An Ayurvedic Perspective on GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)
GERD occurs when digestive juices moves upward from the stomach into the esophagus causing acid reflux, which over time can damage the lower esophageal lining and an increase the risk of precancerous Barrett’s esophagus. The causes of GERD can vary from diet and lifestyle factors to obesity, pregnancy, hiatal hernia and the relaxing of the lower esophageal sphincter. Factors such as smoking tobacco, eating too late at night and certain common trigger foods such as coffee, tea, alcohol, chocolate, spicy foods and tomatoes can also play a role in the worsening of symptoms.
Common Symptoms of GERD
Chest pain (retrosternal)
Regurgitation of food
An Ayurvedic Perspective on Digestion
To understand GERD and other related digestive disorders, lets first explore the Ayurvedic concept of Agni, the power of digestion. Agni is present within saliva, stomach acids, bile, and enzymes of the pancreatic and small intestine. When Agni is strong it supports robust appetite, optimal digestion, energy, satisfaction and overall vitality. Below is a list of various classifications of digestion according the classical Ayurvedic text on pathology and etiology- Madhava Nidana.
4 Clinical Varieties of the Digestive Fire
Manda Agni occurs when the slow and sluggish nature of kapha dosha impair the digestive fire. This results in symptoms such as low appetite, slow digestion, heaviness in the stomach, food stagnation, acid reflux, sluggish bowels (not dry) and phlegmatic disorders.
Since ancient times, frankincense has been highly valued as a sacred incense and herbal medicine. It is an aromatic resin from trees of the Boswellia species that has been burned as an incense to purify the atmosphere since time immemorial in temples, churches, and for sacred rituals. Its smoke is also believed to ward off bad spirits and sickness, and to carry prayers to the Divine. A secondary benefit to burning the resin is that it acts as a natural insect repellent.
Boswellia serrata, a species found in India’s states Rajastan and Madhya Pradesh, is known as salai guggulu. It is traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat arthritis, promote circulation, and prevent the degeneration of cartilage in the joints. It is frequently combined with other herbs such as turmeric and ginger as a general anti inflammatory for muscles and joints. Modern research shows that it contains boswellic acid and in moderate doses has anti inflammatory, anti-cancer, and hepatoprotective properties, and therefore may be helpful in the treatment of rheumatism, colitis, asthma, and cancer.
It has a sattwic, or purifying effect on the mind and nervous system, and helps to burn impurities from the nadis (subtle nerve channels). It can be used in herbal formulas along with other herbs that have an affinity to the mind and nervous system like gotu kola and calamus root as an aid to meditation.
The essential oil has a woody, sweet, and slightly citrus or
Now that spring has sprung, it is perfect time cleanse the body of accumulated metabolic wastes. One simple and easy way is to drink fruit and vegetable smoothies daily. When fruits and vegetables are blended together with a powerful blender they become very easy to digest. The body doesn’t need to exert much effort at all to absorb their healing vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that they contain. There is no comparison between the nutrition available in fresh whole foods to that in pill form vitamins. There are tremendous healing properties in the fruits and vegetable that we eat on a daily basis and if we can get more of them into our system we could easily prevent much of the common health complaints that many people suffer from on a daily basis, such as high cholesterol, gastric reflux, hypertension, obesity, allergies, asthma, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and so on. But due to factors such as denatured soils, eating processed and denatured foods, or not getting enough servings each day, we can miss out on the gifts that they offer us.
For instance, beets help to support gallbladder and liver function, purify the blood and aid in relieving constipation. Broccoli provides strong anti-oxidants, vitamin C and has shown to support the immune system, improve colon health and possibly inhibit tumor formation. Celery contains properties that helps to relax blood vessels, improve blood flow, and reduce stress and lower blood pressure. Apples
From the holistic perspective of Ayurveda, menopause is a unique, individual experience for each woman. Since we all have a unique constitution and individual strengths, weaknesses, and habits, menopause cannot be viewed with a cookie-cutter mentality. The intensity of menopause will be different for each woman and the problems following menopause will also vary depending on many factors. As a matter of fact, if viewed and supported properly, menopause can be a spiritually transforming and health promoting transition. Yet most women lack information about what is realy happening and what are their choices to alleviate symptoms and prevent future problems.
From a physiological point of view, menopause is the ending of a woman’s monthly menstrual cycles and ovulation. It also brings other changes, both physical and mental, due to the fact that the body begins producing less amounts of certain hormones, mainly estrogen and progesterone. But let’s get this straight: Menopause is not a disease. It is a natural process in every woman’s life. It may bring light to aspects that perhaps needed attention before menopause even started, but it is still just part of life, and not some sort of “flaw in the design.” It is not natural to get osteoporosis, to age quicker, or to have heart problems and other diseases after menopause. Like any other chronic ailments, these develop over a lifetime as the result of an unnatural lifestyle (poor diet, lack of exercise and outdoor activity, stress, unresolved emotions, excessive toxins, etc.) and
Part used: leaf, root Tissues: plasma, blood, fat Systems: urinary, circulatory, hepatic, digestive, lymphatic Properties: diuretic, alterative, hepatic, bitter tonic, chologogue, laxative. Indications: liver disorders, sluggish gallbladder, water retention, urinary infections, indigestion, tumors, abscesses, boils, high cholesterol. Precautions: high vata Root dosage: Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of the root to a cup of water, bring to boil and then simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain and drink up to 3 times daily. Leaf dosage: To make an infusion, steep 2 to 3 rounded teaspoons per cup of boiling hot water for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain and drink up to 3 times daily. Tincture dosage (root and leaf): Take 30 to 40 drops in 2 ounces of water, 3-4 times daily.
