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ashokbhatia

Often, we hear that age is a mere number,
But also wonder if it makes us dumb and dumber;
Unless proper and timely steps are taken through channels right,
The chances of our becoming dull happen to be bright.

The body needs all the care and affection it can get,
The mind needs to be kept active, not to forget;
The soul needs nourishment of a different kind,
Otherwise it is left in torment and in a bind.

The zeal of youth makes us leap light-heartedly into traps,
The spirit of adventure keeps us wandering off the known maps;
Romantics at heart, fragile in maturity, we jump at gold coins with strings attached,
We behave like zombies, often getting disappointed over chickens un-hatched.

 ZOMBIES

When advanced in age, our optimism fades, no longer making the spirits lift,
A feeling grows that our guardian angels no longer care to bear a…

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Lifestyle diseases like diabetes and hypertension have a tendency to quietly enter the house of our physical bodies, much like unbidden and unwelcome guests. In most of the cases, repeated attempts to entice these to depart and scour around for some greener pastures are unsuccessful. After the first stage of shock and denial has passed, a state of active acceptance comes about. The basic principle of a peaceful coexistence eventually gets followed.

Diabetes is labelled as a silent killer. This unwelcome guest has a tendency to enfeeble almost all the organs of the body. Its special affection gets directed towards ones which are already in a state of disrepair. These could be our heart, eyes, kidneys, feet or any other organ or limb which catches its fancy. Nerve endings get compromised. Initially, some tingling sensations may be there, more bothersome at night. Over time, sensations may be lost completely, leading to problems which do not even get felt.

Excessive thirst and frequent urination are the well-known symptoms of diabetes. These could easily get ignored and we could chug along in our lives, blissfully ignorant of the arrival of this unbidden guest amidst us. With urine, the body also ends up ejecting some minerals. The disease leaves one feeling tired and exhausted.

The alpha and beta of diabetes

At the core of this affliction is an organ known as the pancreas. Due to genetic reasons or owing to prolonged abuse, there are times when it refuses to behave like an alpha male. It ceases to run on all its twelve cylinders. It does not produce enough insulin, the hormone which controls blood sugar levels in the body.

The beta cells in our pancreas not only produce insulin but also govern the sugar level fluctuations in the body. So, the higher the level of blood sugar, the higher is the fluctuation of sugar levels in general. The fact that South Asian genes happen to be more susceptible to attracting this disease does not really comfort someone who is actually suffering from diabetes.

There are those in whose case the cells that produce insulin are selectively lost. They would qualify to be suffering from Type 1 diabetes.

The body surely needs sugar to keep active and kicking. But when the sugar intake is more than what it can handle, insulin production lags behind its demand. The pancreas is unable to keep pace. Those whose pancreas has started losing its efficacy over a period of time get categorized as having Type 2 diabetes. Often, obesity rules. The battle of the bulge gets lost. Pear pressure kicks in.

Then there is a portion of humanity which shows signs of an imminent onset of diabetes. These could be called pre-diabetics. Surely, there is some hope for them, provided they adopt an active lifestyle, change their diet pattern, and do not allow diabetes to walk in.

The delicately nurtured amongst our species, when they happen to be in the family way, face the risk of gestational diabetes.  Though it is a temporary condition, they end up having a higher predisposition towards Type 2 diabetes.

Sharing some key observations

Yours truly is neither a physician nor a person even remotely connected with the field of medicine. Nevertheless, here is a summary of what one has learnt so far. Some of you might find these of use. These observations pertain to Type 2 diabetes.

Blood sugar levels are a function of the following major factors:

  • Stress: The higher the stress levels, the higher the blood sugar levels. A prolonged challenging situation – whether on the home front or on the office front – could reduce the immunity levels of the body and increase the sugar levels.

Laughing things off helps, so does the company of those who exude positivity. Building up inner resilience reduces the impact of external circumstances, and thereby helps in controlling sugar levels better.

  • Physical activity is a basic factor. Be a couch potato or a chair tiger and repent at leisure. Regular brisk walks and light exercises help. But these produce results only after about six weeks, by which time the body forms a habit and starts demanding its daily dose of whatever physical regime you decide to follow.

Pottering about in the garden or in the kitchen and doing household chores provides some protection. Climbing up stairs and not using an elevator helps. Living life with lesser dependence on your favourite Ferrari helps.

But nothing to beat the efficacy of either cycling or a brisk walk, which is closer to the way a soldier would typically walk. Sweating it out is a key factor. It also helps with heart-related issues.

Much like a tube light needs an initial surge of additional power to get going, the body also needs an initial impetus of will power to walk the first 500 meters. Thereafter, once it has warmed up, a brisk walk often sounds more like a cake walk.

  • Medication cannot be taken lightly. It needs to be taken regularly, on time. This implies that meals required to keep the body and soul together also need to be taken on time, day after day.

Oral medication is convenient. At times, if it is unable to bring blood sugar levels within control (fasting values in the range of 70-100 and other values being in the range of 120-200), the physician may prescribe insulin injections.

Insulin has a singular advantage of the necessary hormone reaching the blood stream directly. But the flip side of using insulin, or any other anti-diabetic agent, is the risk of blood sugar dropping down to such dangerous levels as 60 or below. Symptoms could be tiredness, giddiness, excess sweating, palpitation and even coma and other          complications. This could even prove to be fatal.

