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Exploring insights towards definition and laws of health in Ayurveda: Global health perspective



The current healthcare system is focused on disease management. Our current approach to treatment begins only after the diagnosis, and then attempts to treat the symptoms and prevent the progression. Despite increased global healthcare spending, there has been an increasing incidence, and severity of diseases pointing to impaired health of the populace. This progressive deterioration in general health has created an unsustainable increase in healthcare costs that has hampered the economy. Much of the rising costs in healthcare are secondary to treating the progression of preventable diseases and focus on creating new treatments. There has been an ongoing discussion of incorporating a "defense" or prevention as part of our health system. However, there are few established guidelines beyond tactical use of vaccination in known infectious diseases and screening for chronic diseases and cancers. Ayurveda has the core competency and strategy for prevention of disease. Sushruta has propounded the laws of health, which are unknown to the current healthcare system. This article describes these laws and strategic combination of Ayurveda (defense) and modern medicine (offense) to create a complete healthcare system. This system is called Symbiohealth and is potentially more effective, less expensive, less toxic and creates a healthier society.
identify the factors contribute to disease process and recommend
removing them, such as diet and exercise in heart disease.
Patient: So, your defense strategy is only against diseases where
the cause is known? That does not seem like a proactive defense
strategy, but more like a reactive tactic. In order to have a good
defense strategy you have to ask different set of questions, such
as why the majority of population does not have a specific disease
most of the time? What is health and how it can be protected,
enhanced, and rejuvenated?
Doctor: That makes sense!
Patient: Doctor, are there any laws of health?
Doctor: I don’t know. I have not read anywhere.
Patient: After all, when Newton discovered the laws of
gravity – they have always existed and exhibited a particular
pattern. There must be undescribed laws of health, don’t you
Doctor: Hmmm… And so the dialogue continues.
I started to ask the question, what is health?
Modern medicine healthcare providers understand
health as the “absence of disease”. The World Health
Organization (WHO) uses a more holistic view of health;
“state of complete physical, mental and social well‑being
Having practiced modern medicine for many years in the field of
rheumatology, I have the views and opinions on healthcare similar
to those of any experienced physician in my field of practice. But
when I had a heart attack a few years back, I found myself in the
position of the patient. Since then, an internal dialogue has been
going on between the patient and the doctor within me.
A question that my “patient self ” asks my “physician self ” is, as
a modern medicine physician what can you do at the fundamental
level to help your patients?
Doctor: We can ask four questions leading to the diagnosis,
etiology, pathology, pathophysiology and treatment of the disease
afflicting the patient.
Patient: In other words, you find the disease and try to remove it?
This seems like an offense strategy. What do you do to prevent
disease, or what is your defense strategy?
Doctor: In the case of known infectious diseases, we create
vaccines and in certain diseases where the cause is not known, we
Address for correspondence: Dr. Gopal Basisht,
1300, Edgewater Dr. Orlando, FL 32604, USA.
Invited Article
Exploring insights towards denition and laws of health in
Ayurveda: Global health perspective
Gopal Basisht
Senior Consultant Rheumatology, Orlando Health, Orlando, Florida, USA
The current healthcare system is focused on disease management. Our current approach
to treatment begins only after the diagnosis, and then attempts to treat the symptoms and
prevent the progression. Despite increased global healthcare spending, there has been an
increasing incidence, and severity of diseases pointing to impaired health of the populace. This
progressive deterioration in general health has created an unsustainable increase in healthcare
costs that has hampered the economy. Much of the rising costs in healthcare are secondary to
treating the progression of preventable diseases and focus on creating new treatments. There
has been an ongoing discussion of incorporating a “defense” or prevention as part of our
health system. However, there are few established guidelines beyond tactical use of vaccination
in known infectious diseases and screening for chronic diseases and cancers. Ayurveda has
the core competency and strategy for prevention of disease. Sushruta has propounded the
laws of health, which are unknown to the current healthcare system. This article describes
these laws and strategic combination of Ayurveda (defense) and modern medicine (offense)
to create a complete healthcare system. This system is called Symbiohealth and is potentially
more effective, less expensive, less toxic and creates a healthier society.
