Ayurveda Q & A PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Dr. David Simon   

Ayurveda has been practiced in the US for only about 30 years, yet it is one of the systems of medicine native to India and is thousands of years old. Readers are invited to submit questions for “Ayurveda Q & A” to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Dr. David Simon
Dr. David Simon

Q: I have an addiction to alcohol. I have had a very turbulent past and have been drinking since I was fourteen years old. I am now forty-six and alcohol is how I escape or deal with my fears. I have been meditating for quite some time, and when I feel the urge to drink, I know I should meditate, but I am finding at times that I am weak. I want my intentions to be stronger and the cravings to stop. I have attempted AA meetings and find them very negative – they make me feel very powerless. I know I have the power to conquer fear and this addiction that I’ve had for thirty-three years. I want my life back and am making a commitment to do so. Is meditation enough?

A: Everyone is addicted to something. The challenge is to choose an addiction with positive side effects. You learned in your childhood that alcohol gave you temporary relief, and you resort to it as the default way of managing your life. It’s my experience that while meditation is a core component of overcoming an addiction, it is not enough on its own. I suggest that you identify a professional addiction counselor or a treatment program in your community and make the commitment to address the challenge directly. Alcohol is almost always a poor substitute for love, so take an honest look at your core relationships and see what you can do to enhance the flow of nourishment. There are four main steps to ending your addiction:

  1. Stop drinking.
  2. Identify the need that alcohol has been filling.
  3. Find a healthy substitute to nourish that inner need.
  4. Become part of a community that supports the expansion of your happiness and well-being.

At the root of addiction is a natural impulse to satisfy our human needs for security, comfort, self-esteem, sensory gratification and power. But at a deeper level, we know that that our addictions cannot fill the emptiness inside ourselves and will not lead to lasting peace and inner satisfaction. Identifying the void you have been trying to fill and replacing life-damaging beliefs and behaviors with those that are life-supporting – including meditation and other practices for higher consciousness – will serve you immeasurably on your journey to healing and transformation. In addition to finding a professional counselor, you may benefit from using the program outlined in my book Freedom from Addiction.

Q: I have a debilitating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) that was diagnosed years ago. Every time I eat, my stomach bloats and remains bloated all day. I take Prilosec and Gas-X, but no medication helps. I also have rings on my esophagus that I have had dilated, and they spasm and mimic chest pain tightness. Prilosec has given me polyps on stomach. Sometimes I just want to give up because eating is such a hardship. I constantly look six months pregnant, and on a very bad day, I look nine months pregnant. I am stressed and so is my body and no one has been able to help me. Please shed some light on this.

A: From an Ayurvedic perspective, you have a significant vata (air/ether elements) imbalance in your digestive tract resulting from weak digestive powers, known in Sanskrit as agni. Our experience at the Chopra Center is that the symptoms of IBS can be reduced through a holistic approach. First, if you don’t already have a meditation practice, my suggestion would be to learn a mind-quieting practice such as Primordial Sound Meditation, which helps heal the body and mind at a cellular level. According to a number of scientific studies, meditation and other stress management techniques can significantly reduce the symptoms of IBS.

Second, for a couple weeks, simplify your diet, eating only cooked basmati rice, steamed vegetables, and a mung dahl. Gradually add fresh ginger to kindle the digestive fire.

At least once a day, gently massage your abdomen using warm, grounding, vata-pacifying oils such as sesame or almond. After the massage, lie down in a comfortable position, place a hot water bottle over a towel on your belly, and send your digestive system the intention to be soothed. Try this consistently for the next few weeks. If you don’t notice substantial improvement, the next step is panchakarma, an effective Ayurvedic cleansing process that identifies, mobilizes and releases the toxins that get stored in the body and contribute to illness. I can hear from your words how much you are struggling with this health issue, and I wish you relief as you continue on your healing path.

Q: I am thirty-nine years old and have recently begun to experience anxiety. It started with not sleeping, and then I began to suffer from anxiety attacks. I was given Ambien to sleep and started therapy, where I began to deal with the suicide of my ex-husband three years ago. The doctor also prescribed Prozac, which I recently stopped taking because of the side effects. Although I feel better physically (I still take Ambien to sleep), I feel like I had some kind of awakening. Now I feel like I am on an intense search for my purpose and my sense of who I am. I also seem to have developed a fear of death like I have never felt before. It’s a fear of not knowing what happens next (after my life). It feels like this experience has taken the peaceful feeling out of my life and I’m wondering what I can do to find peace again?

A: When someone close to us dies, it’s common to feel that our world has been turned upside down. In addition to losing someone with whom you shared a significant part of your life, your own sense of mortality has been brought into focus along with the fundamental questions of life: Why am I here? What is the meaning of my life? Is there a God? Does he or she really care about me? What happens when I die? Will I still exist in some form after I’ve left my body? The anxiety that most of us feel about death at some point in our lives comes from identifying with a false sense of self – from believing that we are our physical bodies, our accomplishments, our possessions, our job titles, and all the other outer circumstances of our lives. At our essence, we are none of these things; we are spiritual beings temporarily disguised as humans.

If you can use a traumatic experience to go deeper within and experience your essential self, you may in retrospect be able to see this terrible loss as a pathway that helped you connect to who you really are at the soul level. I would recommend that you learn Primordial Sound Meditation from a certified teacher. On the physiological level, meditation has been shown in many scientific studies to reduce levels of stress, anxiety and insomnia. In addition to its many physical health benefits, meditation is the best tool we’ve found for connecting to the peace and stillness at the core of our being. Knowing that we are unborn, undying beings enables us to navigate the inevitable beginnings and endings of life without losing our essential self.

Q: I have an enlarged prostrate. Can it be cured by natural remedies or do I need surgery?

There is some scientific evidence that two botanical substances, saw palmetto berry and Pygeum africanum can improve the symptoms of an enlarged prostrate. There are also effective pharmacological agents, alpha-adrenergic receptor antagonists and 5-alpha reductase enzyme inhibitors that can reduce the need for surgery.

Phytoestrogen-rich foods including soy and other beans, flaxseeds and sprouts may be helpful. Try increasing your intake of these natural hormone-balancing substances to see if they reduce your symptoms. The Ayurvedic herbs shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) and purnarnava (Boerhavia diffusa) have traditionally been used to improve urinary tract health, but have to date received only limited scientific scrutiny.

The information provided here is for educational purposes only. Before using any Ayurvedic remedies, consult with a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner or healthcare provider. This article represents the opinion and recommendation of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of LA YOGA Ayurveda and Health magazine.

A board-certified neurologist and Ayurvedic expert, Dr. David Simon is the co-founder and medical director of the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, California. His award-winning books on health, spirituality, and conscious living have been translated into more than 25 languages. Dr. Simon’s new book, Free to Love, Free to Heal: Heal Your Body by Healing Your Emotions, will be released this month by the Chopra Center Press: chopra.com

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