Ayurveda as a Complementary Approach to Healthcare
Opposition towards conventional medicine has been on the rise for some time now. The rationale is well established and it's nothing new to most of us: lack of drug efficacy, short- and long-term adverse drug reactions, a distressing uptick in antibiotic resistance, and skyrocketing costs. There is an enduring feeling that conventional medicines and medical procedures are not as effective as claimed, and perform especially poorly in chronic, long-term, and recurring diseases. What's more, the relationship between practitioner and patient is often severely lacking. The focus on symptomatic versus curative approaches is dangerously narrow, and nutrition and other lifestyle factors aren't even an afterthought. These factors, among others, have emboldened many to try one or other forms of complementary medicine, either alone or combined with conventional medicine. This might be why you are here right now.
The future really lies in embracing the totality of medicines available to us. With that being said, Ally will always try her best to respect your doctor's prerogative and approach (whether or not we agree with it). The goal is to work with them in order to provide care that gets as close to optimal wellness as possible. Utilizing the advanced diagnostic procedures supplied by conventional medicine alongside the intuitive, person-centered approach of Āyurveda is truly the way forward in healthcare.
Schedule an initial Ayurvedic consultation:
What is Ayurveda?
Āyurveda ('ah-yoor-vay-dah') is an ancient medical science rooted in the Vedas, India's most treasured scriptures dating back to 1500 BCE (that's over 3500 years!). In sanskrit, ayus roughly translates as 'life', and veda as 'wisdom' --- our favourite translation being the 'science of life'. It has some pretty, dare we say, magickal [sic] beginnings: physicians at the time were seers or deeply devoted holy people. Health back then was an integral part of spiritual life and it’s said that they received their training through direct cognition during meditation. That is, the knowledge of the use of the various methods of healing came through revelation. This made guessing or animal testing unnecessary. These transmissions were transcribed from oral tradition into written form and tested over hundreds of years of practice. In addition to the use of herbs to heal diseases of the mind and body and to foster longevity, the ancient texts also expounded upon organ transplants and artificial limbs. Did you know that surgery as we know it today has its humble roots in Āyurveda? Most practitioners in Western countries, however, do not practice shalya tantra (surgery). Many Āyurvedic Physicians in India do specialize in this area, however.
“While we could say that conventional medicine sprang from a microscopic examination of the microcosm, the physical world of amoebas and cells, Indian medicine arose from a microscopic examination of the macrocosm, the sublime embracing silence that contains all knowledge and the sacred memory of all time, our cognitive memory.” - Maya Tiwari
Āyurveda treats the cause of disease by correcting the choices we have made against our inner wisdom (wrong food, lifestyle, environment, thoughts, etc.). To reestablish balance, we need to address all the component parts of a human being: physical, mental, and spiritual. In this way, Āyurveda is not only the ancient Indian science of preventative health and healing but also a philosophy of living.
As a highly individualized approach, one of Āyurveda's a key tenets is that everything is right for someone and nothing is right for everyone.
What are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha?
Guidelines are offered by Āyurveda to help us understand our constitutional nature, enabling us to choose and live wisely on this earth. From the three doshas---Vata, Pitta, and Kapha--- several distinct body-mind types are formed. Our body-mind type, which is determined at conception by genetic and karmic memory, is our constitutional nature, or our prakriti. Once birth cements this elemental imprint, we cannot alter it to suit our wishes. While we may be influenced positively or negatively by our culture, society, and environment, our basic nature is established at birth from the interlacing of the five elements: earth, air, fire, water, and space. Patterned within the physical body, the doshas are the systematizing forces that sustain health and eliminate bodily waste.
As we grow and age, we interact with the elements in our environment to ill or good effect. Over time our unique balance of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha becomes vitiated, or changed. As an example, taking spicy food (fire) in the summer season (fire), can easily increase fire-type symptoms like acid reflux or trigger a heat rash. Given that Pitta is comprised of the elements of fire and water, an Āyurvedic professional would note the rise in Pitta and work to reduce it with cooling herbs, foods, and lifestyle advice. We all know the aloe vera (cooling) works on sunburns (heating). The practical implications of this intuitive science are manifold.
What can Ayurveda treat?
While the treatment of acute diseases and emergencies are expertly managed by conventional medicine, Āyurveda excels in chronic disorders, those recurring and long-term. Conventional medicine is largely focussed on the suppression of symptoms, where Āyurveda works to circumvent the underlying causes and contributory factors.
Āyurveda is equipped to handle most health concerns --- from irritating skin conditions like Psoriasis, Eczema, and Rosacea to chronic disorders like Diabetes, Fibromyalgia, Colitis, and Hashimoto's disease, to name just a few.
Ally's speciality is dealing with autoimmune conditions and women's health. Areas of particular interest are disorders of the endocrine system (thyroid dysfunction, difficult or stopped menstruation), skin conditions, and issues originating in the GI tract (which, believe it or not, includes things like Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis).
