Diet

Healing From the Scars of War the Natural Way

(WellnessNova.com) - My next door neighbor was diagnosed with 5 psychiatric disorders. She had been a soldier and a war hero and found it very hard to adjust to life back home after returning from the battlefield.

Anxiety disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were some of the problems that plagued her. In addition to these issues, she also suffered from premenstrual dysphoric disorder and had become bulimic.

The reason for her affliction was an imbalance of neurotransmitters in her brain. The function of neurotransmitters is to send chemical messages between neurons, which are specialized cells within the nervous system. The job of a neuron is to send electrical impulses to nerve cells, gland cells or muscle.

Stress due to serving in the war zone was responsible for the imbalance and deficiency of certain neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine. As a result of this imbalance, mental processes ceased to function properly, thus, leading to psychiatric disorders.

She visited a psychiatrist who prescribed pills and suggested that she go for counseling to help tackle her problems. The drugs gave her some respite, but she did not feel a whole lot better even after taking the medicines for two years. Her psychiatrist told her that she would have to make an attempt to heal through counseling and change her mindset, which had become somewhat warped as a result of the horrific events that she had encountered during the war.

She tried to develop a cheerful outlook towards life but found it hard to live vivaciously. Feeling dejected and unable to cope with her ailments, she reached out to a friend, a war veteran, who had supplemented allopathic treatments with Ayurvedic remedies to tackle post-traumatic stress disorder effectively.

Her friend, who was now in the pink of health, accompanied her to an Ayurvedic doctor who helped her understand her disorders and tackle them by modifying her diet and using herbs to supplement allopathic medicines. The reasons for her disorders and the remedies suggested by the Ayurvedic doctor are as follows:

Causes and Ayurvedic Remedies for the Disorders

The Ayurvedic doctor explained in detail the reasons for her disorders and suggested suitable remedies to resolve her issues.

Depression: Cause and Cure

The doctor told her that in Ayurveda, three unstable bio-elements called doshas make up one’s constitution. The three doshas are: vata, pitta and kapha.

Vata is the most important dosha and it governs the circulatory system and the flow of thoughts. When vata is out of balance, the mind is not relaxed. One is nervous and suffers from stress-related ailments.

Pitta governs all metabolic activities and transformations that take place in the mind and in the body. When pitta is out of balance, one tends to be a workaholic and a perfectionist.

Kapha determines the physical structure of the body and the formation of nutritive fluids, fat, blood, muscles, bones, marrow, and reproductive tissues. When kapha is out of balance, one becomes lethargic.

An imbalance of the doshas can cause depression.

The Ayurvedic practitioner chalked down my neighbor’s depression to an imbalance in vata and suggested a diet that would pacify vata. He asked her to avoid raw food. She was to consume food that was cooked and served hot. He encouraged her to drink plenty of milk and include yogurt, walnuts, seeds and clarified butter in her diet.

My neighbor wondered how balancing a so called dosha would help her combat depression. She was skeptical and was about to leave when the practitioner told her that according to modern medicine, the diet prescribed by him would help her tackle depression.

Allopathic doctors believe that a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, magnesium, and vitamin B complex causes depression. Thus, they recommend a diet that is rich in the aforementioned nutrients. He said that the diet he recommended to pacify vata dosha was rich in nutrients that, modern researchers believe, are necessary to overcome depression.

He could understand why she had difficulty understanding Ayurvedic doshas and went on to talk about the nutrients that were found in milk, yogurt, clarified butter, walnuts and seeds. All nuts and seeds contain magnesium, B vitamins, and beneficial fats. Walnuts especially are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids which, according to modern medicine, makes them the ultimate brain food.

Clarified butter contains omega-3 and omega-9 essential fatty acids and vitamins A, D, E and K. Milk is rich in vitamin D and studies have shown that people who drink a lot of milk are less likely to get depressed. He told her that recent research has shown that consuming yogurt twice a day reduces activity in the area of the brain associated with pain and emotion. Yogurt, in fact, increases activity in the areas of the brain associated with decision-making.

The doctor told her that modern medicine had proven that the vata pacifying diet recommended in Ayurveda was perfect for tacking depression. My neighbor was convinced and agreed to follow the diet suggested by him. The practitioner also prescribed pills that were good for the brain and the nervous system. He asked her to take a pill a day.