To avoid such complications, a bar of chocolate, some dry fruits and biscuits should always be kept handy. Sugar cubes could also help. A glucometer needs to be used to immediately check the blood sugar levels and the incident reported to one’s doctor.

  • Diet is a crucial factor in managing diabetes. Our scriptures often extol the virtues of leading the life of an ascetic or a monk. Diabetes propels us towards such lofty goals in life. Controlling our taste buds is a serious challenge and needs nerves of chilled steel. When a piping hot junk food item like a ‘samosa’ comes up in front of us, or when a ‘rasgulla’ gets lovingly offered by an otherwise well-meaning friend, the deep reserves of our tenacity have to be marshalled to refuse these and instead pick on a green salad.

Even fruits like mangoes and bananas are harmless, if taken in moderation and if in the absence of any other item on our plate.

Some tests and parameters

  • Regular checks on blood sugar levels (fasting as well as postprandial, PP) are highly recommended.

For fasting level to be correctly ascertained, during the previous night, except for plain water, nothing else should be consumed after 10 PM. Medicines to be taken after the test. Normal breakfast can be had after about 30 minutes.

For PP, a reading would need to be taken two hours after breakfast, with nothing else being consumed in the meanwhile. Any deviation from this procedure can be brought to the notice of one’s physician.

  • Once in six months, our physician may recommend a test known as HbA1C. This one tells us the weighted average of our sugar levels over a period of the past three months, thereby indicating the extent of control we have exercised over ourselves during that period. A value below 7 would normally indicate a fair amount of control, though the exact value is best decided between the doctor and the patient.
  • Frequent eye and feet check-ups are necessary. Once in a year, functioning of the kidney needs to be reviewed by means of appropriate tests.

When prolonged tension leads to hypertension

Yet another lifestyle disease which creeps up on one is that of high blood pressure. If left unattended, this could result in the hardening of arteries, cardiac problems and an increase in one’s intraocular pressure in the eyes. Keeping this on a strict watch is in some ways even more crucial than regular monitoring of blood sugar levels.

Of doctors and miracle cures

The role of a doctor in managing diabetes is more akin to that of a guide. The hapless physician has no clue as to what our daily meals comprise and the amount of liquors and desserts we gobble up at social events.

Often, we may come across miracle cures made by those who are proficient in alternative streams of medicine, claiming to get us rid of diabetes in a short period of time. If followed, these could achieve good results in the short run, but could do more harm to the body in the long run. The reason is simple – these are not sustainable. In a controlled environment, these cures could really work. But when we are back in the civilization, living our routine lives and facing all the harsh slings and arrows of Fate, the short-term benefits could simply evaporate. However, there is a general belief that some medicines from alternative streams do work as supplements, somewhat nullifying the side effects of allopathic medicines.

A helping hand from the government  

One has no statistical evidence, but there is no doubt that those suffering from this lifestyle disease do end up suppressing the economic growth of the country they inhabit.

Revenue-hungry governments world over could think of imposing a hefty ‘sin tax’ on all things sweet. Tax breaks can be offered to those who suffer from a lifestyle disease. The delivery of public health services can be strengthened.

The civic authorities would do well to ensure that there are adequate provisions for bicycle tracks and for taking brisk walks in open spaces for its denizens. Public transporters could pitch in by ensuring availability of diabetic diets to those who might be in need of the same.

The trick of managing a lifestyle disease

The real control of diabetes and other lifestyle diseases rests in our own hands. Guided by a competent physician, management of these is no rocket science.

Basically, the trick lies in holding our chin up, looking ahead to a joyful life with clear eyes, and marching on with our lives, wearing this affliction as a badge of honour on our sleeves, aspiring to evolve spiritually, with nary a wrinkle on our forehead.

Bertie Wooster and Jeeves would heartily approve of a sunny disposition of this nature. So would Ashe Marson of the ‘Something Fresh’ fame.

(Inputs from Dr B S Suryanarayana, Additional Professor, Department of Medicine, JIPMER, Pondicherry, are gratefully acknowledged)

(Illustrations courtesy www)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/o-my-beloved-when-would-you-depart

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/getting-india-in-the-pink-of-health

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/handling-the-diabetes-tsunami-in-india

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/how-diabetes-helps-us-to-improve-our-sq)

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Those who practice as physicians in our society are increasingly looked upon with some suspicion. Dig a little deeper and one is apt to find that they are more to be pitied than to be censured.

A physician is denied the fundamental right to some solitude. Even at a social gathering, she is likely to be surrounded by wannabe patients who are keen to seek her impromptu advice as to the latest affliction the party of the other part has heard about and imagines oneself to be suffering from the same.

Close relatives are not too considerate either. A distant relative could call late at night, skillfully steering the conversation from children’s career prospects to the current bout of migraine she happens to be suffering from. If anyone in the circle of friends or relatives happens to be admitted to a hospital, the physician ends up spending sleepless nights, adroitly juggling her official commitments and personal relations, often messing up both.

Latest advancements in medicine keep them on their toes. So does the competition from various streams of medicine, such as Homeopathy, Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and many other local variants of each of these streams. Superstitions, local beliefs, religion, social norms are but some of the constraints which need to be kept in mind. Legal tangles, such as those apply to road accident cases, keep them on the defensive.

