How to Manage Osteoporosis with Ayurveda
By Dr Sajimon George BAMS, AAA, ATMS
Osteoporosis and ayurveda – Osteoporosis may be considered as thinning of the bones.
After the age of 60, half of the female population and one third of men are affected by osteoporosis.
This occurs when the body fails to form enough bone or when too much old bone is reabsorbed by the body or both. People who had insufficient calcium and protein during childhood, who are bedridden, or have a hereditary disposition are more likely to develop osteoporosis.
Diseases such as chronic rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease and hyperparathyroidism make people vulnerable to this condition. People on antiepileptic drugs, corticosteroids are also at risk of osteoporosis.
Menopause and the surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries can cause a fall in the primary female sex hormone, estrogen. Estrogen activates bone cell producing cells called osteoblasts but absence of estrogen causes increased activity of osteoclasts which cause re absorption of phosphates and calcium from bone cells to body and thus helping osteoporosis.
Within 5-8 years after menopause bone density will have been reduced by 4%. As age increases, the chances of getting a fracture also increases.
Ayurvedic medicine is a traditional system native to India with a holistic approach of health.
Signs and symptoms
Early stage osteoporois does not have any signs or symptoms
- Later the condition is suspected when fracture happens with little or no trauma
- Other symptoms include pain or tenderness in bones
- Loss of more than 6cm of height
- Low back and neck pain due to fracture of vertebrae
- Fracture of vertebrae can result in curved back
- Fracture healing requires long period in patients with osteoporosis.
Ayurvedic view on Osteoporosis
Concept of Dhatu
Dhatu – Seven types of body tissues which forms physical body. They are
- Rasa – Purified subtle part of properly digested food.
- Rakta – Blood
- Mamsa – Flesh
- Medas – Fat
- Asthi – Bone
- Majja – Bone marrow
- Sukla/Arthava – Reproductive tissue
Each of these dhatus are subtler or purer than the previous dhatu and nourished by the same. For example fat (medas) is nourished by flesh (mamsa) and flesh (mamsa) by blood (raktha).The fire (agni) inherent in fat causes digestion and supply of nutrient or subtler part of fat to the subsequent bone(asthi) dhatu.
Asthi or Bone is the fifth of seven dhatus of human body. This is the hardest of all dhatus. Equilibrium of doshas (Vatha, Pitha and Kapha principles) and seven dhatus capable of doing its own functions result in health. Bone or asthi dhatu act as framework of the body. Bone or asthi dhatu is the equivalent of the heart wood in a tree that gives support to the whole tree.
Healthy joints are possible only with normally functioning bone or asthi dhatu.
Each humor or dosha are specifically raktha, Kapha to other five dhatus. Flesh, Fat, Marrow and reproductive tissues.
When pitha or kapha principle is abnormally increased corresponding dhatu is also increased. In the case of Vatha principle, it is the opposite. When vata increases related dhatu which is bone decreases. This is what happens in osteoporosis.
Treatment procedures and medicines used for vatha predominant conditions are successfully employed in osteoporosis.
- Internal or External application of ghee or oils. This includes oral administration of ghee or oils processed with bitter and astringent herbs. External application of medicated oils is also useful. The choice is made by a physician after assessing the patient’s condition.
- Sweating. After above oleation process, mild to moderate sweating or steaming is done with boiling herbs in water.
- Vasthi. This is a very important treatment process for vatha predominant conditions. Here medicated oils, ghee, honey, powdered herbs, rock salt and herbal decoction are mixed in a very peculiar manner. This is administered through the anus as an enema. Here medicines reach emulsion form which causes increased bio assimilation.
Ayurvedic Dietary Modifications
Diet is of utmost importance in the treatment of osteoporosis. Pungent, sour and cold food items are contraindicated while green gram, soup, dairy products, drumstick, leafy vegetables are useful. Intake of sesame seed in many forms is very useful.
Excess alcohol consumption and smoking is contra indicated.
Regular exercise from childhood prevents osteoporosis. For those who are already affected with osteoporosis, they should start exercises only after consulting a physician.
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