Obesity is the most common nutritional disorder among the affluent in our country. At any given time, approximately 40 per cent of women and 30 per cent of men report that they are presently trying to lose weight. Lot of money are spent every year on weight loss treatments. Still, with the current medical treatment, the failure rate remains to be high. And in most cases, there is a strong tendency to regain weight; about one-third of lost weight is regained within a year, and almost all within five years.
According to one study, by 2010, an estimated 130 million people in Asia-Pacific region will be suffering from obesity as a result of change in lifestyles, which involve less exercise and more food.
Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey,
- More than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese.
- More than 1 in 3 adults are considered to be obese.
- More than 1 in 20 adults are considered to have extreme obesity.
- About one-third of children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are considered to be overweight or obese.
- More than 1 in 6 children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are considered to be obese.
Why do some people stay on a diet of burgers and fries, while others gain weight eating brown rice and vegetables?
The answer is that people react differently to various foods, depending on their metabolism! Just like fingerprints, each of us has a unique metabolism—which is how we convert food into energy for running the body’s processes. In fact, many chronic illnesses may be simple symptoms of an underlying disturbance in metabolism. Your body type could be the key to your health.
Causes of Obesity
Obesity is a condition of the body, characterised by over-accumulation of fat under the skin and around certain internal organs. Sthaulya is the ayurvedic term for it. It is often referred to as Medoroga, as the medas or fat is the main cause for this condition.
According to Ayurveda, there are seven basic tissue elements in the human body known as dhaatus. These are present in every human body in a particular proportion, and any change in their equilibrium leads to diseases. Fat or the medas is one of these seven dhaatus.
Like other dhaatus, medas also serve many purposes. The most important one being, it helps to create and maintain body heat, without which life would be impossible. It also acts as a cushion to protect the deep, delicate organs and tissues from shock, injury etc. Besides these factors, it is essential in filling up many hollows, rounding out the sharp angles of the skeletal structure of the body, by bringing about distinctive lines and curves so fundamentally necessary to a beautiful form.
The degree of obesity in a person is dependent on the accumulation of fatty globules or cells. As long as the accumulated fat remains stored up as adipose tissue, it does not harm, however inconvenient it may be. But when it begins to enter into the cellular elements of the body, especially the muscles, it becomes a source of danger.
There is a simple test to know whether you are obese or not. Just pinch a fold of flesh on your abdomen. If it is more than two inches thick, you are accumulating more fat than is needed.
One cannot expect to enjoy and maintain good health in a state of excessive obesity. It leads to sluggishness, heaviness in breathing and lethargy, keeping us from physical in-activity and causing serious malfunctioning of various organs. When such a stage is reached, obesity is considered a disease. That is why it is said, “Your waist line is your life line”.
Excessive obesity is caused by heavy intake of sweet, cooling and unctuous food, want of physical exercise, abstinence from sexual intercourse, sleeping during the day, lack of mental exercise and last but not the least—heredity.
Ayurvedic concepts regarding the course and cause of disease are quite interesting.
The obstruction of the fat, the movement of food is confined to koshtha (abdominal viscera) resulting in the stimulation of the digestive power and absorption of food. The individual digests food quickly and becomes a voracious eater. In the event of disproportionate increase of fat, the body becomes vulnerable to many diseases. Owing to an excessive increase of fat and muscle tissue, the buttock, abdomen and breast become pendulous and the body strength becomes disproportionate to physical growth.
Obesity may be classified into different divisions. The commonest type is alimentary in origin. The person eats too much or does not exercise regularly. It is the question of proportion. With the same amount of food and more exercises, obesity would not occur. Very small quantity of surplus food taken every day for a long period will cause accumulation of fat in the body.
Some people are more prone to accumulate fat than others. Some can apparently eat excessively, with no exercises and yet show no tendency of putting on weight. This is due to the basic body type i.e., vata nature, pitta nature or a combination of both.
Often, the real cause of obesity is wrong eating habits and laziness, initiated in early life, at home. There is also a natural tendency to increase weight during the middle age, but this should be slight and gradual.
