Arthritis is literally at epidemic proportions here in the United States. According to the CDC from the years 2013 – 2015, an estimated 54.4 million adults had been diagnosed with some form of arthritis by their doctor. They also estimate that by the year 2040, 78 million US adults are projected to be diagnosed with having arthritis. This is an alarming trend that costs us billions of dollars annually and effects millions of lives.
I developed arthritis myself many years ago, before I took up the study of Ayurveda. During those years, I suffered from extreme pain in my right hip that made it very painful and difficult to walk. Once I understood the Ayurvedic perspective on arthritis, it all made sense. All I had to do was put it into practice. I am now pain-free, and do not require medication other than herbs.
Arthritis means “inflammation of the joints”. From the Ayurvedic perspective, this ‘inflammation of the joints’ is due to a buildup of toxins in the body, which have made their way into the joints. Once toxic buildup occurs in the joints, it causes inflammation and damage to the tissues in the joints. – So how is it that over 20% of Americans are suffering from such toxic buildup within their bodies?
The obvious place to start is the diet. The typical American diet is not necessarily considered healthy by any standard. We have a penchant for fast food, junk food, processed foods, fried foods, salty foods, vast amounts of red meat, alcohol and let us not forget all that sugar that is in everything! Last but not least is the incredible amount of chemicals that is put into our processed foods! Add to this the fact that most people like to enjoy a large, ice cold soda(!) or some other drink with their meal. This has the effect of severely reducing* the digestive process, which allows this undigested, toxic waste to simply sit throughout our digestive tract until it bleeds through – into our bloodstream. Not a pretty picture, is it?
By the time arthritis has developed, your entire body is full of toxins. This is why skin rashes are so prevalent in people with arthritis. The skin is a direct reflection of the blood! These toxins also cause problems for many other organs, which is why it is common for people with arthritis to suffer from many other diseases as well. This is called comorbidity. The three most common diseases suffered along with arthritis are heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. (Please be sure to consult a physician if you have these complications.) The following information will go a long way to improving* anyone’s health, including those with the above complications.
A Proper, At-Home Cleanse
The main thing that needs to take place, is a thorough cleanse. Assuming you don’t have thousands of dollars to spend for the formal PanchaKarma treatment at an Ayurvedic spa, the following instructions for a home-cleanse may be welcome information. The first thing you need to do is determine what your dosha, or body type – is. This can be done with a simple Google search. After taking the test, write down your personal scores for all three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. That which scores the highest is considered to be your dosha. This is what your body already has in excess, and what you do not want to increase*. You may be a combination or “Dual dosha” type, or even have all 3 types relatively equal. If the latter is the case, pay attention to the characteristics of your arthritis, to discern the most appropriate actions for you.
In Ayurveda, we have a special meal that is prepared and eaten during a cleanse. We do not require a long-term fast lasting several days. Kitchariis the name of this dish. It is primarily a combination of basmati rice and mung beans along with certain spices that enkindle the digestive process. Many such recipes can be found online. Kitchari is specially formulated to provide all the nutrients your body needs. The Mung beans provide all the protein needed and the basmati rice adds its own health benefits. The spices taste great and add their own health benefits and stimulate digestion! If you do not wish to eat Kitchari for a week or two, at least limit yourself to a light diet in accordance with your dosha. You must cut out all unhealthy foods and drinks, as well as heavy, hard to digest foods!
During the time of this cleansing diet, drink plenty of room temperature water and take at least 5 grams of the Ayurvedic formula known as Triphala each night, at least one hour after dinner. It is best to put the Triphala into warm water and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Then drink quickly. It is not necessarily the best tasting, but it is the best and healthiest mild laxative in the world. It will cleanse your digestive tract with repeated use and will never deplete the body of nutrients – unlike commercial laxatives! It will even build up tissues in the body that need it. You may encapsulate the Triphala if you choose to, but it will take quite a few capsules to equal 5 grams. If 5 grams is insufficient to accomplish our goal, you may increase* as needed, but do it slowly and moderately.