The pills contained the following herbs:

  • Withania Somnifera (root)
  • Licorice (root)
  • Finger-leaf morning glory (tuberous root)
  • Asparagus adscendens (tuberous root)
  • Indian gum arabic tree (exudate) extract
  • Phyllanthus emblica (whole fruit without seeds)
  • Tinospora cordifolia (stem)
  • Asparagus racemosus (root)
  • Simple-leaf chaste tree (leaf)
  • Dwarf morning glory (whole plant)
  • Curculigo (tuberous root)
  • Elephant vine (root)

He assured her that she would recover from depression provided she followed his advice, and went on to tackle the next problem:

Anxiety Disorder: Cause and Cure

My neighbor suffered from anxiety disorder in addition to depression. She was told that vata imbalance was the cause of anxiety disorder. He said that people with vata imbalance were particularly affected by stressors because the imbalance does not allow the body and the mind to respond appropriately to stress-inducing stimuli.

He encouraged her to massage herself from head to foot with vata-pacifying oils. The massage oils recommended by the Ayurvedic physician are as follows:

Massage Oil to Balance Vata Dosha

  • Withania somnifera root extract
  • Mimosa pudica (whole plant extract)
  • Sida cordifolia (whole plant extract)
  • Convolvulus pluricaulis (whole plant extract)
  • Organically cured Sesamum indicum oil and Cymbopogon schoenanthus oil

Massage Oil to Promote Healthy Circulation

  • Inula racemosa (root extract)
  • Hemidesmus indicus (root extract)
  • Cyperus rotundus (tuberous root extract)
  • Albizia lebbeck (bark extract)
  • Nardostachys jatamansi (rhizome extract)
  • Organically cured Sesamum indicum seed oil and Cymbopogon winterianus oil

Abhyanga or oil massage is recommended in Ayurvedic texts for relieving fatigue, balancing the doshas, increasing stamina, promoting longevity, and ensuring restful sleep at night. The massage helps to tone the muscles, calm the nerves, promote healthy circulation, and eliminate toxins from the body.

He discouraged her from eating canned or frozen food because such foods create ama which is the waste product of incomplete digestion. Ama blocks the channels of communication between the heart and the mind thus, making it difficult for negative emotions and stress to be released.

She was advised to eat whole grains like amaranth, oats, quinoa, rice and wheat. Blueberries, acai berries, peaches, almonds, and red lentils were to be included in her diet. These food items would pacify vata.

He asserted that, scientifically, the aforementioned food items have proven effective in tackling anxiety disorder. Modern science proves that red lentils and whole grains have low glycemic carbohydrates. They are known as “good carbs” because they have the effect of boosting serotonin, which in turn relieves anxiety and depression.

Carbohydrates with a high glycemic index should be avoided since they have the opposite effect. He said that in ancient times itself the practitioners of Ayurveda knew that whole grains and red lentils were good for the mind and body since they balanced vata and science has proven Ayurveda right.

He described in detail the health benefits of consuming blueberries, acai berries, almonds, and peaches in scientific terms because he believed that she would have difficulty understanding the vata-pacifying effects of these food items. Science has proven that blueberries are rich in phytonutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants, which are helpful in alleviating stress.

Similarly, peaches are also helpful in relieving stress. She was advised to boil peach flowers in water along with some honey, and drink the liquid since the flowers have sedative properties. She was told that acai berries are highly rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, and are acclaimed by scientists as the new superfood. Almonds, he reiterated, are rich in iron, a deficiency of which is known to cause brain fatigue that results in anxiety and lethargy. They also contain zinc, which is a mood stabilizer.

She was now convinced that the diet recommended by the doctor was indeed effective in combating anxiety disorder. In addition to diet modification, he prescribed Ayurvedic pills that she would have to take twice a day to help ease anxiety.

The composition of the pills is as follows:

  • Withania somnifera (root)
  • Nardostachys jatamansi (rhizome)
  • Glycyrrhiza glabra (root)
  • Tinospora cordifolia (stem and starch)
  • Centella asiatica (whole plant) extract
  • Dwarf morning glory (whole plant) extract
  • Pearl
  • Alpinia galanga (rhizome)
  • Gum acacia
  • Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose
  • Talcum
  • Magnesium stearate

He also suggested a herbal tea made from organic Glycyrrhiza glabra (root), ginger (rhizome), cardamom (fruit), and cinnamon (bark) and asked her to drink it twice a day to relieve stress.

He then went on to tackle the next disorder:

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder: Cause and Cure

My neighbor suffered from premenstrual dysphoric disorder. A week before her periods, she would feel depressed and find it hard to take an interest in the day-to-day activities. A general sense of hopelessness would engulf her. Mood swings and bouts of tears would accompany panic attacks. Her energy levels would plummet and she would tackle the overwhelming feeling of sadness, that loomed over her, by binge eating.

Feeling anxious and out of control, she would snap at people who were her well-wishers and wanted nothing more than for her to be happy. Insomnia made it particularly hard for her to wake up in the morning and go to work.