Lastly, obesity can also be caused due to alterations in the metabolic processes. In most cases, there is some disorder of one or more of the secreting glands. Treatment has no effect, and they must be treated according to the basal condition.
Sometimes, a person puts on weight after menopause. It may also arise after childbirth, due to overeating on part of the mother or due to inactive or sedentary life. Other causes are waterlogged condition of the body, intake of drugs, which produce changes in the tissues. Consumption of alcohol in large quantities is also responsible for accumulation of fat because many alcoholic drinks contain sugar and also because part of the body heat is derived from the alcohol and a corresponding amount of the starchy and sugary food is converted into fat.
Signs and Symptoms
Reduction of longevity, premature ageing, low sex drive, poor sexual performance, unpleasant body odour, excessive sweating, breathlessness on exertion, difficulty in breathing, excessive hunger, excessive thirst, difficulty in walking, tiredness, general debility, loss of vitality and mental confusion.
Complications due to Obesity
- Cosmetic problem.
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (excess fat and inflammation in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol)
- Osteoarthritis (a health problem causing pain, swelling, and stiffness in one or more joints)
- Some types of cancer: breast, colon, endometrial (related to the uterine lining), and kidney
Ayurvedic method of weight reduction
Depending on your body type, the medication varies. If you are diagnosed as vaata type, then purification procedures for vaata, like cleansing enemas, will be carried out. After this, you may be subjected to mild oil application and fomentation. Only minimum oil application is used for treating obesity, enough to protect the body from the heat of fomentation.
External oil application is carried out with oil containing hot herbs like calamus, ginger and mustard. Fomentation or sweating methods will be done externally or internally. External fomentation can be done by various methods, like whole-body fomentation via a steam box. After fomentation, oil enemas will be given followed by cleansing enemas. The latter usually contains a decoction of dasamoola, honey and salt, some specific herbs and water. However, most of the ayurvedic physicians prefer alternate oil and cleansing enemas and powder massages.
If you are diagnosed as kapha type, then for alleviating kapha, external massage with powders of agaru, calamus, ginger or mustard will be done. These substances help to remove excess fat deposited under the skin. They also help to restore the elasticity to the skin and improve complexion.
Treatment of aama, which is an important treatment modality, will be done by two methods—one by administering the herbs which remove aama (aama paachana) and secondly by increasing the conversion power of agni by giving substances that stimulate digestion. The herbs used for this purpose are dry ginger, black pepper, gudoochi, turmeric, cyperus, triphala etc.
In obese persons, though the digestive fire may be optimum that of the adipose tissue level is impaired. To improve its power, herbs like trikatu, shilajit, cyperus, kashtha, barberry, calamus, ativisha, katuka, chitraka, karanja, turmeric, guggulu, arjuna, catechu, camphor, neem, rohitaka, shinshipa, apaamarga, brahmi, bilwa are used.
|· As far as the diet is concerned, you can use basmati rice, barley, green gram, red gram and horse gram.|
|· Honey is the only sweetener that is allowed while treating obesity, but it should be original honey, directly collected from honeycombs.|
|· Drink warm water instead of refrigerated water.|
|· For cooking purposes, use sesame oil or mustard oil with spices like turmeric, black pepper, ginger and rock-salt.|
|· Use vegetable with astringent, bitter and pungent tastes. If you are particular about your weight, then, fasting for one to two days a week or partial fasting and drinking fruit juices, warm water and honey, will be helpful.|
|· Avoid eating substances prepared with refined wheat flour like white bread, cakes, pastries and abstain from dairy products and sweets prepared from milk and sugar. You should also avoid cold drinks, alcohol and deep fried foods and non-vegetarian diet.|
|· Follow an active pattern of life by increasing work and mental activity. Staying up late at night is beneficial as well. You should avoid taking too much rest, sleeping during the day (particularly after meals), applying oil to the skin, and bathing with cold water.|
|· Whatever the ultimate cause of obesity in your case, the immediate cause is energy imbalance, and weight reduction can be achieved only by reducing energy intake or by increasing output, or by a combination of the two.|
Following are the prescriptions to reduce overcorpulence:
|· Diets and drinks that alleviate vaata and kapha and which can reduce fat.|
|· Basthi karma (ayurvedic special procedure resembling enema) with drugs that are sharp, ununctuous and hot. This is said to be very usefull in reducing kapha in term tha fat from the body.