Dandelion leaf is rich in potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamin A and C. The whole plant has a bitter taste, cold action, and is balancing to both pitta and kapha dosha. The leaves have an affinity to the urinary system, and help to eliminate excess water, metabolic wastes, and to treat infections of the kidneys and bladder. Both the root and leaves can be used to clear excess heat and toxins from the liver and blood. As a cooling digestive stimulate, it helps to improve digestion, especially of fats, and can help to promote healthy cholesterol.
The root is also a mild purgative,
Triphala is probably one of the most popular Ayurvedic compounds, and it can be found nowadays in almost every health food store and Indian grocery store. It is well known for being a mild laxative and lower bowel tonic. Triphala literally means ‘three fruits’ and contains equal parts of the amalaki, haritaki, and bibitaki fruits. These fruits come from the various Myrobalan trees found in India and have particularly balancing effects on each of the three doshas.
Amalaki or amla is regarded as a sacred tree in India. The tree was worshipped as Mother Earth and is believed to nurture humankind because the fruit is very nourishing. Amalaki fruit is well known for its cooling, pitta pacifying properties, and is rich in iron and vitamin C. It is strengthening to the blood, bones, liver, and heart. It is used alone or with other herbs to treat a variety of inflammatory types of disorders related to excess pitta. Even though it is sour to the taste, it has a special cooling quality that helps balance pitta.
It is also nourishing to all the bodily tissues and a tonic to the immune system, and it is the basis for the herbal jam known as Chyavanaprash, which is a general rasayana (rejuvenative tonic) used in Ayurveda. It reduces the toxicity of environmental pollutants, normalizes cholesterol, sheds unwanted fat, cures ulcers, prevents cancer, detoxifies the body, and regulates digestion.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, insomnia is caused primarily by an imbalance of vata dosha. Vata is comprised of both air and ether, and has both light and mobile/irratic qualities. When these qualities accumulate and become excessive, they can cause difficulty either falling asleep or staying asleep. Pitta dosha also shares this light quality and pitta predominate individuals have a tendency for overworking, and burning the midnight oil, which eventually interferes with good restful sleep.
Kapha dosha can interfere with sleep mainly due to sleep apnea. This condition is complex and is best addressed through ayurvedic diet and lifestyle counseling as well as herbal treatment.
In ayurveda, dinacharya (healthy routines), can be used to treat insomnia very effectively. One of the most important routines to balance vata is to go to sleep by 10 pm, if this is difficult, work towards it to the degree your life allows. Also, try not to eat dinner much later than 7 pm. This allows us to fully digest our meal, so the digestive process doesn’t interfere with our sleep.
Below is a list of home remedies for improving the quality of sleep and restore depleted energy cause by the lack of needed rest. Note that these remedies are mainly for high vata and pitta.
Ashwagandha Siddha Milk-
Add 1 tsp. Ashwagandha powder to one cup of whole milk and a half cup of water and boil lightly for 5 minutes in an uncovered pot until one cup of liquid
In both Yogic philosophy and practice, developing equanimity of mind is central to the practice of meditation. Through our practice we can observe that the mind is either constantly attracted towards the objects of the senses, or it has aversion to them. Everything is being weighed on the scales of pleasure and pain, lose and gain, good or bad and so on, and a great deal of energy is spent seeking pleasurable experiences, while avoiding others that are painful. If we become too attached to something, we may no longer even enjoy that which we have obtained because we start to fear of losing it. This clouds the joy of experiencing life as it is. One of my teachers puts it like this, “we eat the banana of pleasure, only to slip on the peel of pain.” The slip isn’t in the experiencing something, but the attachment to it in the mind. In our constant search for comfort, or a sense of safety, it is easy to mistake the temporary satisfaction felt by having certain experiences for the true lasting contentment that is our very nature. My guru uses the analogy here or a thirsty man mistaking a mirage in the dessert for water.
When we seek the view of a mountain vista, or to stand on the shores of the sea and look out into the vast expanse of water, we are in a very real sense, seeking that infinite peace within. Humanity is constantly in search for
Life undoubtedly will present us with many challenges, but it seems that over time, we learn to accept things. The resiliency of spirit somehow gives us the ability to accept almost anything, in time. When we make an effort to show up everyday to practice meditation, we are training ourselves in a deeper way, to accept things as they are, in that moment, no matter how we feel. Meditation is an act of deep surrender that spreads out into all aspects of our life. Conversely, what arises during practice, often relates to our dealings in day-to-day life, one reflecting the others.
At times we may feel enthusiastic about sitting for meditation, and at other times we may feel like it is the last thing we want to do with ourselves. In my practice, when I’m distracted and preoccupied with the daily list of things to do, I make a note of what it is that needs attending to afterwards, and then resolve myself to the practice as earnestly as I can by saying to myself, “There is plenty of time for all of “that,” after “this.”
Often the mind will make every excuse in the book to not take the precious time out to sit. This is precisely where our practice of meditation can really start bearing fruit. When the river of emotion is swollen and ready to breach its banks, if we can bring ourselves to the meditation cushion, withdrawing the mind away from the pulls of the world,