Inside This Issue
Health and Science in the News
The Book Corner--Omega 3's & 6's
Lab Testing for Health and Disease
Disease Modeling --Another Cause?
Pranayama--Breathing for Health
Fox reported on research findings that showed a vaccine for one type of virally-induced cervical cancer has a nearly 100% success rate in prevention although lower benefit was found for curing an existing cancer. Since transmission is via sexual contact and carrier may be symptom-free there is thinking that girls as young as 10 years old could benefit if they were inoculated before they become sexually active.
Fox reported that our sanitized environment may have made us vulnerable to infection. Rats living in unsanitary areas are healthier than those living in sterile ones.
Other medical research announced recently has shown that a special protein has been connected to Alzheimer's and diets with lower caloric values have a preventive effect on the protein forming. This report adds to the body of data suggesting longer and healthier life follows from eating less calories while maintaining nutrient content.
Tests on garlic--whole and concentrate--showed clinically significant ability to prevent the gastrointestinal uptake of heavy metals and to chelate them from the body when taken with food. Milk thistle demonstrated similar results for some heavy metals. Those using cilantro for this purpose should note that there is little research data for these effects attributed to it.
Garlic extract placed directly on warts was shown efficacious for treatments of two months.
Vitamin C supplementation was shown to reduce uric acid excretions in urine. Uric acid is problematic for gout patients.
Magnesium deficiency may be linked to hearing sensitivity, and headaches according to one report. Autism frequently shows these symptoms, suggesting magnesium supplementation may be helpful.
Faced with the task of diagnosing a bone break/fracture--a recent evaluation of this task which includes placing a vibrating tuning fork on the suspect location was shown accurate (by the pained response of the victim) 87% of the time. Best to follow up with a radiology exam.
Ever heard of "The Common Rule?" This criterion requires that human test subjects must be given informed consent concerning research procedures, risks, and possible benefits. Research funded by government invokes this rule automatically.
Interested in applied kinesiology? A recent objective study of it application fared well by accurately predicting a true-false condition from perceived muscle strength. The faithful suggest that neuronal pathways connect the limbic system to the pathways that control muscle tone and tension (see Townsend Letter Jan. 2006 p. 24 for more).
We have featured a wide range of subject matter in this section of The Ayurvedist and continuing in that mold is this month's selection from Orthomolecular science. Recall that the theme of this body of thought is that there is a chemical balance in the body, which when optimal is conducive to good health. Treatments that derive from this proposition include dosing / mega dosing with vitamin, mineral, and other chemicals naturally occurring in the body.
One criterion that might be invoked when evaluating a work is: Does the work in question add anything new to the issue at hand (science)? Since the book is now dated and the concept of Omega - 3 supplementation is not new and it premise--essential fatty acids--have received considerable support in the nutritional community over the past 15+ years and therefore take a rightful place in received doctrine, we choose to ask another question: Are there any new terms of interest in the work? Two terms in the work are of interest: "antinutrient" and "modern disease syndrome." Rudin defines antinutrient as that substance that when ingested increases the dietary need for other nutrients. Examples are: alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, rancid oils/trans fatty acids, saturated fats, refined sugar and flour, recreational drugs, prescription drugs, environmental pollutants, and stress increasing nutrient requirements. They "drain, supplant or inhibit the actions of nutrients the body needs for proper functioning." One mechanism cited is from the fast food business which commonly re-heats oils that become-lactone rich--a molecule which inhibits the enzyme plasmin (which breaks up blood clots in arteries). Another involves refined sugar which during its metabolism robs mineral stores from the body necessary to its metabolism.
There is an interesting, indirect, affirmation of the importance/usefulness of Ayurveda's concept of prakriti: white fish generally have a body shape/structure that is suited to short bursts of activity, while their dark meat relatives are torpedo-shaped and suited for long-haul swimming. This structural feature helps guide one to an understanding of the nature of the flesh and its macro-nutrient contents--especially EFA (EPA and DHA) content. In other words, we can use prakriti of animals/fish to guide us in making food choices.
