By: Dr. Pathirage Kamal Perera (PhD)
Immunity is the body’s way of identifying its enemies and destroying them. It is a naturally existing phenomenon in everybody. The immune system usually does not react against the body’s own cells. However, sometimes it attacks the cells it is supposed to protect; this response is called autoimmunity. Sometimes certain bacteria, viruses, toxins, and drugs trigger an autoimmune response in people who are genetically susceptible to developing an autoimmune disorder.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates up to 23.5 million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease and that the prevalence is rising. 50 million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease. Researchers have identified 80-100 different autoimmune diseases and suspect at least 40 additional diseases of having an autoimmune basis. These diseases are chronic and can be life-threatening. Autoimmune disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in female children and women in all age groups up to 64 years of age.
Effect of auto immune disorders may be destruction of one or more types of the body tissues, abnormal growth of an organ and abnormal changes in organ functions. Organs and tissues commonly affected by auto immune disorders are blood cells and vessels (Rakta Dhatu), connective tissues, muscles (Mansha Dhatu) and joints (Asthi and Majja Dhatu), skin , endocrine glands. Some of the examples of auto immune disorders are Pernicious Anaemia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Dermatomyositis, Systemic Lupus Erythmatosus, Type 1 Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Myasthenia Gravis, Grave’s disease, Celiac disease, Auto immune Hepatitis, and Psoriasis. The symptoms of auto immune disorders are tissue, organ and disease specific. They may range from a mild fever to a severe disabling arthritis. More than one Auto immune disorder can trouble an individual at a time.
The causes of many autoimmune diseases are still of unknown origin. A person’s genes in combination with infections and other exposures are playing a significant role in diseases development and disease progression.
Currently used immunosuppressant treatments lead to devastating long-term side effects in contemporary medicine and most of them are not much effective in disease modifying. Therefore it is much needed for seek evidence based treatment modalities through traditional medicine.
Do Ayurveda have a concept for Autoimmunity disorders?
The concept of auto immune disorders not a novel concept for the Ayurvedic medicine. According to Ayurveda disease or Roga is defined as the abnormality in the interaction between Dosha and Dushya (Dosha-Dushya-Samurchanam – Pathogenesis)). When this interaction takes place disturbed Doshas invade its own system and leads to malfunction of Agni (metabolic power of cells and produced Ama (It is an endotoxin).Further disturbed the Srothus (Micro channels of cells and cell environment) by Ama. This leads to initiate Ojo Visramsa (Vitiation of essence of all tissues) and contribute towards the manifestation of auto immune disorders. This may be the oldest explanation of auto immunity in world history.
Do Ayurveda have a management for auto immune disorders?
In treatment of auto immune diseases Ayurvedists focus on the basic correction of following factors.
- To reduce the symptoms
- To control the Auto immune process and modification
- Maintain the body ability to fight diseases
For above purpose following is the rationale of treatment.
- Agni deepana, Amapachanachikitsa(improving digestion)
- Shodanachikitsa(Panchakarma / Purifying procedures)
- Rasayanaprayoga(immune enhancing drugs)
- Vyadhiprathyanikachikitsa(disease modifying drugs)
- Lakshanikachikitsa(Symptomatic treatment)
- Naisthikichikitsa(Spiritual approach, meditation, yoga, councelling etc)
Treatment plan depends on according to disease condition (Vikriti) and one’s body constitution (pharmacogenomic approach).
Do any correlation of current western medicine aspects and Ayurveda for Auto immunity?
Researches have been proven that Ayurveda treatment methodologies and concepts are more powerful for manage Auto immune disorders. For an example corrective Ama – Agni (digestion and metabolism) concept is a powerful and safe tool for preventing and treating autoimmune diseases.
Novel concept of free radicals, oxidative stress and advanced glycation end products (AGEs) effect is much concerned for these disorders. Those with a high intake of green vegetables and fresh fruits according to their body type (Prakriti) are less likely to develop these disorders due to high antioxidant capacities. Further herbal medicine can be used as modulation of cytokine expression. Those herbal medicines can be categorized under immunomodulators and help to modify auto immune disorders.
How to avoid and control autoimmune disorders?
If someone suffered from the autoimmunity disorders in your family tree (pedigree) it’s very much important to add here preventive measurements as early as possible.
To eliminate or prevent from Ama (Endo toxins) and improve Agni (metabolic process)
- Avoid causative factors such as heavy meals and sedentary life styles
- Take cleansing herbs according to your body type
- Take Ama clearing Thambum (traditional liquid meals)
- Avoid leftover, stale, frozen foods
- Daily exercises and avoid Vegadharana (avoid suppress natural urges)
- Conducting Yogaasana, pranayama, and meditation
- Consider lightfasting one day per week
- Get adequate rest
- Panchakarma for seasonal cleansing (as recommended by the physician)
Factors protecting and building Ojas
- Take foods that build ojas—such as honey, milk, ghee (according to your body type as recommended by the physician)
- Take food supplements that build ojo-rasayanas (micro- humoral -neuro -nutrients)
About the Author:
Senior Lecturer | Department of Ayurveda Pharmacologyand Pharmaceutics | Institute of Indigenous Medicine, University of Colombo, Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka | Consultant Physician at National Ayurveda Teaching Hospital, Sri Lanka | Visiting Professor in Pharmacology Mobile : ( mobile: +940716419072)