According to Ayurveda, treating the symptoms of a disorder only takes you halfway to health. It is only by discovering and addressing the causes of illness or disease, in addition to treating the symptoms, that a patient can be restored to an enduring state of health.
In the following case study, we will see the efficacy of this two-pronged approach in a patient who suffered from recurring symptoms of sinusitis.
Patient Background & Symptoms
A 35 year-old woman came to me with recurring complaints of severe nasal congestion with sneezing, watery eyes, headaches and heaviness in the head. The symptoms were so severe that she was having difficulty breathing and sleeping. She had been enduring these symptoms for about two years. Previous treatment had given her only temporary relief from symptoms, as the causes were never addressed.
Ayurvedic practitioners use many tools to understand the whole picture of a patient’s health in order to make a diagnosis and develop a treatment. In this case, we will discuss three of the main tools/pieces of information that I used to diagnose and develop a treatment for this patient.
Prakriti: In Ayurveda, we must first understand a person’s prakriti (physical and mental constitution) in order to understand how their food and lifestyle may be affecting their health. A person’s prakriti is made up in various proportions of the three bio-psychic forces referred to as doshas: Kapha, Pitta, and Vata. Each of the doshas is a combination of two of the five great elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth.
This particular patient’s prakriti was Kapha-dominant. When the Kapha dosha, made up of earth and water, becomes excessive in the body, it is often reflected by the body producing too much phlegm. A Kapha-dominant person, then, will have a tendency to contract sinusitis, particularly if they are eating Kapha-inducing foods and engaging in activities that increase Kapha.
Diet: Once we know a person’s prakriti, we can examine their diet to see what foods may be aggravating or increasing the Kapha dosha. Two things stood out as I listened to our patient describe her eating habits.
First, she was consuming yogurt at night. Yogurt is known to increase water secretions in the body and is difficult to digest. This alone will cause an increase in Kapha. But eating it at night, when one is less active, causes the water to accumulate in the body, further exacerbating the increase in Kapha.
Second, the patient had a tendency to eat sour foods and was especially fond of pickles. Sour foods are also known to increase the water element. Thus, they were increasing our patient’s Kapha.
Lifestyle: I also learned that the patient did not exercise regularly, something that is vital to the health of the Kapha-dominant person. In addition, when the patient did exercise, she was riding a bike without proper protection against the cold. Exposure to cold air is also known to increase Kapha.
Nasya Therapy: This ten-session treatment involves massage to the face, neck, and shoulder area using a sesame oil infused with an herbal formulation to reduce Kapha in the body. This is followed by a steam and a few drops of a medicated herbal oil in each nostril. The dosage of drops in the nose is increased in each session, based on the patient’s response to treatment.
We start treatment with this therapy to reduce the inflammation of the mucus membranes so the healing process can begin. By the eighth session, our patient was feeling 80 percent better—symptoms had diminished almost entirely.
With symptoms subsiding, the following are some of the main recommendations I made to the patient to address the causes.
Diet: Ayurveda believes that all six rasas, or “tastes” (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent), should be enjoyed in our diets. But when the body is out of balance, we need to moderate some of those tastes. Instead of depriving the patient of the sour taste she enjoyed, I recommended using pomegranate seed powder and lemon in her cooking rather than going for the pickle. In addition, I asked the patient to reduce her consumption of yogurt and to never eat it at night. These simple dietary modifications would help reduce the Kapha in her body.
Lifestyle: I also recommended regular exercise, and, if exercising outside, to be sure to wear enough layers to keep warm, especially a hat or something over the ears. These measures will also help reduce Kapha.
Herbal oil: Finally, I advised the patient to continue using the herbal oil nasal drops we used in Nasya therapy for the next two months to increase the lining of the mucus membranes, which had weakened during her condition.
Months later, the patient has been following the recommendations on the whole and has not suffered any relapses. Along with her family and friends, she is amazed at the drastic transformation Ayurveda has brought about in her life. Even during the change of seasons, which were especially aggravating times for her sinusitis, her nasal passages have remained clear and she is breathing easily.
About Dr. Abhijit
Vaidya Abhijit Jinde, M.D. is an Ayurveda doctor, an Anchor Faculty Member of Vedika Global, and head of the department of Panchakarma. He earned his Ayurvedacharya degree (B.A.M.S.) from Pune University and his Ayurveda Vachaspati (M.D. in Ayurveda) from Gopalbandhu Ayurveda Mahavidyalay in Puri, where he specialized in Kayachikitsa (Internal Medicine), with a focus on skin diseases. A practicing Ayurvedic physician since 2002, Vaidya Abhijit Jinde is director of his own private Panchakarma clinic in Pune — Sukhayu Ayurveda Clinic — where he specializes in computer-related disorders, spine and knee care, and lifestyle diseases. He is also a specialty consultant for skin diseases, diabetes and digestive care at Vishwanand Kendra, a Yoga Ayurveda Naturotherapy Clinic in Pune, where he heads a Panchakarma Therapist Course affiliated with the Mumbai Vocational Board of Government of Maharashtra. Currently, Dr. Abhijit is developing a unique research project on diabetes prevention using classical Ayurvedic principles to understand the role of specific aspects of diet, lifestyle, occupation, prakriti (physiological constitution), and the impact of Panchakarma on prevention, as well as better management of diabetes.