In advanced countries, they face tough customer care regulations. In emerging economies like India, they suffer humiliation – occasionally violent – at the hands of irate relatives and well-wishers if the latter perceive the medical service provided to their kith and kin to be deficient.

Return on Investment considerations

To be a mere graduate in any discipline of medicine does not amount to much these days. Even to become a graduate, the hapless souls have to experience at least five and a half years of the tyranny of the classroom, with the trauma of a stint as an intern thrown in for good measure.

Monetary rewards obviously vary depending upon their choice of a career. They could choose to be in their own private practice, or join a private sector outfit, or become a part of the public health delivery mechanism.

If public spending on health infrastructure is woefully inadequate, private players end up playing an important role in the medical education scenario. Many aspiring physicians opt for a private sector skill provider. As a consequence, hassled parents end up shelling out sackfuls of the green stuff. Return on Investment considerations then determine the choice of their career.

The blue-eyed ones

The resourceful ones set up their own practice. If the going is good, some of them end up laughing all the way to the bank, what with hefty commissions coming in from such allied medical service providers as marketeers of branded medicines and diagnostic clinics.

Those who happen to be associated with five-star private sector health facilities have tough business targets to meet. This is not to say that patient care necessarily gets compromised, but an overdose of medical investigations surely leaves the patient and her family deprived of mental peace and some hard-earned green stuff.

When the costliest of medicines and gadgets get recommended by physicians, stakeholders of pharmaceutical companies and those in the field of medical equipment laugh all the way to the bank. Admittedly, quite a lot of money gets pumped into research and development, but it is open to debate as to how much profit could be considered rational and socially justified.

Much like the marketing honchos in the private sector who bring in business and resultant moolah, such physicians happen to be the blue-eyed boys of any entity which boasts of being a corporate facility.

The grey eyed ones

Physicians who are part of the government healthcare delivery system and happen to be conscientious by nature are often overloaded with work. Monetary rewards are often not commensurate with the efforts being put in. The eyes of a majority of them would be a dull grey, revealing a soul which is tormented and has given up hope.

Besides having to publish research papers in peer-reviewed journals and making presentations at medical seminars, students have to be guided, examinations have to be conducted and internal meetings need to be attended. Administrative chores cannot be ignored.

Above all, routine patient care cannot be made to suffer. Patients, whether of the ‘in’ or the ‘out’ kind, descend in droves, all eager to jump the queue and catch the attention of the physician. The plight of those in most of the emerging economies is most distressing because the per capita availability of physicians leaves much to be desired.

Of Attitude and Inner Resilience

Much depends on the attitude of a patient. One could come across persons with a cheerful disposition headed for their second open heart surgery, relishing a deep-fried item with much glee. One could also run into those who worry endlessly over such transient ailments as a bout of common cold or sinusitis.

Physicians obviously deal with a baffling variety of patients with much finesse and aplomb. Nerves of chilled steel get deployed. A sense of detachment pervades their handling of a patient. Their inner resilience deserves to be applauded.

With such fine qualities of head and heart, one can merely admire the quality of their work which keeps upholding the reputation of their profession. The Hippocratic Oath might appear to be relegated to the background, but is surely alive and kicking.

In many streams of alternative medicine, the patient is taken as a composite whole and treated holistically. The inner resilience of a patient is accorded a higher weightage. Allopathy, the mainstay of masses in the times we live in, does it the other way round, where each organ is looked at and treated separately. In mathematical parlance, alternative streams could be likened to Integral Calculus, whereas allopathy could be likened to Differential Calculus.

Shoring up one’s inner resilience

There are indeed ways for patients to improve one’s inner resilience, so as to be able to handle the harsh slings and arrows of Fate in a more positive manner. A deeper inner connection helps. To achieve the same, regular introspection and meditation helps.

As the Mother has said, the right approach would be to simply disallow negative thoughts to gain a foothold in one’s psychical system. Patients obviously need loads of patience to be able to put this advice in practice!

(Notes:

This forms part of an article which has appeared in NAMAH:

NAMAH_OCTOBER_2017

Inputs from Dr. Shivani Salil Dr. Shruti Bhatia are gratefully acknowledged.)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/06/04/of-patient-satisfaction-quotient-motivation-and-kinds-of-patients)

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AyurvedaAyurveda, the Indian science of physical and mental well-being, is more than 5,000 years old. It may lack the kind of scientific rigour which Western thought demands, but its recommendations are highly effective.

Much of this knowledge gets passed down from one generation to the next in an informal manner – not by means of written texts but by way of sheer practice.

Here are some tried and tested recipes which could help one in facing challenges of a physical nature.

Gastritis 

  • Lightly roast ajwain seeds (50gms), cumin seeds (50 gms) and asfoetida  (1 gm) in ghee
  • Grind to powder and add 1 tablespoon of rock salt
  • Store in a glass bottle and use 1 tablespoon of powder before all meals with lukewarm water.

Heartburn 

  • Cold coconut water (1 cup)
  • Cold rice milk (half cup), if taken immediately when symptoms arise.

Constipation

  • 1 banana followed by a cup of warm milk with green cardamom daily at nighttime.
  • 6-8 figs and black raisins soaked overnight to be chewed in the morning followed by warm water

Lack of sleep 

  • Warm milk with ghee 5 drops, turmeric half teaspoon and honey 1 teaspoon
  • One hour before going to bed, watch or read any thing that soothes your frayed nerves and makes you smile and relax.