Key words: Allopathy, Ayurveda, disease, health, healthcare, prevention, Symbiohealth
Access this article online
DOI: 10.4103/0974-8520.158975
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AYU | Oct‑Dec 2014 | Vol 35 | Issue 4 351
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Basisht: Are there Laws of Health?
352 AYU | Oct‑Dec 2014 | Vol 35 | Issue 4
and not merely absence of disease or infirmity.”[1] After a
“global conversation” and a 2 days meeting in Netherlands in
2009, a group of healthcare academicians, practitioners, and
administrators proposed a new definition of health as “ability
to adapt and self manage in the face of social, physical,
and emotional challenges.” It was also observed that WHO
definition has “unintentionally contributed to medicalisation
of society, as more and more human characteristics are
recruited as risk factors for disease and it minimizes the role
of the human capacity to cope autonomously with life’s ever
changing physical, emotional, and social challenges and to
function with fulfilment and a feeling of well being with a
chronic disease and disability.”[2,3] The definition of health
should be specific, clear and should guide the healthcare
provider how to achieve it. Between the period of 1200 BC ‑
600 BC, Sushruta, a great surgeon and teacher of Ayurveda[4]
defined health as “a state of equilibrium of Tridosha
(fundamental physiological governing principles of the
body), Agni (metabolic and digestive processes) and Dhatu
(principles that uphold the formation of body tissues). Waste
products are excreted well. The sense organs, mind and the
soul are in a state of bliss.”
A careful look at the Ayurvedic definition reveals that this
definition not only defines health but also includes a path to
achieve it.
I call these five laws of health, and have enumerated them
First law
Connection to the source (consciousness), Indriya or sensory
faculties (vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch) and psyche
should be working well in coordination with body and the
person is in a state of bliss. This is achieved by meditation,
Pranayama (disciplined breathing) and Yoga exercise.
According to National Institute of Health meditation may
reduce activity in the sympathetic nervous system (fight‑or‑flight
response) and increase activity in the parasympathetic nervous
system (heart rate, breathing and digestion), resulting in a
variety of medical benefits.[5]
Breath regulates systems of the body and slow deep breathing
cleans out the system and prolongs life.[6] The practice of
Pranayama has been shown to reduce the frequency of asthma
attacks,[7] increase vital capacity of lungs, reduce cholesterol,
lower blood pressure, slow down heart rate and regulate adrenal
cortical functions.[8] All of this increases immune system
Yogic Asanas or exercise
The amount of exercise needed by an individual depends upon
the psycho‑physiological constitution or Prakriti of a person and
season of the year. Many scientific studies support the health
benefits of regular moderate exercise or Yoga.[9]
Second law
Equilibrium of the three Doshas is the second requirement of
health. The Doshas are fundamental physiological governing
principles of the body and are described in further detail later.
The equilibrium is achieved by daily and seasonal purification
of excessive Dosha.
Third law
Equilibrium of Agni (responsible for digestion, metabolism
and transformation) is third requirement of health. Most of
the disease states are from decreased Agni (Mandagni). Agni is
stimulated by:
Discipline in eating guided by state of physiology and disorders
in system or Prakriti (body type). By eating warm, light and
fresh food when hungry. Stimulation of Agni by herbs like
ginger and Panchkola. Ayurveda describes diet and nutrition
covering the taste, quality of food, time of the day and season
and state of body physiology.
Digestive stimulants help in digestion of food and Ama (partially
digested food and toxins).
Fourth law
All seven Dhatus or principles that uphold the formation of
body tissues with their subtypes (Upadhatus) need to be in
balanced state. Dhatu potentiation and quality improvement is
done by Rasayana (rejuvenation) treatments, which are:
• Conscious eating (Ahar Vidhi Visheshayatana)
• Behavioral (Achar Rasayana)
• Anti aging and immune enhancing preparations (Oushadh
• Purfication therapies (Panchkarma).
