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Expert Article: Exploring The World Health Day 2022 Theme Through An Ayurveda Perspective

As per the latest updates by the World Health Organization (WHO), there has been a sharp increase in incidences of microbial illness and non-communicable disease after the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, there has been a marked increase in non-communicable diseases like cancer, asthma, heart disease, etc. Stress, environmental changes, pollution, etc., adversely affect an individual's health.

WHO estimates that environmental changes are responsible for approximately 13 million deaths worldwide. It raises serious concerns about food safety and environmental safety. The use of fossil fuels, plastic, insecticides, pesticides, food processing, etc., is believed to be responsible for various lifestyle diseases like cancer and asthma. WHO furthermore advocates sustainable development and creating a society that focuses on general wellbeing. The ancient Indian wisdom seems well aware of the basic need of general wellbeing.

This philosophy is evident from the following stanzas -

1) ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः ।
सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु ।
मा कश्चित् दुःख भाग्भवेत् ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः॥

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Health, Well-being And Ayurveda

The entire society's health and well-being is the core meaning of the above stanza. General well-being is doesn't mean just free from disease but good physical health, mental well-being, healthy thought process, social well-being, spiritual well-being, proper interpersonal and intrapersonal relationship. We are dependent on nature for the various need of our life. Therefore, the ancient people were advised to maintain a sustainable balance of growth and ecological balance.

In order to understand the importance of ecological balance, the following stanza of Charaka Samhita is important -नार्थार्थं नापि कामार्थमथ भूतदयां प्रति|

The stanza means a person who pursues the medical profession just out of compassion for the living being and not for Artha (wealth) or Kama (satisfaction of the worldly desires) excels all others.

This implies that the need for sustainable growth and happiness was known in India; the next question that arises is how it can be achieved in the present context and using Ayurveda.

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Objectives of ayurveda treatment

The primary purpose of Ayurveda treatment is to achieve the status of the normalcy of Dhatus of the body (status of Dhatu Samya). The classics narrate the means to prevent disease and treat the disease. Ancient Ayurveda text Charaka Samhita narrated the importance of radical management and restoring the normal homeostasis of the diseased tissue (Charaka Samhita narrated Prakruti Sthapana - means establishing original status). This is why it is a widespread belief that Ayurveda treats from the roots and not mere the relief in symptoms. Furthermore, the treatment in Ayurveda is planned to provide relief in presenting symptoms (known as Upshaya), corrects the changes at the cell-tissue level with zero tolerance for adverse drug reaction and improve digestion, regulating metabolism, mental functions, sleep-wakening cycle, maintain a circadian rhythm, improve & maintain physical strength & host defence.

Ayurveda treatment for microbial illness

Microbial illness remained a severe concern in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. Robert Koch's invention of the germ basis of disease and the development of penicillin made a considerable change in the approach to the management of microbial illness. In the last century, approx. last five decades, the incidence of microbial infection has been reducing, and death due to microbial disease has declined. But after initial success, the world is facing challenges of superbugs and increasing drug resistance. One probable reason for developing drug resistance is the phenomenon of natural selection. The world observed a profound medical terror in the era of the most advanced medical system in the form of COVID-19. After the pandemic of the Swiss flu in the last century, conventional medical systems started using antimicrobial. Now, the change is needed to incorporate the Indian system of holistic medicine in treating microbial and infectious diseases-the integration of both medical procedures can kill microbial agents and improve host response.

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It is believed that there is no knowledge about microbes in Ayurveda but the myth is baseless.The SOP for Ayurveda management of microbial illness would be based on improving metabolism (improving tissue metabolism - mitochondria function would reduce the tissue destruction and help in the restoration of normalcy after an infective period), improving nutritional status (therapeutic fasting helps in metabolising microbial toxins and intermediate product of metabolism and thus corrects nutritional principle), improving host defence with herbal medicaments, and planning therapeutic procedures for complete wellbeing. In microbial illness there were two types of recovery the first one is a clinical recovery that is often narrated as visible recovery and this can be easily identified by relief in symptoms but this is can't be narrated as the recovery of disease as the microbe were inside the body and the person (labelled as host) bears a potential risk to public health as the microbial agents shed out from the body via different body fluids. It seems that this phenomenon was known as Ayurveda scholar as the texts advocate therapeutic purification in the post-infective phase or last phase of microbial illness (there is an article of the author on Jwara Mukte Virechana in Ayurveda journal - Ayurveda Mahasamellan Patrika - readers may search for more scientific and rational details).

Ayurveda treatment for non-communicable diseases and lifestyle-related diseases

Non-communicable disease & lifestyle disease remains the major medical problem in the present era. Non-communicable diseases like asthma, cancer, hypertension, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, senile disease, ageing, etc., had very high incidence rates and mortality. This disease requires long-term management, improving general well-being, enjoying life activities, and performing work with the least problems. Continuing lifelong medication may be required, but that ought not produce any adverse drug reactions and accelerate ageing changes.

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Ayurveda treatment for new challenges and new diseases

The changes in lifestyle and environmental changes adversely affect the human tissues and manifest as a disease with different characteristics or mechanisms. For instance, improved hygiene has also increased the incidence of autoimmune diseases. It has been opined that the decrease in helminth (worm infestation) has increased the incidence of autoimmune disease. Some scientists studied the therapeutic applicability of helminth in treating autoimmune disease and achieving immunomodulation. Immuno-modulation helps achieve a positive outcome for the immune system and helps the body fight against disease & foe and not its cells.

The question arises of how can Ayurveda can be employed - Charaka Samhita has an answer - विकारनामाकुशलो न जिह्रीयात् कदाचन| न हि सर्वविकाराणां नामतोऽस्ति ध्रुवा स्थितिः||४४|| स एव कुपितो दोषः समुत्थानविशेषतः| this means that one should not be ashamed of one's inability to name a disease since all disorders cannot be given standard names. There are innumerable diseases because the same vitiated dosha causes various disorders according to variations in aetiology and location. Hence one should initiate any treatment after acquiring complete knowledge of following:

• Inherent nature of the disease
• Its pathogenesis
• Origin or site of lesion and location of the presentation
• Etiological factors

This can be the basis of research in Ayurveda. This implies that Ayurveda is not a static science but immemorial and can help in treating such cases. The holistic approach is indeed the best way of managing morbidity.

Ayurveda treatment in a medical emergency

A medical emergency or life-threatening condition requires prompt management. This includes therapeutic medication, non - pharmacological means, mechanical intervention, etc. There is a need for integration of knowledge of other sciences and an inter-discipline approach with basic science to develop mechanical intervention and non-pharmacological means to manage morbidity and reduce mortality.

The world in the current century needs a medical system based on a holistic approach and affordable medical system. An affordable medical system doesn't mean only costs less monetary expenses but ensures a better quality of life and longevity. In Ayurveda, this has never been overlooked; the stanza clarifies this - individualised management needs to be planned to reduce the presenting clinical features of the disease and under no circumstance provoke other diseases and ought to improve digestion, psychological functions, sleep, strength, and immunity.

(प्रयोगं शमयेत्‌ व्याधीं न च अन्यं उद्दिरयेत्‌)

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On A Final Note...

Thus it can be concluded that Ayurveda can provide the knowledge resources for a better quality of life for diseased persons with the essence of maintaining local ecology and the better quality of life the world is looking for. The reader may feel free to contact a qualified Ayurveda physician or Ayurveda college for further details.

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