Did you know that you draw in more than 20,000 breaths in a single day? Breathing is such an automatic function that most times, when it is going on normally, we don’t even realize it is happening.
Unfortunately, with every breath, there is not just air that enters into the lungs but also other potentially harmful substances such as smoke, dust, pollutants in the air and irritants. Therefore, it is vital to pay attention to respiratory health to make sure you live life to the fullest.
Respiratory disorders are the conditions where there is some disease affecting any part of the airways right from the nose, the trachea or windpipe, the bronchi to the lungs. Some of the most commonly encountered respiratory disorders include:
Although specific symptoms vary from one condition to another, there are a few commonly encountered symptoms such as:
Respiratory problems may result from several causes but the most common ones include an infection by a bacterial or viral organism. As the body fights against the infection, there is an accumulation of the mucus within the bronchioles, and this causes their diameter to narrow; in turn, this leads to problems with breathing, leading to the typical wheeze associated with asthma.
Ayurveda considers disorders of the respiratory system or Lungs as Svasa Roga and classifies these into five types – ksudraka, tamaka, mahan, chchinna, urdhava. According to Ayurveda, Svasa Roga is a result of problems or imbalance in two doshas – Vata and Kapha. This problem may be because of several factors such as
Ayurveda deals with respiratory diseases in a holistic way through a multistep process that involves cleansing of toxins through specific therapies, use of herbs, practice of breathing exercises, dietary and lifestyle changes.
Depending on the specific cause of a respiratory disorder, the Ayurvedic doctor will recommend one of the following Panchkarma Detox therapies for cleansing of toxins from the body.
Vamana (vomiting): Therapeutic vomiting helps to get rid of the excess mucus in the respiratory tract that causes imbalance in kapha dosha. In this process, kapha aggravating foods are given to the patient; this is followed by the application of heat to the patient’s back and chest to liquefy the kapha. After this, a herbal drink is given to induce vomiting that will remove the kapha and cleanse the body. This is followed by an internal administration of ghee and a steam bath.
Virechana (purgation): This medicated purgation therapy helps to cleanse the toxins from the gall bladder and liver. The patient has to first undergo steps such as oleation and fomentation; this is followed by the administration of laxative herbs or oils.
Vasti ( Herbal Enema): This medicated enema therapy is performed by the introduction of a medicated oil, milk, ghee or a herbal decoction preparation into the rectum. This enema allows the elimination of toxins through the feces.
Nasyam (Instillation of Herbal nasal drops): Nasyam is a therapy in which a herbal juice or a medicated oil is administered through the nose. This helps to remove the excessive doshas that may have accumulated in the throat and the sinuses, giving relief from respiratory problems.
In Ayurveda, some of the following herbal remedies are used in the treatment of respiratory infection:
Vasaka Herb (Adhatoda vasica): The leaves of Adhatoda vasica contain alkaloids, which have strong anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory properties. This herb also has an antitussive effect and helps to soothe the inflamed throat.
Turmeric Herb (Curcuma longa): The yellow spice obtained from the rhizome of Curcuma longa contains the pigment curcumin that has marked anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. It is often administered with hot milk to reduce cough.
Tulsi Herb(Ocimum tenuiflorum): The leaves of the Holy Basil plant, Ocimum sanctum, have antioxidant properties and also inhibit the action of cyclooxygenase, an enzyme that plays an important role in inflammation. It also has immunomodulatory property, making it good for improving the body’s defense to infection.
Black pepper (Piper longum): The seeds of the Piper longum creeper contain an alkaloid called piperine with potent anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps to break down the mucus and dilate the bronchioles, leading to relief from breathing difficulties.
Breathing exercises, called pranayama, helps to improve the lung function and also reduces the frequency of symptoms in patients with chronic respiratory problems. There are different types of breathing exercises that help in different conditions.
For example, Sukha Pranayama or anulom vilom or alternate nostril breathing helps patients with wheezing and hay fever. In this technique, the right nostril is first closed with the right thumb as the person inhales through the left nostril.Now the right nostril is released, the left nostril is closed with the right ring finger as the breath is exhaled through the right nostril.
Other types of breathing exercises may also be prescribed such as Bhastrika Pranayama, which works well for congestion, and Ujjayi Pranayama, which help to improve immunity so that respiratory health is maintained.
Some yoga postures are very helpful in people who suffer from chronic respiratory disorders. When these are performed on a regular basis, they help to reduce the frequency as well as the severity of the symptoms. Some of the generally prescribed yogasanas include Surya Namaskara (Sun salutation), Sarvanagasana (Shoulder Pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) and Shalabhasana (Grasshopper Pose).
Along with medication, therapy, yogasana and breathing exercises, Ayurveda also recommends certain lifestyle and dietary changes such as:
In modern methods of treating respiratory problems, bronchodilator drugs and antibiotics are the drugs used as the first line of treatment. However, these as well as antibiotics do have many side effects that can leave you feeling exhausted and uncomfortable.
If you have been suffering from chronic respiratory disease, you will find that Ayurveda provides a holistic form of treatment that ensures relief from symptoms without any unpleasant side effects.
Even more important, Ayurveda can help you improve your body’s resistance to respiratory problems that are seasonal in nature and therefore, we encourage you to explore Ayurveda. To know more, get in touch with us today.
Dr Gurnam Singh Saini
Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery
MD Alternative Medicine
Panchkarma Detox Expert
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