Fifth law
Waste products of digestion and metabolism at various levels
be well excreted.
Avoid suppression of natural urges
Evacuate and clean body cavities regularly.
The above five methods not only help in their specific
category but also reinforce all others. For example, Meditation,
Pranayama and Yoga, helps in balancing the Doshas, Agni,
Dhatus and excretion of waste products.
Establishing a state of equilibrium in the body, as described
by the laws of health, and in the universe is a key element in
achieving perfect health.
As a matter of fact, Ayurveda begins the study of health
with consciousness and takes the knowledge‑seeker through
the aforementioned Laws of Health, while also describing
a comprehensive lifestyle to follow these laws. Ayurveda,
therefore, provides an excellent defense strategy. On the other
hand, modern medicine starts from conception of fetus and
addresses symptoms of disease. It has a comprehensive method
of identifying and treating a disease, but not preventing it.
During this period, I also started to identify various phenomena
in life where there is duality, for example duality in thinking
is reflected in right or left‑brain persona. Left brain thinking
is linear with narrow focus of attention, articulate, good
in arguments, attention to detail, narrow cause and effect
relationship, quick results in the fast pace life of today.
On the other hand, right brain thinkers possess broad and
sustained attention, are alert and connected, are emotional,
use metaphors (and artistic expressions), and are generally not
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Basisht: Are there Laws of Health?
AYU | Oct‑Dec 2014 | Vol 35 | Issue 4 353
argumentative.[10] Most of us have become left brain thinkers
since the time of Isaac Newton. Duality is also observed in
vision (central and peripheral vision), physics (Newtonian vs.
Quantum) and personal relationship (man and woman).
Duality is also present in medicine. I view this duality as the
offense (treatment) and defense (or preventative) approaches to
health. The current system of medicine takes a predominantly
offensive approach to healthcare.
Over the last 50 years, there has been an increasing incidence,
frequency and severity of chronic diseases pointing to impaired
health of the populace.[11] This progressive deterioration in
general health has created unsustainable increase in healthcare
costs that has hampered the economy. There has also been
impaired health of the planet with environmental degradation.
In the recent years, there have been efforts to improve the
environment or the health of the planet. It has faced opposition
because of prohibitive cost, myopic thinking and the inability
to comprehend the problem. Human beings are a microcosm
of the planet[12] and exhibit holographic phenomenon.[13]
Improvement in our health is crucial to the improvement of the
planet’s health [Figure 1].
According to Ayurveda, the evolution starts with consciousness
creating five elements; space, air, fire, water, and earth. These
five elements in different combinations create the three Doshas.
These Doshas are fundamental physiological governing principle
of the body. Each person is born with unique combination of
these three Doshas called Garbhaj Prakriti, which remains fixed
for life. This is compared to modern science where each person
is born with unique set of genetic polymorphisms. The effect of
environment, food, and lifestyle alteration and stress can lead
to disequilibrium of Dosha (Jataj Prakriti). When there is too
much alteration of Dosha, pathology or Vikruti occur causing
diseases, if not checked. Parallels to this concept are being
studied in basic science laboratories Epigenetic alterations can
turn on or off certain genes, in response to the environment,
diet, and lifestyle‑with consequences of aging and diseases.[14] If
good genes are suppressed and bad genes are activated, disease
occurs. However if good genes are activated and bad genes are
suppressed, health occurs [Figure 2]. This process has been
described in cancer[15] and various other autoimmune diseases[16]
and aging.[17]
It seems both systems (Ayurveda and modern medicine) address
the same issue, but at two different levels of physiology‑while
Ayurveda describes a disease at the phenotypic level, modern
medicine explains it at the genetic level. Ayurvedic scholars,
thousands of years ago, lacked current technology and
microscopy to identify genes. They bypassed that handicap by
using phenotype to provide personalized care to all patients.
Let us see some of the phenomenon where this overlapping of
thinking between Ayurveda and modern science is seen:
Ayurveda heralded the concept of personalized medicine
in its identification of unique body type or Prakriti of a
person. Prakriti is phenotype of unique genetic sequence.