While it can be effective in managing chronic conditions, know that Āyurveda's strongest power actually lies in preventative medicine. The perfect time to see an Ayurvedic professional is actually before any serious symptoms occur.
What to expect in your appointment.
Duration: 2-2.5 hours*
*If you are able to complete the intake form ahead of time, the appointment will be shorter.
Overview: The initial consultation is essentially a diagnostic interview --- we'll go over your physical and mental health history since birth and establish a timeline of major events. You are center-stage. Current symptoms and conditions will be discussed, as well as what you wish to get out of the appointment. Greater energy? Yes! Better sleep? Can do.
Any recent medical testing will be reviewed (bring copies!), as well as your current daily routine. This includes discussion of habits, bowel movements, appetite, diet, and other aspects of lifestyle.
Āyurvedic Diagnostics: The final 30-45 minutes of the appointment is reserved for diagnostics (please note this does NOT include any biomedical diagnosis). There are many non-invasive traditional diagnostic tools available to the practitioner of Āyurveda. You'll notice Ally using each of the following in your appointment to, in a manner of speaking, 'fill' in the blanks in your personal story. This information offer clues as to the best first steps in re-balancing your constitution.
Often witnessing ourselves is tricky, so it's nice as a practitioner to have a way to assess a client's health without needing to ask questions. If you miss something in your health history or symptom picture, it will likely come up here. It is from this reading that we'll determine your constitution -- the balance of the elements in your system.
Since we can't see much beyond the mouth, the tongue becomes our window into the health of the digestive system. It is the beginning of the digestive tract and a quick look can reveal much about the health of the inner 'skin' lining it. This is the mirror into the stomach, as well as other organ systems--- even discomfort in the torso.
The texture, shape, and colour of your nails can offer clues about the status of your health. Each finger is tied to an organ system, an element, and even a planet within astrology. Please remove any nail polish prior to your appointment.
Lines on the face can tell us a lot. Some of this intel includes caffeine intake, ability to absorb nutrients, status of the reproductive system, and internal organ health. The zone of the face you develop rashes and acne on is also an important indicator of root cause.
Your Personalized Wellness Plan: You can expect to leave with one action item in the initial consultation and notes on any recommendations made during the appointment. Your full wellness plan will be delivered within 7-10 days.
This includes recommendations on nutrition, daily routines (ex. oil-pulling, self-massage, exercise), home remedies, sleep, and mental/emotional/spiritual health. If any herbal products are known to be helpful for your symptoms, you may choose to order them at that time. This includes powdered herbal formulations, teas, oils, and other plant-based preparations. FYI: Our basic one-month formula of 7-8 herbs is $35 -- this is what most clients are encouraged to try.
What to bring:
Medical Records: Any copies of medical tests, particularly recent ones (in some cases it is difficult to move forward without them).
Any recommendations received from other holistic professionals.
If you keep a food or habit journal, health history timeline, etc., bring it.
What to do before your appointment:
Try not to take caffeine or a large meal before your appointment -- this can interfere with your pulse and tongue readings. Ideally, you would abstain from food/caffeine from 3 hours before, but if it is medically or otherwise necessary, don't sweat it and do what you need to do.
Remove nail polish prior to your appointment to facilitate nail reading.
Wear makeup? If you have a skin condition, please take a photo of the problem area before applying makeup and bring it to your appointment (or email it).
What I'm not: A doctor, physician, or other primary healthcare provider. I cannot prescribe medicines or act as the primary consultant in any biomedically-diagnosed health conditions (in other words, I can diagnose your condition Āyurvedically, but I am, by law, mandated to leave the diagnosis of conventional medical conditions like Diabetes or Hypothyroid to your medical doctor/specialist). Where possible, I love to become part of your wellness team and discuss your case with your other healthcare providers (this is entirely contingent on their willingness to liaise with complementary healthcare professionals).
What I am: Somebody who is gonna try really hard to help you feel better!
Are Ayurvedic professionals regulated or certified?
Certification is governed by individual schools and NGOs. Associations like the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (www.ayurvedanama.org) seek to ensure that certain standards of education and practice are maintained in the United States --- Ally trained at a NAMA-approved school.
Within the United States there is no licensing for practitioners of Āyurveda, which means there is no governmental regulation. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it would place limitations upon your freedom to consume herbal medicines. On account of this status, my role is as a health educator. Anything you learn in your appointment is ultimately up to you to purchase and implement. If you are already being treated for a serious condition, you are advised to seek approval from your primary healthcare provider before taking any herbal medicines.
Where do you source your herbs? All of our products are sourced organically (we look for the USDA seal), as well as ethically (safe/fair labour practices) and sustainably (we don't use endangered herbs like Indian sandalwood that are currently vulnerable to extinction) --- our primary sources are Banyan Botanicals, Starwest Botanicals, Mountain Rose Herbs, and Frontier Co-op.