At the workplace, she would find it hard to concentrate and her mood swings would make it difficult for her to interact normally with her co-workers. She also suffered from mild seasonal affective disorder which made autumn and winter months particularly unbearable. The lack of sunshine affected her negatively and made her feel down in the dumps.

Her Ayurvedic doctor told her that premenstrual dysphoric disorder was known as Rajavikriti in Ayurveda. Imbalance of vata was again responsible for this disorder. The vata-pacifying diet that he had recommended for tackling anxiety disorder and depression was to be followed, and she was to abstain from coffee, tea, tobacco, drugs and alcohol because they aggravate vata dosha. In fact, these psychotropic substances tend to disrupt kapha and pitta too.

Even allopathic physicians asked her to avoid the aforementioned substances because they affect the level of serotonin in the brain. She was told that allopathic doctors believe that central serotonin levels and tryptophan levels are low in women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

Tryptophan is an amino acid from which serotonin is synthesized. He said that the seeds and nuts he had asked her to consume, to combat depression due to vata imbalance, would help boosting her tryptophan levels. Researchers now believe that these foods are a rich source of the amino acid.

He stated that all gynecological disorders in Ayurveda were attributed to vayu or the airy element. Since vata consists of the elements, air and ether, if there is a problem with vayu, which is a subdosha of vata, there will be an imbalance of vata.

She was encouraged to eat a lot of garlic and cooked onions since these spices were good for pacifying vata. Turmeric was to be combined with spasmodic spices like nutmeg and mixed with warm milk that was to be consumed at bedtime.

The massage oils that he had prescribed for anxiety disorder would work even for premenstrual dysphoric disorder. She was cautioned against forgoing massage especially a week before her periods. In addition to these remedies, a pill made from the following ingredients was prescribed to tackle the disorder:

  • Calcinated preparation of tin – 144 grams
  • Purified and processed mercury – 72 grams
  • Lemon juice extract
  • Purified ammonium chloride – 72 grams
  • Purified and processed sulphur – 72 grams

The tablet was to be taken after food. She was asked to drink a tonic made from Saraca asoca, Woodfordia fruticosa, Cyperus rotundus, Terminalia chebula, and Phyllanthus emblica. The healing properties of each of these herbs were listed in detail by the practitioner.

Saraca asoca bark contained sodium, silica, magnesium, iron, calcium, aluminum, and strontium, sterol, tannins, catechol and other calcium compounds which were needed for good uterine health.

The tree was also known for it’s analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Woodfordia fruticosa has healing properties while Cyperus rotundus acts as an appetizer and has anti-inflammatory properties.

Terminalia chebula and Phyllanthus emblica are rejuvinating herbs that have antioxidant and immune-modulating properties. He asked her to consume two teaspoonfuls of the tonic with equal quantities of water after meals.

He then suggested remedies for obsessive compulsive disorder:

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Cause and Cure

My neighbor was genetically predisposed to OCD since her mother had the same problem. Stress during war triggered off obsessive compulsive disorder in her. She found it very hard to deal with her problem because she continuously obsessed over mundane issues.

The Ayurvedic practitioner told her that vata imbalance was the cause of the problem and encouraged her to practice meditation. Modern research has proven that age old meditation techniques have the effect of reducing activity in the amygdala from where fear is believed to originate.

She was to use the massage oils prescribed by him for anxiety disorder since they would help relax her. She was encouraged to stick to the vata-pacifying diet. He stated that she did not need any medication provided she practiced meditation regularly.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Cause and Cure

Her Ayurvedic doctor said that an imbalance of vata in her body was causing insecurity, anxiety, hypersensitivity, and fear. Hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, and difficulty in concentrating was characteristic of vata imbalance.

The diet regimen prescribed by him, in addition to meditation and holistic massages to promote healthy circulation, was to be followed since it would help balance the dosha. He prescribed a pill made from medicinal herbs to improve concentration, increase attention span, and give a boost to mental processes. The ingredients that constituted the pill are as follows:

  • Centella asiatica (whole plant)
  • Valeriana wallichii (rhizome)
  • Asparagus racemosus (root)
  • Withania somnifera (root)
  • Embelia ribes (fruit)
  • Foeniculum vulgare (fruit)
  • Delonix regia (seed)
  • Tinospora cordifolia (stem)
  • Evolvulus arizonicus (whole plant)
  • Bacopa monnieri (whole plant)
  • Asparagus racemosus (root) extract
  • Cheilocostus speciosus (root)

He then went on to resolve her eating disorder:

Bulimia: Cause and Cure

He said that allopathic physicians would attribute all her disorders including, bulimia, to a deficiency of tryptophan and serotonin. According to Ayurveda, if vata is imbalanced for a long time both pitta and kapha also become imbalanced.