On identification of Prakriti and its alteration (Vikriti)
physician knows what disease a person is predisposed
to and is able to diagnose the disease in early stages
before the disease manifestations begin and can provide
Ayurvedic treatments, diet, exercise and other lifestyle
Today modern medicine is just beginning to explore how to
administer treatments and drugs that are highly tailored to
an individual’s genetic and chemical makeup and lifestyle
There is research supporting the role of Dosha or Prakriti
in relation to disease. Recent studies have shown that
different teams of Ayurvedic practitioners can consistently
identify a combination of Dosha in a person. In addition,
surveys created by an Ayurvedic team could predict
patient’s illnesses by identifying imbalances in Doshas[18]
Ayurveda described the concept of genetics thousands of
years ago. The great Ayuvedic practitioner Charaka referred
in 1000 BC to “Bijabhagavayava” as the combination of the
Bija (what we know today as the male sperm and female
ovum), Bhaga (what we today call the mitochondria) and
Avayava is the DNA.[19] He wrote of the imbalances that
result when the parents have Dosha imbalances and pass
along diseases to their children
Ayurveda identified the interconnectedness between the
mind and the body and their reciprocal effect on health
when the two are not in balance
A key factor of Ayurveda is the idea that the mind and
the body are not separate; what happens to one influences
Figure 2: Pathway to health and diseaseFigure 1: Microcosm / Macrocosm holographic phenomenon
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Basisht: Are there Laws of Health?
354 AYU | Oct‑Dec 2014 | Vol 35 | Issue 4
the other. There can be no mental health without physical
health and vice versa, and one’s entire life and lifestyle
must be in harmony before one can truly be called healthy
Recent medical studies are finally connecting the impact
of psychological states such as anxiety and depression on
physical diseases. There is also comprehensive evidence that
personality traits – such as resiliency or optimism – can
have profound impacts on longevity and immunity[20]
Charaka,[21] in context of Krimi (parasites), discussed
about the concept of macro and micro‑organisms
divided into two categories viz. pathogenic and
nonpathogenic.[22,23] These two categories of parasites
seems to simulate with “friendly” and “unfriendly”
bacteria. Evidence is emerging that bacterial flora is
linked to increased incidence of chronic and autoimmune
disease.[24] Furthermore, overuse of antibiotics can alter
the gut flora, causing irregularities in gut function,
including diarrhea and constipation
The emerging field of epigenetic, or the study of why
certain genes “turn on” or “turn off,” is beginning to look
at what Ayurveda described thousands of years ago. In
other words, genes do not necessarily dictate our destinies.
Lifestyle changes including diet and removing stressors
can help patients fight back against genetic disorders.
Epigenetics can control the expression of genes. It is like a
charioteer controls the horses of a chariot or like software
of a computer
It is thought that lifestyle, psychological states, and one’s
physical environment alter or maintain gene expression
levels and patterns
An unhealthy lifestyle “turns on” the bad genes through
an epigenetic process, which in turn stimulates the
excessive formation of pro‑inflammatory cytokines or other
disease‑producing proteins. We have medicines that block
the effect of these cytokines, but we don’t know how to
stop their formation. And medicines often have toxic effects
But if we can figure out what factors can “turn on” the
good genes and “turn off” the bad genes, then we can
prevent disease. Recent studies suggest a link between
Ayurvedic Tridosha principles and phenotypes[25]
Ayurveda can also better inform us about what causes
diseases, even before patients become symptomatic
In Ayurveda, there are six stages of disease:
Sanchaya (accumulation), Prakopa (aggravation),
Prasara (dissemination), Sthana Samshraya (localization),
Vyakti (disruption), and Bheda (manifestation). There
are no symptoms or vague complaints during the first
four stages. If a patient comes to a doctor during the first
four stages, the patient is often labelled a hypochondriac,
as modern medicine frequently does not have screening
techniques to identify early stages of disease.
