancient Vedic Texts) and Charak Samhita, Sushruta and Ashtanga Hridayam (some of the classical Ayurvedic Medical Texts) discuss this concepts of HIV and Inflammation extensively through its content. Where the term inflammation is newer and within recent years in the context of disease pathology and health, Ayurveda has a different perspective and understanding of Inflammation. According to Dr. Sanjay Pisharodi, an Ayurvedic Physician, Ayurveda has a similar understanding of inflammation compared to the modern medical concept, but that Ayurveda does not view it the same way overall and has specified it under a different category known as Jvara or “fever.”37 Additionally, a condition such as HIV and Inflammation is assessed and treated according to the concepts of Agni, Ama, and Ojas.38 It is safe to say that Ayurvedic practitioners determine health and any necessary protocol based on the state of an individual’s balance and health to their Agni, Ama, and Ojas.

AYURVEDIC PATHOLOGY

JVARA

It is interesting to learn that although Ayurveda and Allopathic Medicine have a similar understanding of what Jvara (fever) is, Ayurveda has an expanded perspective of its totality. According to Dr. Marc Halpern, a practitioner of Ayurveda, he refers to Charak Samhita and states ““Jvara means ‘miseries or disease.’” It is synonymous with roga; however, the term is used specifically to indicate fever. In the Madhava Nidanam, fever is listed as the first disease because “man is born and dies with fever, it affects the whole body, the organs of the senses and the mind and is so severe that only man and Gods can survive it and by which other diseases are produced.” In each of the classical texts, more pages are devoted to fever than any other condition. This is partly because there are so many types of fevers and their understanding, and the vaidya’s ability to manage them is so important””39 Additionally, Dr. Marc Halpern states “that the causes of fever are many; however, the most important is simply living out of harmony with nature and thus, improper daily regimens. Fever is how the body tries to correct the disturbance that has been created. By causing an individual to be bedridden, fever puts an end to all unhealthy regimens and when fever goes away, the individual is able to begin anew, free from the unhealthy habits. Fever is produced by those factors that lead to poor digestion and ama formation, as well as a lack of rest. Exogenous causes to fevers include those that are caused by trauma (injuries) ….”40

This serves as a powerful understanding of Ayurveda’s application and relevance to HIV and HIV-related inflammation. Typically, when an individual is affected by the HIV virus, it is an exogenous cause due to the introduction of the virus to the system. Consequently, it is common that once the virus has had a chance to enter the body, sometime after exposure, the individual is known to develop a fever of sorts, even a cold, which is a sign of an immune compromise. Charak states, “Amongst the disease, fever is described first because of its being the earliest (in appearance) of the somatic diseases. Fever is originated by the anger of Maheswara, it takes away the life of all living beings, causes disturbances in body, sense organs and mind, diminishes intellect, strength, complexion, pleasure and enthusiasm. Produces tiredness, exhaustion, confusion and difficulty in intake of food; it is called as jwara because it brings about unhappiness in the person, no other disease is so severe, complicated and difficult in management as this.”41, 42 In the consideration of HIV and how jvara relates, it can be understood that at any point when the virus is not managed adequately any of these aforementioned symptoms are possible and tend to express, but Ayurveda shares that the presentation of symptoms will also be based on the dominance of an individual’s constitution. It is safe to say that regardless of dosha, should the virus progress to later stages and into AIDS then not only will fever be present, but consumption since AIDS is an auto-immune disease and essentially the body is breaking down from the inside. Fever can be correlated to the medical understanding of inflammation, but inflammation does not always produce fever, or at least not right away. In some chronic conditions, intermittent fevers are possible (Vata type), or consistent high fevers (Pitta type), or even low grade dull fevers (Kapha type.) Professor K.R. Srikantha Murthy states in the Ashtanga Hridayam (Classical Ayurvedic Medical Text) “Jvara (fever) is the lord of diseases, born from sin, causing death, feeds on ojas (essence of tissue), leads to final end (death), originated from the upper eyes of Rudra (Lord Shiva) who destroyed the sacrifice of Daksha, by wrath (of being insulted); it is producer of delusion at the time of birth and death (of living beings) characterized by (producing) santapa (discomfort by heat), arising from improper conduct, (regarding food, activities, etc.) a cruel one, affecting all the species of living beings and called by different names.”43 For clarification regarding the usage of the term “sin” it can be interpreted in the modern sense as committing any sort of harm to the mind and body due to usually making choices that may not be the most optimal for health. It is important to note this because there has been too much stigma in the past around the infection of HIV as being a result of some sort of situation that invited a punishment or consequences related as being an unwholesome person. Quite often, mentioning the word sin has a negative connotation and implication, which does not support nor is it conducive to the possibility of achieving an optimal state of health as an individual experiences this judgment.

AGNI, AMA, OJAS

Agni

Agni is an important concept in Ayurvedic medicine because it is understood in Ayurveda that the primary cause of disease originates in the digestive system, which includes the physical digestive system and the mental processes of digesting information. Agni is generally described as fire, and resides in Pitta which is the governing principle for metabolism. More specifically when agni is being addressed as part of the digestive system this is known as ‘Jatharagni.’ According to Charak “there are four categories of bodily fire (agni) according to intensity – such as intense, mild, regular and irregular. Amongst them, the intense fire can tolerate all sorts of improper regimen while the mild one has got the contrary character. The regular fire gets affected by improper regimen but otherwise remains normal, the irregular fire has got the character contrary to that of the regular fire. These four types of fire are found in four types of person.”44

It is known in Ayurveda the balanced fire or what Charak refers to as regular is called Sama Agni; Vata-related agni is called Vishama Agni for its variable/unstable qualities; Pitta-related agni is known as Tikshna (sharp), and Kapha-related agni is Manda (slow/sluggish.) What does this have to do with HIV? Indirectly, agni plays a significant role because as previously mentioned Ayurveda teaches that health is contingent upon the state of digestion. If digestion is healthy and balanced in an individual, then the overall state of health and immunity are amplified making the body impenetrable for pathogens to enter the body. Digestion feeds into health and has its connection to Ojas, which is later discussed. Charak states, “By the word ‘sariresu’ all the types of agni are intended but the description given is only for jatharagni which only shows its utmost importance. Jatharagni is the root of all the agnis.”45 When Charak suggests the “types of agni” he is referring to the Ayurvedic understanding that there are 13 types of agni in the body but jatharagni is the most important. The other agnis are in the mind (1), five in the liver, seven representing each of the the dhatus (tissues).

According to Ayurveda, when agni (which refers to jatharagni but essentially all the agnis in the body) is balanced/high, ama is low. When ama is low, agni is balanced. Ama does not exist in the body when digestion is up and running optimally. Dr. Vasant Lad elaborates, “Agni maintains immunity, so low agni creates ama that can affect cellular immunity by coating and clogging cell membranes (a micro srotas.) Because of this, cellular communication is affected and the immune cells do not receive correct signals from the body’s other living cells. Those cells send out messages that are blocked by ama, so there is no response. The immune cells then attack the neighboring cells as if they were a foreign body. This is the mechanism for the development of autoimmune diseases.”46 In relationship to HIV, the health of the individual will be dependent upon the quality of the immunity which is rooted in the relationship between digestion and the degree to which toxicity (ama) is present.

Ama

What is ama? According to Charak, “Ama means undigested food or immature annarasa (chyle.)47 Dr. Vasanat Lad defines Ama as: “Ama can be created in the mind due to mental stress, negative thinking, repressed emotions and mental fatigue. It can also be due to parasites, viruses, bacteria and worms, which may produce cytotoxic ama at the cellular level. Ama is a good medium for bacteria and viruses and can create repeated infections and a bed for a future disease. Certain drugs also produce ama. Ama is the root cause of all diseases; therefore, disease is called Amaya, which means ‘that which is born out of ama’” and adds that “low jathar agni causes undigested food to be improperly digested, which creates toxins.”48

Therefore, to manage ama, agni is supported through various means of proper diet, and proper mental practices that support a more balanced and peaceful mind. Agni is the key to ensuring the optimization of health and reduction/elimination of ama in the body and mind. When agni is adequate, then ojas, which is the key factor to immunity, is created and health can be achieved.

Ojas

What is Ojas? According to the Ayurvedic Physician Dr. Vasant Lad, “Ojas is the superfine essence of all bodily tissues…For optimal health, an individual needs a constant, fixed amount of ojas that is stabilized in the heart and other tissues. This ojas maintains the immune mechanism and the span of the person’s life.”49 Ojas disorders such as Ojaskshaya is defined as “decreased immunity.” Ojaskshaya, according to Dr. Vasant Lad, “shows as an extremely high Vata disorder that is so dangerous that a person can die.”50 As stated previously, Vata related diseases are those diseases that oversee the whole body and govern about 80% of diseases. The nervous system includes the brain and all the nerve tissue in the body, being the information pathway and communication system for the body and mind connection.

Ayurveda categorizes HIV/AIDS under Ojaskshaya, otherwise known as a weakness of ojas which is immunity/immune compromise and chronic disease. When an individual has arrived at a level of chronic infection, Ojaskshaya is one of the main roots which this inevitably translates into AIDS, the fullest expression of the HIV virus when it has become unmanaged or mismanaged. Dr. Vasant Lad states that AIDS is classified as “Rakta Dushti”51 which is an imbalance of the blood tissue in the body that has been affected by a dosha and immunity is compromised. Dr. Vasant Lad states that “AIDS begins with Pitta.”52 At this advanced stage, jvara can be observed along with an increase in inflammation of the tissue, which is what the virus of HIV is known for: inflammatory expression in the tissues of the body.

In the Charak Samhita (Collections of teachings of Charak who is considered the “Founder of Ayurveda”) Charak states that “Ojas, which maintains the living beings by its saturation without which no life of creatures exists, which is the initial essence of embroyo and also the essence of its nourishing material, which enters into the cardiac cycle first, which destroyed, leads to destruction, which is the sustainer and located in heart, which is the cream of the nutrient fluid in the body, and where vital factors are established.”53 Charak is describing ojas from a multi-faceted perspective, but for the purposes of Western understanding, ojas can be considered similar to the immune system and the cells it produces. Charak states, “Ojas is the essence of all the dhatus and is located in the heart.”54 The dhatus refers to the main tissues of the body and according to Ayurveda there are seven of them. These dhatus are Plasma (Rasa), Blood (Rakta), Muscle (Mamsa), Fat (Medas), Bone (Asthi), Nerve (Majja), and Reproductive fluids (Shukra.) Ojas is sometimes noted as the “eighth tissue” because the final product of metabolism in a healthy individual is ojas, but it is in fact the essence of all these seven tissus. Ojas contains the qualities of “white and slightly red and yellow.”55 This would be consistent with the qualities associated with plasma described in Western physiology.

Dr. David Frawley discusses ojas and the disease process when he states, “Ojas is the essential energy of the body. It literally means ‘vigor.’ It is the subtle essence of the reproductive system and of all the vital secretions. It is the special Ayurvedic concept of a source fluid underlying all our physical capacities. Ojas is not a physical substance. It is the sap of our life energy and exists on a subtle level in the heart chakra. When it is sufficient, there is health. When it is deficient, there is disease. Disease strikes at the locations where it is weak. In modern terms, we could say it is something like the essential energy of the immune system.”56

The proper treatment of ojasksaya and AIDS is dependent upon thorough investigation and assessment. Dr. Gyanendra Panday quotes Charak stating that “Charak speaks of diseases that are curable and incurable, manageable and unmanageable HIV would fall under the category of incurable but manageable.”57 AIDS was initially considered unmanageable in the 1980s, yet now it is possible for AIDS to become manageable depending on how chronic an individual’s condition is and based on the adequate support of immunity (Ojas.)

AYURVEDIC MANAGEMENT

Mind-Body

In order to properly comprehend Ayurveda and its healthcare system, it is essential to consider the role of mind, its relationship to the body, and its interactions with diseases such as HIV and HIV-related Inflammation. This is due to the strong understanding that mind and body have an intimate relationship; this relationship also invites in the perspective that there is a spiritual component that everything is connected to.

There is a fascinating story that describes the "Summary of The Process of Disease Formation," according to Dr. Marc Halpern.58 First, disease begins when we forget our true nature. This is known as the "Primordial Cause" of disease. We forget how we as spirit are spiritualizing through the human experience. According to Marisa Laursen, a professor at the California College of Ayurveda, "the mind is a place of purity and clarity. The thought comes along and disturbs the mind. Thought is part of ego and the chatter becomes the smoke screen that disturbs us from the true self."59 The ego creates stories and draws upon attachments to the past and projections of the future, constantly shape-shifting and vacillating between the two; preventing us from being absolutely absorbed in the present moment because it fears its cessation. There is a sacred text called the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the first line of the yoga sutras states "yoga chitta vritti nirodha," which means that "Yoga (union/merging) involves the cessation of the disturbances of the mind." There are 195 sutras or verses and of the 195 versus the 194 verses show us how to accomplish verse number one.60

The process and movement of time, which is known as "Parinama" or that which relates to things that change, is the next cause and contributing factor. There are two aspects to time. One relates to linear time, which is out of our control because this involves the cycles of the Earth revolving around the sun and the changes of season. The second form of time consists of biological time, which, though is in our control, is dynamic. This is because the pacing of biological time changes with response to our motion and as motion increases, the rate of biological time increases. With this, the body either ages faster when we are moving faster and more slowly when we slow down. A busy mind causes us to perceive time as moving quickly; while with a mind that is still and more anchored in the present moment, time slows down. When the mind moves quickly, the body will reflect this and as the mind moves slower, the body will reflect this too.

Once we experience a busy and chaotic/distracted mind, we come to the next step where disease develops. This experience is called "Prajnaparadha" or "crimes against wisdom/failure of intelligence." What happens here is that on some deep level we know what is right for us, but we allow our minds to convince us otherwise and we make opposite choices. Our intellect is constantly being used to make decisions and it prefers to choose between pleasure and harmony. Somehow as the ego pursues outer pleasures to satisfy itself and perpetuate its own existence through separation/division, the ego feeds off the senses and uses the senses to support its own happiness. Dr. Marc Halpern, says "While the ego and the senses speak loudly within the great hall of the mind, the soul speaks in whispers." Therefore, when we allow our inner wisdom to be ignored, we give our power away to our senses; this leads to the next stage where the five senses, the eyes, ears, mouth, the skin, and smell dictate our interaction with the world.

This is called "Asatmendryartha Samyoga" or "unwholesome conjunction of the senses with their objects of their affection." Dr. Marc Halpern further explains: "When people take into their body that which does not match their constitution, they are considered misusing their senses. In addition to taking in what is not harmonious, a person may also take in too much or too little of what is energetically harmonious for that person. This too will cause disease."

What is amazing is that of all the healthcare systems in the world, only Ayurveda has come up with an adequate and full definition of what is health. Other systems, like Allopathy, define health as the "absence of disease" but Ayurveda says this: "Sama Dosha Sama Agnis ca Sama Dhatu Mala kriya Prasannatmendriya Manah Svasta itiabhidyate" which means "balanced constitution (Vata/Pitta/Kapha), balanced digestion, balanced tissues, balanced waste products (urine, feces, sweat), balanced senses (eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin), balanced mind (sattva, rajas, tamas), and alignment with spirit is what healthy is." Any disturbance or abnormality in any of these is an indication of disease.

Additionally, an important Ayurvedic contribution to modern medicine is that it has broken down disease pathology into six stages, known as "Samprapti." Each of the stages can be understood as such: Accumulation, Aggravation, Overflow, Relocation, Manifestation and Diversification. There is an image that helps to grasp these concepts more easily. Imagine a tree and the roots are the doshas (tendencies towards imbalances based on constitutional determinants, of Vata, Pitta and Kapha), and these roots are below the surface. What is above the surface is the trunk of the tree and this represents Overflow, where the blood and plasma exist as part of the circulatory system. As the tree progresses upward, the branches form and this is known as the Relocation Phase. From the branch, we have a bud and this budding is the Manifestation of the disease. After it starts to bloom, and this blooming is the full-fledged experience of the disease, known as Diversification.61 According to Ayurvedic prevention and management of disease, there is a natural cycle that happens throughout the year and within each season. As one season is present, that is the Aggravated Phase, and the season that just left has now been Alleviated, but while we are in the Aggravated Phase the next season is already Accumulating.

As each Dosha (biological constitution that is prone to decay) undergoes this experience of time/season change, the natural Alleviation of particular symptoms occurs. IF or WHEN, for some reason or another, this cycle is then interrupted, and Alleviation is prevented, we enter into Overflow and this is when a disease is really progressing. In other words, it is during the Accumulation and Aggravation phases that the development of pathology actually begins, which is in the digestive system. Appearing subtle or overt, commonly ignored disturbances would be: sluggish digestion (weak/low digestive fire = Manda Agni), gas/dry stools (variable digestion = Vishama Agni), and/or burning indigestion (sharp digestion = Tikshna Agni). Low digestion relates to Kapha. Variable digestion relates to Vata and sharp digestion relates to Pitta. Balanced digestion is called Sama Agni where there are no digestive disturbances. It is during the Accumulation and Aggravation phases that we can catch a disease from further progressing, but we are usually too busy and less sensitive to notice, and we keep pushing ahead until other symptoms develop and scream for attention. It is at these early stages, according to Ayurveda, that we can simply balance our diet and lifestyle, making better choices, preventing diseases from increasing. However, when the symptoms have progressed and have entered into the circulatory system then we have to intervene with herbs/medications and other therapies. Regardless of what stage a disease is at, diet and lifestyle must be adjusted in order to secure the optimization of health. This is the holistic approach and effort. Herbs/medications alone are not meant to do the job as we are whole beings and not just treating parts of a body/mind; thus, diet and lifestyle provisions are made to ensure success or at least marked improvements.

Prognosis is about the likelihood of improvement and/or correction of a condition. Disease, depending on what stage of development it is at can always be managed. There are diseases that are “Easy to cure, Difficult to cure, Incurable but not terminal and Terminal.” Disease starts out as "dis-ease," picking up momentum until it has completely manifested itself as disease. By returning ease through our diet and lifestyles, we can encourage disease to return back to ease. Importantly, this ease also involves supporting the well-being of a person through their state of mind. I've said for many years now, that it's about the little things that build up to the big things.

There are of course extenuating circumstances that are to be factored into all this, circumstances such as external factors like accidents and other outside variations of trauma that can influence health and disease pathology. Karma falls into this, and it is important to remember that karma is not about blame or judgment but about balance. Karma is not about punishment or reward, it is about balance. In Ayurveda and Yoga, the concept of karma is a result of selfish acts and by being selfless there is a release from the cumulative effects and experiences of karma. This is a discussion that requires further exploration at another time and escapes the main purpose of this present article, which is meant to give a general understanding and summary of the cause of disease. This previous statement is meant to share a perspective and expand to the possibilities that surround dis-ease leading to disease. Simply, disease can always either be prevented or managed.

The Ayurvedic management of HIV involves this body-mind-spirit approach; it is the most comprehensive and elaborate of all available systems. There are many parts that create wholeness for any given individual, including their relationship to nature as a key factor in the optimization of health. Dr. Claudia Welch states that the mind and heart have a profound connection to one another. Through this, it can be understood how the body and mind interact and that the state of ojas depends on the mental and heart relationship. It is such an intricate system that in order to truly address the idea of achieving optimal health it is crucial to embrace how they co-operate together. She states, “In short, what we see is that the overlap of mind, prana (energy), heart, doshas, ojas and basic bodily nutrition channels are so integrated that it is impossible to affect one without affecting the others.”62 This suggests an amazing way to help individuals who are living with HIV to live longer and healthier lives. This integrated holistic approach would truly serve the HIV positive individual.

Another recent perspective that requires further study, especially with its potential implication towards HIV, examines the relationship between the gut flora, lymphatic system, and the mind. A discussion with Dr. John Douillard, who has written several articles on the lymphatic system and the linking of the mesentery organ to the lymphatic system, and its connection aging, has also suggested that inflammation is more of an allopathic term that is currently being studied and understood, but within the Ayurvedic system of medicine it is an indication of an underlying pathology that deserves more attention and the term is not as commonly used as it is within Western medicine. Dr. Douillard has suggested that when assessing and treating inflammation that it should be viewed in terms of digestion and the functionality of the lymphatic system.63, 64, 65 According to Dr. John Douillard, “Persistently high levels of cortisol have been linked to suppressed immune system function and reduced circulation of the antibodies the body desperately needs to fight off foreign invaders.”66 As previously noted in the section of Ama and how it affects the health of the body through the manifestation of its symptoms, this can be connected to the lymphatic system; in particular if agni is low and ama is high, then toxins enter into the drainage system of the body which involves the lymphatic tissue, which is also responsible for the vitality of the immune system. Dr. Douillard states, “The biggest drain we have in the body is the lymphatic system, which can stay clogged for many years. This forces us to adapt to an environment of toxins that stress and weaken immunity and other important pathways of detoxification.”67 Additionally, as mentioned earlier in the section of how inflammation can accelerate the aging process, the mesentery organ, linked to the lymphatic system, is located as connective tissue, connecting the intestines to the wall of the abdomen. According to Dr. Douillard, “the mesentery that lines the entire intestinal tract from top to bottom was found to be a major site for lymphatic-based immunity. As an organ, the mesentery is loaded with lymphatic, anatomical, vascular, neurological and connective tissue structures that are deeply involved in immunity, circulatory-vascular, hormonal and metabolic processes.”68

How To?