The Ayurvedic "ten-fold assessment" criteria (prakriti, land, season, age, suitability from habit/customs, mental strength, etc.) find a silent champion in Rudin. He claims that location helps determine suitability of food; for example, cold climate plant foods and animals are aptly suited for survival in that climate. Feeding upon these plants and animals bestows a measure of protection (via diet) against cold weather effects and clinically, against what he calls the Modern Disease Syndrome (MDS). MDS is a deficiency-caused set of symptoms represented by obesity, cardio-vascular disorders, diabetes, cancers and so on. Importantly, this syndrome represents, for Rudin, in its diverse array, a deficiency of EFA's and other nutrients that have been systematically eliminated by modern processing techniques. Moreover, while each of these nutrients contributes to good health when adequately present, they act synergistically in the presence of the others.
His program has several features. He advocates "traditional eating patterns"--foods representing three groups: 1) fruits, berries, yellow/green vegetables; 2) cereals, seeds, and nuts; 3) legumes, meats, fish, and dairy products. If they come from cold climates they will naturally have better representation of Omega 3/6 EFA's. This program with specific instructions has three phases: I) get the right amount of and balance EFA's for each person; II) supplement a variety of co-factors such as: minerals (selenium, calcium, copper, zinc, and manganese), vitamins: A, B complex, C, antioxidants (beta carotene, Vit E, cysteine), and fiber (bran, psyllium, pectin); III) and maintain the program. Essential to the success of the program is self-awareness of the feedback from the body with regard to the dietary changes implemented. Each person should carefully and constantly monitor symptoms and conditions of mind and body for desirable or undesirable effects. One feature of the diet includes supplementing with fiber and maintaining hydration and seems to have the purpose of creating and maintaining good elimination--an Ayurvedic dictum for good health. He advocates regular exercise, too.
This work supports other data that indicate that some disease states may be related to nutritional deficiencies. A research-oriented friend and colleague has proposed to test this idea in real research. Wish her success!
Lab Testing for Health and Disease
The JAMA article spotlighting heavy metals in Ayurvedic medicines has stirred up fears in our community of reprisals, condemnation, and litigation. Since Ayurveda is not a licensed medical protocol in the US we practitioners have even more cause for concern. The revelation that our drugs were contaminated with heavy metals came as a shock to many. We know that the rasa shastra formulations routinely employ mercury/sulfur-based compounds. However, we did not expect to find heavy metals in the herbal compounds. At least one purveyor known to this writer has taken the stance that no cost is too high to quantify and qualify the constituents of our medicinal products. For most of us who resell herbal products made by others, in the US and elsewhere, we may have fallen into the thinking that ignorance is bliss or "Firm X is reputable so I don't have to worry" attitude. Neither of these positions serves the practitioner, the patient, or the profession.
California passed legislation bearing on this matter in 1986: The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. Essentially it contains language that requires a person or firm to declare that listed chemicals are in a product for sale in California. Daily dosage levels were established for arsenic, lead, cadmium, chromium, and mercury, etc. The law stipulates that you don't need to comply if your firm has 10 or fewer employees, so most of us don't have to worry about prosecution. But this fact does not protect from litigation if your guduci has high levels of mercury in it and a sample you sold your client ends up in a testing laboratory analysis with Hg in it. I recommend that you get your suppliers on board with certified analysis programs. If you're serving California I further suggest that you consider using the official warning labeling for all hard good sales. Just in case you don't know--the plastic covering on paperback books has lead in it and this may transfer to hands and end up in the body. This statement serves as a general alarm that listed ingredients in the legislation are nearly ubiquitous, not just in plant materials.
One way to deal with issues raised is to have products tested on your own. ConsumerLab.com provides such a service, for a fee. .. It publishes its findings on many consumer health products. If you are wondering which brand has the best product consider going on line and searching its database for its published reports. You'll be surprised how many brands out there do not fulfill the label's promise. Some products are using stimulants to get their results and some are not. Many have less of the important ingredient than stated and some have forms of the important ingredient that are not bio-available. So this is a good source for enhancing awareness of GMP's and so forth. There are probably many other independent labs that provide such services.