Chest congestion 

  • Roast 5 pods of garlic in mustard oil and apply it on chest every morning and evening.

Fever

  • Squeeze half lemon for its juice and add same amount of honey to the lemon juice.
  • Drink with warm water and sit with 2 blankets wrapped around.

These treatments are tested on oneself and have been found to be quite effective. This is traditional knowledge which is being shared here so all may benefit.

(Image, courtesy the world wide web, used only for representational purposes)

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A health seeker often gets to revisit some of the long forgotten science lessons learnt in the early years of his life.

Einstein’s theory of relativity

It gets understood more easily when a minute spent on a treadmill sounds likeScientist Albert_Einstein fifteen minutes snoozing on the bed. Thirty minutes spent on a dentist’s reclining chair feels like thirteen hours spent in the company of one’s mother in law.

The mystery of the formula linking energy and mass also unfolds. Wisdom eventually dawns that E (Energy and Enthusiasm) to achieve a heightened state of well-being is equal to the product of ‘m’ (mental peace and positivity) and ‘c’ squared, where ‘c’ stands for conviction or faith in the treatment opted for.

Much like the speed of light, each kind of treatment has a unique upper limit to heal, beyond which one moves into the realm of prayers, divine intervention and spirituality. This is a universe which is surely not governed by the conventional laws of science as we understand them today.

First Law of Motion

Newton is found to be dead right when he postulates that a stationary object moves only when an external force is applied to it. When a couch potato is toldScientist IsaacNewton-1689 by the good doctor to exercise regularly, much will power needs to be summoned. Social challenges like the sudden appearance of a maid servant or the newspaper boy to collect his dues need to be handled. Startled glares from a younger person living across the street have to be summarily ignored. Presence of relatives and friends has to be managed. Ridicule hurled at one from any quarter needs to be summarily rejected, so the object, in this case the health seeker’s physical body, can get moving.

Non-linear regression analysis

Harsh slings and arrows of life make the patient understand that bodily afflictions are not necessarily explained by a linear formulation in mathematics. When it comes to good health, the link between cause and effect is never straightforward. Variables like mental attitude, reserves of will power, social mores, genetics, biological factors, environmental constraints, spiritual propensity and perhaps even factors beyond our present frontiers of knowledge need to be considered.

A person who is a chain smoker survives much longer than a non-smoking one who gets diagnosed for cancer much earlier in his life. Someone who is a happy-go-lucky person lives life to the hilt even with several arterial blocks whereas someone who takes a dim view of life in general needs to undergo repeated surgical interventions.

Laws of Thermodynamics

The patient may find that even Laws of Thermodynamics apply to the realm of life style afflictions.

Zero-th Law

If two persons are in the equilibrium of a stable relationship with a life styleJosiah_Willard_Gibbs Thermodynamics disease and lead their lives as per the Principle of Peaceful Coexistence with the said disease, it follows that they could develop a good relationship with each other as well.

First Law

The Law of Conservation of Energy applies. There is a limit to which a patient may exercise to remain fit. Other activities may have to be given the short shrift so a regular exercise regimen may not suffer.

Second Law

Over time, Entropy or disorder is bound to increase in an entity comprising a body, a mind and a soul relationship. The only way out is to keep cleansing one’s system of negative thoughts at regular intervals. By means of meditation, the patient can keep creating inner space for positive thoughts to come in and hold sway.

Some crystal gazing

Add to all this the growing uncertainty of disruptive technologies and the cause-effect equation of well-being becomes even more complex.

If one were to attempt some crystal gazing in the field of medicine, the results could cheer up a lay patient. A pill to dissolve and cure cataract could revolutionize eye care. Early detection of a would-be patient’s disposition to develop diabetes could lead to preventive lifestyle changes which could save millions from getting into the clutches of this dreaded affliction. 3-D printing of living tissue can be used to make body parts.

The implications are mind-boggling. But the fact remains that advances in medical science would merely touch the sheath and not the core of an individual patient – the soul.

Faith and the sincerity of prayer

More than a century back, Quantum physicists confirmed what our sages had held long back – that our thoughts determine the reality we experience.  Ifa1 1 (11) the mind is taken to be a canvas on which our thoughts get projected, our body could then perhaps be taken as a holographic projection of our consciousness. So, if we have a genuine intention to heal, have an abiding faith, entertain positive thoughts, and if our prayer is sincere enough, a state of better health would follow.

The challenge for a patient, therefore, is to elevate his consciousness to a level where he gets an insight to heal himself. In her book Molecules of Emotion, Candace Pert had indeed predicted that the time is not far off when a patient with a headache will simply sit in a quiet corner to meditate to elevate his consciousness to get total relief from headache instead of popping some inane pain-killer pills.

A state of bliss with no date of expiry

Undoubtedly, a patient faces a multi-faceted challenge. Besides the art of managing the affliction itself, he has to learn the science behind his disease. He needs to confront the forces of commerce which drive healthcare today. Newer discoveries in medicine do give him hope for a healthier future, if not for him but at least for some of his fellow beings.c1 (25)

Nature provides each patient with a physical body which comes with an inbuilt feature of planned obsolescence. But the indomitable spirit and the innate tendency of the soul to be blissful does not come with any date of expiry. Besides medication, exercise and proper food, his source of relief is his conscious effort to nurture the connection with his own inner self. Having faith in the medical system he decides to follow surely helps. So does a sunnier outlook and his endeavours to serve those less fortunate than himself.