First and foremost, it is quintessential to remember and reiterate that as of now there is NO cure for HIV that is scientifically known or proven to be substantial according to modern science. There may be one in the future as various institutions are working on it, but as of now the best measure to take against getting HIV is prevention and the best management for the virus itself is through medication management and adherence. That being said, just taking a pill and going on about one’s day isn’t enough to consider optimal health for an HIV positive individual. In fact, this is where Western medicine is significantly lacking, and where Ayurveda can truly support the individual in their fullest capacity. Ayurveda is a holistic approach. Its foundation is about diet, herbs, exercise for the body (yoga, pranayam) and exercise for the mind (pranayama and meditation). There are also other hands on therapies that Ayurveda can offer in helping to maintain the health of the body through treatments such as oil therapies, and detoxification protocols such as Panchakarma (five cleansing/detoxification actions.) Ayurveda also has a vast understanding of herbs and their classification accordingly. This is all in conjunction with the individual taking their necessary medication to manage the virus itself, which is a brilliant contribution of Western medicine. There are no specific herbs scientifically agreed upon or proven or known to cure the virus itself at this time.

Diet

The topic of diet is a touchy subject for many reasons, one being the direct connection with food and emotions/memories. Dr. Rajesh Kalawadiya suggests that a “nutritious diet, Ayurvedic baseline therapy, timely allopathic treatment of opportunistic infections and regular counseling support appears to be an ideal combination in the management of HIV/AIDS patients.”69 Swami Sadashiva Tirtha uses the basic foundation and principles of Ayurvedic wisdom around food to be an important component to managing the health of an HIV positive individual and their symptoms.70 Ayurveda teaches “We are what we digest” which is different from what has been taught “we are what we eat.” If there is no food, there is no body. If people aren’t eating the best food, then it will not be that possible to have the best body which includes health and immunity. Digestion is two-fold. The first relates to the actual physical digestion of food substances in the GI Tract and the second pertains to the effect of how the mind processes/metabolizes information. With regard to physical digestion, diet plays a vast role in the reduction of diseases, the production of diseases, and the prevention of diseases. General examples of foods that increase inflammation and contribute to all three of the above categories are as such: sugar, processed sugar, excess salt, skipping meals, minimal intake of water, eggs, alcohol, fermented foods (breads, cheeses, pastas, yogurt, cheese, night shades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplants), soy/tofu/tempeh, coffee (in excess), beef and especially pork, processed sugar (I.e. candy and soda), and all fast/processed/packaged foods. Highly processed foods, lacking adequate hydration, lend themselves as factors in inflammation. When any of the above conditions are present, they all feed off this previously mentioned list. What can be added to this is Ayurveda's wisdom of “Incompatible Foods” (such as cheese, sauce and bread combined, potatoes and eggs, bread and yogurt (depending on when and who/constitutionally). Lack of vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables and fiber overall can contribute to inflammation. The chlorophyll, which is the blood of the plant, is alkalizing and in alkalizing the “hotness” of the blood and reduces inflammation. The cellulose fibers, from vegetable and legumes, also help to clear toxins and transport them from the digestive system releasing them through our bowel movements. They also encourage bowel movements which is an essential daily function highly required for management of health. Having a healthy colon, encourages a happy mind and healthier body. It is also important to note that water/hydration daily is part of “diet” and is a natural anti-inflammatory.

Exercise

This is an important area worth discussing. Exercise is a fundamental component to supporting health; this is partly due to its effects on stimulating the lymphatic system.71 Engaging in exercise is what moves the body on all levels. Improper exercise can build up lactic acid (remember acid is acidity and a great place for inflammation to grow, along with many other ailments.) Improper breathing effects CO2 in the body and lactic acid. The lymphatic system is a system of drainage of toxins, also an important component of our immunity. If individuals aren’t sweating adequately enough/regularly, then already they can have a sort of “sewage” back up. Exercise supports metabolism and with the biochemical marriage of insulin and glucose. When people exercise, the muscles use glucose as energy molecules and when we don’t exercise enough this sugar accumulates and can cause the typical Type 2 diabetes. When people exercise, insulin and the sugars are metabolized accordingly. If there is an excess of glucose and proteins, known as glycation, then this becomes a breeding ground for inflammation and is a host to many other disease pathologies. Exercise practices can be both stimulating and anti-inflammatory.

Breathing

Pranayam (breathing exercises that cultivate our life energy and vitality) are tools that the ancient system of yoga offers us in order to support our life. Dr. John Douillard encourages stress reduction through meditation, which also involves breathing practices, in managing overall health.72 Breathing properly, regularly/consciously and with intention becomes a natural anti-inflammatory for both mind and body. It is a tool to be used with all forms of exercises that will not only maximize efficiency of the body and mind but also promote longevity. Pranayam is also a tool used in yoga to cross the bridge from the outer experiences of the world and enter into the inner terrain of the body and mind. The respiratory mechanism is both involuntary and voluntary. The breath cannot really be held long enough wherefore it can cease one’s life because the body protects itself from its own extinction, per say. Yet it is still voluntary because the breath can be manipulated in many ways. The breath serves a purpose physiologically and psychologically. The yogis also know that spiritually the breath is a vital tool. Improper breathing decreases the quality of life. The yogis knew that longer, deeper and fuller breaths add on to life and that short, shallow breathing increases degeneration. Dr. Vasant Lad, an internationally known and master yogi and physician, gave an example of life span to breathing. He teaches to observe how a dog breathes. Short, quick bursts of breath; the dog doesn’t have a long lifespan. Yet when the turtle is observed it takes deep full and slow breaths; the turtle can live approximately 100 years. Amazing! Breath is life. No breath, no life. Breathing more deeply, slowly and consciously can support the respiration of not only the body, organs but go as far as the cells and DNA themselves. This is the difference between sympathetic nervous system response (flight or fight) and parasympathetic nervous system response that involves the vagus nerve and allows an individual to feel a deep sense of peace and love. When peace can be felt within, then there is no war. When there is no war, there is no inflammation. Ayurvedic medicine says that even cancer tends to be an example of where we are at war within ourselves because love and peace are somehow hiding. The more an individual can breathe, the more they create a space for peace and love to show up. Pranayam (ones that are soothing and calming, mainly) is also a precursor to meditation. Both pranayama and meditation are natural anti-inflammatories. The more there is focus on breathing techniques and inviting meditation into individual daily lives, the more the individual can notice shifts inwardly and outwardly. Pain management techniques are showing that the usage of meditation and breathing exercises help to reduce pain and other symptoms. Pain can be an indication of inflammation.

Herbs

Swami Sadashiva Tirtha refers to an ancient Ayurvedic text called the Madhava Nidan that “fortells a disease that will come to India and from its description is known as HIV/AIDS; with its cure being and herb called Shilajit.” Swami Sadashiva Tirtha continues to describe the cause of HIV entering into the body “when there is deficient life-sap (ojas), which causes an extremely weakened immune system. When one has sufficient ojas, the HIV virus cannot develop. Ojas is lost or diminished by excess sex, improper diet, junk food, drugs, excess worry, thinking, and insomnia.”73, 74 The main herb for this condition rooted in low Ojas is Shilajit. It is also noted that Shilajit is known for its antiviral properties. With this being said, it is at least clear at this point that the Shilajit is not about eliminating the virus but boosting immunity so that the immune cells can protect the body against the invasion of the HIV virus.

This is one of many herbs that has been described in supporting immunity and increasing ojas. Other herbs include, but are not limited to: Shatavari, Kapikacchu, Bala, Diamond Ash, Mercury Compound (Makaradhwaj), Chywanprash, Ashwagandha, and Guduchi.75, 76 A study in Sri Lanka that conducted a short-term intervention trial on HIV positive patients using a Sri Lankan classical rasayana drug (rejuvenative) called Ranahamsa Rasayanaya showed some promise in stabilizing their patients but this study was only conducted for 90 days and further studies should be followed.77

There are herbs that are also anti-inflammatory such as Guduchi, Turmeric, Sandalwood, Licorice, Brahmi, Gokshura, Coriander, Manjistha, Bhringaraj, Musta, Bhumyamalaki, Katuka, and Purpura. These herbs support not only addressing inflammation but also the function and health of the liver. Some of these herbs also possess properties of anti-bacterial, such as Guduchi and Turmeric.78 As mentioned earlier, Dr. John Douillard has spent time researching the relationship of the lymphatic system to the gut, along with its associative organ the mesentery, and from this he has suggested that herbs of an anti-inflammatory nature along with herbs that encourage the proper health of these systems include: proper hydration, Manjistha, Beets, Turmeric, and Tulsi.79, 80

CONCLUSION

What does all this mean at this point? Western medicine has made tremendous stride in the management of HIV, and prolonging the life of HIV positive individuals through the usage of pharmaceuticals. Inflammation has yet to be a targeted study with the intention of possibly reducing the inflammatory process created by the HIV virus. Western medicine does not have a cure at this point for HIV. It has managed to significantly reduce the exposure to the virus by stabilizing individuals who are already HIV positive and getting them to levels of being undetectable, so that HIV is untransmittable. Reduction has also happened through education, through the ongoing usage of protective methods such as condoms, and through the medication PrEP/PEP that prevents the virus from infecting individuals. There are still parts of the world that struggle with HIV. This is partially due to governmental political issues and economic/affordability/availability issues. It may also be added that general fears and stigma still exist around the world, but there is hope that this too shall pass as the continues to make its way throughout the world and replace the memories of the past with ones of hopefulness.

While western medicine has made tremendous progress in reduction, it fails at addressing an individual’s wholeness; it does not offer much more than the previously mentioned steps to help reduce or caretake other HIV related complications such as inflammation, or even the side effects associated with the medications that HIV positive individuals must take for medical management. This is where Ayurveda can have a great deal to offer. Through Ayurveda, HIV positive individuals can be seen not as afflicted people, but people living with a chronic disease as manageable as diabetes. Ayurveda can help manage the optimization of health by offering a strong dietary foundation, exercise practices to encourage health, breathing/meditation practices to help stabilize the mind and nervous system, and herbs to assist with increasing immunity and decreasing inflammation within the body, while individuals continue to maintain their medication regimen consistently.

One other thought to consider is that a virus is a virus is a virus, but how it manifests and the progression of its pathology, according to Ayurveda, will express itself with some variation as part of an individual’s constitution. In that, an individual who may be Vata or Pitta or Kapha predominant, with a secondary constitution –of whatever the configuration that may be, whether Vata or Pitta or Kapha– will tend to have the virus, as with any disease pattern, vary in its expression. More research should be conducted in determining the accuracy of this statement with regard to HIV and HIV-related Inflammation. If/when an individual arrives at the AIDS stage of disease, examination according to Ayurvedic prakriti and vikriti should be conducted in order to confirm how Ayurveda teaches in that as with almost all diseases, they can be broken down according to symptoms based on constitutional configuration of Vata, Pitta, Kapha. For instance, an individual who has a cold and is Vata predominant will have clear, scanty mucous with a dry cough, but a Pitta predominant individual who has a cold will have more productivity in cold and cough and the mucus will be yellow/green; a Kapha predominant individual with a cold will create copious amounts of white, thick mucous and a productive cough. The same may hold true as per HIV and its manifestation based on prakriti/vikriti concepts.

A reminder with regard to medically managed HIV is that once HIV is at the Undetectable level of status, the individual is considered equal to an individual who is HIV negative; however, eventhough the virus has been virologically suppressed the inflammation due to the virus itself is an essential aspect of an individual’s health that should still be managed appropriately. For it is with this inflammation that the body is still susceptible to other ailments and potential diseases.

Based on this research, it is clear that both Allopathic medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine can serve the community together as allies. Further studies should be conducted measuring the quality of life in an HIV positive individual involved in a holistic approach that involves both Ayurveda and Allopathic Medicine. A holistic approach can benefit not only individuals living with HIV, but anyone else with a condition, such as cancer, diabetes and any other ailment. Western medicine has come a long way, and with its relationship to Ayurveda it may be able to deepen further and increase its success rates. The West can learn so much from the East, and in doing so thrive significantly. Ayurveda recognizes the importance and necessity of Western medicine as needed, and it is understood in Ayurveda that everything, every system serves a purpose and can work together.

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12- Alison J. Rodger, MD; Valentina Cambiano, PhD; Tina Bruun, RN; Pietro Vernazza, MD; Simon Collins; Jan van Lunzen, PhD; Giulio Maria Corbelli; Vicente Estrada, MD; Anna Maria Geretti, MD; Apostolos Beloukas, PhD; David Asboe, FRCP; Pompeyo Viciana, MD; Félix Gutiérrez, MD; Bonaventura Clotet, PhD; Christian Pradier, MD; Jan Gerstoft, MD; Rainer Weber, MD; Katarina Westling, MD; Gilles Wandeler, MD; Jan M. Prins, PhD; Armin Rieger, MD; Marcel Stoeckle, MD; Tim Kümmerle, PhD; Teresa Bini, MD; Adriana Ammassari, MD; Richard Gilson, MD; Ivanka Krznaric, PhD; Matti Ristola, PhD; Robert Zangerle, MD; Pia Handberg, RN; Antonio Antela, PhD; Sris Allan, FRCP; Andrew N. Phillips, PhD; Jens Lundgren, MD; Sexual Activity Without Condoms and Risk of HIV Transmission in Serodifferent Couples When the HIV-Positive Partner Is Using Suppressive Antiretroviral Therapy. JAMA. 2016;316(2):171-181. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.5148 Last corrected on November 13, 2016.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2740418 5

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15- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/National Institutes of Health. Starting antiretroviral treatment early improves outcomes for HIV-infected individuals. May 27, 2015.

https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/starting-antiretroviral-treatment-early-improves-outcomes-hiv-infected-individuals

16- Grindley, Lucas. Is HIV Undetectable the New Safe Sex? September 15, 2014

https://www.hivplusmag.com/sex-dating/2014/09/15/undetectable-new-safe-sex

17- POZ. NASTAD Releases Statement of HIV Risk When Undetectable. March 2, 2017.

https://www.poz.com/article/nastad-releases-statement-hiv-risk-undetectable

18- Boerner, Heather. The Body: Complete HIV/Aids Resource. HIV Undetectable Does Equal Uninfectious: The Swiss Statement and the Vindication of Pietro Vernazza. October 7, 2016.

http://www.thebody.com/content/78550/hiv-undetectable-does-equal-uninfectious-the-swiss.html?getPage=3

19- Alison J. Rodger, MD; Valentina Cambiano, PhD; Tina Bruun, RN; Pietro Vernazza, MD; Simon Collins; Jan van Lunzen, PhD; Giulio Maria Corbelli; Vicente Estrada, MD; Anna Maria Geretti, MD; Apostolos Beloukas, PhD; David Asboe, FRCP; Pompeyo Viciana, MD; Félix Gutiérrez, MD; Bonaventura Clotet, PhD; Christian Pradier, MD; Jan Gerstoft, MD; Rainer Weber, MD; Katarina Westling, MD; Gilles Wandeler, MD; Jan M. Prins, PhD; Armin Rieger, MD; Marcel Stoeckle, MD; Tim Kümmerle, PhD; Teresa Bini, MD; Adriana Ammassari, MD; Richard Gilson, MD; Ivanka Krznaric, PhD; Matti Ristola, PhD; Robert Zangerle, MD; Pia Handberg, RN; Antonio Antela, PhD; Sris Allan, FRCP; Andrew N. Phillips, PhD; Jens Lundgren, MD; Sexual Activity Without Condoms and Risk of HIV Transmission in Serodifferent Couples When the HIV-Positive Partner Is Using Suppressive Antiretroviral Therapy. JAMA. 2016;316(2):171-181. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.5148 Last corrected on November 13, 2016.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2740418 5

20- Notice: Updating HIV Treatment and Viral Suppression Messages. September 7, 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/default.html

21- Axe, Josh. (2010) Inflammation at the Root of Most Diseases. https://draxe.com/inflammation-at-the-root-of-most-diseases/

22- Ryan, Benjamin. (April 5, 2016) What is Chronic Inflammation and Why Is It Such a Big Deal for People with HIV? https://www.poz.com/article/chronic-inflammation-big-deal-people-hiv

23- IBD 21

24- Tessa Bergsbaken, Susan L. Fink, and Brad T. Cookson. Pyroptosis: host cell death and inflammation. Nat Rev Microbiol. 2009 Feb; 7(2): 99–109.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2910423/

25- Gilad Doitsh, Nicole LK Galloway, Xin Geng, Zhiyuan Yang, Kathryn M. Monroe, Orlando Zepeda, Peter W. Hunt, Hiroyu Hatano, Stefanie Sowinski, Isa Muñoz-Arias, and Warner C. Greene.. Pyroptosis drives CD4 T-cell depletion in HIV-1 infection. Nature. 2014 Jan 23; 505(7484): 509–514.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4047036/

26- Eveland, Joanna. (August 19, 2015) The Low-Down on Inflammation from an HIV Doctor.

http://betablog.org/the-low-down-on-inflammation-from-an-hiv-doctor/

27- IBD 22

28- Cavinato, Luca. Pyroptosis Activation in HIV-1 Infection. October 3, 2014.

http://flipper.diff.org/apprulespathways/items/6543

29- HIV and Inflammation. August 30, 2014. http://www.aidsinfonet.org/fact_sheets/view/484

30- IBD 22

31- IBD 29

32- IBD 22

33- IBD 22

34- DeCarlo, Pamela, Ekstrand, Maria. How does Stigma Affect HIV Prevention and Treatment? October 2016. https://prevention.ucsf.edu/library/stigma/

35- HIV Stigma and Discrimination. JUNE 12, 2017.

https://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-social-issues/stigma-discrimination

36- Anish P. Mahajan, Jennifer N. Sayles, Vishal A. Patel, Robert H. Remien, Daniel Ortiz, Greg Szekeres, and Thomas J. Coates; Stigma in the HIV/AIDS epidemic: A review of the literature and recommendations for the way forward. AIDS. 22():S67–S79, AUG 2008.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835402/

37- Pisharodi, Sanjay. (July 1, 2017) Online discussion of HIV and Inflammation from an Ayurvedic Doctor in India. Also, found on Facebook. http://purnarogya.com/

38- IBD 37

39- Halpern, Marc (2012 Sixth Edition) Clinical Ayurvedic Medicine. Chapter 2, Page 6.

40- IBD 39 Page 6

41- Sharma, P.V. (2010) Caraka Samhita. Volume 1. Page 253

42- IBD 41 Page 257

43- Murthy, K.R. Srikantha. (2016) Astanga Hrdayam. Volume 2. Page 11

44- IBD 41 Page 337

45- Sharma, P.V. (2010) Caraka Samhita. Volume 3. Page 331

46- Lad, Vasant. (2006) Textbook of Ayurveda: A Complete Guide to Clinical Assessment. Volume 2. Page 201

47- IBD 46 Page 200

46- IBD 45 Page 317

48- IBD 46 Page 200-201

49- IBD 46 Page 283

50- IBD 46 Page 286

51- IBD 46 Page 245

52- IBD 46 Page 267

53- IBD 41 Page 237

54- IBD 45 Page 136

55- IBD 45 Page 160

56- Frawley, David. (2000) Ayurvedic Healing: A Comprehensive Guide. Page 48

57- Pandey, Gyanendra. (2003) Anti-AIDS (Ojaksaya) Drugs of Ayurveda. Page 68

58- Halpern, Marc (2016 Eleventh Edition) Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine. Pages 5-7

59- Laursen, Marisa (2016 lecture) California College of Ayurveda.

60- Desikachar, T.V. The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice. 1999. Page 149

61- IBD 58 Pages 171-175

62- Welch, Claudia. (2005) The Secrets of the Mind: The 10 Channels Revealed. Pages 22-25.

63- Douillard, John. (February 28, 2017) Mesentery Organ Linked to Lymphatic System and Aging. Pages 1-3.

64- Douillard, John. (May 11, 2017) Rescue Your Lymph from Stress…Before It’s Too Late. Pages 1-6.

65- Douillard, John. (February 27, 2017) The Miracle of Lymph. Pages 1-6.

66- IBD 64 Page 1

67- IBD 65 Page 2

68- IBD 66 Page 2

69- Kalwadiya, Rajesh. HIV/AIDS- An Ayurvedic Perspective. Pages 1-4 http://www.charakayurveda.com/hiv.pdf

70- Tirtha, Swami Sadashiva. (2012) The Ayurveda Encyclopedia. Second Edition. Page 528

71- Crofton, Katherine. The Secret to Staying Healthy: Getting the Lymphatic System Moving. https://www.davidwolfe.com/the-lymphatic-system-health/

72- IBD 64 Page 4

73- IBD 70 Page 528

74- IBD 57 Page 124

75- IBD 70 Page 528

76- IBD 56 Pages 264-265

77- Somaranthna, KIWK, Chandola, H.M., Ravishankar, B. Pandya, K.N. and Attanayake, A.M.P. (April-June 2010) A Short-term intervention on HIV positive patients using a Sri Lankan classical rasayana drug- Ranahamsa Rasayanaya. Pages 1-14.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3215364/

78- IBD 70 Page 528

79- IBD 64 Pages 5,6

80- IBD 65 Page 6






















ABSTRACTS FOR HIV AND INFLAMMATION




Journal: AIDS

Title: Stigma in the HIV/AIDS epidemic: A review of the literature and recommendations for the way forward.