On the other side of the coin you can use labs such as Vitamin Research Products for hair, serum, and urinalyses of yourself or your clients. Be it known that there is a lot of latitude in the methods of analysis and that this factor can contribute confusion rather than clarity to your task. There are many different kinds of tests that can be brought to bear on a task so be sure you know the qualitative and quantitative limits of tests that are being used.
There are groups that certify methods--AOAC is one such organization. It does not do testing but helps develop criteria and guidelines that serve as a basis for analytical testing for chemical compounds. For more info on it go to:
There are other kinds of testing that are available for diagnosing. One such firm--Spectracell Laboratories--will do a nutritional profile on a blood draw and provide a printout of its findings on a list of standard ingredients. These data include aspects of genetics as well as of the present state parameters. These data have the potential to provide precise nutritional guidelines for your client's present state and for prevention.
For those of you who are wondering about genetic testing, there are many firms doing the human genome profile for individuals. Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory has been one of the pioneers in this field. There appears to be a potential for prevention in this testing as genetic predispositions or weaknesses can be spotted by the testing. We Ayurvedists know diet and lifestyle are important provoking factors of disease manifestation.
The Newsletter has discussed in prior issues the idea that we can model the disease causing agent along classical Ayuveda lines, using 6 categories. One theme that has emerged from modern experience is that disease may be the result of deficiency rather than of excess. Caraka, an ancient authority, wrote that disease symptoms could be caused by deficiency of the doshas. There is an interesting parallel in this idea of deficiency with our modern experience with scurvy (Vit C), rickets (Vit D), pellagra (Vit B3) and mineral deficiencies involving selenium, calcium, copper, iron, zinc, magnesium, and more. While it is the case that the symptoms of the modern diseases donít match up with symptoms of the classical VPK deficiencies, as described by Caraka, the awareness that deficiency of the doshas could produce a disease is important.
The struggle to understand how the body works (and the micro and macro-nutrients that make all this happen) has been long and tedious and is the basis for the concepts of RDA, MDA, essential fatty acids, essential amino acids, essential mono-saccharides, and so on. There is now sufficient evidence to support the contention that there are some things in nature that every body must have. This is the purview of orthomolecular medicine. There is still considerable controversy about the quantitative and qualitative aspects of these nutrients and their MDA/RDA specifications, but there is little doubt that there can be disease-deficiency syndromes associated with lack of them in the diet. The fact that there is a hint of this idea embedded in the writings of Ayurveda is interesting and important.
One way to think about this issue, in a disease-modeling way, would be to consider the relationship of micro-nutrients to the doshas themselves. Personally, I consider micronutrients and perhaps the macro-nutrients, too as the subtle essence of the doshas. This could help explain the biochemical basis of dosha kshaya (decreased quantity of dosha). One could ask whether this or that nutrient has gunas most similar to vata, pitta, or kapha and then ascribe that nutrient to the appropriate doshic category. Of course, another step would be necessary--to validate that a deficiency of a particular nutrient correlates with the classical descriptions of that doshic kshaya condition. The long-term and short term implications of depletion/deficiency would have to be taken into consideration as well.
The importance of the work surrounding Omega 3 is that these data connect observed nutrient deficiencies with specific disease conditions. Rudin and others have proposed that there is a syndrome that manifests when consumers and societies move away from "traditional eating patterns." Traditional eating patterns are described as food gathering, storing, processing, and cooking techniques that existed before household refrigeration, mass distribution, and modern processing (steel rollers rather than stone ones and polyunsaturated oils rather than their stabilized versions--saturated / hydrogenated, etc.). Rudin's term for this syndrome is Modern Disease Syndrome (MDS) and includes obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, immune disorders, and more. His personal clinical research study, epidemiological evidence, and review of other research have led him to conclude that modern diets are nutrient deficient and there is a predictable bodily response to this deficiency--MDS.