Dual Healthcare Strategy
A common question asked is “Are you talking about alternative
or complementary medicine?” The answer is no. Currently
modern medicine, or offensive strategy, providers are looking
for treatments that are less toxic and/or more effective for
conditions where there is no current treatment available. This
article seeks to provide an answer to their search. The proposal
is a healthcare system where offense and defense strategy are
used based upon the need of the individual. A person without
disease does not need any treatment but should prepare
himself to protect his body from disease. However, if disease
occurs, an offense strategy will be utilized to treat the disease
symptoms and eradicate the cause of the disease. In addition,
an ongoing defense strategy will lessen the morbidity and
mortality secondary to the disease. While there is dialogue
about a defensive approach within the modern medicine
community, there are very few guidelines and research available
to both doctors and patients. However, in Ayurveda there is
comprehensive defense strategy.
Sushruta described the traits of health between the period of
1200 BC ‑ 600 BC[4] and Ayurveda provides ways to achieve that.
These laws should be debated and tested with the same rigor
applied to modern science. A physician should be able to identify
any disequilibrium in the patient’s physiology, guide the patient
to re‑establish equilibrium and simultaneously identify and treat
disease. This combination of defense and offense strategy can
provide the best and most cost‑effective outcome. This system
is called Symbiohealth [Figure 3]. As discussed earlier modern
medicine physician tries to answers four questions leading to
diagnosis, etiology, pathology and pathophysiology and treatment to
help patients with disease. Symbiohealth practicing physicians tries
to answer the four questions for treatment of disease and five more
questions for prevention of disease.
The author gratefully acknowledges the following for help in editing
and critiquing the article: Dr. Kartik Pattabhraman, Prof. S.K. Khandel,
Dr. Yogesh Deole, Dr. Sampath Parthasarthy, Dr. Bethany Powers,
Prof. R.H. Singh and Dr. Hari Sharma.
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Figure 3: Symbiohealth
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How to cite this article: Basisht G. Exploring insights towards denition and
laws of health in Ayurveda: Global health perspective. Ayu 2014;35:351-5.
Source of Support: Nil, Conict of Interest: None declared.
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... The five laws of health are formulated based on close observation of dynamic health mechanisms. [18] They denote various components required for the preservation of equilibrium state at personal, family, social, and universal levels. Table 2 depicts their importance. ...
... Normal functioning of the Agni, along with the homeostasis of the three doshas (functional units) Vatha, Pitha, and Kapha, and seven Dhathus (seven types of tissues) are deemed prerequisites for Health (3). ...
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Objective: The purpose of this study was to review and analyze the tools available for the assessment of Agni and its derangements, including grahani dosha. Methods: A review of the published literature was conducted online using PubMed, Science Direct, and Google scholar. The keywords for the search included, "Agni,", "Agni Bala,” “Agni vaishamya," "Grahani dosha”, “Assessment tool “, and “Questionnaire”. The initial search retrieved 37 articles, of which seven were screened, classified, and coded for further analysis including their content, methodology as well as utility in clinical practice. Results: The review discovered four tools aimed at assessing Agni and three for diagnosing grahani roga. All were different with regards to the domains assessed, mode of administration, and methodologies in which they were developed. Only two of the tools for Agni assessment were prepared following proper methodology including the evaluation for their reliability and validity. The absence of a gold standard against which these tools can be corroborated is a major drawback, because of which these tools were neither subjected to stringent scientific validation nor evaluated for their clinical utility. Conclusion: None of the tools available for review could be deemed best at accurately detecting Agni and its dysfunctions. Two of the tools were developed adopting proper methodology, however, the feasibility of these in a clinical scenario has to be established with further studies. Additionally, there was no tool directed at assessing grahani dosha in specific disease states, which necessitates further research to develop and validate tools, especially in specific disorders.
... This definition and a better knowledge of what the word 'health' means, continues to be discussed [33]. A meeting in the Netherlands in 2011 defined health as: "the ability to adapt and self-manage in the face of environmental, social, physical, and emotional challenges" [34,35]. This definition of health links more appropriately with the concept of health within the 4th tier. ...