Author: Anish P. Mahajan, Jennifer N. Sayles, Vishal A. Patel, Robert H. Remien, Daniel Ortiz, Greg Szekeres, and Thomas J. Coates

Abstract

Although stigma is considered a major barrier to effective responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, stigma reduction efforts are relegated to the bottom of AIDS program priorities. The complexity of HIV/AIDS related stigma is often cited as a primary reason for the limited response to this pervasive phenomenon. In this paper, we systematically review the scientific literature on HIV/AIDS related stigma to document the current state of research, identify gaps in the available evidence, and highlight promising strategies to address stigma. We focus on the following key challenges: defining, measuring, and reducing HIV/AIDS related stigma as well as assessing the impact of stigma on the effectiveness of HIV prevention and treatment programs. Based on the literature, we conclude by offering a set of recommendations that may represent important next steps in a multifaceted response to stigma in the HIV/AIDS epidemic.




Journal: JAMA. 2016;316(2):171-181

Title: Sexual Activity Without Condoms and Risk of HIV Transmission in Serodifferent Couples When the HIV-Positive Partner Is Using Suppressive Antiretroviral Therapy.

Author: Alison J. Rodger, MD; Valentina Cambiano, PhD; Tina Bruun, RN; Pietro Vernazza, MD; Simon Collins; Jan van Lunzen, PhD; Giulio Maria Corbelli; Vicente Estrada, MD; Anna Maria Geretti, MD; Apostolos Beloukas, PhD; David Asboe, FRCP; Pompeyo Viciana, MD; Félix Gutiérrez, MD; Bonaventura Clotet, PhD; Christian Pradier, MD; Jan Gerstoft, MD; Rainer Weber, MD; Katarina Westling, MD; Gilles Wandeler, MD; Jan M. Prins, PhD; Armin Rieger, MD; Marcel Stoeckle, MD; Tim Kümmerle, PhD; Teresa Bini, MD; Adriana Ammassari, MD; Richard Gilson, MD; Ivanka Krznaric, PhD; Matti Ristola, PhD; Robert Zangerle, MD; Pia Handberg, RN; Antonio Antela, PhD; Sris Allan, FRCP; Andrew N. Phillips, PhD; Jens Lundgren, MD

Abstract:

A key factor in assessing the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy (ART) as a prevention strategy is the absolute risk of HIV transmission through condomless sex with suppressed HIV-1 RNA viral load for both anal and vaginal sex.




Journal: Ayu. 2010 Apr-Jun; 31(2): 197–204.

Title: A Short-term intervention on HIV positive patients using a Sri Lankan classical rasayana drug- Ranahamsa Rasayanaya.

Author: Somaranthna, KIWK, Chandola, H.M., Ravishankar, B. Pandya, K.N. and Attanayake, A.M.P.

Abstract:

Rational use of Rasayana therapy, in the management of HIV infected individuals, could potentially stabilize the destructive control mechanisms, by modulating the psycho-neuro-endocrine-immune axis. The objective of the present study has been to determine the short-term effects of Ranahamsa Rasayanaya (RR) in HIV infected patients. A total of 27 patients with documented HIV infection were randomly assigned to two groups, Group A – 5 g of RR twice daily with cow's milk and sugar. Group B – Only routine modern therapy was continued, if any they were taking, including highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART). Absolute CD4+ T-cell and total lymphocyte counts were measured in these patients, registered under Group A. Only 21 participants completed the study protocol (In Group A, 15 patients and in Group B, 6 patients). Initial mean CD4+ T-cell count was 304.50 ± 43.36 cells/microliter, which increased to 430.44 ± 66.01 cells/microliter by 41.36% (P<0.05), measured among 9 patients out of 15, who received RR in Group A. The RR seemed to be a safer adjuvant in people with HIV infection with respect to absolute CD4+ T-cell count over a 90 days treatment.

























Journal: Avert. https://www.avert.org/about-hiv-aids/how-infects-body

Title: How HIV Infects The Body And The Lifecycle of HIV

Author: Avert Staff

Abstract:

Understanding how HIV infects the body is important to help explain how HIV drugs work to treat the virus. The science behind the virus and the HIV life cycle help put wider prevention, treatment, and general HIV awareness into context.




Journal: Nature. 2014 Jan 23; (7484): 509-514

Title: Pyroptosis drives CD4 T-cell depletion in HIV-1 infection.

Author: Gilad Doitsh, Nicole LK Galloway, Xin Geng, Zhiyuan Yang, Kathryn M. Monroe, Orlando Zepeda, Peter W. Hunt, Hiroyu Hatano, Stefanie Sowinski, Isa Muñoz-Arias, and Warner C. Greene..

Abstract:

The pathway causing CD4 T-cell death in HIV-infected hosts remains poorly understood. Apoptosis has been proposed as the key mechanism for CD4 T-cell loss. We now show that caspase-3-mediated apoptosis accounts for the death of only a small fraction of productively infected cells. The remaining >95% of quiescent lymphoid CD4 T-cells die by caspase-1-mediated pyroptosis triggered by abortive viral infection. Pyroptosis corresponds to an intensely inflammatory form of programmed cell death where cytoplasmic contents and pro-inflammatory cytokines including IL-1β, are released. This death pathway thus links the two signature events in HIV infection––CD4 T-cell depletion and chronic inflammation––and creates a vicious pathogenic cycle where dying CD4 T-cells release inflammatory signals that attract more cells to die. This cycle can be broken by caspase-1 inhibitors shown to be safe in humans, raising the possibility of a new class of “anti-AIDS” therapeutics targeting the host rather than the virus.




SIPPING ON COFFEE THOUGHTS: BENEFITS AND RISKS

I’ve been thinking about coffee lately and wanted to share some thoughts around the health benefits and health compromising that can occur due to coffee intake.

There are many studies out there that support how coffee is beneficial for reducing the risk for:

  • cardiovascular disease

  • type 2 diabetes

  • Parkinsons/Parkinsonian Tremors

  • cirrhosis

  • uterine and live cancer

There are many studies that support how coffee can be harmful for increasing health risks, such as and not limited to:

  • addiction to coffee (as a stimulant)

  • insomnia

  • cerebral infraction

  • cardiovascular complications

  • increased acidity

  • increased inflammation

  • may contribute towards some cancers and cancer formations

  • heartburn

  • heart palpitations

  • anxiety

  • an appetite suppressant (not in a good way)

It is important to remember that coffee comes from a plant and that we know that the plant kingdom can have natural and profound benefits on our health. The coffee plant offers numerous phytonutrients, bioactive compounds, and antioxidants. We also know that using anything in excess, even when it is naturally grown, can still have negative effects on health.

By looking at the wisdom of Ayurveda and what it has to share as far as its profound and vast ability to determine the pharmocological actions of any substance, by far more than any other system, we can best understand how to apply this knowledge to the use of coffee, at least. This is one of the main reasons why Ayurveda is highly successful, due to its ability to assess qualities of substances and its relationship to the body.

In Ayurveda, we have what is called the principle of the 6 tastes (Shadrasas), consisting of sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent, and astringent. Simply, there are 6 tastes and it is through the understanding of how these tastes work in our physiology, and even the mind to a certain degree, that we can either experience the medicinal benefits of substances or have them become poisons in our system. David Frawley shares with us that “Coffee is pungent, bitter, warm and pungent in post-digestive effect. It decreases Kapha, but increases Pitta and Vata, aggravating acidity. It is a nervine and cardiac stimulant and mild narcotic. It is rajasic in nature and it can be addictive. Used occasionally, it is good for low energy, hypotension and depression.” So what does it mean to be “pungent, bitter, warm and pungent”? In Ayurvedic medicine we have the Principles of and Science of ”Dravyaguna Shastra” which refers to the pharmocology of substances and the science thereof. These are Rasa, Virya, Vipak, and Prabhav. Rasa, refers to the taste, that which is immediately experienced on the tongue. Next we have Virya, which is the action that occurs in the stomach regarding whether a substance is heating or cooling. Then we have Vipak, which is the post-digestive effect and how the substance will be metabolized/absorbed in the colon. Prabhav, doesn’t pertain to every substance but this is a “specialized” category in Ayurveda that accounts for the fact that certain substances will have a benefit that isn’t necessarily accounted for but can be noticed to occur. The science of Ayurveda has room for this, but western medicine may not.

To further expand on pungent, bitter, warm and pungent it to simply state that something that is pungent, bitter, and warm consists of heating and drying qualities. If an individual has any precursory symptoms to such conditions already, then taking in any substance with these qualities will only increase these qualities. There is an axiom in Ayurveda that states “like increases like and opposites cure.” This can be applied to almost anything.

I remember learning in a course that coffee acts like this in the physiology/digestive system: Coffee is acidic by nature. When it enters into the stomach, which consists of an acidic environment(digestive enzymes such as pepsin and hydrochloric acid, balanced with alkalinity, which is the natural mucosal lining in the stomach, it raises the acidity level causing the stomach to react in a way as if there was a protein present. It is important to note that the stomach is responsible primarily for the break down of proteins, hence the strong acids, through its churning process. When coffee is ingested and falsely stimulates the stomach to increase in acidity, the body’s intelligence will say “hey, where’s the protein that I’m revved up for?” The body will then respond and say “lets see where in our own body we can find protein to break down.” This may be one of the main reasons why coffee is an appetite suppressant! This is food for thought, and there should be studies to support this but it is safe to say, knowing how the physiology works , that this is quite plausible, especially when we know how coffee can functions, what it consists of, and its strong tendency towards acidity. If there is acidity present, which many people do have this due to diet and lifestyle, then coffee will have a natural tendency to increase acidity. Acidity is heating and therefore, it makes sense that it would increase inflammatory processes of all kinds and not limited to virus’ for example. Further studies should be done to examine the correlation between virus’, inflammatory diseases such as Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, and the effects that coffee has on them. If someone is anxious, it can be deduced that coffee will increase anxiety due to its stimulating nature. Even if studies show that not all cancers can be linked to coffee directly, it is safe to say that knowing the qualities of coffee, as mentioned previously, that anyone with internal environments of dryness and lightness, and cancers (which tend to have some form of acidity, protein/genetic issue, and inflammation) that coffee could negatively influence these as well. The question would also be how much coffee could have this effect?

Since coffee has a drying action on the body due to inherent astringent qualities (regardless of flavor) it is important to counter the effects of dryness by hydrating adequately. It could be recommended to have some water (warm preferred) but ideally “natural gatorades” such as coconut water or limeade (see recipe link below) before and after drinking coffee, to not only support hydrating the body and reduce the negative effects of coffee but to also purify the tissues that are affected by the heating acidic inflammatory properties and potential of coffee.

To slow down the catalytic actions of coffee, it has been known in cultures such as India and Turkey that coffee can be taken with butter, ghee, or even coconut oil. Additionally, milk such as whole milk, raw milk and even coconut milk contribute qualities that support reducing the intensity of the coffee and caffeine to a certain degree and helps to balance the nervous system and digestion. Not only does this support proper metabolism of coffee but it add a luxurious taste as well! The oil itself supports liver functions, and even coating of the myelin sheaths (part of nerve tissue.) Spices such as cardamom slow down/reduce some of the caffeine so it doesn’t overly tax the body and nervous system. Food for thought, though, Kapha predominant individuals can avoid adding the above mentioned fats since Kapha individuals have this naturally in abundance in their body.

Volume is an important consideration as well. Am I drinking 4oz, or 8oz. or 16oz. or even 20oz.? Typically in certain cultures like France, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Africa, and India, the amount of coffee didn’t really exceed a cup. Now, with cafe chains like Starbucks we have double to quadruple the normal amount. This also plays a role as to whether coffee is a friend or foe. It isn’t uncommon for an Italian or French individual to have a shot of espresso after a meal to support digestion, or to have a cappuccino with a sort of pastry or even piece of fruit as per morning routine instead of bacon, eggs, cheese omelette with toast, orange juice and large coffee which is done as per a typical western cultured individual. Sometimes large venti coffees replace a meal because it’s on the go and some people don’t have the time to sit down and have a light healthy breakfast. This does add up and contribute towards health issues in the long run. More studies should be done to verify this but this can be experimented with personally, if you’re curious., and you’ll notice for yourself the differences. Let’s add to this, how often throughout the day. Is it one cup or 6? This is another potential negative influence. Vata predominant individuals may or may not benefit from a “little bit” of coffee depending on many factors. Pitta predominant individuals can also have a moderate amount with it appropriately being prepared for their constitution, and considerations around whether they have inflammation. Kapha individuals may be able to benefit from a moderate amount in order to get them going, with the appropriate spices, and other factors considered for their constitution but also to remember that in excess they could gain more weight.

Temperature of coffee is just as important. It is understood in Ayurveda that anything cold or frozen is not ideal for the body and health. The quality of cold is drying, light, and astringent. Therefore, when we add cold substances to a body that regulates temperature around 98.6 degrees +/- we cause a stress to the system. It’s like putting a cold bucket of water on a fire. This affects health and causes all the systems to be compromised, starting with the digestive system because all the other systems linked into the vitality and quality of health in the digestive system, one way or another. We can further say, according to Ayurveda, that a predominant Vata person or individual that has predominance of Vata symptoms should have warm substances. A person of Pitta tendencies/symptoms, should engage in warm/room temperature/cool(not cold) substances. And, a person with Kapha tendencies/symptoms should have hot. Temperature plays a crucial role with digestion of all substances. Coffee is naturally more heating, drying, due to its bitter, warming, pungent qualities and therefore appropriate considerations are needed when drinking coffee. Absolutely no cold or iced beverages! It can also be suggest that coffee, due to its previously mentioned qualities, can be influenced by season as well. For instance, since it is generally heating by nature and to drink it in hotter climates will only increase the heating potential of coffee. Drinking coffee in the cooler climates would be better. Let’s also remember how constitution can factor into this as well. (I know. There are many variables.)

The quality of coffee is just as important. Is the coffee Maxwell House or even Folgers, Dunkin Donuts or even Wawa? Or, is it Starbucks or a local cafe (Ma & Pa establishments)? The better the quality, the better it is. Still being mindful that a little bit can go a long way, as mentioned previously.

According to Ayurveda, the body, when it is threatened with or exposed to dryness or excess moisture, will attempt to remedy itself, through neurochemical signals and communication, to stimulate in a way to reduce the dryness and reduce the moisture. “The body is a historical system and requires consistency for health,” as stated by Maryanne Thompson. It is understood in Ayurveda that the primary cause and root location for most diseases is in the diet and lifestyle. Additionally, in the digestive system we can observe subtle symptoms to indicate the beginning stages of imbalances that can head towards bigger ailments. What are these subtle symptoms (not always subtle)? gas, bloating, indigestion, mild constipation, diarrhea, sharpness, hyperacidity (acid reflux), and heaviness. The body is amazing and always seeking homeostasis. It does this to a fault sometimes but should we heed the warnings or means the body communicates that it is out of balance, which is through symptoms subtle and overt, then we can regain health by listening. The body tends to communicate through pain. Pain is broken into general qualities such as heaviness, dullness, sharp, cold, dry, and hot. Listening to these is a good way to prevent bigger issues from occurring later on. For instance, that cold usually starts almost a week before the symptoms have become fully expressive. How do we know? Because and usually, there is some sense of dryness or tickle in the throat, even in the ears at times, and even in the eyes (itchy.) We ignore this and then suddenly we find ourselves having a post-nasal drip. We take drying substances like benedryl/anti-histamines/steroids/other drying agents, to dry out the mucus, but why? When the mucus is the body’s natural way of saying “hey, I’m dry. Let’s send some mucus to protect this before it gets worse.” What happens then? We usually ignore it. A week later, there is a cold. If we keep doing what we are doing, we will keep getting what we are getting. If we don’t stop to take the time to slow down and address such subtle symptoms, then the smaller signs will become the bigger signs and then we are brought to some sort of halt at some point or another.

When it comes to understanding whether coffee is a medicine or a poison, it would be best to ask yourself the questions: How is my current state of health? Am I experiencing any inflammation? Do I have any neurological issues? What is my constitutional make up (being with Vata, (nervousness/anxiety/instability of sorts) Pitta (hyperacidity, anger, ulcers, inflammatory conditions), Kapha (sluggishness, heaviness, lethargy, diabetes)? Am I an anxious/nervous/dry person? Am I a high strung/angry/inflamed person? Am I a person prone towards being heavy, slow, sluggish? (If you answer yes to these three questions, then you may reconsider coffee for you). How much coffee am I drinking (volume)? What’s the quality of coffee (good quality versus cheap)? How often am I drinking coffee(frequency)? Am I properly hydrating? What is the temperature of coffee (hot, warm, cold/frozen)? Am I taking coffee with milk(s), sweeteners (preferably natural), oils (such as coconut and/or ghee, to support metabolism of coffee and its effects on the system)? Am I taking coffee with spices such as cardamom/cinnamon (to support metabolism of coffee and its effects on the system)? Why am I drinking coffee ( reasons such as boredom, habit, comfort, addiction, for energy)?

Coffee can be enjoyable, depending on who, when, why, and how. In considering all the above details around the consumption of coffee, there is the potential to understand how it applies to you and whether or not coffee is a friend or enemy. Moderation can be a key factor but Ayurveda would still say it depends on the individual and where they are at in the present state of health (mind and body) with all this that has been mentioned. It’s not enough to think that “coffee will make me happy and if I don’t have it then x,y, z.” But is it really? Is it benefiting your whole being or harming you for the sake of pacifying some part of your mind? Because in reality, you might feel happy with coffee because it brings you comfort but it might be the actual fuel behind why your joints feel inflamed, or you’re experiencing bleeding out of your rectum or are having issues sleeping, nervousness, anxiety, diarrhea, gastritis, so on and so forth. Check with your body and really be honest about how you are supporting it. The body is designed to handle a lot. Give it the help it needs and it will do even more for us all. It just needs time, patience, consistency, and routine. It requires love and attention to thrive. It will do whatever it can to endure, survive and live.

REFERENCES:

Coffee: The Good, The Bad, The Ayurvedic Perspective

The Latest Scoop on the Health Benefits of Coffee

Coffee and its Consumption: Benefits and Risks

American Institute of Vedic Studies, Volume 3 of Ayurveda Healing Course for Health Care Professionals.- By David Frawley

Natural Gatorades

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed by a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.

A SIMPLE SAMPLE 30 DAY DETOX/RESET PLAN

I am inspired to share with you this recent detox and reset plan that I had completed. It is simple because our lifestyles couldn’t afford us the time to go much deeper with the process and yet we achieved some wonderful outcomes. I lost weight, an average of 10 pounds. I lightened up my liver and significantly reduced inflammation.I improved the quality of focus and rest/sleep. My overall well-being was enhanced.

HERE’S WHAT I DID:

*For the overall month this was avoided: breads, cheeses, pastas, dairy, snacking, alcohol, no coffee/caffeine, and no sweets or treats. Hydration was increased with teas, waters, and “natural gatorades.” Click HERE for the recipe. Almond milk was okay with teas.

* Yoga exercise and massage was increased. I had seen a massage therapist but I had also done daily self-massage (abhyanga.)

* I also had the pleasure of using my steam box 2-3x week for each week to support detoxification. (This should be avoided if you are experiencing any skin issues and/or are sensitive to high heat.) I would stay in the box, as per Ayurvedic principles, just long enough where a sweat would start to occur, not further.

*Of course. dinacharya rules applied when it came to the structure of the day and the average and proper meal time. Unsure, click HERE for the article on daily structure and click HERE for the Guidelines of Healthy Eating.

* For additional support, I had taken Liver Formula, Triphala pills from Banyan Botanicals. Sometimes I would take the Vata Digest (Hing Vasthak) as well. Pitta’s would take Pitta Digest (Avipattikar). Kapha’s would take Kapha Digest (Trikatu.) I had some Vata in my digestion even as a Pitta predominant individual, that’s why I took the Vata Digest as needed but not often.

*For the first 24 hours, I only had a basic soup with veggies and rice noodles. Three meals of soup for that day.

*For the remainder of the week, 2 shots (at 4oz. each) of juicing, consisting of beet, carrots, ginger, lemon, cilantro (optional parsley), and celery were taken between breakfast and lunch, and lunch and dinner. Kitchari 3x a day with the proper mung to basmati ratio and lots of vegetables with ghee. Water with each meal. My favorite vegetable during this time was/is Broccoli Rabe. I tried to use Bitter Gord but was unsuccessful with it. Maybe you’ll have better luck. The point of the veggies was to make sure they were dark and/or bitter leafy greens. The liver and spleen like the bitter.

*For the remaining 3 weeks, I continued alternating with dosas, kitchari, soups, veggies (mainly bitters, but some carrots, beets, and spinach.) I also began adding in some chicken as per my body’s need. Some days would be pure vegetarian and other days would with be a combination of vegetarian and pollotarian. For instance, in the morning I would have dal with veggies. Lunch would be chicken with veggies and rice. Dinner would be veggies and rice noodles with maybe egg cooked into it as a soup.

* If for some reason i felt some hunger in between meals, I would have a cup of tea, at least the first week and a half. Then, for the remaining time, I would alternate between tea and the cacao shake recipe, click HERE. I continued to drink adequate water, teas, and the natural gatorades.

*During these 3 weeks, I replaced the beet juice and other veggies with just celery juice. I drank 4-6oz. of celery juice 2x daily in between meals. I liked the taste and felt it work nicely with my body.

*In transitioning out of the 30 days regimen, I continued with eating smaller meals as per my stomach capacity by listening to the subtle cues of being full. I slowly added in regular dairy, then cheese and then other foods based on my body’s response and if for some reason I had a mild symptom such as gas, bloating, distention, burning, indigestion, or any affect on my bowel movements, then I’d return to a simpler diet from the day before until my body was ready to progress, and not before.

If you’d like to know more about DETOX, check out the article HERE and/or contact me so we can begin your plan of action!

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.

