Jaganathan, a 43 year old businessman, was admitted to the hospital with a sharp, ongoing pain in his upper abdomen, nausea and vomiting, fever and abdominal tenderness. He was prescribed pain medication for immediate relief. Further tests, along with the symptoms of weight loss and oily stools as well as rapid breathing and rapid heart rate, led to the diagnosis that he was suffering from acute pancreatitis. His doctor explained to him that pancreatitis was an inflammation of the pancreas, an organ about six inches long, that is located deep within the abdomen, surrounded by the stomach, small intestine, liver and spleen. The pancreas plays a key part in the digestive and endocrine systems, as it aids in the digestion of food. It also regulates the production of the hormone insulin, which controls the level of sugar in the blood. Pancreatitis may be acute- as in Jaganathan’s case- or chronic. Acute pancreatitis is generally caused by are gallstones, which block the duct of the pancreas, while chronic pancreatitis is usually the result of excess alcohol consumption. However, repeat cases of acute pancreatitis can lead to chronic pancreatitis.
Jaganathan was hospitalized and given antibiotics to prevent infection and intravenous fluids for nutrition. No food was given by mouth, so as to allow the pancreas to rest and stabilize. Once the emergency was over, Jaganathan decided to try Ayurveda as a long term measure to prevent a recurrence, and to prevent or reduce permanent damage to the pancreas.
Ayurveda is the world’s oldest system of medicine, which depends on nature to heal and prevent diseases. It originated in India over 5000 years ago, and the state of Kerala, in South India, is often referred to as the ‘home of ayurveda’ because of its famous families of traditional Ayurvedic physicians, who have been practicing this ancient art of holistic healing for generations. Jaganathan consulted one such renowned physician whose lineage could be traced back to the ancient rishis. He explained to Jaganathan that Ayurveda rejuvenates the pancreas and restores its purpose or dharma of producing insulin. Turmeric is a main herb used in Ayurveda and it is now being researched by conventional physicians for its role in the treatment and prevention of conditions like pancreatitis. Emblica or the Indian gooseberry is another traditional Ayurvedic medicinal plant used to treat pancreatic disorders. It is a powerful antioxidant and one of the richest natural sources of vitamin C. Antioxidants are substances that help the body to neutralize free radicals which are dangerous, naturally occurring substances that are thought to play a role in pancreatitis, as well as many other conditions. Jaganathan’s physician also prescribed remedies containing Haritaki or Terminalia chebula, Behada or Terminalia bellerica and Yashtimadhuk or Glycerrhiza glabra which formed the main stay of treatment for his condition.
Jaganathan was told that changing his diet is one of the most helpful ways to maintain proper functioning of the pancreas. Foods such as fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, nuts, veggies, beans, and fruit, can help to protect against diseases and disorders of the pancreas. Eating raw and unprocessed foods can also be helpful in maintaining a healthy pancreas. It is also important to limit meat consumption and to choose foods low in fat. Jaganathan was advised to drink plenty of water as pancreatitis can cause dehydration. On top of that, he was told to completely cut out sugars, tobacco, and alcohol which all contribute to deterioration of the pancreas. Jaganathan’s pancreatitis has not recurred so far, and he believes that though he acted wisely in seeking immediate treatment with conventional medicine, his decision to go for Ayurveda for long term preventive measures has paid rich dividends in terms of his health.