Is Arthritis Due To Gut Disturbance?
Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis and according to the CDC, over 52 million Americans have been told by a doctor that they have some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, or fibromyalgia. Interestingly, the ancient science of Ayurveda has long described three basic types of musculoskeletal joint diseases, namely sandhivata [osteoarthritis], amavata [rheumatoid arthritis], and vata rakta [gout], that are characterized by pain and swelling of the joints. Management for each type of arthritis is unique, as we shall discuss below, but for nearly all cases, it’s important to acknowledge that arthritis begins in the colon.
“All disease begins in the gut.” – Hippocrates
According to Ayurveda, there are three doshas called vata, pitta, and kapha. We can think of these three doshas as the guiding principles that keep all our bodily functions balanced and healthy. Ayurvedic literature states that vata dosha and asthi dhatu [bone tissue] are intimately associated and that the colon houses vata dosha. Therefore, the colon – being the home of vata dosha is primarily responsible for the development of vata disorders [i.e. osteoarthritis]. Similarly, the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis [“ama vata”] is considered to be due to the formation of metabolic waste products [“ama“] in the intestine caused by impaired digestive power [“agni”]. Finally, the origin of gout [“rakta vata”] is believed to be in blood. More specifically, when vata leaves the colon and invades both blood and joints, it produces gout.
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Janu Basti – Ayurvedic Management For Osteoarthritis
Simple Ayurvedic Considerations:
– vata imbalance in the skeletal system [“asthi dhatu”] creates osteoarthritis
– vata imbalance with toxins [“ama”] entering bone creates rheumatoid arthritis
– vata imbalance in blood [“rakta dhatu”] entering into boney tissue leads to gout
– vata imbalance in muscular tissue [mamsa dhatu] creates fibromyalgia
Healthy Digestion – Healthy Bones:
Enjoying a balancing diet and lifestyle can help maintain optimum health. Some key points to remember in addition to the above causes include:
- Avoid ice drinks and cold foods. This will weaken the digestive fire.
- Eat the largest meal between the hours of 11am and 1pm when digestive fire is strong.
- Eat a light meal for dinner to avoid overtaxing the stomach.
- Avoid overeating and emotional eating. This can make it hard for the stomach to properly digest the overloaded food.
- Get moving! Taking a walk after meals can aid in digestion and increase digestive fire.
- Certain yoga poses and pranayama (breathing exercises) are also particularly beneficial to improve digestion.
- Following a daily routine of meditation, oil massages and self-care will bring overall balance and contentment.
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Osteoarthritis from an Ayurvedic perspective is a vata imbalance which settles into bone tissue and creates symptoms of pain and stiffness in joints. Often, osteoarthritis begins with pain in one joint but subsequently spreads to other joints. Vata, the main acting dosha, has the ability to bring toxins [“ama”] from the colon and travel throughout the body, lodge in bone tissue, and give rise to pain and stiffness characteristic of arthritis. Therefore, it is important to discuss causative factors which can further worsen vata imbalances and therefore create symptoms of arthritis.
Factors which may worsen vata dosha; therefore avoid:
- cold foods such as salads
- avoid cold and iced drinks
- beans, drying grains such as barley and corn
- nightshades such as tomato, potato, and eggplant
Vata dosha can create a “hard” digestive tract and therefore may create symptoms of constipation, abdominal distention, flatulence, and even develop a nervous appetite. Instead, we should consider a vata pacifying diet which is centered around warm and nourishing meals.
“Leaky Gut” – The Root Cause Of All Disease?
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Rheumatoid Arthritis is considered the formation of “ama” which are by-products of poor digestion within the intestines and generally caused by diminished digestive power [“impaired Agni”]. Interestingly, “ama” resembles kapha, thus it tends to deposit in kapha locations, primarily the joints. Therefore, the management for Rheumatoid Arthritis first begins by breaking the chain of toxins [“ama”] within the colon by simply fasting or eating light foods. This again, acknowledges and stresses the importance that the root cause of rheumatoid arthritis may very well be gut disturbance and impaired digestion. The management of rheumatoid arthritis may be rather complex and often requires “Panchakarma” under the guidance of a qualified Ayurvedic professional.
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Panchakarma is a an Ayurvedic Detox & Rejuvenation Process. Ayurveda gives priority not only to preventive and therapeutic procedures but also to purification and rejuvenation therapies. Panchakarma or five therapeutic procedures are part of ‘sodhana’ treatments. Ayurveda also described ‘shamana’ which are considered less intense procedures for prevention and curing of diseases.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.