· The famous powder massage of ayurveda that is udwarthana is very effective in reducing the obesity.
|· Unction with ununctuous drugs.|
|· Intake of Gudoochi (Tinospora cordifolia), Musta (Cyperus rotundsa) Hareetakee (Terminalia Chebula), Bibhitaki (Terminalia belerica) and Aamalaki (Embica officinalis).|
|· Administration of Takraarishta and pure honey.|
|· Intake of Vidanga (Embelia riba), Naagara (Zingiber officinale), Yavakshaara (a preparation of barley containing sodium and potassium bicarbonate), powder of black iron along with honey and powder of Yava (Hardeum vulgarae) and Aamlakee (Emblica officinalsis).|
|· Administration of Silaajatu and the juice of Agnimantha(Clerodendrum phlomidis).
· Intake of varanadi kashaya, guluchyadi kashaya is said to be very effective.
· Intake of navaka guggulu and medohara guggulu reduces obesity in individuals.
|· The ayurvedic method to treat obesity is to go on a heavy and non-nourishing diet and drugs. For example, honey. Due to their heaviness, they minimize the force of the aggravated power of digestion and due to their non-nourishing nature, they help reduce the fat.|
|· . That is why, ayurveda, while describing the principles of therapeutics, mentions that ‘the physician must take into consideration the fact that drugs differ with respect to land, season, source, flavor, taste, potency, post-digestive effects and specification, and also that men differ with respect to their body, constitution, age, vitality, gastric fire, morbid tendency, proclivities, homologation and the state of disease. In other words, a more personalized approach is necessary while treating obesity.|
|· There are no shortcuts to reduce fat, and if there is one, it could be fraught with many dangers to the heart, nervous system and internal organs.|
|· Reducing weight requires understanding, will power, patience and a desire to work at it, diligently and faithfully.|
|· Diet, systematic approach, exercise, massage with special herbal oils and powders , walk, Sveda karma (sweat bath) apart from the prescribed drugs, are some of the appropriate measures.|
|· Acquire health consciousness, not figure consciousness.|
|· Never skip your meal. Hunger can be controlled by taking three small meals a day.|
|· Don’t mistake ayurvedic lightening therapies (langhana chikitsas) for simple fasting. Indiscriminate fasting will lead to starvation, which is definitely a destructive measure.|
|· Complete absence of butter or oil in the diet for a long period is not advisable as it would lead to deficiency of vitamin A, affecting the eyesight. Also, complete stoppage of salt is detrimental to health. The body requires a certain amount of salt, unless one is on a raw diet. Excess of salt results in retention of water, not of fat.|
|· Pure protein or meat diet will amount to losing weight rapidly but it is bound to tax the depurating organs, especially the kidneys. The best diet in the long run is the one that is nutritionally balanced which includes vegetables as well, especially raw vegetables and fruits.|
|· Heredity does play a significant role, but obese families are usually the result of patterns that are taught, not inherited.|
|· Vyaayaama (special exercise) is definitely helpful in burning some calories but the most important factor is that it brings the body into shape and creates a general feeling of well-being.|
|· There are periods when there is no apparent weight loss. It involves a real adjustment of the water balance in the system. This is no excuse for terminating the treatment as this phase is automatically followed by weight loss, if one continues with it.|
|· Obesity is best reduced by omitting white sugar and starch from diet for some time.|
|· Many are in the habit of taking coffee or tea to satisfy their hunger. But they themselves contain sugar. So try to reduce the intake.|
|· Other medicines are Arogya vardhini vati and Medhohara vidangadi loha.|
As we all are genetically different with different constitutions and patterns, we respond to treatments in many different ways. Hence Standard Ayurvedic Treatments are always individually formulated. This article is intended only for information. It is not a substitute to the standard medical diagnosis, personalized Ayurvedic treatment or qualified Ayurvedic physician. For specific treatment, always consult with a qualified Ayurvedic physician.