(Note: Part of an article which appeared in NAMAH journal: http://www.namahjournal.com/doc/Actual/Patients-and-the-art-and-science-of-healing-Vol-24-iss-2.html)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/the-perils-of-being-a-patient)

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Whosoever coined the term ‘patient’ in the distant past was indeed blessed patient 1with some degree of prescience. He could foresee that the poor soul will have to earn this exalted status in life the hard way. He would need to patiently await his turn in long serpentine queues at hospitals and at doctor’s clinics. He would have to be patient with his bank balance when it starts depleting the moment he is examined by a doctor. He would need to be patient and suffer the ignonimity of undergoing all the tests prescribed. He would then again have to patiently wait to report back the results to the doctor concerned. Nerves of chilled steel would be required to consume all the medications written out illegibly on a piece of paper. His reserves of patience would once again be called upon to mitigate his suffering when side effects of the drugs start tormenting him.

A singular challenge faced by patients of all hues, sizes and shapes these days is that of continuity. Family doctors happen to be a tribe which has become almost extinct by now. Gone are the days when a personal rapport with the family doctor could work wonders, or when the emphasis used to be more on physical examination and the symptoms of the patient rather than on excessive medical tests.

The ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’

In a dichotomous health delivery market like that of India, we have the multitudes of ‘have-nots’ who struggle to make two ends meet. For them, a challenge on the health front is not the very first priority to be handled. The question of survival itself comes first. When the body simply revolts and there are no options left, they turn to government-run centres and hospitals and make do with whatever facilities they are able to access.

Not so for the well-heeled ones. They have the means to avail the servicespatient 2 offered by swank hospitals run by the private sector. Recourse to fancy insurance schemes becomes helpful. In any case, since health is held to be more important than wealth, a slice of the latter getting lost to restore the former is seldom bemoaned. On the contrary, the massive cost incurred on a hospital stay gets worn on their slick sleeves, much like a proud soldier would display his medals earned on the fronts, and comes in pretty handy for an uplifting ego boost.

They get to pick and choose. Word of mouth often helps. Brand recognition helps. When an emergency comes up, distance becomes the determining factor.

Upon entering such institutions, the patient is spoilt for choice. Options for accommodation include air-conditioned special rooms, deluxe air-conditioned rooms and even super deluxe suites. He is then put on an assembly line and subjected to awe-inspiring medical diagnostics. The fear of the unknown on part of the patient helps the corporate body to fulfil its obligations towards its shareholders. When a surgery is deemed necessary, the kind cruelty of a surgeon’s knife also ends up drilling a gaping hole in the patient’s pocket. Admittedly, the patient has the satisfaction of having being in safe hands and possibly also getting the necessary relief.

Sandwiched between these two layers of society are the not-so-well-heeled. They detest the dinghy corridors and the surging crowds in public institutions. They place their trust in the private outfits, get exploited financially, and end up missing the objective healthcare advice dished out by medical practitioners in government clinics and hospitals.

A Supermarket approach to getting healed

Those who are well-heeled and suffer from life style diseases have even a wider patient 3choice available to them. They are like true customers in a market economy which could be best characterized as ‘laissez faire’. Hospitals and clinics in the private sector advertise their wares smartly and entice such customers to avail their services. Once a patient has enrolled himself, a Customer Relationship Management software takes over. Greetings on birthdays and anniversaries, special screening camps, package deals – these are but some of the pretexts which get used to woo the patient for his next round of illness.

The well-heeled also have the luxury of choosing the system of medicine they wish to pursue. Allopathy is believed to be providing only interim succour or, in most cases, a basic relief. A regimen of popping the pills, exercise and food habits gets prescribed. Once they have become used to the same, life runs in an auto-pilot mode.

The well-heeled explorers

But the human nature is always on the lookout for refinements and the proverbial icing on the cake. A sense of creative dissatisfaction prevails. Despair and despondency soon take over and the search starts for an alternate system of healing. New frontiers get explored. New therapists get met. Merits and demerits of various kinds of treatments on offer get analyzed threadbare by those around, while the patient experiences the inner glow of satisfaction at being the centre of continued attraction and also at exploring new frontiers, much like a Columbus on a maiden voyage to discover Newfoundland.Patient Columbus-Day

This is not to say that an explorer-type attitude can be scoffed at. It reveals a sunny disposition on part of the inner being. The soul, unhappy at being burdened with a physical sheath which is infirm, merely endeavours to attain a state of perfection in the body allotted to it during a particular birth cycle. It uses all the powers at its command – analytical or intuitional – to achieve good health. It tries to bring about better harmony between its body, mind and soul. Wisdom gleaned from the medical fraternity as well as from the scriptures assists the soul in this task.

Besides managing a bodily affliction, patients have to confront the cold impersonality and crass commercialization of the healthcare delivery mechanism. This is but one of the perils of being a patient in today’s world.

(All illustrations are courtesy the world wide web)

(Note: Part of an article which appeared in NAMAH journal: http://www.namahjournal.com/doc/Actual/Patients-and-the-art-and-science-of-healing-Vol-24-iss-2.html)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/05/22/the-science-of-healing)

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ashokbhatia

Yet another New Year has dawned. It is time for me to exercise my tiny grey cells and fulfill my obligations to societyExercise 1 by making a resolution. Ideally speaking, I should make one which does not get consigned to the dustbins of my pious intentions before the first week of January gets over.

