A New Approach to Health Care?
In this modern age there is so much desire to compare different things and create a versus environment; one thing is pitted against another in a desire to find out which is best. This can be helpful in certain instances, but when it comes to health care and varying treatments, things are not so simplistic, and when we look at the Ayurvedic approach compared to the conventional western model, they are even more grey.
I have long had a problem with the notion of ‘conventional’ medicine and ‘alternative’. The ‘conventional’ western healthcare model, which relies on surgery, radiation and pharmaceutical drugs, is actually relatively new, around 200 years old. Everything else is lumped into the ‘alternative’ category, and includes so many different modalities and treatments, with some (such as Chinese medicine and Ayurveda) being thousands of years old.
This is by no means an indictment of western medicine; in fact, the western model works extremely well for certain things, especially traumatic injuries. In the event of a car accident, for example, western medicine does an amazing job of fixing people, and surgery in these instances can be literally life-saving.
Rather, the issues arise when we begin to consider chronic problems such as heart-disease, cancer, diabetes etc. In these cases, the western model is not a particularly successful one. Rather than attempt to get to the root cause of the disease, western doctors instead focus on alleviating symptoms, predominantly through the use of pharmaceutical drugs, invasive surgery and radiation. It then becomes about dealing with symptoms and alleviating pain and ultimately leads to a life-time of prescription medications which can, over time, lead to even greater illness due to toxicity in the body. Deaths from prescription drugs are extremely high, even when taken in the prescribed way.
So what of the Ayurvedic approach? Where western medicine tends to look at individual parts of the body, e.g. a problem with the back, is dealt with by a back specialist etc, Ayurveda is a holistic approach which looks at the body as one organism. A problem in the back could be caused by bad postural habits, stress or other factors. Chronic illnesses are also addressed by dealing with the organism as a whole. When visiting a western doctor, they will often listen to symptoms and prescribe drugs, or order tests if they are not sure. A trained Ayurvedic doctor can tell much about the patient just from looking at his eyes, tongue, nails and general complexion. In this way, the Ayurvedic doctor does not usually need to rely on tests as they can already ‘see’ the illness within the patient. When the person’s prakriti (constitution) is also factored in, they can then be treated in a way that addresses every area of their life. In this way, Ayurveda can be very empowering for the patient, as they are taught how to take responsibility for their behavioural habits and guide themselves back towards health and vitality. Ayurveda is not about creating a life-time of reliance on pharmaceutical drugs with all their side-effects and complications.
As we move forward, now is the time to embrace all healing modalities. Healthcare is not a competition. Let us use what works from the western-model: the amazing advances in surgical techniques, treatment of acute pain caused by injury and all of its other benefits. At the same time, let us look to holistic treatments that deal with diet and lifestyle, and embrace meditation and Yoga as ways of keeping the body healthy. Rather than waiting for a lifetime of bad habits to finally catch up with the person in the form of chronic disease, let us use preventative measures to keep the body, mind and spirit in a healthy state, so that chronic disease is rare or completely eradicated.