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The COVID-19 pandemic is straining health systems globally. The current international biomedical focus for disease control and policies fails to include the resource of a population’s capacity to be self-reliant in its health care practices. The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda (‘the knowledge of life’) and Local Health Traditions (LHTs) in India understand that health is about Svasthya, ‘being rooted within’; a concept that includes the relationship and balance between the individual, their families, communities and the environment in creating their own health. This ‘population self-reliance in health’ is the focus of the 4th Tier in the health system which honours and respects an individual’s capacity for self-care and their inherent responsibility to the health system and its values. It encourages the inclusion of this knowledge in the creation of health systems and in the policies that direct them. Research and practice into the 4th Tier will provide health systems and policy information into how communities are managing the COVID-19 epidemic. These insights will help into the creation of future health systems that are better aligned to the ‘self-reliance in health’ of individuals and their communities.
... Sushruta has de ined a healthy individual. The individual having Samdhatu (in seventh homeostasis elements ), Samagni,( homeostasis of bodily ire) Samdosha (homeostasis of constituents factors), Sammala (homeostasis of product), Prasannaatmendriya (wellbeing of the soul) and Prasannamana ( mental well being) is called as Healthy Individual (Basisht, 2014). The implementation of Dincharya and Rutucharya is highly essential to maintain a healthy state. ...
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In recent two decades, SARS, MERS and 19 are the most infectious diseases spread all over the world, and are spread through the same virus called a with different features. Mostly this virus affects the respiratory system and has symptoms like high-grade fever, cough, headache, respiratory distress. It is affecting not only on the health level but also at the psychological and economic levels. Infectious diseases like these can be easily prevented by following some rules in our daily routine. The preventive measures given by the world health (WHO) to avoid this infection are washing hands frequently, using masks, maintaining social distancing. All these preventive methods are already depicted in Ayurveda texts. Pursuing the (daily routine) and (seasonal routine), mentioned in the Samhita is the best way to avoid the diseases caused by any changes experienced in the environment, also by following these disease can be prevented. is the procedures which should be followed in day to day life, but is about the procedures which should be followed by the person as per the season. As per Ayurveda regular use of these rules and regulation helps to maintain the balance of (an essential constituent) by which diseases can be prevented. So this study is about the methods which will be helpful to avoid Corona infection by following the simple daily routine and seasonal routine.
... Their observations suggest that WHO's definition has unintentionally contributed to medicalisation of society. This minimises the role of the human being's capacity to cope autonomously with life's ever changing physical, emotional, and social challenges and to function with fulfilment and a feeling of wellbeing even when suffering from a chronic disease or disability [10]. ...
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Ayurveda translates as ‘life science’. Its knowledge is not limited to medicine, cure or therapy and is for laypersons, households, communities, as well as for physicians. Throughout its evolutionary history, Ayurveda and Local Health Traditions have reciprocally influenced each other. In modern times, the influence of biomedicine on Ayurveda is leading to its medicalisation. Over the past century, the introduction and perspective of biomedicine into India has made the human being an object for positive knowledge, a being who can be understood with scientific reason and can be governed and controlled through medical knowledge. This paper explores how this shift towards medicalisation is affecting the knowledge, teaching, and practice of Ayurveda. It examines the impact and contribution of processes like standardisation, professionalisation, bio-medicalisation and pharmaceuticalisation on Ayurveda education, knowledge, practice and policies. To maintain health and wellbeing Ayurveda's ancient knowledge and practice needs to be applied at individual, community and health care provider levels and not be limited to the medical system. The current over medicalisation of society is a potential threat to human health and well-being. Ayurveda and LHT knowledge can provide essential teachings and practices to counter-balance this current trend through encouraging a population's self-reliance in its health. © 2018 Transdisciplinary University, Bangalore and World Ayurveda Foundation
Metabolic syndrome is an interrelated cluster of pathogens such as obesity, impaired glucose tolerance, cancer, and insulin resistance leading to endocrinal disorders. In the 21st century, progression of the disease is rapid increases due to change in the lifestyle of humans having a chance to develop metabolic change, and in some cases, mutations occur, which drastically affects the endocrine functionality and subsequently causes syndrome X. In modern medicine, different medications are available but only to maintain the condition lifetime. For the complete cure, WHO focused on the traditional knowledge in 2004, using the herbal medicine to cure all metabolic aliments. According to ancient medical treatment, metabolic syndromes are completely curable. They divided the disease progression stages and formulated the different dosage forms. All the data obtained from the ancient herbal medicine treatment are not evidence-based. So, the researchers all around the world focused on the evidence-based proofs to confirm whether herbal medicine shows efficacy in curing the metabolic syndrome or not.