From a therapeutic perspective this is an interesting category of causation. Clearly, the Ayurvedic dictum to remove the cause applies (supply the nutrients) but what is important is that natural healing is the mechanism in the reversal process--the disease symptoms abate when vital nutrients are supplied to the diet. We could say that the doshas have sufficient material presence and energetic force to fulfill their respective duties/functions in a harmonious way. Of course there is an implication of deficiencies on healing during developmental years, but we don't know these ramifications yet. Growing children are experiencing many nervous disorders and the combination of antinutrients, which drain, supplant or inhibit the actions of nutrients the body needs for proper functioning, and nutritional insufficiency of the diet may be combining to manifest as some of these diseases. Whether there are long term effects we just don't know yet.
One final point in regard to this thesis is the observation by Linus Pauling, et al that the primary cause of Lp(a) coronary artery deposition is the chronic deficiency of Vit C and treatment is done with mega-dosing of it and other nutrients. It is interesting that Rudin has remarked on the similar roles of this vitamin and other nutrients and noted an apparent synergistic interaction. It may be that Pauling's work was only a partial explanation of the coronary vascular disorder-- high cholesterol / atherosclerosis.
Be well... The Ayurvedist
Pranayama -- Neuro-respiratory Integration
The root of this Sanskrit word is prana, meaning (VS Apte): breath, respiration; the breath of life, vitality, life, vital air, principle of life (esp. the 5 pranas, viz. prana, udana, samana, apana, vyana), wind , air inhaled; energy, vigor, strength, power; spirit, soul; The Supreme Spirit. Pranayama, the whole term, means support of life, maintenance, livelihood; the act of breathing. The act of breathing innate to life itself is an act of renewal--of expelling the old / used and inspiring the new and vital. Majumdar (p. 198), says pranayama means "control of breath" ...with a view to controlling the life force, or the nervous energy, of the body. Iyengar (p.32), elaborates that the ayama stem is about three movements: vertical extension, horizontal extension, cyclical extension. These aspects involve inhalation, exhalation, and retention.
By practicing pranayama one learns to move prana to all parts of the body. No hardness or tension as in deep breathing should be manifested as this inhibits the movement of prana. Done with asanas impediments to the flow of prana are eliminated. We can say that any disease is the de facto defect in the flow of prana. Managing prana helps calm the mind and as the mind goes so goes the physiology. Inhalation stimulates the CNS to activate peripheral nerves and involves receiving energy from outside. Exhalation releases wastes and relaxes the CNS/peripheral nerves. Iyengar states further that retention activates both processes simultaneously. One of my teachers claimed that he could cure any disease with pranayama. I believed him but I still want to see the research.
Generally speaking, yoga practices should be coordinated into a sequential routine: asanas first, next pranayama, and finally meditation. This sequence at first releases gross stresses and impediments in physiology (asanas) and then more subtle ones (pranayama) and finally, the mind itself is calmed/ controlled (meditation/samadhi). Majumdar says the emotions and the nerves benefit from this approach. All manner of emotional distress is reflected in our breathing and restoring proper breathing restores mental health.
Here is instruction for two pranayama: Sit in a proper manner--padmasana (lotus) or siddhasana or sukhasana. "The body should be held even and straight and relaxed, with head, neck, and back in a line. Eyes should be closed. In alternate nostril breathing the left hand should rest on left knee while right one operates the nostrils. Nadi shodhana or alternate nostril breathing is done thusly: with the right thumb block the right nostril and inhale through the left nostril. Then with the right pinky finger or ring finger block the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril and then block with thumb and exhale through the left nostril. Continue for 5' - 10'. There are many variations on this theme. This practice is said to balance the brain physiology on both sides and since the brain controls the physiology of the rest of the body, it too gets balanced. Calming the body calms the mind. Thus the process can result in its natural conclusion--samadhi. Shitali can be done when one is particularly hot--purse lips into a ring and stick tongue through the lips creating a tube-like shape. Breathe in and out through the mouth. It's cool.
A final thought: good posture in daily activity promotes good pranayama and therefore health. As often as you think about it, do some deep abdominal breathing with awareness during the day.
1. BKS Iyengar Yoga--The Path to Holistic Health, Ranjana Sengupta, Project Editor, Dorling Kindersley, New York, 22001
2. Introduction to Yoga Principles and Practices, Sachindra Kumar Majumdar, University Books, New Hyde Park, NY, 1964
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