I happen to be a self-proclaimed couch potato. When it comes to being a lazy bum, I am a leader amongst men. The resolution which has appealed to me since the past several years goes something like this:

‘I hereby resolve, like in all the previous years, to start doing some kind of exercise.’

Had one of the Master Wordsmiths of our times, P G Wodehouse, been around, he might have permitted me to express myself in the following manner.

A couple of decades back, I was content to crawl out of bed and undergo the daily…

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Life is replete with hierarchies of all sizes and shapes. Those who happen to be rich look at their less fortunate cousins with some derision. Those who happen to be highly educated view the uneducated with some scorn. Those who have a great job with a famous blue chip company, when introduced to someone who has to be asked oh-which-company-did-you-say-you-are-working-with, treat the party of the other part with marked contempt.

All of us appear to be on a ladder of sorts – some perched above and others struggling to catch up from below. The ladder could be either materialistic or spiritual in nature.

The hierarchy of wellness

Some of the sick and the infirm also suffer from this ‘ladder syndrome’. Many could be secretly delighted upon Caring Michelangelo's_Pietarealizing that the best of physicians have no clue as to what precisely the nature of their affliction is. Those having AIDS and cancer could look deprecatingly at someone having, say, a viral infection. Those suffering from a heart ailment could gloat over the fact that they are consulting a world-renowned cardiac expert, whereas the other person, given his limited means or his station in life, has to remain content with a mere local doctor.

To a person diagnosed with a pancreatic cyst, someone suffering from acidity could appear to be a being which is yet to transcend several stages of evolution. Someone who has had to undergo an orthopedic surgery might treat another complaining of knee pain with a dash of scorn. A diabetic whose daily dose of insulin is in the range of, say, 50 units, could treat the other one surviving on 15 units as merely the dust beneath his chariot wheels.

The difference in the realm of wellness is that the ladder works both ways. An insulin dependent diabetic could also feel a gnawing dissatisfaction within that life has been patently unfair only to him. A person having a heart ailment may consider others around him luckier, living a fuller and happier life. It is felt that when life dishes out such harsh sentences, without the option of an anticipatory bail, our Guardian Angels are busy elsewhere, not bothering to protect us from the perils of life.

Listen to a conversation between two patients, or their attendants, in a hospital ward and both trends become discernible. Some would be happy, others would be complaining. This unique facet of wellness shows us the importance of our attitudes. When we are afflicted with an irreversible condition, how do we look at it? As a bane, or as a boon?

The perks of ill health

If we think of ill health as a bane, we enter into a vicious cycle which keeps depleting us of our positive energies. The mind absorbs negativity. The body responds by a further decline in its immunity levels. It is like a downward spiral which does not allow us to look at the sunnier side of life.

How could one treat a long term health challenge as a boon, you might well ask? Well, barring accidents and cases of a special medical nature, this does sound like a workable proposition. Especially in the case of what are known as lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart ailments and the like.

Better preparation

One, it helps us to check the healthcare eco-system around us. Efficacy of doctors gets assessed. Clinics and hospitalsCaring Michelangelo_pietà_rondanini get evaluated for the kind of care they provide. In case a further challenge comes up, we are better prepared to handle it.

Better habits

Two, we realize that the body revolts only when it is pressed beyond a point of its tolerance. Abuse of a particular organ over a period of time comes into sharp focus. Corrective steps get taken. Introspection follows. Better habits follow. Better health comes about.

Fulfilling pious intentions

Three, a critical intervention, say, like a coronary arterial by-pass graft, gives the patient a good time to relax, recuperate and introspect. For that matter, any surgery affords us the luxury of listening to good music, catching up with books on our to-be-read list or with movies on our to-be-watched list. In other words, several pious intentions of ours get worked upon.

Acquiring a specialization

Four, we end up becoming a subject expert on the affliction concerned. Now, what could be more gratifying than people coming up to us to either confide their health problems with us or seeking our advice?

Handling planned obsolescence

Five, a realization dawns that, much like modern automobiles and white goods, our bodies also come with an in-built feature of planned obsolescence.

Cars and washing machines have a definite life span. Warranties are limited. Once the warranty period is over, an annual maintenance contract kicks in.

Likewise, human bodies have an upper limit to their time spans. To keep them going longer, regular maintenance is necessary. Healthy nourishment, regular exercises and a positive attitude alone help. Howsoever hard we may work upon ourselves, we realize that our physical bodies come with a date of expiry. The date, of course, remains a mystery of sorts.

A sunny disposition

As life advances, we realize that each stage of life offers its unique mix of advantages and disadvantages.

When we enter a phase of our lives which offers us relative peace and an opportunity of fulfilling some of our pious RETIRINGintentions we have secretly harbored all through our lives, we could instead fall into the trap of complaining about the health challenges we face, thereby robbing us of the exquisite joy of this part of the journey.

A sunny disposition, acquired early in life, can work wonders in keeping illnesses at bay. Ageing gracefully is an art as well as a habit which can be consciously cultivated to fend off the W-shaped depressions we could face when the yoke of family and career responsibilities falls off our no-longer-sturdy shoulders.