Hindi and English are India’s official languages, but there are also 17 regional languages that are considered official. India has capitalized on its large educated English-speaking population to become a major exporter of information technology services and software workers India has several cities that have undergone place name changes, such as Bombay being renamed Mumbai. These changes were mainly done in an effort to return the city names to local dialects instead of British translations. This chapter follows the dominant values and beliefs according to the 12 domains of the Purnell Model of Cultural Competence: overview/heritage, communication, family roles and organization, workforce issues, biocultural ecology, high-risk behaviors, nutrition, pregnancy, death rituals, spirituality, health-care practices, and health-care practitioners.
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Ayurveda is one of the oldest health sciences of the world with concepts of tridosha and prakriti being core philosophies. These core concepts allow implementation of ways for not only personalized medicine and treatment but also personalized prevention. In the light of modern or current science, evidence has surfaced connecting the concepts of tridosha and prakriti with metabolic pathways, chronic diseases, and various genotypes. Such evidence has thrown up insights about the universality of Ayurvedic concepts as well as their apparent association with concepts in current science. This review was undertaken to consolidate the evidence of such associations which exist between prakriti and metabolic systems, chronic diseases, and genotypes with the objective that a case can be made for drawing out the clear linkages that might exist for prakritis being distinct phenotypes representing certain genotypes. A corollary to such discoveries can be the possibility of newborns being screened for their prakriti by genetic testing, which will enable the prevention of various chronic diseases for such children via the implementation of various dietary, lifestyle, and habitual changes, as required, from an early age. This implementation of preventive practices from an early age may result in such children leading healthy, disease-free, more productive lives. Thus, eventually, this can be an opportunity to practice personalized preventive health, which is not a possibility in other systems of medicine especially western systems of medicine. Personalized preventive health is one step further than personalized medicine and is a very novel idea with far-reaching implications.
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Thousands of years ago yoga originated in India, and in present day and age, an alarming awareness was observed in health and natural remedies among people by yoga and pranayama which has been proven an effective method for improving health in addition to prevention and management of diseases. With increasing scientific research in yoga, its therapeutic aspects are also being explored. Yoga is reported to reduce stress and anxiety, improves autonomic functions by triggering neurohormonal mechanisms by the suppression of sympathetic activity, and even, now-a-days, several reports suggested yoga is beneficial for physical health of cancer patients. Such global recognition of yoga also testifies to India's growing cultural influence.
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The current WHO definition of health, formulated in 1948, describes health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”1 At that time this formulation was groundbreaking because of its breadth and ambition. It overcame the negative definition of health as absence of disease and included the physical, mental, and social domains. Although the definition has been criticised over the past 60 years, it has never been adapted. Criticism is now intensifying,2-5 and as populations age and the pattern of illnesses changes the definition may even be counterproductive. The paper summarises the limitations of the WHO definition and describes the proposals for making it more useful that were developed at a conference of international health experts held in the Netherlands.6
Diabetic nephropathy (DN), a severe microvascular complication frequently associated with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus, is a leading cause of renal failure. The condition can also lead to accelerated cardiovascular disease and macrovascular complications. Currently available therapies have not been fully efficacious in the treatment of DN, suggesting that further understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of DN is necessary for the improved management of this disease. Although key signal transduction and gene regulation mechanisms have been identified, especially those related to the effects of hyperglycaemia, transforming growth factor β1 and angiotensin II, progress in functional genomics, high-throughput sequencing technology, epigenetics and systems biology approaches have greatly expanded our knowledge and uncovered new molecular mechanisms and factors involved in DN. These mechanisms include DNA methylation, chromatin histone modifications, novel transcripts and functional noncoding RNAs, such as microRNAs and long noncoding RNAs. In this Review, we discuss the significance of these emerging mechanisms, how they mediate the actions of growth factors to augment the expression of extracellular matrix and inflammatory genes associated with DN and their potential usefulness as diagnostic biomarkers or novel therapeutic targets for DN.