HEALTH "RETIREMENT PLAN"

This is an interesting piece to write about. In recent times, this has been the topic of discussion with many of my patients and we work on health maintenance and even disease reduction. Ayurveda, is the science of longevity and well-being. It is a not only a sick-care system but a healthcare and prevention system.

How it generally works is that there is an understanding in Ayurveda that there is a configuration of 5 elements (earth, water, fire, air, and space) that is manifested uniquely within individuals and this creates the baseline constitution for each one of us. We generally know this and use these biological medical terms called Vata, Pitta, Kapha. The baseline constitution is known as Prakruti in Ayurveda. When we have deviated from this point of homeostasis, the biological baseline of our physiological make-up, we enter into what is called Vrikruti, the imbalanced state. For instance, there are 7 possible combinations of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. They are VP, PK, VK (most common and known as the dual-doshic types), V, P, K (least common, and primary types where these individuals are mainly just one, with little of the others); and Tridoshic which is VPK (least common and harder to manage as well.) The prakruti is established at birth. Vrikruti develops as a result of the right stressors, tension, and pressure, this relates a lot to diet, lifestyle, and state of mind.

Then, once we understand the constitutional factors we also look at the time of life an individual is in. These are called the Three Phases of LIfe in Ayurveda. Initially, everyone starts in Kapha phase of life. How do we know it’s kapha? Because the qualities of kapha are heavy, cold, moist, dense, slow, soft. Consider this, we are in a womb for an average of 8-9 months that is a water environment. Kapha represents two elements, earth and water. Therefore, childhood is where we come out of a womb that consists of amniotic fluid, a water environment and enter into the world (one way or another being natural birth or c-section.) During childhood, kids generally are mucus producing machines. Some more than others based on constitution. For instance, the Vata predominant kid would produce less mucus but it would be clearer. The Pitta predominant kid would produce some mucus and could be yellowish at times. The Kapha predominant kid tends to produce a lot of mucus and its often, thick, and whitish in color.

Next we progress into the Pitta phase of life which consists of when the endocrine system becomes more activated (puberty) and hormones cause the growth spurts and for lots of growth in many places. LOL Estrogen and Testosterone are doing their thing and appetite/metabolism shifts as well. We generally establish ourselves in the world with a certain fire, momentum, intention and inspiration/passion.

Lastly, we enter into Vata phase of life when life quiets down, hormones change again and we have menopause (cessation of menses, decrease in estrogen and increase in testosterone in women, generally) and andropause (the male menopause where testosterone decreases, and estrogen generally increases.) During this phase of life, we are more sensitive in many ways. Skin tends to be drier. Constipation may occur more often. Temperament changes. Appetite changes again. Energy changes. This is the period of wisdom, as I’d like to call it. It’s the time to reflect on the previous 50+ years and be open to what is still in store until we are complete on this planet.

So why am I mentioning all this?It is something to consider for sure. I have seen from my personal experience and my interactions with the countless patients that very often time follows us. What we do today can affect our tomorrow. Some things take time.

*As I remember learning through my schooling, that the body is a historical system and it requires consistency for health. How our mental and physical health has been established while we we young-ens will shape our future.

*Like Whitney Houston’s song says “the children are our futures” and I’d like to add that the children within each and everyone of us is in our future. I also say that whatever experiences we have had, that have been traumatic during our childhood, we spend the rest of our lives unpacking as adults…if we do the work to do so.

* I liked the saying “the child is father to the man.” Is this child integrated into the man/woman today or is it grabbing the adult of who we are today from a place of unexpressed pain and wounding? This will all spiral and influence how we are really taking care of ourselves, or not. To some degree, no matter what it looks like, we are all doing the best that we can AND can always do better if we are connected to that part of us that really wants us to do so.

*They say “youth is wasted on the young” and that may seem true but that also affirms that the older we get the more wisdom we get. I’ve seen how in older years that the quality of life “back then” could have possibly shaped a different future but the reality is that every moment before now brought us to know precisely the way it was meant to. Additionally, I have worked with many younger individuals ranging from childhood, to adolescents, to teenagers, to individuals in their early to mid-twenties and I’ve seen them develop conditions that are typically formed in later years. For instance, I’ve worked with guys who have had erectile dysfunction at the age of 22. Girls, who have had no menses or extremely uncomfortable menses at the age of 13,14,17, 20 and 21. Again, typically scenarios related to older women. How is this happening? So many factors to consider, but that’s another story, some with overlapping of the material presented as food for thought in this article.

*They say “hindsight is 20/20” and “if I knew then, what I know now” but again this is how experience gives us knowledge.

*How do we expect to have a larger outcome during our retirement years when the investment is minimal today? When some patients come in and say “how long will it take to get better?” My reply, which is typical of Ayurveda is, “it depends”. It depends on so many factors. To start with, I can do a dollar a day and see the savings grow to 30 in a month. Or I can do 5 dollars a day and see at the end of the month 150.00. It depends on what I can do, my willingness, and the practicality of what I can do. But, it is safe to say that the more I invest in myself, since I’m worth the sacrifice in the long-run, the more I will get out of it. Don’t you agree?

Constitutionally, traveling through time and space, through the different phases of life with the different experiences of life will all add to what is happening right now, and what we decide to do now will help or hurt our future. I have been my own work in progress for almost 20 years now with the strongest intentions to do so and health is a dynamic process. When patients come in to see me, I see all ages, I meet them where they are at. From the eastern perspective there is no such thing as too late, unless it is absolutely too late and even then, we can support the journey of life and where it is going. In eastern medicine, we can always find a way to support an individual where they are at, no matter what it is, and however big or small the influence. In some cases, 90 to close to 100% of healthy may not be regained, but maybe 20% of that could be. In other cases, there is a full re-connection to balance and symptoms go away. It can all be managed from any angle and various degrees so there is always some hope. In fact, when someone has an intention, hope-based goal, I hold the space for it and see what unravels in support of this journey. I take journey’s with each one, as they are personal and limited. In turn, this adds to the abundance in my life and depths of my own intimacy within my own experience of living in this body.

In regards to the idea of a health “retirement plan”, all this is what I am referring to. Where we are at in life, between phase of life, constitution, history/her-story, what we do right now can have the potential to “change” what we are walking in with into something different when we walk out the door. A shift in perspective is powerful. Holding an intention and space for ourselves and for others, in so many ways, subtle and overt, can have life-changing benefits. It is all amazing! So, what can we do better right now? What can we acknowledge right now that we are doing that is the best that we can do? Is there room? How slow can we become in this moment to really get the chance to be with ourselves and know ourselves and support ourselves. We can’t do this journey alone. We aren’t meant to, as much as we think our crazy mind can convince us of this. The only way out is in and by having the right support, by listening to ourselves and having others reflect for us, we can go far if we choose to and are open to it.

This article was intended to be a general discussion and observation from my recent reflections on such a topic. If you would like to explore more about these thoughts and around your own journey, please feel free to message me. Let’s go deep together!

OTHER ARTICLES:

POWER OF A RESET

YOUR BODY IS YOUR GUIDE

STORY OF DISEASE

FINDING THE STILLNESS

LIFE AS A MALA BEAD

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.

THE POWER OF A RESET

What’s in a reset? How often do you reset? How important is a reset? What is a reset?

We tend to know, in a general sense, what a reset looks like when it comes to electronics. In that, there are times when our computers, laptops, wifi systems, and cell phones require a simple shutting down for whatever reason. But how does this apply to us?

Some of us know that we benefit from certain kinds of “breaks” from our day to day routines. It can be a simple as winding down after a long day, taking a bath before bed, or going away for a weekend. But what is actually happening, and how can we truly optimize these breaks, recognizing them as “resets?” A reset is a point in time that allows us to decompress, to turn off, to change our daily patterns so that we can have at least a shift in perspective. This is very important for our nervous system and our overall being as a whole. It is a time to take space and reconnect with ourselves. It is critical for our well-being especially with the lives/lifestyles many of us tend to live. The hustle and bustle. The rushing around. The chaotic-ness of responsibilities and duties. The experience and notion of not having time for ourselves. It is this place where we have to slow down and make time for ourselves. Breaks/resets do this. They help us to have a different awareness and can be highly inspiring.

In the classical teachings of yoga, under Patanjali’s “8 step process of yoga” (Ashtanga Yoga) there is a differentiation and understanding that these steps are broken down into Outer Yoga and Inner Yoga. Within the category of inner yoga we have what is called Pratyahara which consists of a “drawing in of the senses.” This refers to a drawing in of the senses and withdrawing from outer distractions. Dharana is the focus on one object of consciousness. This one object allows us to withdraw and take space from other other sensory related distractions. Dhyana, which is typically referred to as Meditation, provides us with a depth that can leave a profound and simple feeling. Meditation is not something we do but something that happens when we are fully in the moment and not focused on any one thing but simply being with what is. Not being pulled in any direction and merely being.

In working with these practices, Pratyahara, Dharana, and Dhyana, we can get more still and quiet in order to remember who we are at the core of our being. It’s this coming inward that invites us to take space and reset in many ways and on many levels. There are many ways individuals may consciously or unconsciously encounter resetting.

Here are some simple ways that we can or actually do take advantage of regarding resetting:

FOOD TIMES

We can slow down to see how taking a break to take time to eat our breakfasts, lunches, and dinners cause us to take pause from our day by basically focusing on time to nurture ourselves by eating, which is a fundamental practice that fosters our well-being. Taking the time to eat is crucial as we can properly metabolize our food and cause the nutrients to fuel our cells.

DIETING/FASTING/DETOXING

Taking a break from food that we normally eat is great for the body. The body and mind are connected and therefore, if the body is feeling great, the mind can be less encumbered by what the body is doing. With these food practices, as we withdraw from foods that are typically harmful and replace them with more wholesome and cleaner foods, we have the great potential of resetting our metabolic functions and systems. And be honest, taking a break from the SAD (Standard American Diet) can provide a great deal of advantages in the long run. In Ayurveda, we know that healthy body helps with a healthier mind and a “healthier mind” helps with a healthier body. They work together. We can see the modern scientific discoveries of the “Mind and Gut” connection. Ayurveda has known this for millennia.

REST/SLEEP

In some cultures, after eating lunch they take what is a called a “siesta”, which is not only beneficial for digestion by itself but also for our minds to take time from the day before resuming our working. This siesta isn’t like taking a nap or actually sleeping. It is similar to a gentle repose, with our eyes closed and senses drawn inwardly.

“Power naps” can psychically reset/re-inspire/recharge us to continue our days. Some of us may have sensitive nervous systems which can find this practice to be advantageous. Power naps consist of basically 10-15 minutes of simply going inward and powering down.

Sleep, which is our actual bedtime, is a way in which we turn off for 6-8/9 hours and go inward. We power down so that the different systems in the body can regroup from the daily activities. When done properly we can wake up feeling inspired, refreshed, rejuvenated, and recovered from the previous days. This is almost like re-birthing as we start a new day, open to limitless opportunities in each day. Each day is in fact unique! It’s amazing!

SOCIALIZING

Changing up daily routines, without sacrificing meal times, sleep time, exercise time, can be great for our whole being. Taking some time to meet with friends in a restaurant or bar, even just being by ourselves in a cafe settings can be important to our own self-nurturing and exploring this simple reset. During our socializing time, we can utilize these instances not to completely engage and talk about work dynamics and switch gears by sharing lighthearted or deep conversations that are self-exploratory.

TRAVEL

Getting away for a weekend, taking a hiatus, going on vacation for a week, even going on pilgrimages can be some profound ways to take space from our daily routines and reconnect with ourselves. We have opportunities for our senses to experience new sensations which can feed our consciousness and challenge us in amazing ways.

Equally, taking a walk in a park, going for a hike, camping, strolling around your neighborhood, can be some mundane ways of resetting temporarily. Nature, and the simplicity of being with it and within it (without the distractions of electronic devices) can be highly beneficial and “healing” for the senses and nervous system. By connecting with nature, we can reset on so many levels. Nature does us good!

OTHER WAYS TO RESET

Some people like to watch televisions, or listen to the radio, or sit with a cup of tea/coffee and read a newspaper or lovely book can be ways in which we have a mini reset. Making phone calls to friends and loved ones we haven’t chatted with in a while or chat with regularly are simple means to take space. Going to the gym or other fitness activities. Yoga classes. Meditation classes. Going to the movies. Other activities such as running, biking, and swimming can be ways individuals can take space as long as its rooted in pleasure and fun and light. Getting massages would be a fantastic way to have resets. Turning off our televisions, computers/laptops, cell phones, and anything electronic can be powerful for us as a resetting. (Personally, I highly recommend getting massages.)

MODALITIES

Some modalities that support this inward, deepening and resetting experience, including and not limited to, are: a relaxing massage (swedish), Marma Therapy (“pressure point therapy”), Shirodhara (oil poured over the forehead), Abhyanga with Svedhana (oil massage and steam), CranialSacral, Shiatsu, Reiki, Thai Massage, Myofacial, Cryogenic Chamber, and sensory deprivation tank (also called Floating/Flotation Tank.) Whatever sessions provokes a stillness is a session to explore.

In conclusion, whatever we can do that allows us to withdraw, reconnect with ourselves and get to know ourselves better and more intimately, remember our joy, and simply turning in and turning on or tuning in and tuning out, we can come back into the world with a whole new perspective. This shift in awareness can help us greatly in our day to day experiences. The gift of life is in the mundanity of it, in each moment. Slowing down grants us passageway to greatness in the simplicity!

HERE ARE SOME OTHER RELEVANT ARTICLES:

FINDING THE STILLNESS

SEASONAL PRACTICES

DAILY PRACTICES

MASSAGE AND LOVING YOURSELF

DIET AND DETOXIFICATION

AYURVEDIC PERSPECTIVE ON FASTING

LIFE AS A MALA BEAD

8 STEPS OF YOGA

SPRING CLEANING AND THE 5 SENSES

GUT BRAIN CONNECTION (1)

GUT BRAIN CONNECTION (2)

DIGESTION AND DISEASE PREVENTION

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.

AN AYURVEDIC PERSPECTIVE ON FASTING (UPAVAS)

Ayurveda, the science of life, has much to discuss about diet and fasting. It is understood in Ayurveda that natural observances of time of day and time of year can support the intention of optimal health, combined with knowing ones own constitutional needs. In knowing this, we can understand the application of fasting and how it can be optimized for based on who, when, how/what, and why.

The questions around this, as per an Ayurvedic practitioner, is who is fasting?

Why are they fasting?

What or how will the fast look like?

When will they be doing it?

As with any focus on prevention of disease, or maintenance of health, or even the potential resolution of a disease or imbalance, three primary concepts are strongly considered according to Ayurveda. These three concepts are Agni, Ama, and Ojas. AGNI, pertains to fire and specifically jatharagni is the actual digestive fire which involves the digestive enzymes and other chemicals to assist with digestion. AMA, pertains to unprocessed foods and emotions in the body, otherwise known as toxins. OJAS, is the outcome of the digestive process that is a result of the quality of food intake and absorption. Ojas can be observed in the body as the benefits of health, vitality, energy, inspiration, clarity, and overall immunity. This tissue can be found for instance in the plasma of the body where the white blood cells roam.

In Ayurveda, when addressing health and balance, or even disease re-balancing, we observe what is happening between agni, ama, and ojas. We know that when agni is balanced, then ama is low, and immunity is balanced. Similarly, when agni is low, ama is high, and ojas is low. An important consideration is knowing when an individual is affected by disease that there is an indication that agni is compromised somehow and that ama has been and is produced, which means that the overall sense of well-being is not as readily available. Simply, when we are feeling really good in our digestive system, and toxins are not overwhelming the system, then there will be an overall sense of health in body and mind. We know that these toxins can make their way to the brain and so many other areas of the body and then cause havoc.

Within his we can best formulate the best protocols based on the above questions. First, it is important to note that in Ayurveda, that the basic understanding of disease pathology is rooted in a malfunction of the digestive system. The digestive process contains two aspects to it. One, is the actual physical process of digestion where food is converted to usable resources of the body through the mechanics of the digestive system. Secondly, the mind has its influence and is woven into digestion. The mere social saying “you are what we eat” is actually changed in Ayurveda to “you are what you digest.” If you are eating something that appears to be cooked healthily but the mind is not in a peaceful place, then automatically what food enters into the body will become indigestion. This has already been verified according to modern research as per understanding a psychosomatic relationship existing inherently as humans.

Regarding fasting, Ayurveda notes that there are basically four times of day that we are supported by this. These three times of day are as such: first, between breakfast and lunch; next, between lunch and dinner; lastly, after dinner and before the next meal known as breakfast. Breakfast, when the word is split up, is “breaking” a “fast.” When western medical doctors desire to examine a full generally comprehensive blood panel they suggest not having anything to eat usually after 7 pm and then going in for lab work in the morning on an empty stomach. This can show lab technicians and physicians what the general state of health can be according to ranges of numbers that are considered appropriate, high, or low based on the findings. Similarly, the longest stretch of the day is night, for most people, and breaking a fast involves not having anything to heat until at least morning time., which allows for the natural physiological processed to do their job. For instance, the liver takes over at night in order to detoxify and support assimilation of overall nutrients for all the bodily systems and tissues. In Ayurveda, we say “ you must love your liver!”

Also, there is a time of year that fasting can naturally occur.. This is understood to happen in the late winter and spring (which is considered the Kapha time of year.) How a natural fasts occurs this time of year is simple when you think about it. Think about how things were before modern technology. Food was scarce this time of year. We were hibernating more. Inward more. Aligned with the natural stillness this time year. Though we have evolved to some degree to match the times, this doesn’t mean that on a deep cellular and genetic level that we don’t remember what it was like pre-modern conventions. The sun still rises and sets as it has always. The moon becomes full and wanes, as it always has. There are certain aspects of our biology like the inherently designed circadian rhythm that connects us as part of nature.

Due to this, this time of year through qualities that are present in the current atmosphere, the body is also following to some degree. So, if you’re still eating as much as you were during the summer, think again? Is it seasonally appropriate?

LET’S GO A LITTLE DEEPER…

If we factor in what’s naturally happening this time of year, we measure it according to understanding what our constitution is which is a combination of Vata, Pitta, Kapha, and we factor in age, along with supply and demand, we can best understand how to increasingly support our health and well being.

In general, it is tricky to fast during the winter months because it’s not time, yet. Bears, deer, and other animals are experiencing scarcity. They are putting out less energy since it is cold and they are resting more. But, as the cold starts to warm up and thawing begins to occur, with the increase in sunlight we will notice a natural shedding that happens this time of year (unless food intake is excessive due to modern conventions and not being connected to nature’s guidance within.) There isn’t much food around this time of year but supermarkets are getting these shipped to us. Our cells know the difference even if our mind’s are trying to distract us and convince us that we can still eat mango’s and ice cream during this time of year when, not only is it not natural to our farming here but it’s also not natural to climate. Have you noticed how the mango from mexico doesn’t taste as good now in January/February as it does in July?

Fasting in the winter is like running into the middle of the woods with snow around and taking our coats off. It is common to put a few pounds during the winter, why? because we are supposed to store fat. We increase protein and fats this time of year to sustain us longer through the months since we don’t have as much access to the abundance of foods as you do in the warmer and summer months. See a correlation yet?

No, it’s not okay for Vata predominant individuals to start fasting during the winter months. Vata’s should hold on to as much kapha/healthy kapha (earth/water elements) as much in their body. Incidentally, ojas tissue is actually a kaphy tissue. FYI. Pitta’s don’t usually need to fast this time of year. Kapha’s should just be mindful of excess intake of foods that are heavy, such as pasta, cheesecake, ice cream (which is really a no-no for all three doshas and especially this time of year), cheese, dairy, and yogurt.

Why does this apply as such? This has partly to do with agni. As we mentioned before, Agni plays a key part in health and disease. According to Ayurveda, there are four states of agni: SAMA= balanced digestion (which consists of very little to almost no digestive disturbance), VISHAMA = vitiated, and this usually pertains to Vata having variable digestion and digestive symptoms such as gas, some bloating, indigestion, mild constipation or some diarrhea, TIKSHNA = sharp, and this applies mainly to Pitta having strong, hot, overly-accelerating digestion burning up nutrients before they can actually be absorbed, and, MANDA = sluggish, for the Kapha predominant type where their symptoms are exactly that which is slow. This means that food is processed slowly and stores more and more and more.

During the winter and colder months in general, between cold and dry qualities and wet and cold qualities, it takes more energy to fire up the digestive system. Imagine a house and how more energy has to go into the furnace to keep the temperature in the house at a certain level. The body is this way. Incidentally, this is one of the main reasons why taking in cold, icy, frozen foods and beverages is contraindicated year round because for healthy functioning the body holds itself at and around a specific temperature for a reason. Changes to this, affects the system negatively and is considered a stress and thus causing a compromise of sorts.

MOVING ON….

Since it is Kapha time of year, here are some important considerations to honor what is happening in this climate. As mentioned above, we know it is mainly Kapha season because Kapha’s primary qualities consist of Heavy, Cold, Moist, and Sluggish. Does this seem familiar? Does it seem harder to get out of bed? Do you feel like you want to take more naps? If you answer yes to the last two questions, then you have a general sense and connection with Kapha. Kapha predominant individuals will feel it more than Vata and Pitta predominant individuals. Kapha’s have to push themselves harder to keep things moving so that they don’t end up feeling heavier and inviting in conditions that are common this time of year due to their similar qualities as mentioned before. Some of these imbalances include overall heaviness, weight gain, depression, upper respiratory issues such as colds, bronchitis (of kapha cause), even pneumonia (of kapha qualities), and asthma (of kapha qualities.) Vata’s could also be affected but their colds are more about dry coughs, minimal and clear mucus like a post-nasal drip, and minimal congestion. Vata’s could have aggravated asthma as well. The reason for the change but similar affect for Vata predominant individuals is due to the fact that one of Vata’s primary qualities is cold, so cold increases cold and cold can either be wet or dry.