It helps to have a small circle of close friends. Pursuing a hobby we are passionate about keeps our neurons in good shape. Being in touch with the younger lot makes our system keep running on all six cylinders. Simply looking back at the high points of our life keeps our spirits buoyed up.

The silver lining

Setbacks in health occasionally hover over us, much like ominous clouds which cut off the sunlight of the simple joys of life. But, like all clouds, these have a silver lining which one can focus on. Armed with a chin-up attitude, one can face the harsh slings and arrows of life better.

(Note: This blog post is a part of an article which was carried by NAMAH, the journal of integral health, in its issue of October 2015:

http://www.namahjournal.com/doc/Actual/Of-hierarchies-attitudes-and-spiritual-potential-of-our-illnesses-vol-23-iss-3.html)

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Abstract
All of us strive for perfection. Achieving and maintaining a state of perfect health is a primary concern for many amongst us. There are various kinds of ‘pathies’ which are on offer to help us to do this. But the real help could also be sourced from within us. The faith we have. The willpower we exercise. The actions we take to help our bodies heal themselves. We could strive to be our own doctors.

On one of our luckier days when we happen to be in front of the idiot box, or when the latest internet-savvy gizmo is Health Monarch femalenestling in our palms, we are apt to run into a beautiful documentary which captures the birth of a Monarch butterfly. The radical transformation – from an egg to a caterpillar, then into a chrysalis, and finally into the Monarch butterfly – leaves us somewhat awe-struck and mesmerised. The universe appears to have programmed all living beings to strive to attain a state of perfection, balance and harmony.

When we speak of perfection, most of us refer to our external appearances, actions or conditions. Better inter-personal relations. Better status in society. Better harmony with our environment. Better compliance with laws, rules and regulations. Basically, we envisage a better, wealthier, happier and more humane kind of living.

The harsh slings and arrows of life make us aware of something we invariably take for granted – our physical selves. Those amongst us who have faced a medical crisis of some kind would often be found seeking perfection of the physical being through all the means available.

A rainbow of choices

We would be found tapping into the resources of the allopathic stream which offers diagnostic tools of high standards.Doctors Day We would be spell-bound at the capacity of this stream of medicine to look at the universe within us in a highly mechanical manner. We would be amazed at the extent of division of various organs which function within its complex confines. A cardiologist would declare that our heart continues to beat in a rhythmic manner befitting a piece of classical music. A neurologist would put us under a scanner and tell us that our brain is firing on all its twelve cylinders. A gastroenterologist would put our digestive system under the microscope and assure us that it is discharging its assigned functions in a prompt and regular manner.

Nevertheless, we would still be feeling tired and exhausted and, well, not up to the mark when it comes to physical fitness. As patients, we would then be told of the virtue of psycho-somatic diseases, with broad hints that we could be suffering from some such unidentifiable ailment. Oh, the feeling of smug satisfaction we derive when being told that we appear to suffer from some mysterious disease which the scientists of today are yet to properly catalogue and name, let alone devise a treatment protocol for!

To some of us, the relatively older system of homoeopathy may sound better. We would find that it is more intuitiveHealth Hahnemann in nature. The medications are milder, with lesser side-effects. These might temporarily increase the severity of our symptoms, thereby indicating that a real cure is on its way. After a detailed one-to-one with the physician, we would be back to our ‘popping-the-pill’ routine.

Same goes for the Ayurvedic or Unani streams of healing. The physician would check our pulse and arrive at the disharmony in our bodies. Dietary restrictions would need to be followed.

Our pursuit of perfection does not end here. A brief stint at a health centre run on the principles of yoga, meditation and naturopathy might revitalise our physical and mental systems and show us the way to get out of our ‘pop-the-pill’ syndrome. The focus of this approach is on detoxifying the body and also training us to give up the luxury of indulging our taste-buds. Overall, it brings us closer to Mother Nature, a factor which is sorely missed by those of us who live in highly congested urban settings.

Sure enough, we enjoy the more holistic way of treatment offered under the alternate streams of medicine. TheseHealth Dhanvantari treat us as a composite whole of the body-mind-vital and not merely as an assembly of several parts which continue to function in their individual isolated glory.

We try our hands at flower therapy, colour therapy, magneto-therapy, acupuncture, acupressure, and several others. When it comes to healing, we have a wide range of choices of systems to choose from. Many of us try to take an integral approach, using the best treatments from diverse streams of medicine. We do it based on the faith we have in the physician as well as in the medicine. This plays a crucial role in the healing process.

Building up our inner resilience

When we push ourselves to do something we essentially like doing, we do not get tired. The body and the mind do not revolt. Instead, they bask in the inner glow of satisfaction and happiness. Scientists would call it ‘eustress.’

However, most of the times, we experience distress. We face situations in life which do not allow us to exercise an option of either ‘fight’ or ‘flight.’ Stress built up over a long time tends to be disastrous. The good news is that if stress is directly proportional to external factors, it is also inversely proportional to our internal resilience. Some people tend to take an event very lightly. For others, the same event could be highly demoralising. It depends on how strong we are from within.

How do we build up inner resilience? How do we achieve a better level of harmony between our inner and outer selves and between our heads and our hearts?

