Suffice it to say that I'm a believer in western medicine, sometimes called allopathic medicine. Alternative medicine or complementary medicine is not my thing. I mean, I continually complain that the formal studies carried out by researchers and published in top medical journals are insufficient to give proper answers too much of the time. Imagine my feelings on types of medicines that don't do studies at all but rely on anecdotes.
So I am disposed not to believe in ayurvedic medicine, a 5000-year-old Indian discipline. (Pronounced eye-your-vay-dic, the word comes from the Sanskrit for "pure knowledge of life.")
And an article by Katie Leslie, Ayurveda: The ancient art of 'you are what you eat' at the Frederick News-Post online site just reinforced my unease with these practitioners.
Leslie tells the story of a woman who had ayurvedic medicine recommended to her by her massage therapist. [Insert your own sarcastic remark here.] I am removing all names except for the ayurvedic practitioners.
Both she and her son ... have a history of stomach problems, specifically lactose intolerance. They struggled to find foods that didn't make them feel ill, she said.
They went to see [Dr. Douglas Beech, a chiropractor and ayurvedic practitioner] and his mentor, Vaidya R.K. Mishra in December. Mishra is an ayurvedic dermatologist and researcher. He said his family has practiced ayurveda for thousands of years. (Vaidya is a Sanskrit word given to ayurvedic physicians.)
"Both my son and I were very skeptical about it because it's very foreign to us, with the Indian terms," [she] said. "At first I thought it was very strange, but I feel so much better."
[She] said that in a little more than a month, she's seen dramatic improvements in her health. Her once oft-grumbling stomach is now calm. Best of all, the formerly lactose-intolerant [mother and son] can digest milk with no problem.
And how did Beech accomplish this miracle?
In addition to changing her diet to follow ayurvedic principles, Beech advised her to prepare milk by mixing it with equal parts water, then boil it with cinnamon, clove, cardamom and ginger. The resulting liquid is lighter and more readily digestible, he said.
Uh huh. And it also contains half as much lactose per ounce.
Think about it. Lactose intolerance is a continuum, not an on or off proposition. Most LI sufferers still manufacture some lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose. So they only feel symptoms if they go over the threshold of what the lactase can digest. If you cut the lactose you are consuming in half... Yes, you may feel as if your LI has been cured but you're really just controlling your diet to reduce symptoms. That's something you can do without paying an ayurvedic practitioner.
The mother summed up her experience with these words:
"It just makes sense. It can seem really complicated, but you don't have to know it all. Just take what you need."
The same lesson applies to allopathic medicine. You don't have to know it all. A few basics will suffice. Amazing how much sense actual knowledge about the body can provide.