Ayurveda's Integrative Approach to Endocrinology
Ayurveda (Ayur - Veda) is an ancient healing system based on wisdom traditions which originated in India over 5,000 years ago and focuses on the balance of body, mind and consciousness. Now recognized as an important integrative tool, its use is rapidly spreading throughout the United States and other Western countries. It manages client illness at multiple levels by addressing other causes such as stress, lifestyle, and emotional patterns. Its ability to reduce symptoms and sometimes reverse imbalances has captured the interest of the scientific world due to positive findings, which have been documented by various evidence-based research programs.
As modern or conventional medicine has gotten a better understanding of endocrinology, many drugs and topical applications for the various hormonal imbalances have been developed. However, most would agree that there is still a limited knowledge of what causes the initial imbalance and malfunctioning of the endocrine system. The traditional western approach has generally prescribed substitution for the hormone utilizing Hormone Replacement Therapy and/or surgery. Since this approach has risks associated with the treatment plan itself, western medicine is looking to Ayurveda and other natural systems with new hope.
Ayurveda’s comprehensive understanding of endocrinology applies a natural and holistic approach that may significantly help prevent and reduce hormonal challenges.
Its foundation is a ‘tri-dosha’ theory which views the individual’s constitution as a mixture of ‘Vata,’ ‘Pitta,’ and ‘Kapha,’ which are three distinct combinations of the universal five elements of wind, space, fire, water and earth. A person’s unique combination of these elements and the effects of past lifestyle and dietary choices are considered when developing a personalized care program. However, since Ayurveda is a science of body, mind and consciousness, it is not enough to merely focus on just physical symptoms and imbalances; the client’s mind and consciousness also play a major role, especially in endocrinology. Therefore, the Ayurvedic perspective is to explore and offer support for the healing of ‘stuck emotions,’ which directly and deeply impact the client’s overall health. In this way, Ayurveda goes well beyond the physical level when addressing hormonal imbalances.
If included as part of an integrative approach, an Ayurvedic regimen may offer significant healing support and potential reversal of some of the structural and/or functional imbalance of the endocrine glands such as the Pituitary and Pineal glands. In addition to an organic, natural diet, yoga and meditation, it is very important for the client to partake in ‘PanchaKarma,’ a gentle, yet deep Ayurvedic cleansing program. PanchaKarma is an ancient Indian healing modality involving the successive application of oils to the entire body for the purpose of penetrating the skin and removing fat-soluble toxins at the cellular level. This treatment is generally done on a daily basis for a period of seven to twenty one days, depending on the severity of the imbalance and whether it’s been a chronic condition. After the cleanse, since the cells are no longer coated with toxins, the cellular ‘fire’ and intelligence is improved and healthy functioning is restored at the deepest level. It is, however, important that the Panchakarma program be customized, implemented, and overseen by an experienced Ayurvedic physician/healer since the program needs to be designed with integrative clinical approach and have measureable goals. An authentically designed Panchakarma program also includes sensory components such music, scents, and visuals, which also serve to calm the nervous system and reduce stress, in addition to detoxifying the body. The experience of having warm herbal oils massaged gently onto the body in a supportively designed environment creates an atmosphere conducive to emotional release, which is often an important aspect of a successful and integrative cleansing program.
Shirodhara is another ancient tradition whereby warm oil is poured on the forehead area known as the ‘third eye,’ which is associated with the Pituitary and Pineal glands. It is a highly recommended treatment that is generally done as part of Panchakarma since it directly targets the central nervous system and associated Pineal and Pituitary glands. In addition to inducing a state of blissful and deep relaxation, the oil stream on the third eye facilitates a channel opening, which may stimulate the release of serotonin and melatonin. Shirodara, when done properly, under the guidance of an experienced and trained Ayurvedic physician, is an extremely powerful healing tool, which can initiate and deepen healing.
A brief summary of the Ayurvedic understanding and management of Pituitary, Pineal and other Endocrine disorders is as follows:
- Toxins, pesticides and unprocessed emotions may block energy flow and affect the secretion of hormones from endocrine glands.
- Changes in diet, lifestyle, and emotional communication patterns can assist in the removal of both physical and emotional toxins.
- Certain emotions have direct effects on the endocrine system. Ayurveda addresses this area by balancing the Chakra energy centers during Panchakarma.
- An organic, natural diet appropriate to the individual’s unique constitution should be followed and modified as the seasons change.
- Yoga and meditation should be incorporated into the client’s lifestyle routine to promote grounding, mindfulness and connection to spirit.
- Ayurveda highly recommends both Panchakarma and Shirodara, explained in detail above.
- Ayurveda further recommends ‘Pranayama,’ which are breathing practices that calm the mind and certain yoga postures, according to an individual’s mind/body type.
- Finally, after PanchaKarma, specific herbs may be recommended to further support continued healing, based on the affected endocrine gland and the associated hormone imbalances.
Ayurveda offers a promising integrative regimen that balances body, mind, emotions and consciousness. The health improvements experienced by clients often create a deep shift, which creates confidence and increases faith, which then further supports an even higher level of overall healing. Countless clients have benefited from and positively affected their lives by integrating traditional health care and disease management with the ancient traditions and wisdom of Ayurveda.
Dr. (Vaidya*) Lina Thakar, B.A.M.S.
Kate R. Rosenthal, Coauthor, Student, AIWC (Ayurvedic Integrative Wellness Counselor)
Dr. (Vaidya*) Lina Thakar, Ayurvedic Physician & Practitioner
- Panchakarma specialist
- Ayurvedic Nutritionist
- ‘Wellness Provider’ - Allegheny General Hospital Integrated Medicine Program; Pittsburgh, PA
- ‘Preferred Provider’ - UPMC Cancer Center Integrative Oncology program, based at the Hillman Cancer Center; Pittsburgh, PA
- Board Member - NAMA (National Ayurvedic Medical Association)
- Founder & Director, Ayurveda Integrative Wellness Institute
* - Vaidya means Ayurvedic Physician
Disclaimer: The entire contents of this article are based upon the opinions of Dr. (Vaidya) Lina Thakar as an Ayurvedic healer. They are not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and are not intended as medical advice. They are intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the education and experience of Dr. Lina Thakar who encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.