HERE ARE SOME BASIC CONSIDERATIONS AROUND FASTING RIGHT NOW

1) Know your constitution.

2) Know your state of agni, ama, and ojas.

3) Honor the cycles of the day where there is a break in between actual meals, such as the time between breakfast and lunch, lunch and dinner, and then the long haul over night. Over night is the best time to let the body’s systems “do their thing” and support the body in homeostasis.

a) Consider the importance of breakfast being a light meal (if any) by 8, lunch being the main meal around noon(ish), and dinner being half of lunch, supplemental = supper time (noting that the later the meal, the lighter it should be due to lack of digestive availability)

b) Vata predominant individuals should eat smaller meals and possibly as part of small meals throughout the day, honoring the times of the average meal time. Pitta predominant individuals have a strong appetite and 3 meals is adequate, as long as they are also nutrient filled. Kapha predominant individuals should eat smaller meals, still with lunch being the main meal. In fact, Kapha predominant individuals could afford to lighten up and even skip breakfast and/or lunch depending on several factors.

c) It is important to note a recent rise in this new-ish diet called “Intermittent Fasting.” They are still pulling together the data and haven’t had long term studies validate their current findings but are amazingly speculative. With this, and a review of this type of diet, it isn’t far from what Ayurveda considers a “Kapha reducing diet regimen.” There is much overlap around what Ayurveda suggests for detoxification/fasting purposes. Following fasting times, eliminating certain components of the diet, and supporting an exercise regimen is essential to balance overall.

4) Know why you’re actually doing a fast.

5) Know how long you’re doing it for.

6) During the fasting periods during the day, do your best not to cave in to cravings. Have some sort of tea instead.

7) Regarding cravings, ask yourself these questions:

a) did I sleep well last night? Sleep affects digestion and energy levels. Poor sleep increases inflammation and increases the chances of craving sweets and energy boosting substances.

b) was my previous meal balanced? If there was adequate protein, carbs/legumes/grains, veggies, and oil intake, then there shouldn’t be much of an issue with cravings after the meal.

c) am I properly hydrated? The same mechanism in the brain that determines hunger also determines thirst. Test your level of hunger by having a cup of tea and waiting 15 minutes. If you’re still hungry, you’ll know it. But if you’re not, then you know you were dehydrated.

d) what is going on emotionally/mentally for me? If all the above are in check, then this will stand alone. There is emotional eating and the cravings are coming from a deeper need to satisfy/pacify some emotional experience you are having. You could either entertain it or not. Just know that giving in could cause you to gain weight, commonly.

e) can I wait? A craving will spark your interest. This happens naturally during the break times of the day, between meals. This is also a designed response of the body indicating glucose is needed somewhere, usually the brain. Once you allow your body to simply wait around 15-20 minutes, the craving will subsided because the body will take care of itself. For instance, the liver will become activated in a way to help transform the proper resources into usable fuel. This is where the body becomes fat-burning. This is great for the body! Versus giving into the craving and the body continues to store this instead.

8) Supply and Demand, Energy In and Energy Out. This is another pertinent factor to consider. If you aren’t very physically active, then food intake should be lower. The supply has to meet the demand. If it doesn’t, anything that isn’t used gets stored. Sometimes this is why a fatty liver develops, or fat in general. Sometimes, this is why constipation can happen, for instance. How much energy, physically, are you putting out that it requires the proper nutrient intake to match it? Remember, bears aren’t as active and are resting more but when it gets warmer out, they start to eat lightly to clear their lymphatic system and get things moving where they shed a few pounds and muscle increased again.

Lastly, fasting is about detoxification and allowing the body’s natural processes to do their job. The liver and kidney’s are primary organs of detoxification. If they are functioning optimally, then fasting during the natural fasting times of day is optimized. There isn’t too much of a need to do an extreme detox when the body is supported generally and fairly regularly. A regular practice of mindful eating, per constitution, with appropriate physical activities, and some herbal support as supplements (supplementation) can go a long way before the necessity of aggressively changing a diet or radically depriving the body. Where’s the mind in all this, and is it happy doing? Is the detox/fast meant to be a quick fix? (hint: the answer is no) Does the body need to detox? yes, but the how is key here.

Remember, that when we fast, it is a detox process. In Ayurveda, in order to detox we are practicing the “three R’s”: Regulate Agni, Remove Ama, Rebuild Ojas. Digestion is the key component for homeostasis. You can read more about supporting digestion in the article referenced below “Digestion and Disease Prevention.”

In Ayurveda, we strive to address both the body and mind simultaneously, with the least amount of stress. Meaning, Ayurveda is about the long-term, not just short-term and immediate gratification. We want something sustaining for many years to come with the least amount of casualty, while knowing that maybe those things you gave up were really for the best. How do you know? You’re body will thank you and your mind will feel more balanced. Win-win!

HERE ARE SOME OTHER ARTICLES TO READ:

DIET AND DETOXIFICATION

DIGESTION AND DISEASE: GUIDELINES FOR HEALTHY EATING

PUMP IT UP

FINDING THE STILLNESS

DAILY PRACTICES FOR BALANCE

SEASONAL PRACTICES FOR BALANCE

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.

THE CALM AFTER THE STORM : TRANSITIONING THIS TIME OF YEAR

The lull of the post-holiday celebrations tends to create an opportunity for any number of issues to arise such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, emotional drain, financial drain, colds, flu’s, and other ailments associated with this time of year. It’s already happening. I am noticing people getting sick pretty quickly, feeling tired, feeling like the holiday’s should already be over while the holiday’s were only half-way through. There is a way to manage all of this so it doesn’t develop or deepen. In fact, Ayurveda can even help turn things around pretty quickly, if the right practices are set in motion to do so. It is only in certain instances that we have to simply ride out the momentum, created by our running away with tasks, until we can finally take pause and regroup.

Ayurveda teaches us that health is primarily contingent upon a “cause and effect “relationship with ourselves and the choices we make. Ayurveda is also a system of natural medicine focused on understanding how cause and effect can help us to prevent the development of various pathologies. This path of mindfulness is profound, because we can take better control of ourselves and improve upon the quality of our health. In following some simple (for some, not so simple) practices, we can curve what’s already happening now by having amazing tools, such as Ayurveda, available to us next year so we can prevent these downward spirals. It is also important to note that this time of year tends to challenge us emotionally for many reasons some of which include the simple change in how much light we have and low Vitamin D levels, stress with work responsibilities and deadlines (which can’t be prevented but managed as best as possible), the simple effects that holidays bring which by virtue pulls on the heart strings and brings to the surface deeper emotions, and even just the natural sense that nature is hibernating this time of year and we are going against the flow by opposing the hibernation and running around/staying up late etc.

Some of my patients have asked me if I get sick. I tell them “I get sick of people but not from people” and then we laugh. There is some truth to this and Ayurveda can explain. In Ayurveda, we understand that if a persons immune system is strong, then an individual can avoid getting sick. This category of immunity is called Ojas. A strong immune system depends on healthy and balanced digestion called Agni (Jatharagni.) If Agni is balanced, then Ama wouldn’t be present. Ama involves toxins accumulated in the body. When ama is high, agni is low, and ojas is low. When agni is high(strong and balanced), ama is low, ojas is high. These three principles are what get factored into designing protocols for healthcare, prevention, and sick care. What does your agni feel like this time of year? Ama? Ojas?

I wrote an article listed below, regarding seasonal transitions from summer to fall. Many of the suggestions can apply now because, in Ayurveda, we understand that January is generally the window in which we transition from early winter to deeper winter/early spring which is considered the Kapha time of year. It is known in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine that most people tend to become ill during the transitions of seasons. There are things we can do to prevent this as much as possible.

With specific regard to this time of year, it is important to notice how the depth of winter contains a heavier quality than that of fall. Snow will be more common (here in New England at least). Cold makes things contract and feel heavier. Holidays are over and now the recovery begins. Rest is a good way to honor and regroup. Foods should be warmer, spicier (not too spicy for the Pitta predominant types), easier to digest and moderate to lighter. Lighter for the Kapha predominant types or individuals with a Kapha imbalance. As well as hotter spices, and definitely cooked. They should also eat less because their digestive systems are slower which means food will accumulate in the body faster. For the Vata types or individuals with Vata imbalance, food should still be cooked, warm, less pungent, easier to digest, and moderately heavy since these individuals have a sensitive digestive system. Pitta individuals or individuals with Pitta imbalances can handle this time of year easier. Staying warm is key, regardless. Getting enough rest but not too much, for the Kapha individual as this will make them heavier, slow down digestion, and increase imbalances like heaviness, fatigue, depression, and even upper respiratory issues. Exercising, hot stone massage, lymphatic drainage sessions, dry steam rooms, and any stimulating activity is great for the Kapha individual in general but especially this time of year. Avoiding foods that are heavy like carbs, sweets, breads, cheeses, pastas, and yogurt. If these are to be indulged in, then proper spices should be added and the foods should be taken in smaller quantities and not after dark. Additionally, ice, cold, and frozen anything should be absolutely avoided. Colors such as red, yellow, orange, and any other uplifting and stimulating color can be great this time of year, as a general recommendation. Aromatherapy scents such as frankincense, myrrh, orange/tangerine, tulsi, sweet basil, cinnamon, and sandalwood can be beneficial for the mind.

If you’d like to learn more about this, and then some, I am re-posting links to previously written articles that can help you to help yourself by not only understanding what happens this time of year but also things you can do to make some change.

HERE ARE THE LINKS: ( I hope you enjoy them)

FINDING THE STILLNESS

CATCH A COLD BEFORE A COLD CATCHES YOU

HOLIDAY BLUES

ICING OUT THE COLD STUFF

COLD COLD GO AWAY

DIGESTING THE HOLIDAYS

SEASONAL TRANSITION

SUMMARY OF DISEASE

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.

FINDING THE STILLNESS

I was inspired to write this article due to my recent conversations with a few patients who are feeling overwhelmed as the holidays approach. Isn’t it ironic that during a period of when we are meant to feel joy, gratitude, abundance, pleasure, and even sweet nostalgia that there is this accompanying feeling of anxiety and overwhelm? It it is with my experience in the past few years that I have chosen to purposefully slow down as the holidays speed up. Being present more so in the present moment versus entertaining the worry of what has yet to come or be accomplished on a never ending list of supposed duties and responsibilities. I actually want to enjoy the holidays by slowing down with them because once the momentum has taken off sometimes its easy to get “caught up” and over a sudden….it’s all over and I’ve been left feeling depleted, lethargic, and even run down, maybe sick. This is common for many of us during this time of year and I have written about this in my most recent article (HERE) and past articles around the effects of how running around during this season can create more stress and compromise our immunity.A few years ago, I attended an initiation and training for a specific modality and it was there that I felt inspired to rename my practice “Still Point Ayurveda.” The reasons for this are several but one primary feeling behind this is that I reflected on what it means to sit with the intimacy of stillness.

One of my favorite explanations for describing this still place is "Stillness has the power to heal the body and to awaken a higher energy and awareness in the mind. Such yogic stillness, however, is not an enforced stillness born of personal effort but a natural stillness born of deep relaxation."- Vamadeva Shastri (Dr. David Frawley) Furthermore, I learned in one of my first meditation classes that meditation can be described as “an interrupted flow of awareness of one object of consciousness”, as stated by Dr. Nischit from the Himalayan Institute. This one pointed-ness exists closely to the “still point.” In expanding upon this wisdom, I have shared with my clients that there is a similarity between karma, as I understand it, and the breath. Let’s begin with looking at the breath more closely. There are four parts to the breath. First, we have the “inhale” itself. Next, there is a “junction,” a point at the top of the inhale where the breath is paused for a fraction of a second just before it enters the exhale. Following this, we have the “exhale.” Lastly, we have the “junction” that is at the bottom of the exhale where the breath is paused for a fraction of a second just before it returns to the inhale. Dr. Vasant Lad has stated that “when we organically spend time in the pause between the breaths, the longer that pause will exist and eventually God’s lips will touch ours and we can be enlightened in six months of this natural process involving awareness.” It may sound poetic but I imagine the possibility of some level of truth around this. Try it out and let me know what you think! In yogic philosophy, the inhale resembles the future because it is of things to come still, and the exhale represents what has passed. It is common to experience anxiety and its parallel relationship to worries about the future, being part of the inhale. Whereas, with the exhale, what has passed is what we tend to let go of but what we don’t let go of becomes something that is heavy and keeps us de-pressed/depressed.

This is where we can expand this relationship of breath and karma. From my perspective, karma is generally understood per “cause and effect.” Also, with how the ego identifies itself with circumstances associated with time, the ego will either think futuristically or mull over the past, preventing itself from actually settling into the present moment. In the present moment, the ego doesn’t really know how to wrap itself around reality which is happening now. This is where many of us have or continue to become uncomfortable. This is the place the still point lives and it is sometimes even unbearable to really truly stop in the right now. It can feel scary. In the now, the ego actually comes to a halt. It’s unsettling here and therefore it will find some distraction, considering that it is a “Master Shape Shifter, and find something else to perpetuate its existence and create scenarios of suffering. Within traditions such as yoga, there are pranayam techniques (breath supported/controlled/disciplined exercises to manipulate the breath and in doing so these techniques anchor us in the moment. It inherently gives the mind something to do since that is its nature. The mind/ego want to be kept busy, otherwise they find ways to consume us. Furthermore, I see karma like the swinging of a pendulum. When the pendulum swings forward it represents the future and when the pendulum swings backward then it represents the past. When the pendulum stops swinging, at the center point/still point, it is in the present moment. When the mind goes into story-telling the pendulum has begun its movement yet again. If we notice the stories occurring, notice how its an interpretation of what is being experienced in the moment, and question what the story(ies) are coming up as by asking “is this true?” I like this exercise because Byron Katie has taught that the unraveling of the mind and understanding of what the mind is happens when we ask the simple question “is it true?”

There are a few modalities and techniques that I have come into contact with over the years that have the effect of inviting an individual to connect with a “still place.” Here are a few of them: Shiatsu, Thai Bodywork, Reiki, Polarity Therapy, CranialSacral/Visionary CranialSacral Therapy, and Shirodhara. It is even safe to say that at the ending of a general yoga class savasana (corpse pose) is another opportunity to explore this ‘Still’ place. Even massage offers this where at the end of the session you are left there to relax and integrate the session. Most often than not, this moment brings people to a deep state of relaxation, to the point of even dozing off or a deep sleep. Additionally, as part of traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and the Quaker culture, sitting in silence, sitting in meditation can be another way to explore stillness. Simply going into nature and connecting with any or all of the five elements can allow us entry way to stillness. This is a form of meditation. Please know that there are many other cultures, practices, and traditions that exist globally which can support this intention of stillness and therefore is not limited to the short list I’ve provided.

In conclusion, consider these words as the holidays roll in and you find yourself in the chaos. There is a choice on some level where slowing down is even an option if you heed to the silent whisper. Slowing down makes it easier to hear this whisper. As mentioned above, there are many modalities and techniques to choose from to help with this. These tools serve to remove the distractions so we can see what’s present when we are liberated from as many distractions as possible. In doing so, we’ll find more peace in our mind and nervous system, peace in our digestion, and overall we’ll have stronger immunity and feel happier. Start somewhere and practice makes perfect over time. Slowing down allows us to connect to a deeper part of ourselves. Can we make space for this? What will you find when you allow yourself the opportunity to slow down? What will you see? What don’t you want to see or feel? Check it out. Your inner you will thank you for doing so and for wondering about all this.

Finding the stillness may actually be something that happens not because you did something but because you chose something else to open up to what’s been here all along. It is similar to meditation where meditation is not something we do but something that happens as a results of not doing or not doing the things that actually prevent us from experiencing what is happening here in the moment when we slow down to it.

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.

DIGESTING THIS TIME OF YEAR AND THE HOLIDAYS

So many events are happening this time of year. We are transitioning from Fall into winter, Daylight Savings Time, holidays within various transitions, and we are headed into the darkest time of the year with less sunlight. There’s a lot to stay on top of and digest here. Digestion is the key to maintaining balance through these numerous changes and, in Ayurveda, it is understood that digestion is the key to health, disease prevention, and returning back into better health.

Digestion has to aspects to it. The first and primary source of digestion involves the actual digestive tract that consists of the mouth to the rectum and everything in between. The second component to digestion is the mind and what information it has to transform. Current science, has been validating the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda as it supports the understanding that the mind and digestion/gut/stomach are connected. We know that there are 80% of the serotonin receptors present in the gut and that this has an overall influence upon the mind.

In Ayurveda, it is taught that the state of mind influences whatever we are putting in our mouth. For instance, if I am eating while I am anxious, my digestion will respond to this mindset and influence the quality of digestion by causing it to be disturbed. Similarly, if I am depressed or angry or eating on the go (which is a nervous/unstable type of eating pattern), then my digestion will be influenced as such. Malabsorption will be one symptom, along with various others such as gas, bloating, mild constipation, indigestion, sluggish digestion, hyperacidity, and heaviness.

With all the different experiences happening this time of year, the mind is surely going to be affected by this. One way is skipping meals, or eating on the go, or eating quick foods that provide quick fixes such as foods containing high carbs and sweet tastes. Anxiety increases this time of year. Depression tends to be present for some. This can be due to many reasons such as being nostalgic and revisiting past memories or simply low levels of Vitamin D. Stress overall increases as holidays are demanding, the temperature has been variable and therefore affecting what we eat and how we dress, along with when and how much we even sleep. Stress can also influence our hydration. We may have more cocktails, increase smoking tendencies ranging from cigarettes to even marijuana. Drug use tends to increase this time of year as well.

According to the disease pathology in Ayurveda, we look at digestion first to see what is out of balance or what became out of balance in order to figure out how to regain balance. With all diseases, Ayurvedic management involves assessing digestion as this is the first foundation to correct. Digestive symptoms as mentioned above are indicators of what is going on and how to help resolve the situation as best as possible.


HERE ARE SOME SIMPLE CONSIDERATIONS FOR STAYING IN BALANCE:

1) Eat consistently and around the same time of day. Ideally, 2-3 meals. It’s okay to skip or have a very light breakfast if you’re feeling heavy in the morning. (Read more about the details in the article below on Digestion and Disease Prevention.) Here’s a fun image involving the general Ayurveda Clock (photo credit HERE)


Ayurveda clock.jpg

2) Food should definitely be warm and cooked this time of year.

3) Staying adequately hydrated is important. Drink teas, warm water, generally throughout the day.

4) When eating, sip a warm beverage with the meal. Don’t guzzle the liquids after eating as this will suppress digestion and increase indigestion.

5) Wait at least an hour to hour and a half after meals to put anything in your mouth, including food and beverages. Let digestion have time to do its thing.

6) Determine whether you have more acidity or more mucus in your digestive system. A test that Dr. John Douillard has shared in the past to assess this involved apple cider vinegar and then baking soda. It goes like this: If there is too much acid, mix 1/4 tsp of baking soda in a cup of water and drink before a meal. If you feel relief from the baking soda – which is extremely alkaline – you have too much acid. If you feel too little acid, mix 1 tbsp of lemon juice with 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar and drink before a meal. If you feel relief, you have too little acid. Here’s his article for more on this.

7) Don’t fall asleep after eating. A light rest is ok, and not for too long since this suppresses digestion as well.

8) Vigorous activities right after eating should be eating. This negatively affects digestion too! So no work outs or yoga class for a couple hours.

9) Late night meals should be avoided but in the cases that it can not be avoided then Ayurveda suggests the later the time you’re eating, the lighter the meal should be. Remember, digestive enzymes are strongest and peaking around noon time. These enzymes are least available in the morning, and around half as much as they are from lunch around dinner time. Don’t stress digestion.

10) Eat when you’re hungry versus skipping the meal or supplementing with something quick and unsustainable. In Ayurveda, we know that skipping meals or eating foods that aren’t sustainable affect the overall digestion and this also affects all the other systems such as immune system and nervous system. Additionally, the endocrine system, which involves the hormones, are affected.

11) Be mindful of emotional eating, especially with the holidays around us.

12) Get adequate rest and at the right time. Ideally, optimal sleep happens between 10 and 6. I generally tell my patients that 11 is ok and up by 7. This is pushing it slightly. The later we stay up, the more inflammation can increase. The later we sleep in, the heavier we feel and this will begin to show up not only in digestion but also the lymphatic system (which is dependent upon digestion and exercise.) Vata predominant individuals, should have around 8 hours sleep. Pitta’s around 7, and Kapha’s around 6, according to Ayurveda. It’s usually the case that Vata’s can’t or don’t sleep as easily, but Kaphas sleep a lot and want to sleep more. This will only increase the pre-existing qualities of the constitutional make up of the individual.

13) Continue to exercise if you already are and, if you aren’t, then this is a great time of year to make sure you are raising your heart rate by exercising and other cardiovascular activities.

14) Sleeping too long during the day, if you’re not a night worker, can also affect digestion.

15) Make sure you’re pooping daily. From 1-2 bowel movements throughout the day, with the first one being within the first hour of waking.

16) Getting oiled up, inside and out is important to keep things from drying out. Kapha’s benefit from less or light oil. Pitta’s from moderate oil, and Vata’s from more oil but not too much depending on how prevalent Vata is. Then there is always the type of oil, along with the fact that all oils applied topically should be warm, never cold! Internal application involves administering oil to the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and even rectum in some cases. Additionally, internal use of massage includes cooking with certain oils like ghee and coconut.