Upon rising, first thing in the morning, it is suggested to drink a glass of room temperature water, (preferably from a copper cup that has set out all night). If needed, a tbsp. of lemon juice can be added to this water. Between these two practices, you will soon be on your way to cleansing your digestive tract in a healthy manner. While all types of arthritis have certain things in common, there are three specific types according to Ayurveda; each having the characteristics of their predominant dosha.
Doshic Types Of Arthritis
Vata type arthritis is soothed by the application of heat, and aggravated by cold. The joints are usually stiff and the pain is quite sharp. Other typical excess Vata characteristics may also be present such as increased gas, constipation, anxiety and nervousness. An anti-Vata diet must be adhered to for any progress to be made, as well as ensuring* that toxins are not allowed to build up the body. Triphala should be taken as described above on a regular basis to ensure the colon is kept clean. This is vital for Vata types. Guggulu is a substance used throughout Ayurveda, and it is the best arthritic medicine for all doshic types. When combined with triphalain the formula TriphalaGuggulu, it carries the cleansing action of Triphala deep into the tissues of the body for the most thorough cleansing possible. This not only helps for arthritis, but many other diseases as well, including chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia if taken on a regular basis. The application of warming oils such as medicated sesame oil, Mahanarayan oil, or castor oil will help greatly.
Pitta type arthritis, is inflamed and swollen. It is soothed by the application of cold and aggravated by heat. Other typical aggravated Pitta characteristics may also be present such as sweating and sensitivity to heat, loose bowel movements, and general irritability. An anti-pitta diet and anti-ama (toxin) diet must be adhered to. Pitta types need to constantly cleanse and cool their blood. For this any of the bitter herbs like aloe, sandalwood, turmeric, Guduchi, and neem (in moderation) can be taken. Again, TriphalaGuggulu is essential for long-term, deep cleansing. The application of cooling oil’s like coconut will help sooth and cool the joints. Ice packs may also be used.
Kapha type arthritis has a heavy, aching type of pain that is soothed by the application of heat and aggravated by cold and wet. Other typical aggravated Kapha characteristics may also be present such as congestion and excess mucus. An anti-Kapha diet is essential and specifically oily foods, sugary foods and dairy products must be avoided. As with all kapha situations, the application of pungent herbs and spices are essential. The use of Trikatu, an Ayurvedic formula used to stimulate digestion, is essential for Kapha types and is in reality good for all three doshas. It will aid* greatly in burning* up the last residues of toxins in the digestive tract that the Triphala does not get. Other herbs and spices that are useful are cayenne, ginger, turmeric, and even true cinnamon. These can be taken internally or made into a paste that is applied to the joints externally. Mustard oil is specific for Kapha types, and is recommended for massage into the joints affected.
In my own search for arthritic relief*, I have found several herbs and formulas to be essential. Triphala for cleansing the digestive tract, Triphalaguggulu for deep cleansing of all tissues. Boswellia (frankincense), myrrh, Gotu Kola and turmeric for cleansing the blood and joints. Although they are heating; fenugreek and wild celery seed are good for pain. I will often utilize a complex decoction formula that will aid* in cleansing the blood, the joints, the liver and provide pain relief*. By making a decoction, these herbs go directly into the body, as it takes minimum time and effort for the body to digest it. These personal formulas do not, however, lend themselves to mass consumption. Anyone interested, may contact me for a consultation to ensure their formula is custom fit to their body and arthritic type.
The primary piece of advice found on the CDC website and Arthritis.org, (amongst others), is to ‘maintain an active lifestyle’. The pain endured by arthritis sufferers usually makes this advice impossible to follow. By utilizing the above information, you will soon be in much less* pain, if not pain free, and be able to enjoy that active lifestyle. Increased activity will then assist in joint flexibility and reduced* pain. If you maintain a healthy diet according to your doshic type, and follow the above advice, you will be astounded by how much your life can improve*!
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