In her case, pitta had become imbalanced due to vata imbalance. Pitta dosha imbalance makes one crave sweets and binge eat and become overweight. The imbalance of this dosha can also makes one bulimic.

Detoxification and rebalancing the bio-elements would rid her body of excess pitta and solve her problem. The herbs, Bacopa monnieri, Eclipta prostrata and Tinospora cordifolia would help balance pitta dosha by removing the excess dosha from her body, and were thus prescribed. He assured her that she would recover soon provided she went for a few holistic counseling sessions in addition to taking medication.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Cause and Cure

My neighbor was told that an imbalance of vata was once again responsible for PTSD. He said that people with vata imbalance tend to respond acutely to stress. Hyperarousal, insomnia, recurring memories, and excessive anxiety were trademarks of vata imbalance.

Thus, balancing the dosha would resolve post-traumatic stress disorder. He reiterated the importance of the recommended diet regimen, the prescribed medication for the aforementioned disorders, Abhyanga or Ayurvedic oil massage, and meditation, and stated that she did not need any medication for PTSD. Balancing vata using the above-mentioned remedies would resolve PTSD.

Success at Last

Although my friend was skeptical about the course of treatment, she decided to follow the instructions of the Ayurvedic practitioner to the letter. One of the reasons she had difficulty believing in Ayurveda was because she found it hard to fathom the notion of dosha.

Allopathic doctors explained every ailment in terms of hard science, whereas Ayurvedic doshas were metaphysical concepts that were very difficult to comprehend. She wondered how Ayurvedic medicine originated when it was not even possible to subject doshas to empirical tests since they were ethereal concepts.

She did, however, appreciate the doctor’s scientific explanation that a deficiency of tryptophan, and hence serotonin, which is the neurotransmitters that is synthesized from it, was the cause of her problem. Even though she could not conceptualize vata dosha imbalance and the need to pacify vata, she hoped that the medicines given by the Ayurvedic doctor would rectify the tryptophan and serotonin deficiency.

Despite her initial reluctance to try out Ayurvedic remedies, she found herself hoping that the doctor had diagnosed her correctly and would cure her. She made the necessary changes to her diet, took the medicines, and sought the help of a holistic healer who taught her meditation. She enjoyed massaging her body with Ayurvedic oils and felt relaxed after every massage.

Very soon she started noticing a visible change in her demeanor. She was less anxious, was able to sleep better, and stopped reliving the horrors of war. Her appetite increased, and she lost the urge to purge after every meal.

She was able to keep her obsessions and compulsions under check and her concentration improved. Irritability and mood swings before her periods diminished. Her spirits uplifted and she stopped feeling depressed.

Ayurveda had cured all her disorders simply by balancing vata dosha. She was a much happier person and realized that even though doshas could not be measured in scientific terms, they existed and formed the basis of the ancient system of medicine that had given her immense relief. She is now a proponent of Ayurveda.

Sources:

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/educational-resources/brain-basics/brain-basics.shtml

http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/diet/vata-pacifying-foods/

http://www.mapi.com/ayurvedic-knowledge/doshas/vata.html#gsc.tab=0

http://www.mapi.com/ayurvedic-knowledge/emotional-support/ten-ayurvedic-tips-for-beating-depression.html#gsc.tab=0

http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/therese-borchard-sanity-break/nutritional-deficiencies-that-may-cause-depression/

https://books.google.com.au/books?id=ZvIDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA41&lpg=PA41&dq=can+manganese+combat+depression&source=bl&ots=38mOiOa8zc&sig=x2KPaLNhtSs4B47qvQQ-410e4w8&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=can%20manganese%20combat%20depression&f=false

http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/therese-borchard-sanity-break/foods-eat-every-day-beat-depression/

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http://www.mapi.com/products/massage-oils/massage-oil-products.html#gsc.tab=0

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http://ayurvedicwellnesscentre.com.au/2016/01/08/ayurveda-and-ocd/

http://www.alandiashram.org/school/school_html/articles/ptsd.html

http://holistic-healing-for-adhd.com/adhd-symptoms-vata/

http://www.alternativementalhealth.com/natural-treatment-of-anorexia-and-bulimia-2/

http://healthandayurveda.com/blog/?p=289

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20669377,00.html

http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/blog-the-banyan-insight/details/ayurvedic-support-for-mild-anxiety

http://www.mapi.com/ayurvedic-knowledge/childrens-health/back-to-school-tips-with-maharishi-ayurveda.html#gsc.tab=0

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