17) Massage is important as it helps to manage the stress of the mind and body. Get one as soon as you can and regularly.

18) Avoiding as much as possible anything cold, frozen, and icy. This is just not good for the digestive system and body overall for so many reasons. Read THIS article on the harm of bringing anything cold into the body.

19) Meditation is a great tool to help manage the mind stuff. There are many types of meditative practices and meditation can work for everyone when you find the right technique that can keep your attention. Research and try different techniques and you’ll eventually find the one that works for you in the present moment and is your tool to manage the mind and its thoughts. Some examples of such tool are art, drawing, nature hikes, focusing on a candle, yoga nidra (a technique you can find on YouTube), sitting in a quiet space, dancing, observing the space between objects, and self-help or philosophical books (to engage and disengage the mind.) I remember my first meditation teacher saying that meditation was defined as “an interrupted flow of awareness on one object of consciousness.”


RELEVANT ARTICLES:

Digestion and Disease Prevention- CLICK HERE

Seasonal Transitions- CLICK HERE and HERE

Managing Colds and Cold months- CLICK HERE and HERE and HERE

Feeling Anxious- CLICK HERE

Seasonal Depression- CLICK HERE

Story of Disease- CLICK HERE

Importance of Massage- CLICK HERE

Oiling Up- CLICK HERE


DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.


RIDING THE WAVE OF SEASONAL TRANSITION

Here we have it. Summer is over and fall has just begun. The summer has given way to autumn and nature is helping us to wind down from the summer heat and encourages us to begin our way inward as the outer temperatures change. We are going from a warm climate to a cool, and soon to be cold climate. The windows or air conditioning systems are shutting, and the heating systems of the home will turn on. Summer clothes shift to warmer garments and layers. We go from feeling hot to cooler/cold.

The fall brings us the qualities of cold, dry, and light. The air gets thinner and colder. Dryness starts to occur as the fall foliage changes and trees become bare. Nature goes into hibernation, and the animals are starting to save food for the winter months ahead.

DIGESTION and THE BODY

It is normal this time of year to notice an increase in food cravings. This is the time of year, menu wise, that we focus on increasing protein and fats. The lining of our entire digestive system acclimates to the climate change as the microbes shed its current layer and form a layer that is prepared to handle the summer harvest and wintery foods such as apples, pears, figs, dates, pumpkins, potatoes, sweet potatoes, kale, and other ground veggies. Digestion itself has a centripetal force about it. During the summer months as heat is prevalent in the atmosphere, the body adjusts itself so it doesn’t overheat by focusing the blood away from the summer, centrifugally, which is the direction of center towards extremities. Whereas, in the colder months the force is now centripetally where the blood is more centered around digestion and the core of the body maintains homeostasis during the winter months to keep us warmer and to digest and store foods accordingly. The body is amazing at self-regulating itself!

MIND

This is where it can get trickier. The increase in cravings for foods and certain foods that are savory and fatty can become more obvious this time of year as the body wants to store but there is also the mental component that the mind seeks to balance itself by grounding itself in ways through these foods as well. The nervous system, which is governed by VATA according to Ayurveda, is affected more this time of year since Vata becomes vitiated in its own season. It is not uncommon that people, especially of Vata Dosha or with a Vata imbalance, that they have an increase in anxiety, insomnia, dryness, and constipation.

Let’s also mention that summer ends when people return from summer vacation, and children go back to school. There is a lot of rushing around to get supplies, meetings, classes, work, etc. and then the holiday’s start to roll in which means an increase in activities inwardly (versus summer which involves more outer activities of a different quality and nature) and holiday parties, holiday’s in general. A momentum begins right as summer begins its transition and this momentum picks up speed until around the first or second week of January, where at this point, after all the holiday’s, spending, eating, drinking, meetings, and parties that many people are exhausted, depleted, lethargic, even depressed (due to the rush coming to a halt after all the months of festivities, people looking at bank accounts to see how much was spent during the holidays’, and even less sun exposure which causes SAD “Seasonal Affective Disorder” for some individuals that are that sensitive), and people simply crash and become ill. This isn’t coincidental because we are at that point transitioning into the next phase known as late winter/early spring which is governed by Kapha.

BODY AND MIND

Body and mind can work together or separate. The goal of Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, and Holistic Medicine overall is to help regain the balance between the body, mind, and spirit. It is mainly when all three are out of balance that people generally incur imbalances. By aligning with nature which includes cycles of the day that involve the natural 24 hour cycle of dawn (sunrise), peak sun time (at lunch), and dusk (sunset), and by connecting with the cycles of the year as per the seasons and seasonal transitions, then people can remain more on steady water with health.

It is when people sleep when they should be awake, or when people skip meals when they should be eating, or when people stay awake when they should be eating, or when people are eating cold and raw foods during cold months when warm foods and beverages should be taken, and countless instances such as these that increases the chances of disease manifesting. The body is our guide and when people are in balance….we will know it by how great we feel. When people are out of balance, the body tells this story as well through symptoms. The body communicates through symptoms and it is our job to pay attention to however big or small the symptoms are BUT more often than not, the mind creates a distraction or is easily distracted and takes the attention away from the body. Don’t worry though, the symptoms of the body will only continue to get bigger until it grabs our attention enough as it is screaming for help. That’s the short of it. That’s the simplicity of this unique system we all possess. Amazing is the intelligence of the body! The mind is very intelligent for sure but it makes a better servant than master.

In my practice, I work with many many patients on all of this, and then some. I discuss with my patients, from day one, about proper diet and lifestyle changes/adjustments that have a major impact on everyone ranging from simple health issues to complex health issues. I get to have the chance to witness over and over and over how profound Ayurveda is with its wisdom and then I have the passion to share these tools with countless others in order to help so many people find balance in their bodies and in their lives. In working with my patients we don’t only address the body and symptoms but we also work together on the mind-stuff that can be symptomatic and problematic. This journey starts even before I offer suggestions on herbs and the various treatment sessions.

HERE ARE SOME GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS TO CONSIDER:

1) CONSTITUTION: Learn what your constitution is and how far you have deviated from that natural level of homeostasis that your body was born with. This can occur through a lengthy consultation. This becomes the personal road map to your health and is a vital tool that you can carry with you day to day to become more in charge of your health and well-being. Knowing whether you are Vata, Pitta, or Kapha and its several configurations will tell you more or less how to navigate each season, time of day, and period of your life personally.

2) MINDFULNESS: A) Once you’re aware of your constitutional needs you can make choices that best support you. B) Take a pause and look at where you are in this moment. Notice if historically you tend to be that person that gets sick this time of year or just after December/January. Ask yourself what you have done to become ill in the past around this time of year and see if there are other choices you can make that involve doing something differently so that you have a different outcome. I know some people still say “I’m going to die from something anyways so why bother?” My response has always been, “yes, that is true, but we don’t necessarily have to fall apart getting there.” Health, for the most part is a choice. Even if there is some circumstances that created ill health, there can be some choices made to reduce the discomfort around such experiences. We are going to die for sure but we can go out slowly, one way or another. The health of this body also depends on mind, and with the right mind we can make better choices to take care of ourselves the best we can and reduce afflictions.

3) SLOW DOWN! SLOW DOWN! SLOW DOWN! What’s the rush anyways? When we don’t take the time to slow down, whether when we are chewing food or really being with what is right now, we not only get indigestion but we also get an upset mind, which then spills over into the body and this creates a vicious cycle. Not to mention that if people aren’t taking care of ourselves as we should, especially by heeding the warning signs of the body and whatever symptoms may be produced or producing, the body will will and eventually cause us to not only slow down but eventually stop, maybe not death just yet (though sometimes illness can make us feel that way) but definitely having us bedridden for days or weeks. Ironically enough, some people in this situation curse and yell at the body say it’s an “inconvenience” to get sick or to get sick right now, but the reality is that the body has been tell them all along to slow down and take care of the little things so that they don’t develop into bigger things. When the time is taken to attend to the little things, the body will bounce back quicker because it was acknowledged and cared for. Why create what can seem like an enemy relationship with the body when we have the opportunity to have a loving relationship instead?

HERE ARE SOME PREVIOUS ARTICLES WRITTEN TO HELP WITH WHAT ELSE CAN BE DONE:

Feeling Anxious? Read THIS article on Anxiety.

Would you like better health? Read THIS article on Digestion and Disease.

Wanting to get more into rhythm with nature? Read THIS article on Ritucharya.

Wanting to get more into rhythm with the daily cycle? Read THIS article on Dinacharya.

Concerns around Colds, Flus, and Viruses? Read THIS article on catching a cold.

Seasonal Allergies? Read THIS article on Seasonal Allergies.

Concerns around Dryness? Read THIS article on catching dryness.

Concerns around sleep? Read THIS article on sleep.

Want to learn more about how your body is your guide? Read THIS article on it.

Want to know more about balance? Read THIS article.

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

HIV AND HIV RELATED INFLAMMATION ARTICLE (PART 2)

I am proud to share the second part of this article that was originally written as a 42 page paper for the California College of Ayurveda. This topic touches me deeply and personally on many levels. See part one below.

This article was reformed into the current article and is posted with permission from the Ayurveda Journal of Health.

Reference:

Ayurveda Journal of Health

Summer 2018

Volume 16, Issue 2 ISSN 2372-1804

***Beginning on page 19

ARTICLE ON HIV

THE SELF AND SACRED RITUALS (Part 2): RITUCHARYA (Seasonal Practices)

In part 1, I discussed Dinacharya (See link HERE) which involves daily practices according to Ayurveda that helps us to remain in balance. It is also important to note that this understanding of the importance of the daily rhythms coincides with the current science around Circadian Rhythm. By aligning with this natural rhythm there is an increased level of success regarding well-being and balance. Ayurveda and Yoga both emphasize the importance of being connected to nature for health and well-being. The practices around Dinacharya (daily practices/rituals) and Ritucharya (seasonal practices) is a sacred practice because it reminds us of and aligns us with the nature on many levels. Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine both state that it is generally the result of being out of touch with nature that disease has an opportunity to express itself and by reconnecting with this we can regain a significant amount of our health, if not potentially fully restore it or at least come close. 

Ritucharya is defined in Ayurveda as “Seasonal Practices”. What does this mean? We know that there is a general rhythm, regardless of where we live, that seasons/times of the year change.  When we pay close attention, we can see how one season gives way to the next. Winter transitions into spring, spring transitions into summer, and summer transitions into fall. It’s a natural cycle. In Ayurveda, we are aware of what I like to call “windows” where there is a small period just before the full onset of a given season that thing’s get a little unstable as the season transitions from the previous one to the next one. There are “three windows.” 

In observing the current season of summer and as it is slowly transitioning into fall, September is a “window” whereas the summer is ending, and the heat starts to lighten up, the cool breezes of autumn slowly start to creep in. The qualities of dry and cool start to infuse into the atmosphere. This tends to be the time of year when people get sick because they are still acting as though it is summer rather than prepare for the next season. It is important to treat each day uniquely as the season transitions because by not doing so a stress occurs and the body is compromised. Common ailments are allergies, colds, flu, and similar conditions. Anxiety is common and increases for some during these upcoming months.

As Fall enters into the winter months, the next window consists of the period around the month of January where the qualities in the atmosphere are heavier, denser, and colder. This is another time of year where individuals are getting sick/sicker with the common conditions like asthma and upper respiratory infections. Seasonal Affective Disorder also plays a role for some during this time of year due to the lack of sunlight and Vitamin D deficiencies. Anxiety may still be present for some and/or it may become depression of sorts around this time of year.

The following window occurs around the month of May where the qualities in the atmosphere consist of warming up and lightening up, as we transition back into the summer months that bring either dry heat or humidity.  Allergies are common, colds, flu's, other types of viruses, and even rashes or other inflammatory conditions may increase for some during this period and as we continue into summer.

This is a breakdown of how a season appears according to Ayurveda:

Vata Season → Fall/Early Winter

Qualities = dry, cold, light

 

Pitta Season → Summer

Qualities = hot, moist, light or heavy (depending on geography)

 

Kapha Season → Late Winter/Spring

Qualities = Heavy, cold, moist

It is important to note as part of being harmonious with nature that the lining of the digestive system, that is amazingly rich with numerous microbes, sheds its lining and prepares for the next season. Indigestion can typically occur when we eat foods and take in beverages that are not aligned with the harmony of digestion/constitution. According to Ayurveda, it is understood that disease manifestation generally begins with digestive disturbances.  It is understood in Ayurveda that there are four many types/qualities that define and describe digestion/metabolism/digestive fire (jathar agni). 

These four are Sama Agni (Balanced Digestion, Vishama Agni (Variable Digestion), Tikshna Agni (Sharp Digestion), and Manda Agni (Sluggish Digestion). Balanced Agni is when there are minimal to no digestive symptoms. Variable Digestion involves an imbalance of digestion that typically consists of gas, bloating, distention, mild to moderate constipation. Sometimes the person with this appetite wants to eat, forgets to eat, doesn't eat much, eats a lot, eats on the go,  eats inconsistently and at inconsistent times (aligned with Dinacharya practices).  This category of digestion is associated with Vata Digestion. Imagine cooking on a low flame, with the fan blowing. What happens? Food is not cooked properly. 

Pitta Digestion is that of Tikshna, which is sharp. Sharp means that the fire is very high and metabolism is basically too much and breaks down food faster than the body can process.  Imagine cooking on a really high flame. What happens? Food gets burned. Kapha Digestion is Sluggish. Imagine cooking on a really really low flame, a large pot of stew. It takes forever to cook and is much heavier in quality. 

To follow Ritucharya Practices, here are some things that can be done.

WHAT TO DO?

1) PRACTICAL On hot days, still, dress and eat accordingly. What does that mean? Generally, lighter and shorter, cooler clothing, along with juicier and cooler foods. On cooler days, dress and eat accordingly. This means generally dressing warmer and eating warmer foods. 

2) DIGESTION: Know what your constitutional tendencies are and how they correlate with the seasons.  Does your digestion feel a little better, as a Vata type, in the summer? Worse in the fall/winter/spring? Does your digestion feel better, as a Pitta type, in the fall/winter/spring? Does your digestion, as a Kapha type, feel worse in late winter/spring and better in the summer? There's no coincidence. The elements know themselves and it is typically the opposite qualities that bring harmony to a digestive system out of balance. By watching this relationship with food and seasons you can get a pretty good idea of what your digestion is like and what it needs in order to feel better. If you're willing to listen, that's a different story.

3) SUN, MOON, AND SEASONS: Remember the sacredness of the changing seasons in general. It is truly a treasure to be living in a human body and experiencing life and our connection as part of it. The seasons, the rise and fall of the sun ((solar cycles that include the yearly calendar and the sun going from shining longer in the sky to less in the sky (such as equinoxes), as well as sunrise and sunset), and, the moon (lunar) cycles. Meditation on such concepts, taking time to reflect and really notice what is changing and what remains can be a powerful practice that helps us to  connect with nature and balance our well-being. 

4) HERBS: Here are some herbs that are great for balancing changes/stresses and can be generally beneficial when transitioning from seasons.  Adaptogenic, circulatory stimulants, immune tonics, even nerve tonics.  It is also important to note that checking with an Ayurvedic practitioner can make sure which ones are best based on your constitution.  These herbs are Ashwagandha, Ginger, Cinnamon, Turmeric, Guduchi, Amalaki, Triphala, and Brahmi/Gotu Kola. Some vitamins such as Vitamin D with K3 and Vitamin B Complex can be helpful. In fact, Vitamins A, B, C, D are great! but definitely Vitamin D and B Complex.

5) SEASONAL COOKING: To add to point # 1 above, Eastern traditions such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, emphasize eating according to the seasons. Within this, Ayurveda adds that we should eat according to not only the season but also with the understanding of what our individual constitutions and quality of digestion in mind, as mentioned in #2 and the above note discussing the four types of digestion.  Knowing this in and of itself is a profound hallmark contribution of Ayurvedic medicine in understanding not only disease management but healthcare and disease prevention.

6) OIL THERAPY: Ayurveda takes pride in understanding how important the skin is for health and immunity. Certain practices involve massages and application of oil to various points on the body are conducive to health. See this LINK for more details. 

 

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

 

 

MASSAGE AND LOVING YOURSELF, GETTING LOVED!

I was recently inspired by a couple of my patients to write more about massage, it's importance and my personal relationship with it.

You see, within the past couple weeks, one of my patients who was in his mid 80's started to come and see me a year ago.  He would thoroughly enjoy his sessions and felt great benefits on many levels.  I admired this patient because he was a very gentle soul, with a kind heart, a brilliant smile, and loving touch when he would shake my hand hello and goodbye. It was truly an honor to work with him. Unfortunately, he suddenly died, unexpectedly. This brought me great sadness for many reasons. Upon meeting his family at the funeral proceedings a couple of his children (one being a current patient of mine, and dear friend) came to me and said "he really loved coming to see me. He looked forward to his sessions."  This touched me deeply to know that seeing this amazing man every couple of weeks for a year would have such lovely things to share around it with his family. I was humbled by this.

A week after his funeral, his daughter-in-law spoke of my giving him massages and how happy he felt from receiving them. She then stated how important it is to get a massage and how so many people go without that contact, that connection, that full-body loving touch. I agreed. I relate as my body is designed in a way that contact is extra important for me and my nervous system but not just any contact, loving contact. Full attention. Few and far between are these experiences. I offer this through all the hands-on sessions I conduct daily. It's an asset I bring to my practice.

For me, massage has been a part of my life for a very long time. How long? Honestly, this is the truth. I have been massaging since I was 5 years old. How so? My stepfather introduced me to massage and would have me practice on him as he would work on me. This continued into my teens and I was massaging my mom's and brother's friends regularly. Then, I was in undergrad and as part of exchanges for rides and dinners, I would massage my friends. One of my dearest and closest friends encouraged me after completing my bachelors to get a quick certificate somewhere so that I can legitimately do the massages. So that's what I did. I started a shiatsu school and continued to build on that for many years to come.  Read more about me through my bio HERE. 

In all my years of doing massage, it has and continues to bring me great pleasure. It is another way for me to connect with individuals. My hands love the feeling of the oils meeting the body and exploring the terrane of a being who is open to receiving. There are so many benefits to touch and it surprises me when I still hear of an individual who has never had a massage.  The kings and queens of old times (and probably still until this day) recognized the benefits of regular massage.  

Massage is more than just about luxury. Is really taking care of yourself considered a luxury or is it a necessity (that brings great pleasure and benefits)?When individuals tell me that they can't afford it I ask them "is there really a price too good health?"  From my experience, massaging regularly (self-massage and receiving sessions) can increase health and longevity. The aging process slows down since oils are therapeutic, especially when designed for the individuals' constitution and warmed up, and the manipulation of the body's tissues supports digestion and lymphatic health. Not to mention the benefits on the nervous system by encouraging the body to relax.  Getting a massage helps to ground us in our bodies. It helps to connect the body and mind, and by relaxing, we get into the heart of the matter by coming into ourselves more fully. Massage is a profound practice!

I highly recommend that everyone gets at least 1-2 massages a month, if not weekly.  I have touched hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of bodies. It brings me great pleasure to do so and to hold a presence for anything to unfold as you are supported with loving care, and non-judgment.  It isn't uncommon to have deep releases such as tears, fear, and laughter as part of the session as this is the body releasing whatever exists in the tissues and nervous system, causing you to feel lighter and more balanced, more connected, and more at home within your own body. Why not? This is your home, your temple, untill the last breath. Why not enjoy what's in it? Your body will thank you!

Taken from a recent article I wrote HERE (called Optimizing Health Through a Tripod of Health Support: Yoga, Personal Training, and Massage)

MASSAGE

Massage is an interesting and important asset to the practices of yoga and personal training. Yoga and personal training sessions involve a certain level of proactive engagement for the most part. In that, when moving through the exercises of yoga (except for moments of savasana, the relaxation pose) and when engaging in workout techniques there is an actual involvement.  Massage, on the other hand, you're simply laying on a table, breathing, and focusing on letting go and surrendering while someone is working with the body. This in and of itself is an important act because it encourages a level of relaxation and integration that is provided by another individual, as well as a different type of molding to the body. While on a massage table, the lymphatic system can be encouraged in a different way. The muscles after firing can come into a calm and quieter state. The parasympathetic system is strongly supported when an individual can surrender and let go.  "Working out the kinks" is usually easier when on a massage due to a hands-on approach. This increases overall functionality and efficiency of the body. 

There are many types of massages ranging from subtle to deep techniques; such as Swedish, intuitive, shiatsu, Thai, rolfing, and deep tissue.  Finding a massage therapist that you can connect with and that has a holistic approach and/or works well with holistic approaches can best meet you and support the desired outcomes. 

Lastly, If you are reading this article and are one of those people who has never had a massage, please contact me for an appointment and mention that you haven't. I'll discount your first session to the same special for the Birthday Rate.  See HERE.  Once you get started you'll wonder how you hadn't done this before and how you can continue to do so. This is why I'm happy and grateful to be here now, and many years to come!

