There are no shortcuts to good health… Ayurveda way of living is testimony to this. A person who likes to embrace good health is required to contemplate consistently about harmonious living and healthy habits from the time he wakes up to the time he retires for sleep in the night. This constant reminder that your mind sets for your body helps you to choose health over illness and this relentless analysis of self is ‘prevention’ at its best!! If you want to stay away from illness and be healthy the only plausible way according to Ayurveda is to inculcate good habits which should become part of your daily routine.
Prevention through Ayurveda
Prevention forms the crux of Ayurvedic teachings. There are many ways in which it crosses your path in life:
1. As Dinacharya - Daily routine
We have a tendency to overlook the significance of our routine activities in life when there seems to be much bigger pressing problems. The result of this negligence is out there for everyone to see - Lifestyle diseases!!
Right from when you wake up there are specified rules and patterns to be followed regarding habits like brushing your teeth, bathing, exercising, sleeping etc. laid down in Ayurvedic scriptures. There are also advice to perform activities like oil bath or gargling or instillation of nasal drops daily using specific herbs or medicines. The message from the ancient world is thus loud and clear. Your habits and lifestyle is the best preventive weapon you have in your hand. Pay attention to the so - called unimportant tasks called ‘Daily routine’ and you can dig a treasure called ‘Good health’ out of it!!
2. As Ritucharya - Seasonal regimen
As is said, time waits for none. It is either, you move with it or plan ahead of it. You just don’t have the freedom to hit the pause button. The changing seasons can play havoc on the vital energies of life and send the Tridoshas out of balance. Thus the field is made ready for infestation by diseases if you are not ready for the changes.
Ayurvedic wisdom advises special dietetic rules and body purification techniques to be followed during the transition from one season to the other to prevent the onset of diseases related to the disturbed Tridosha specific to each season. If dosha imbalance is curbed before it gets worse in the ensuing seasons under favourable conditions, you can successfully safeguard the body from many illnesses and enjoy a healthy life.
3. Through Sadvritta - Following certain codes of conduct for mental, social and spiritual well-being.
Not just the body but the psyche also requires remodelling. Stress is a significant factor that has been found to cut down our health and longevity by decreasing our immunity. How you speak, what you speak, the essence of our thoughts, how you behave to your elders, what you do with your life… everything requires energy from you. Those subtle shifts in the bio energy in your body when you think and act positively and negatively are different. Good thinking reduces stress hormones, increases your happy hormones and if you do this on a regular basis this is also an add on to prevention. Speaking in terms of Ayurveda, grief ,anger, worry, anxiety are factors that deform ‘Ojus’, the factor primarily responsible for action against disease and disease causing factors.
4. In tougher times of ‘Janapadodhwamsa’ - Epidemics that involve geographical elements like air, water and land.
The Sanskrit word ‘Janapadodhwamsa’ means diseases affecting a large population just like the one we are fighting today. These are special circumstances that call for triaging and demand excessive care from society as a whole and not just the individual. In terms of Ayurveda, this involves fighting with much more potent medical weapons like the ‘Rasayana’ (Rejuvenating drugs) and also Panchakarma Sodhana (bio purification techniques) en masse.
Is prevention the same as immunity boosting in Ayurveda?
The answer is no because prevention is not just immunity boosting. It can be reasonably postulated that immunity enhancing herbs are capable of intensifying the defense in the system qualitatively and also quantitatively. Corroborating this with clear cut scientific evidence is at present difficult but studies do suggest that Ayurvedic rasayana/bala vardhaka (rejuvenative or strength promoting) drugs like Aswagandha and Giloy have capability to act as immunomodulators.
Prevention can be achieved through intake of immunity enhancing drugs to a certain extent but it should also be supported by consistent, rational coordination of the aforesaid four level preventive ideologies accordingly to establish equilibrium.
Are OTC drug preventives safe?
Self medication is the greatest danger you can put your body in especially in these recent times of COVID-19 fear when over the counter sale of immunity enhancing supplements have shot up. Ayurveda is not tailor-made medicine. What works as an immunity modulating factor in one person may throw out of balance the Tridoshas in another if not used judiciously.
Considering these, the best option would be to start taking Ayurvedic preventive measures (both medicines and changes in daily routine according to the time of the year) after thorough consultation on Ayurvedic lines with a registered Ayurvedic medical practitioner. However, it is perfectly safe to consume the preventive medicines advocated as per guidelines issued by the AYUSH department on their official website because they are drugs generally indicated for well-being and rejuvenative effects too and hence do not provoke the Tridoshas into a disequilibrium state.
For how many days should preventive measures be carried out?
Ayurveda prescribes prevention on the aforesaid four levels and therefore prevention is a round-the-clock affair and not something to be paused once the threat looming above us is presumably over. Prevention is against diseases and for staying healthy and in fact it is the ultimate aim. For that you have to be persistent in your efforts throughout your life.
But for an answer….Ayurveda has a unique way of classifying herbs. These ones that target immune homeostasis rather than immune suppression or stimulation alone belong to a category of medications conducive for usage for overall well-being (Swasthahita). Compared to the modern-day immunity stimulants or depressants (Kopana or provoking and Samana or depressing), drugs that try to maintain the system near to the baseline are rarer and much more useful in controlling infections and inflammations without deleterious effects on immunity. Therefore, the preventive medicines that you are being advised to take nowadays (by authentic sources like AYUSH), are safe to be consumed over an extended time period. We can continue them along with good practices of the body and mind, till the time the present threat ceases to exist in the form of a pandemic outbreak and the numbers trickle to sporadic cases.
Let us end on this note:
- Take care of what, when and how you eat.
- Get adequate sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Take care of what you think and how you feel about this world
Because your way of life is the biggest shield nature can assure you of.