Cancer is one of the most common human diseases. It is long known that mutations in key regulator genes are hallmarks of all cancer types. Apart from these classical genetic pathways there is more and more evidence that also epigenetic alterations are crucially involved in tumourigenesis. In this review we discuss and summarise recent findings of mechanisms responsible for cancer formation apart from the classic genetic mutations. Furthermore, we show how epigenetic and genetic mechanisms could depend on each other and contribute together to cancer formation. We focus mainly on post-translational histone modifications since they are one of the major epigenetic mechanisms regulating gene expression and when they are imbalanced this can result in cancer.
In a BMJ editorial in December 2008 Alex Jadad and Laura O’Grady called for a “global conversation” about how we define health (BMJ 2008;337:a2900). This week Jadad and colleagues present the results of that conversation, initiated via a blog on to which a good number of you responded (, and concluded at a two day meeting in the Netherlands in December 2009 (doi:10.1136/bmj.d4163). They propose a new definition of health as “the ability to adapt and self manage” in the face of social, physical, and emotional challenges.Why should we be interested in defining health? Because if health is the goal of healthcare and research, we need to know what it looks like and how to measure it. As these articles explain, the currently accepted definition, formulated by WHO in 1948, is no longer helpful and is even counterproductive. Its emphasis on “complete physical, mental and social wellbeing” was radical in its day for stepping away from defining health as the absence of disease. But it is absolute and therefore unachievable for most people in the world. As Richard Smith, one of the authors of this week’s article, pointed out in a BMJ blog, it “would leave most of us unhealthy most of the time” ( Indeed, the article says that the WHO definition has contributed unintentionally to the medicalisation of society, as more and more human characteristics are recruited as risk factors for disease.The WHO definition is also unworkable for other reasons, the authors say. In the face of an ageing global population with an increasing burden of chronic disease, it “minimises the role of the human capacity to cope autonomously with life’s ever changing physical, emotional, and social challenges and to function with fulfilment and a feeling of wellbeing with a chronic disease or disability.”Jennifer Bute provides a moving example of this human capacity. While still practising as a general practitioner she developed the first symptoms of dementia as well as cardiac problems (doi:10.1136/bmj.d4278). Without minimising the challenge of what she has had to endure, her cardiologist comments that coping and adapting were probably easier for her than for others less resourceful and capable. If health is our goal, and if the new definition meets our current realities, the next question is: how can we build and sustain the human capacity to adapt and cope?Edwin Heathcote is the architecture correspondent for the Financial Times. He describes one approach to maximising human health—the development of “age friendly” cities (doi:10.1136/bmj.d4418). This initiative aims to reverse the trend of removing or excluding older people from active life in cities. How can these people be brought back so that not only they but also the city survive and flourish? The answer, it turns out, is not the current vogue for ramps, big bold signs, benches, and lots of green space.This week’s articles are the start of six weeks’ coverage building up to the UN summit on non-communicable diseases in September. Other articles will focus on how we should be tackling the key shared risk factors behind the global epidemic of chronic disease—poor diet, alcohol, tobacco, and physical inactivity. As always, we hope for your input via rapid responses on this as: BMJ 2011;343:d4817FootnotesFollow BMJ Editor Fiona Godlee on Twitter at and the BMJ at