 

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed by a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

HEALTHY SKIN: FOOD FOR THOUGHT

In Ayurveda, it is understood that health depends on the quality of health within digestion. Digestion has two aspects to it which include the body (the physical part of digestion itself) and mind (being that the mind is processing/transforming/absorbing/integrating information.) What we put into our bodies via the mouth is equally as important as what we expose our mind to. The building up of the body occurs with proper nutrients. The strengthening of the mind depends on practices that help to bring balance to it as much as possible.  Ayurveda has much written on this and can be explored at a later time.  Suffice it to say, the health of the skin has many contributing factors. We could also include in this the understanding that genetics plays a role. Ayurveda would go as far as asking "what foods did the parents ingest?"  Additionally, it is understood in Ayurveda that even though there may be a genetic predisposition towards some condition, what is it in a person's diet and lifestyle that would contribute towards increasing the likelihood of that condition manifesting based on a gene expression? Just because there's a tendency it doesn't mean it actually always has to develop. What allows it to? That's what Ayurveda has us think about.  Also, it is accepted in Ayurveda that even if all efforts have been made to prevent something from developing that if something still persists or exists, then this is part of the individual's inner work to find balance with and accept as part of their human journey. Yoga and Ayurveda can certainly help with all this. 

I remember many years ago a patient came to me for Ayurvedic Facial treatments because she noticed that she had many wrinkles and wanted me to help her to get rid of them. She mentioned that she recently started smoking (after the age of 50) due to her divorce from a marriage that ended after almost 25  years.  She said "I know you're going to tell me to stop smoking but I'm not willing to. I just want you to help me with the wrinkles." I told her we would do her best and that there was no point in me telling her that smoking wasn't a good idea because she already knew that. What I wanted to do was to support her in understanding the root cause that drove her to smoke and to redirect her stress in a different way, as we worked on the skin issue she came in with We started with her diet, which is where any kind of healthcare should be addressed. 

Skin is a very meticulously complex system like much of the body. It is the largest organ of the body. This includes the lining of the digestive tract starting in the mouth and ending in the rectum, transitioning to the outside of what we see. It has an average weight of around 12 pounds.  It is also an organ of immunity, breathable, and an organ of absorption.  The health of the skin will determine the overall health of an individual.  Beauty comes from the inside and makes its way outside. This makes sense considering that the body and its organs, tissues, and cells are made up of what we put into our body.  If we want to understand the health of an individual, we can see what foods exist in the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator. Similarly, when we want to understand the health of an individual we assess what they are putting into their bodies. 

Tvak Sara loosely translates to "healthy skin" in Ayurveda. What is the general definition of healthy skin according to Ayurveda? Ayurveda says "Excellence of Rasa Dhatu. The excellence of skin can be characterized by unctuous/oily, softness/smooth, clarity of complexion, glow, and fine deeply rooted lustrous hair."  It is important to note that the word Rasa has several meanings and in Ayurveda one of them refers to the skin because it relates to plasma formation which is a vital nutrient of the body in which other cells and tissues require for health. 

According to Ayurveda, we can classify skin types based on general constitutional considerations like this:

Vata skin tends to be dry, cracking, cold, rough, flaky, scaly, thin, and with small lesions. Complexion tends to be dull or dusty.

Pitta skin tends to be moist, prone to red rashes, hot, red, inflamed, smooth, and moderately thick. Complexion tends to be rosy or ruddy.

Kapha skin tends to be moist, prone to pustular lesions, cold, smooth, mainly thick. Complexion tends to be pale. 

For the purposes of this article, here are some considerations to have in place to best support the health of the skin:

1) PROPER HYDRATION. Not just water but also electrolyte boosting beverages that are like natural "gatorade's." Proper hydration also includes knowing how much fluid intake based on your constitution, as well as understanding factors that involve whether you're working out and sweating a lot, or not. Whether you're in the heat a lot, or not.  Overly hydrating with water can have a depletive quality as well, as this puts stress and strain on the kidneys and cells overall. 

2) PROPER NUTRITION What does the food look like? Is it full and bountiful? Are you getting the adequate protein, carbs, veggies, fiber, and oils? Are you eating on the go or sitting with your food? Are you distracted while eating? Overeating? Undereating? Eating healthier foods or eating fast foods? Are the foods highly processed? Whole? 

3) PROPER EXERCISE. Supports oxygenation and strength to the skin and all connective tissue. Of course, over-exercising can also cause stress and strain on the body which will have negative consequences on the skin. Overly sweating can also cause harm internally and therefore external what we see, as a result of dehydration and depletion.  There is a perfect balance and your body will tell you in many ways.

4) PROPER REST/SLEEP. This is a rejuvenative process for the body and stress reduction. Sleeping is a natural anti-inflammatory process (usually and ideally.) Staying up late at night increases inflammation and increases aging, due to the various levels of stress. Daytime sleep lacks the adequate and full qualities of sleep that nighttime sleep can offer.  Simply following our internal clocks, known as the circadian rhythm, can be our guide. Trust it! It's been around for millennia and since the dawn of "human." Check this article HERE for more sleep information

5) ALCOHOL consumption and excess consumption can be an accelerant in aging.  It is depletive and consumptive overall, like adding fuel to a fire that causes the breakdown of tissues.  The body tries to remove alcohol as fast as it can from the body through sweating and urination.  This tends to be why we pee a lot when drinking, usually. The body views alcohol as a type of poison, especially in excess.  Due to this, the body ages faster over time. Therefore, avoid or really minimize alcohol intake. Properly hydrate the body when alcohol is being consumed but remember that too much fluid intake of any kind will also wreak havoc in the body. Alcohol is acidic and affects the pH levels of the body which not only puts stress on the liver and kidneys but the whole body.  There is no judgment of drinking but Ayurveda would ask the question "what is the root of the drinking?" and "what is it about drinking that acts as a supplement and support for something else going on in the deeper terrain of being human and consciousness?"

6) SMOKING, in general, but specifically cigarettes we know also increases aging as well as this prevents the strengthening of tissues, as well as compromising the oxygen resources in the body.  The elasticity of the skin is lost over time and based on the amount of smoking.  Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor and reduces blood flow and oxygen to the skin which means the skin lacks nutrients for strengthening and building.  The lungs support oxygenation of the blood which feeds all cells in the body and compromising such a vital part of existence causes severe harm. There's no way around it. There is no judgment around the smoking but a question Ayurveda asks is "what is the smoking a supplementation for?" and "what is at the root that causes an individual to smoke?" Smoking is a learned behavior. It is not one that comes naturally. 

7) Oils and Oil therapy is highly recognized in Ayurveda as being a major asset to supporting immunity, vitality, peace of mind, and healthy skin.  Ayurveda suggests the proper intake of oils via ingestion and via topical application. Oils should always be applied warm, and based on constitutional necessities. Remember, the skin IS an organ of absorption and anything, I mean ANYTHING, we put on the skin is getting absorbed. There is a saying in Ayurveda that "If you're not able to eat it, then why would you put it on your skin."  Technically, any oil is good but the best oil is the oil used as per the constitution. For the purposes of understanding internal oil suggestions consist of: Fish Oils, Flax Seed Oil, Ghee, Coconut Oil. External topical oils that are really good include Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Sesame, Coconut, Olive, and Almond.  Within this category of oil therapy we can add how amazing and vital it is for the body to get massaged regularly.  This has so many benefits, including how it helps the skin to be healthier, but also involves contact itself. A loving touch can help the skin and overall mind and body to feel amazing!

8) HYGIENE/SKIN PRODUCTS that aren't natural should be minimized or avoided completely.  I'm sorry to say but this is for your own good. The typical products such as deodorants, hair sprays, colognes/perfumes, laundry detergents/softeners,  powders like talcum, and any other products that are meant to treat the skin, should be considered harmful if it's not natural. The body is made of nature, natural elements and minerals. When we apply substances that aren't pure and natural we are force-feeding the body to eat junk which has an overall negative influence on health and vitality, causing stress and inviting harmful conditions in many ways.  How do we deal with this? See point #7 above.  If you're one of those individuals that says "using natural products doesn't feel the same" or "doesn't work" or "doesn't work the same"...then Ayurveda says see point #1-7 for understanding.  It is very difficult to treat the external parts of the body when the internal balance hasn't been established.  It's like putting on a new fresh coat of paint on a wall that's peeling or a wall that the sheetrock is slowly crumbling. It just can't be done, but people try. Nature always wins in the end, so why not give it more of a chance and look at the internal landscape so that the outer architecture can be amazing?!

9) AVOID SUN during peak times as the sun can be damaging and cause the skin to breakdown. We know that many forms of skin cancers develop as a result of consistent and direct sun exposure, especially when the proper measures aren't taken such as using appropriate sunscreens (which tend not to be natural in the source but helpful with regard to protecting the skin probably better than natural sunscreens.)  Collagen breaks down. Damage occurs at the junction of the epidermis and dermis resulting in an inability of the cells and microstructures to receive proper nutrients.  Also, too much UV-B radiation affects DNA causing mutations that lead to cancer. It is also important to note that there are several skin types that range from pale to olive skin to dark and darker skin.  This also plays a role in protection from the sun due to melanin (skin pigmentation) and the lighter the skin the more prone to skin damage and other issues with aging skin, such as wrinkles. 

10) SUPPLEMENTS can be helpful as well, but again, this is optimized when diet and lifestyle are being supportive. Supplements like Vitamin A, B, B-complex, C, D, E, Magnesium, Zinc, and Iron help on many levels and contribute to the whole package of well-being. If you're not sure of your levels in the blood, there are lab tests to examine this and determine what vitamins and minerals may be lacking. Or, the alternative is to slowly introduce one of these and spend an extensive time with individual ones and determine what you're feeling like. No one knows you better than you when you tune in and trust the inner physician and inner wisdom. The body knows best!

11) COFFEE can also be harmful, in excess.  The western dosage of coffee has exceeded the normal quantity that the body can actually handle healthily. A good example of coffee consumption is by observing traditional European countries.  They don't have 8-12-16-20-30 ounces in one sitting.  These amounts are highly toxic for the body. If there is pre-existing inflammation, coffee will only magnify this. If there isn't pre-existing inflammation, then the excess consumption of coffee will create inflammation. Coffee is acidic and reduces the pH in the body and has a rippling effect overall on health.  Ayurveda would ask "why is this much coffee needed?"  We would determine where the imbalance is and what coffee is doing as a supplement for this.  What is lacking? Not enough energy? No time to eat? (because coffee is an appetite suppressant.) Is it used to stay up late? Is there an emotional comfort around it? Is it just the taste and smell?  A little bit goes a long way. Ayurveda would also suggest coffee based on an individuals' constitution.  For instance, Pitta predominant individuals would benefit from less coffee for sure. Pitts predominant individuals are heated naturally and coffee is heating due to its acidic nature. Vata predominant individuals should generally stay away (especially if they have anxiety) since they are naturally stimulated and coffee is a natural stimulant. Kapha predominant types would benefit from some, but not too much as this negatively affects the fat/adipose tissue, as well as sugars/glucose/insulin relationship.  European dosage, which consists of infrequent small cups is best, if consumed at all. 

12) TO STRESS OR NOT TO STRESS! It is already is known that stress is considered the number one killer. Stress affects everything, body, mind, and spirit. This has to do with mind.  As mind is agitated, so shall digestion be.  As mentioned before, when digestion is compromised, then what happens internally will express itself externally. Yoga, massage, meditation are all great tools to de-stress. Seeing a therapist or counselor/couch of sorts as well.  Connecting with nature, either camping, hiking, or simply being outdoors and around less technologies, less people, and more with critters, plants, trees, lakes, mountains, and the beauty of sunrises, sunsets and everything in between can all be helpful methods of supporting de-stressing by decompressing and discharging these highly sensitive and highly charged up nervous systems.

Ayurveda is not a system of "spot treatments", "spa treatments", or "quickies/quick fixes" around getting optimal health.  It is a system of holistic medicine that requires investment and discipline to a certain degree. Sometimes simple antidotes can be successful but that is simply a moment of grace.  Usually, the right foundation has to be established in order to obtain the desired results that are expected of the body and mind. 

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed by a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

 

HIV AND HIV RELATED INFLAMMATION ARTICLE (PART 1)

I am proud to share this article that was originally written as a 42 page paper for the California College of Ayurveda.  This topic touches me deeply and personally on many levels. 

This article was reformed into the current article and is posted with permission from the Ayurveda Journal of Health.

Reference:

Ayurveda Journal of Health

Spring 2018

Volume 16, Issue 2 ISSN 2372-1804

ARTICLE ON HIV

 

OPTIMIZING HEALTH THROUGH A TRIPOD OF HEALTH SUPPORT: YOGA, PERSONAL TRAINING, AND MASSAGE

I remember many years ago, the first time since I was in undergraduate, I set foot in a gym to work with a personal trainer and have had over a decade of experience with yoga. I walked in and told the trainer what my goals were which were to simply build some muscle and gain more tone. I told him that he shouldn't work my body like he does other clients due to the efficiency my body has access to due to my yoga and Ayurvedic practices. He looked at me with inquisitiveness and some disbelief. This trainer began his protocol with me and within a couple sessions, he had noticed how quickly my body was responding to the exercises he was suggesting. He was surprised and asked me how I was able to do all this. I reminded him of my strong foundation in yoga and Ayurveda.  Yoga provided tools needed with breath, body, and mind. Ayurveda created a context of understanding my constitution and the best diet aligned with the physical exercises for both the yogic aspect of my practice as well as the personal training exercises. 

This has been an article in the making for some time but recently I have felt inspired to complete it and put it out there. Over the years, I have worked with many individuals that have been personal trainers and/or seeing personal trainers. With this experience I have been able to support them with their optimal goals of health and fitness, maximizing the potential, and increasing the effectiveness of their intentions, exponentially.  I have had the honor of supporting individuals in gaining amazing results with simple considerations and some "tweaking" here and there as a means of refinement.  Trainers that I have worked with had their diets cleaned up. I initially noticed significant deficits in this department that have shown up as specific symptoms such as digestive symptoms, sleep issues, bad breath, inflammation, and overall nervous system and mind agitations/afflictions as a result of the general regimens supported. Patients I have seen would carry out this pattern as well. 

I truly love the intention of increasing awareness about health and yoga and Ayurveda has been highly valuable and unique, providing a profound approach to health and well being.

This "Tri-Pod of Health Support" concept and practice has been my own creation based on my numerous experiences.  The Tri-Pod consists primarily of Yoga, Personal Training, and Massage.  Since my yoga training is strongly interwoven with Ayurveda, based on classical training, the components of Diet and Sleep automatically fall into the Tri-Pod by nature. Ayurveda is a vast complete holistic science and art of living.  Furthermore, Ayurveda brings with it a whole body of knowledge and experience that takes everything to a whole other level of consciousness and effectiveness, by far and more than any other system available. 

YOGA

Most people are familiar with yoga but the yoga I am referring to is more of the traditional uses of the asana's (physical practices) that aren't rooted in outward intensity or goal-driven practices such as obtaining abs; let alone the yoga that reflects gymnastic/olympic/athletic type of protocols. Yoga as a serene practice for increasing and/or heightening a persons inner and outer experiences with the body, mind, and spirit. Yoga in the form I am referring to involves a different quality that invites us to really get to know ourselves and cultivate our inner wisdom. The many asanas of yoga are designed to access different parts of our body that no other physically driven practice has been devised.  Yoga is a complete practice, especially when it is connected with Ayurveda, in many ways that grant us an ability to maximize our performance when combined with other regimens and traditions. I encourage it to be a firm foundation for other practices to combine with it. 

Within yoga, there are various forms.  Generally, Ayurveda would categorize practices according to an individuals' constitution. For instance,  Vata and Pitta predominant types benefit best from Hatha, Vinyasa, Yin, and Restorative. Kapha predominant types are best served by Kundalini, Ashtanga, Anusara, and Hot Yoga.  It can be more specific than this based on individual needs and desires but still integrated with the principles of Ayurveda in order to optimize the approach to balance and well-being.  When we get more into the idea of intensity type of practices than there are various degrees of how this can be interpreted. For instance, a Pitta predominant individual may resist a balancing practice that isn't as intense because of the like intensity. This intensity for them could further imbalance them. Additionally,  a calming practice could seem to be challenging since these individuals enjoy the intensity and the opposite quality can seem less so, but it is ironic to consider the understanding that an intense person would be challenged by slowing down. Hence, why Ayurveda would say this is better. This is a different interpretation to "personal training."

PERSONAL TRAINING

Personal training offers many benefits that are different in ways to yoga.  Personal training helps with increasing mobility, building muscle, strengthening cardio function through vigorous exercises, tones muscle and burns fat, and addresses metabolism in its own way. Within the model of personal training there tends to be a diet/nutrition component as well that is typically rooted in FDA approved standards and general modern scientific and time-tested contributions. Individuals that tend to follow personal training sessions also have a generally good outlook on themselves and life. They may have higher self-esteem and confidence as a result of seeing how their body changes with some diet and exercise programs. Within the model of personal training, there isn't the understanding of individual constitutional needs as indicated in Ayurveda but an overall assessment is done with the individual to match the needs of the individual and the determining qualities that a practitioner of this model would be driven by that sculpt the overall path for the individual to follow. 

MASSAGE

Massage is an interesting and important asset to the practices of yoga and personal training. Yoga and personal training sessions involve a certain level of proactive engagement for the most part. In that, when moving through the exercises of yoga (except for moments of savasana, the relaxation pose) and when engaging in workout techniques there is an actual involvement.  Massage, on the other hand, you're simply laying on a table, breathing, and focusing on letting go and surrendering while someone is working with the body. This in and of itself is an important act because it encourages a level of relaxation and integration that is provided by another individual, as well as a different type of molding to the body. While on a massage table, the lymphatic system can be encouraged in a different way. The muscles after firing can come into a calm and quieter state. The parasympathetic system is strongly supported when an individual can surrender and let go.  "Working out the kinks" is usually easier when on a massage due to a hands-on approach. This increases overall functionality and efficiency of the body. 

There are many types of massages ranging from subtle to deep techniques; such as swedish, intuitive, shiatsu, thai, rolfing, and deep tissue.  Finding a massage therapist that you can connect with and that has a holistic approach and/or works well with holistic approaches can best meet you and support the desired outcomes. 

DIET/NUTRITION

Yoga has Ayurveda for diet. Yoga by itself is traditionally emphatic of being vegetarian. Yoga with Ayurveda says that this may not be true for everyone and that individual needs are met based on the understanding of an individuals constitution according to the three Doshas (biological humors) called Vata, Pitta, Kapha. Configurations of these doshas vary and in addressing them an individual can develop an ideal plan that fits their uniqueness. Diet is an important contribution of Ayurveda because of this, and within the context of diet, metabolism can be properly supported. In Ayurveda, when the proper diet is in place then there is no need for medicine. Ayurveda has it figured out! There is no one size fits all approach because of the awareness around Vata, Pitta, Kapha. There is a common saying that "you are what you eat" but in Ayurveda it is corrected to "you are what you digest." Ayurveda isn't focused on caloric intake, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats/lipids. It is focused on seasonal eating, eating per your constitution which also takes into account metabolism.  Metabolism is about transformation.  It is the dividing factor between Anabolism and Catabolism. Anabolism involves the building up of something and Catabolism is about breaking down. Transformation, which is Metabolism, can be guided to either the direction of building or reducing of tissue.  Hence, why any type of physical (and even mental activities) can be converted for one thing or another. 

So much of Ayurveda goes into the breakdown of diet and nutrition. Ayurveda does not focus on calories, fats/lipids, protein, and carbohydrates.  There is so much more to diet than these simple categories can account for. First is foremost, in Ayurveda, we look at who is coming in to see is.  We determine their constitutional configurations of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.  We assess what is predominant and this will lead us practitioners to understanding the basic foundation of an individual's metabolic constitution. This is the platform we spring from in order to move forward and create a holistic approach and protocol to increase balance.  Vata predominant individuals tend to have a variable appetite.  Pitta predominant individuals have a strong steady and reliable appetite. Kapha predominant types have a sluggish appetite.  

Within the model of personal training, the idea and intention are to somehow meet individuals where they are at and have them meet a certain standard that is equal across the board, more or less.  This, according to Ayurveda, has the tendency to miss the understanding who the person is and what they are individually capable of. In Ayurveda, we believe that there isn't a set standard or one-size-fits-all approach.  Additionally, in attempting to do so, other imbalances can more likely occur later on down the road. 

The usage of protein powders and synthetic fillers to give the individual that extra boost or push in their body is actually contraindicated in the natural performance of the body.  When the metabolism isn't truly seen for what it is in the individual, when this piece is missing from their overall assessment and protocol, then imbalances are more likely to occur. I have worked with many personal trainers that have symptoms that are based in unclean digestion. Unclean digestion can come from poor sleep habits, poor eating habits/regimens, and the quality of food/nutritional support is actually at a deficit. I have worked with trainers that may look great on the outside but their insides are rotting. Their breath would smell foul,  indicative  tongue coating, there was an increased level of inflammation and acidity, sleep disturbances, restless mind, digestive symptoms such as constipation or loose stools, even a slight to moderate discoloration in their skin.  These are all symptoms of significant imbalance and as Ayurvedic practitioners, we seek to prevent and undo such symptoms because we know that the long-term effects of such things can spiral into other health issues.

Simply regimenting the meals according to proper times of days that have already been created by nature, and by following the natural flow of the day itself and aligning with the circadian rhythm can also invite an optimal foundation for health.  For instance,  here are some basic points to consider and guidelines to follow in order to better serve overall health with the intention of deepening into balanced practices:

1) Breakfast is not the main meal of the day. Breakfast is about "breaking a fast." This fast has occurred as a result of the natural 24-hour cycle of the day where the last meal was around 7 pm the night before.  Those following hours that lead up to rest, include rest, and exist around waking time, are the natural breaks in a day to help encourage metabolism. You see, when we first awaken, the body detoxes the remaining residue that the body didn't need from the previous day. On another level, this is a way the body encourages letting go of the past, becomes more present, and paves the way for the future. When we first wake up in the morning, ideally, we poop, we pee, we spit up things like mucous, we cleanse the body through baths/showers, and we begin a whole new day.  Breakfast is light in order to support this process, if at all. Vata predominant types can/should eat a small balanced meal. Pitta predominant individuals can eat a heartier meal. Kapha predominant types can either skip breakfast (having tea, broth, or a very light type of meal.) The  best time for breakfast is by 8 am (plus or minus.) The digestive enzymes are weak in the morning after a night of processing yesterday's stuff and rest. 