The Divine within us can guide us in this respect. If we were to live in harmony with nature, it would help. If we could Technology MEDITATION-ENTREPRENEUR-SUCCEEDchange our dietary habits, we could enjoy better well-being. If we were to control our negative emotions and live only in pure and positive ones, our cells would get healthier. If we smile, it would take away a lot of stress from our poisoned systems. If we feel a deep sense of gratitude within us – say, for simply being alive – positive vibes would generate the soft glow of self-fulfilment inside us, helping us to recover earlier. We would radiate happiness all around us.

The mind exercises a great deal of control over our body. It is surely within our powers to train it to give a positive message to the diseased cells within us. This, compounded with faith in the remedy, could work miracles.

What happens if we fail in our attempts, one might well ask. Not to despair. One, no effort goes waste. Perhaps, we shall not suffer as much as we might have done had we continued in our state of blissful ignorance. Two, the purpose of our birth might just be to reduce human suffering. We might end up bringing succour to others who suffer from a similar ailment. Three, by offering ourselves as a guinea pig and a living human laboratory, we might make a modest contribution towards advancing the knowledge about a particular disease afflicting mankind.

Of Nature, nurture and niftiness

As patients, we aim to gain two kinds of freedoms – freedom from the ailment and freedom from the remedy. How doFeatured Image -- 1211 we become and remain independent of all kinds of doctors and healing systems? Can we become our own doctors?

What we are and what we shall become is only controlled by our actions. The science of epigenetics shows that genes are not only inherited and transferred to our progeny; these also get altered by our actions and the environment. It is not only about what Nature has provided us with. It is also about how we have been nurtured and how clever we are in the actions that we take.

We can will ourselves to heal faster. We can open up ourselves and tap into the infinite energy swirling about in the universe. We could draw a lot of inspiration this way. Our intuitive faculties also come into play and help us in gaining freedom from ailments as also from medications. The potential of our bodies and minds can be tapped better.

The change has to come from within us – from the core of our psychic being. The aspiration has to be genuine. It hasHealth Monarch_Male to permeate all our thought processes and even our actions. A constant remembrance of the divine power within us can be the panacea for all our ailments – a key to achieving perfect health.

In ‘Gitanjali’, Rabindranath Tagore proposes: “Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection (1)”. Even though ‘perfection’ may not be attainable in reality, what matters is the ‘tireless striving’, which could well prove to be a reward in itself. ‘Perfection’, like happiness, need not be a station one arrives at, but a mode of travel, making the journey interesting and worthwhile.

Reference

1. Tagore Rabindranath. Tagore for You. 3rd ed. Kolkata: Deep Prakashan; 2011, p. 45.

(Published in NAMAH, the Journal of Integral Health, Vol 22, Issue 4, dated the 15th of January, 2015)

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Often, we hear that age is a mere number,
But also wonder if it makes us dumb and dumber;
Unless proper and timely steps are taken through channels right,
The chances of our becoming dull happen to be bright.

 

The body needs all the care and affection it can get,
The mind needs to be kept active, not to forget;
The soul needs nourishment of a different kind,
Otherwise it is left in torment and in a bind.

 

The zeal of youth makes us leap light-heartedly into traps,
The spirit of adventure keeps us wandering off the known maps;
Romantics at heart, fragile in maturity, we jump at gold coins with strings attached,
We behave like zombies, often getting disappointed over chickens un-hatched.

 ZOMBIES

When advanced in age, our optimism fades, no longer making the spirits lift,
A feeling grows that our guardian angels no longer care to bear a gift;
Our triumphs are many, but all sound mellowed and get under-rated,
The aged machinery creaks, a depression often seeps in unabated.

 

Each day, we shudder to look at a stranger in the mirror,
With brittle bones, fuzzy brains and a heart which is all of a twitter;
Different organs protest, the lining of the stomach seeks our regular attention,
Willing to try any system of medicine, keeping fit being the mere intention.

 

The mellow wisdom of advancing age we often forget to treat as an asset,
Giving back to society and relishing an inner glow before we walk into the sunset;
Doing what we always dreamed of doing does bring in a wholesome joy,
Listening to the body, nourishing it with a healthy diet, is the right ploy.

 

The world is still waiting with open arms, to be explored by us,
Glorious sunsets, resplendent seashores and deep gorges beckon us;
Sunshine eager to bathe us, gentle breeze to caress our wrinkled face,
River rapids and waterfalls aspire to spray us with natural grace.

 VACATIONS

Sleeping under the canopy of a star-studded sky on quiet nights,
The moon showering us with its soft azure rays with full might;
The sweet fragrance of flowers missed on the tortuous highway of life,
Await our attention in a lovely phase with minimum strife.

 

Time to take it easy and have a circle of friends around,
A tissue restorative on one side, a Plum book on the other, and our joy is unbound;
Soaking in the strains of soothing music and catching up on a classic movie,
An outpouring of creative juices, some light exercise, and life is groovy.

 

Basking in the inner glow of satisfaction, enjoying a deep sense of fulfillment,
For having crossed major landmarks of our lives on this firmament;
Oh, the freedom of soaring at will, free of the sap of life’s intricate bee-hives,
Pursuing our hobbies and passions dreamed of all through our lives.

 

Wondering if we can leave behind some marks on the shifting sands of time,
Motivating the coming generations to aspire beyond a penny and a dime;
Living the values, ethics, norms and beliefs we expect them to follow,
Always feeling positive, never believing that we lived our lives hollow.

(Related post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/6-things-to-do-before-you-turn-60)

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