2) Lunch is the main meal of the day and the most important. It has been too often the case that individuals have told me that they skip lunch, or that they have a smoothie or power bar to supplement lunch, or even do yoga or exercise during lunch time. This is counter-intuitive to the body and very harmful in fact. Lunch is the main meal of the day.  Digestive enzymes are at its peak at this time and if we override this natural process of the day and replace it with any activity that is other than a meal, then we have created a huge window for imbalances to lead to disease.  The window for lunch is between 10 and 2, ideally noon (ish.) Smoothies with protein powder do not count as meals. Nor do power bars or any other power drink.  This is not correct information for the body to receive. The cells tell the story over time of such neglect. Smoothies in the case of personal training could be okay in between meals when necessary but that is based on a case by case basis.

3) Dinner is a lighter meal. Ideally, no later than 7 pm. Should dinner be later, then it should also be lighter in order not to interfere with metabolism that occurs from the last meal of the day to the first meal of the next day, which brings us back to breakfast.  I've told many patients to consider dinner as a mini lunchtime. The digestive enzymes are not as strong as lunch, usually, but are stronger than breakfast time enzymes, and therefore, the volume at mealtime should be half of whatever lunch was.  Additionally, the later the meal, the lighter it should be.

4) Liver time is to be loved.  The liver becomes very active at night time around 10 pm, which is why it is ideal to be in bed around this time in order not to impede upon its job which is to clean up the day for us and get us ready for the next one.  Dr. John Douillard, a colleague, and teacher of mine shared a story about the liver saying that the liver at night is like the night time janitor that is designed to clean up the office building after a long and busy day, but when business meetings are still happening the janitor will either come back later or not at all and the building will not be cleaned up for the next day. Similarly, staying up at night into the later hours has been shown to affect metabolism by decreasing it, and in increasing inflammation to say the least. Additionally, this has also been found to affect the quality and duration of sleep, which will be discussed in the next section.  Late night eating isn't ideal. Eating heavy meals isn't ideal. Check out this article HERE to learn more about how a daily structure can be created to optimize performance of mind and body, and prevent imbalances from developing. 

5) Fasting occurs naturally during the daytime, three times a day. Breakfast as previously mentioned is an example of the natural fasting time that happens between the last meal of the day and the first meal of the next day, while we are sleeping and the liver is metabolizing. The next fasting period is between breakfast and lunch, and generally consists of a time span of 4 hours. Then, the next fasting period occurs between lunch and dinner, which ranges anywhere from 4-5 hours from lunch.  During these periods the body may signal that it is "hungry" and in Ayurveda we observe this and question with these three questions: did I have a complete and balanced previous meal? (yes or no) Am I adequately hydrated? (yes or no)  If I'm not sure of the difference, then drink a mug of warm water. If the feeling of hunger disappears, then it was thirst. You see, the same mechanism in the brain that determines hunger determines thirst.  If the feeling of hunger remains, then the previous meal wasn't balanced. Did I have good sleep last night? (yes or no)  Good sleep supports optimal digestion. Poor sleep negatively affects digestion, causing hormonal imbalances, cravings for sweets or any substance that "boosts" energy. Additionally, poor lunch meals can also affect hormones, increase cravings, and affect sleep. HERE is a article I wrote recently regarding dieting/fasting/detoxing. 

In giving in to the cravings, the body's fasting period is thwarted.  The laziness of waiting some time for the body's' natural processes to kick in can cause long-term harm. If we wait 20 minutes for the feeling of hunger to go away, the body will kick in to metabolize and convert the necessary supplies into usable forms of fuel.  The body actually wants to do this. It tends to store what it needs from our nutrient intake for later to be used as needed. This is how the body is self-regulating and amazingly efficient. The body has an amazing intelligence if we give it a chance and learn to listen to it better. 

6) Exercise and diet must be balanced. Exercise of any kind is imbalanced without an adequate diet. Similarly, diet alone can not fully balance the body when exercise is missing. They are mutually inclusive and necessary for our overall well being. There's not getting around it or avoiding it, if we are honest with ourselves. The current state of the typical westernized lifestyle is lazy. More eating happens, while more sedentary practices grow. This is not correct. The body is meant to be engaged on many levels.

7) Frozen beverages such as smoothies with ice are counter-intuitive. Once the ice is added to any beverage then we have now weakened digestion. It's like putting a wet blanket on a fire. Digestion is a fiery process and putting anything cold in the body creates an enormous amount of stress for the body, compromising health on so many levels. Just have the smoothie without the ice and it will make a huge difference.  Check out this article HERE regarding ice and cold foods and beverages. 

8) About smoothies, there is an understanding in Ayurveda that there should be more vegetables to fruit. Too much fruit can cause issues with blood sugar, even though exercise helps with metabolizing sugar. Why add any un-needed stress to the body and support its performance by helping it to work less hard.  For instance, to make 16 ounces of carrot juice, it takes (depending on the size of the carrots) a whole bag of carrots, but you wouldn't eat a whole bag of carrots in one sitting (usually), so why would you expect the body to take it in juice form. It's too much. We live in a culture of too much. Less is better than more.  Additionally, it is also important to remember that generally when smoothies are made they have either frozen fruits/vegetables and/or ice added. This is highly contraindicated and creates a serious metabolic dysfunction.  Ice is usually added as a filler but causes so much harm. Why would you want to put all that work into such a good workout and yoga practice but then add ice to a smoothie and undo a lot of that work on a digestive and cellular level?

9) Protein Powders are normally synthesized. On a fundamental and basic level of cellular intelligence and nutrition, the body really doesn't recognize most of the store-bought GNC protein mixes formulated in laboratories. It doesn't actually make sense to the body when we listen to it, versus force the issue and "force feed" the body to do something that it knows isn't ideal for it. There are natural protein powders that are manufactured that are healthier for the body. Even simply adding nuts to a smoothie can add protein naturally.  The body will express the difference and in the long run thank you in so many ways, one being great health inside and out. 

10) Portions are important during meal times. We get more nutrients absorbed into the body if we simply chewed more of our food, versus shovel and swallow.  By following better practices for eating,  the yoga practitioner and personal trainer, and personally trained individual will find amazing results with even less effort. Check out these guidelines for healthy eating HERE.

11) Incompatibility of foods is another important contribution of Ayurveda. Ayurveda has a great deal to share how foods are compatible with one another. For instance, cheese and sauce do not go together. Or, most fruits and yogurt do not work well together. It is a common idea that we must have fruits in our diet and think to take it with something like yogurt in the form of a smoothie but on a microcellular level, this can cause inflammation to develop and or increase due to the inherent qualities of fruit versus dairy. For the purposes of this article, I am referring to the incompatibility of meals and smoothies. On many occasions, I have seen clients of personal trainers and even personal trainers themselves indulging in the intake of having a smoothie with a meal. This is incorrect according to dietary guidelines and healthy eating practices of Ayurveda. First, because often is the case that smoothies are with ice and as we learned earlier that ice should not go in the body. Ice is mainly added as a thickening agent for smoothies otherwise smoothies would be more expensive.  Secondly, the damp cool/cold qualities of a smoothie combined with say an omelet or a sandwich (for that extra protein) is incorrect because, again, it's like putting a wet blanket on a fire and overwhelms digestion. One meal at a time. Meals themselves should be balanced, consisting of various ratios of proteins to grains to legumes to veggies. Too much is too much!

12) Supply and Demand is something essential to consider  with regard to observing progress and great health.  What is the food versus physical demand? Are you eating more and working out less? Are you working out more and eating less? Are you eating less and working out less? Are you eating and not working out? Are you working out and not eating healthily? What does the body need and what are we getting out of it?  Is the body getting less than what it needs in nutrition while physically active? If so, where is the nutrition coming from if it's not coming from food. More often than not, the body will take from itself what it isn't getting externally? We can determine the quality of healthy, inside and out, by how we treat ourselves. How we treat ourselves is rooted in how well are we able to truly listen to ourselves. This isn't about what we think but really from what we feel. We can use the mind to navigate us to those experiences that can support us if we listen quietly and closely.  What symptoms are present? This can tell us a lot.   HERE is an article about supply and demand, and how your body is your guide HERE. 

13) In this order, yoga can start the day to open up and warm up the body. Next can be the practices at the gym. Lastly, massage wraps it all up and integrates it. Diet is in between, and sleep pulls the entire day together.

SLEEP

Everyone needs it and there isn't anyone that doesn't, but it's not as simple as just going to bed anytime.  It's actually very specific.  Sleep is essential and getting to bed around 10 pm (no later than 11) will provide great balance to the body. The later someone stays up, the more the natural rhythms of the body are thrown off and the more this affects tomorrow by disrupting metabolism, increasing hormonal issues, cravings, and even affecting the next nights' rest. Sleep is a profound reset for the mind and body.  It's the place that we get to turn inward and let go of yesterday as we surrender into the unknown. Sleep brings us balance when it is adequate. Daytime sleep does not possess the same qualities of nighttime rest. There is no substitution for it.  HERE is a simple article I wrote on sleep some time ago.  

Therefore, with the level of importance that sleep possesses, it is contraindicated to work out at night. You see, the body begins to increase levels of melatonin around 2 pm and it peaks/surges in the body around 10 pm just as the liver becomes active. This is one of the main reasons why it is important to be in bed around 10 so that the natural sleep chemicals and processes are minimally disturbed. The liver increases its duties around sleep time.  We come inward to turn off for the day, while certain systems turn on to reorganize, recuperate, and realign for the next day. In the old days, before electricity was harnessed, there was a natural settling down for the day around the time of sunset.  Studies have shown that when people travel into nature and go hiking and camping, that the body naturally resets itself and becomes more harmonized. Stress levels come down as health and happiness increases. 

With the right exercise, in the right place during our daily routines, we can actually have better sleep.  It takes energy to fall asleep.  Ideally, according to Ayurveda, the best time to have a good work out is in the morning. The most efficient time of day to build muscle is before 10 am. 

Vigorous exercises and stimulating activities, that include intense yoga practices, late night yoga practices, non-calming/non-restorative yoga practices, and gym based/fitness based practices, at night time cause the body to go into the sympathetic response (flight or fight). Whereas, winding down for the day supports a parasympathetic response (unwind and harmonize.)  Many times, I've had friends say they do their workout at night and feel really good. I ask about sleep and they say that's good after a night workout BUT when I point out that they are straining the adrenals and causing depletion over long-term and connect it to why they feel deeply relaxed or an induced tiredness, they rethink it (usually) because they then learn that the tiredness is from fatigue and not a genuine usage of the body and honoring of its natural rhythms.  The quality of sleep is different when depletion has replaced the natural cycles of melatonin, serotonin, and cortisol responses to stress. 

It is important to note that if sleep has been inadequate then it is contraindicated to do any form of exercise, including yoga and any vigorous activities, but massage is good.  It is a priority to make sure rest is sufficient before any exercising regimen. Doing otherwise would cause more harm to the body than good.  Just get some rest firs! The body will be more productive and your health will be a sign of thank you in return.

In conclusion, integrating principles and practices of Ayurveda can optimize health in so many ways. By having a "Tripod of Health Support" consisting of yoga/Ayurveda, personal training, and massage, a complete integrated and holistic approach can be put in place to best support your life and keep things running amazingly for years to come. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you!

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed by a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

 

MORE ON SEASONAL ALLERGIES: FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Here we are again! It's that time of year and many individuals have been, are, and will be suffering from seasonal allergies.

You see, seasonal allergies are deeply rooted and not very simple of an issue to be addressed. According to Ayurveda, allergies generally are a condition of poor digestion, poor diet, poor lifestyle. Even with the understanding that there may be a genetic predisposition to allergies Ayurveda says that it is generally through diet and lifestyle that determines whether a gene is expressed or not. Similarly, a modern scientific approach to this concept is through Epigenetics. What are allergies? This is one way that Ayurveda defines them: the body's response to a substance(s) ("allergens") that are perceived as harmful and the body reacts to it by producing "antibodies." This is the "allergic reaction." Symptoms are then produced.

Often, it can vary how the body responds based on an individual's inherent constitution and whether there is already pre-existing toxicity in the body. If our digestion (Agni) is balanced, our toxins (Ama) are low or not present, and our immunity (Ojas) is healthy and strong, then health issues are least likely to occur. 

It is mainly through diet and lifestyle that we can become more susceptible to all sorts of conditions. In fact, this is another example of how we are a product of what we eat. Food can be either medicinal or poisonous depending on how it is taken, for who, and the when. Lifestyle is a whole other beast in and of itself. The irony is that if we have a stable diet, which should be the concrete part of our lifestyle that we don't sacrifice, then the lifestyle will have fewer consequences to experience. But when the diet is off in addition to the lifestyle, then it is no surprise that conditions arise as they do!

Lifestyle has a momentum that is based on the investment we have put into it. Lifestyle can be a part of how we live this human precious experience or it can be that dynamic of our human experience that shortchanges our health, even robbing us of it.  So often is the case that we don't have the time or make the time to take care of ourselves and then when we get hit with something we blame the something that happens versus take responsibility for the choices we make around not taking better care of ourselves. We are all doing the best that we can but one thing that Ayurveda teaches us is to use our health as a guide to determining our overall well-being and how it aligns with lifestyle. There is no blaming, only the opportunity to take a look at how we are feeling right now and how we would like to feel. Then assessing how it is that we can achieve a state of being better. What are we willing to sacrifice? Our health or aspects of our lifestyle that aren't serving us? It's not always easy to sit on this pivoting point but a good reminder is that we are good enough and deserving to feel amazing. Somewhere deep within is this desire. Therefore, it is up to us to make the choices and stick with them as much as possible. Right?

As far as seasonal allergies are concerned, this falls into the category of respiratory/upper respiratory ailments. Food sensitivities/allergies and other types of allergies are still influenced by the quality of digestion, as well as genetic factors, and stress. Ayurveda looks at the state of mind and digestion as being key components to understanding the nature of such conditions. Here's a link to another ARTICLE I wrote in the past about seasonal allergies. 

Here are some other key points to consider with regard to seasonal allergies:

1) DRYNESS is a factor and this begins as early as the beginning of winter when we are closed up indoors with heaters that are drying and humidifiers (hopefully cooler ones, versus warmer ones) are providing moisture in the atmosphere. This affects the mucous membranes of the entire body. In and out. The longer the exposure, the deeper the roots into pathology and when we emerge into the warmer air we see this deep dryness surfacing and attracting more of itself. Pollen is drying and can suck up the moisture in our sinus and on our skin.

2) COLD/FROZEN/ICE beverages are also actually astringent. For instance, after drinking a cocktail with ice (especially) the mucous membranes of the mouth are dryer. This leads to the tickle that is often felt in the back of the mouth, or even in the ears where we get that sort of itchy sensation. Cold/frozen/Ice anything also affects digestion but putting a damper on things and significantly reducing if not halting enzymatic activity causing food to be malabsorbed and turned into toxins. The liver is also affected. Immunity is affected. The respiratory tract is affected being that is it lined with millions of cells that are moist. COLD and DRY is what gives way to getting colds, cases of flu, viruses, and then some!

3) HEAVY diets can also suppress digestion and increase the likelihood of toxins. The lymphatic system gets backed up and like a house with the drainage systems being inundated the house itself suffers.

4) ALCOHOL consumption, especially as mentioned above regarding cold/ice/frozen, has a negative effect on health and immunity due to its fermentation and excess sugar combination. This alone increases, if not creates, an inflammatory process.

5) SMOKING..yes I had to write this, and not so much because of cigarette smokers that I know (even though it is common they suffer from seasonal allergies) but my pot smoker friends. Whether cigarettes or pot smoking, even vaping, this compromises the entire respiratory tract for too many reasons to list here but it's self-evident. Smoking anything dries up mucous membranes. Mucous membranes are there for many reasons such as protecting the tissues of the body, lubricating, thermoregulating, immune-regulating, so on and so forth.  Additionally, even the fact that smoke is heating as it is being taken into the mouth, throat, lungs, causes an increase in inflammation as well as dryness.

6) HYDRATION is important but doesn't happen with cold beverages and it doesn't completely occur with plain water. Plain water is a great anti-inflammatory and purifies the cells of the body but to fully hydrate some natural salt should be available. Water goes where salt goes. Salt takes water in and out of the cells and helps to hydrate the cells more effectively. Therefore, drinks that are like natural (I emphasize natural) gatorades and lemonades/limeades, even pure juice (1/4) to water (3/4) with 1/2 tsp. of sea salt is a better way to hydrate.

7) OIL everywhere. Oil is a fluid. The body is made up mostly of liquid but not all this liquid is actually water. Cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, interstitial fluid, cellular fluid, digestive fluids, blood-related fluids like blood itself and plasma, and lymphatic fluids, to name a few. Oil has an affinity with all these tissues and connects with phospholipid layers. Therefore, having proper oils in the diet such as ghee, coconut, flax, and olive are great sources. Some foods have natural fats such as butter, and some animal protein based foods. Additionally, supplements such as Fish Oils can be amazing in the right quantity and regular basis. Amazingly, Ayurveda applies oils in the ears, eyes, nose, mouth, on the skin, and even in the rectum for medicinal purposes. Check out the above link for more details.

8) EXERCISE gets things moving and this includes strengthening immunity. Overdoing exercise or doing the types of exercises that aren't aligned with an individuals constitution can also have a negative effect on health and cause immune and digestive compromise (though, both are interconnected.) According to Ayurveda, exercising in the morning and earlier part of the day is optimal.  The later the exercise, especially when it's contrary to the body's wisdom, such as after 8/9/10+ at night, this will increase inflammation, depletion, and hormonal imbalance in the long run.  Yet, proper exercise helps to regulate the whole body and strengthen immunity. 

9) ANXIETY has a drying effect. I have never heard anyone say "I feel warm and fuzzy while I'm anxious." Anxiety can also increase if there is dryness in the body. Then we are left with "what came first?" Anxiety is light in nature. It is ungrounded of an emotion. This can deplete the tissues. 

10) ANGER, due to its heating nature, can also be drying and overall consuming, causing the body to turn against itself if it isn't expressed properly. This suppressed heat is like the rubbing of two sticks to create heat as per the friction. Similarly, this inner pressure can cause dryness and increase inflammation.

11) MUCOUS is not necessarily the enemy!  The body has a lot of natural sources of this. Usually, a post nasal drip is the body's response to the root cause which is the dryness. It is the body's natural way to remedy the dryness. If you address the dryness, the mucous will balance itself. Here we can examine even the quality of the mucus. If the mucus is clear and lighter, this is more of a Vata type of mucus. If the mucus is thicker and yellow/green, this relates to Pitta and indication of infection. (Especially if there is blood in the mucus)  If the mucus is thicker and more white, this is Kapha type of mucus. Assessing the mucous can be a beneficial way of getting to the root of imbalance and remedies for health. Furthermore, when inflammation is being created or provoked, the body's natural response is to produce mucus to resolve it and attempt to regain homeostasis. If the root of inflammation is addressed, the mucus will balance itself out in the long run. 

12) SLEEP is a natural anti-inflammatory when we are asleep at the right time which involves being in bed around 10 (optimally.)  The later we stay up, the likelihood of increased inflammation since we are stressing the liver and nervous system. This also affects immunity. It compromises our diet/appetites, increasing cravings for things such as coffee, sweets, treats, and general comfort foods.  The body is compensatory and is always looking to maintain homeostasis which includes even looking outside of itself when it can't find within itself the resources it needs or the resources within that it can not for some reason access. Sleep reorganizes the body. According to Ayurveda, Vata's benefit from around 8-9 hours sleep (but not always easy for the Vata predominant types to access it. ) Pitta's benefit from around 7, and Kapha's around 6 hours. It's easy for Kapha predominantly types to sleep more. Pitta's can benefit from 7-8 and this helps them to feel calmer, and cooler (but not if they're up until midnight or later)  Daytime sleep has nowhere near the quality or benefits of nighttime sleep. So make sure that the rest is taken into account as a priority. 

13) GENERAL REMEDIES include being mindful of and avoiding the root cause or causes that create the opportunity for such conditions to arise.  Balancing DIET, Balancing SLEEP, Balancing EXERCISE, HERBS (such as Ashwagandha, Licorice, Guduchi, Haritaki, Amalaki, Triphala, Turmeric, Ginger, Manjistha, Goldenseal, and Echinacea.) Vitamins such as D, B-Complex, C, can be helpful in immune strengthening. Minerals such as zinc, iron, and magnesium are helpful overall. Even cultivating sexual/creative energy can be helpful in the long-run to the balance of an immune system and nervous system regulation.

Health is in the palm of our hands and at the tips of our fingers. If we make the choices that support it, then the body and mind will support us back with the feeling of well-being. When we deviate from ourselves, when we allow ourselves to let our "lifestyles" to take us away we are on some level even responsible for this through the choices we make or don't make, we will experiences this as a rippling effect into consequences or benefits. The body is an amzing indicator of whether we are in balance or imbalanced. Listening to it, taking time for it, loving it can ensure less health issues.

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.