Thursday, April 25, 2013

Health Wars...

So what do you do when you find out that someone you know has fallen sick ?

Well, this question becomes all the more important when you are in India. The very thought of going to a doctor may elicit a wince on anyone’s face. But you get all the more baffled when the patient decides to take the treatment into his own hands. In a country like India, there is no dearth of alternative treatments and providers of such medicines.

In India, there has been a constant war between modern medicine and traditional medicine like ‘Ayurveda’. The emergence of ‘Homeopathy’ has only added to the pre-existing confusion in the choice of treatment for a person. While it is obvious that each form of medicine has its benefits and losses, the near fanaticism some people have for or against a form of medicine is mind-boggling.

And once you throw in loonies like Ramdev into the picture, any sane person can be expected to tear out his hair in exasperation.

While ‘Ayurveda’ is well documented and officially taught as a medical discipline, it becomes a totally different recipe when people like Ramdev present it as a hodge-podge mixed with ‘Yoga’, religion and what not.

It has been known since long that ‘Yoga’ (when practiced correctly) helps in maintaining physical and mental fitness. Something that correlates with the primordial prevention of diseases (specially non-communicable diseases) as per the practice of modern medicine. Also, it is logical to expect the beneficial effects of some ‘Ayurvedic’ medicines (which are mostly prepared from herbs) as even many modern medicines are herbal products, like Quinine and Atropine.

But to expect ‘Yoga’ and ‘Ayurveda’ (and even ‘Homeopathy’) to actually ‘cure’ diseases like cancer, diabetes, thyroid disorders and AIDS is simply absurd. And that is what Ramdev has claimed to do quite often.

Cancers occur due to complex interaction of environmental and genetic factors. How can a certain body posture and breathing pattern (as in ‘Yoga’) affect the genetic changes that have already occurred in a person’s DNA ? Even modern medicine finds it tough to ‘cure’ most cancers except those solid tumors which are surgically resectable. Same goes for a disease like ‘Type-I diabetes’ which is due to an autoimmune destruction of Insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas. Modern medicine does not claim to ‘cure’ diabetes but aims to control the symptoms and prevent its complications.

The limits of absurdity are crossed when Ramdev claims to ‘cure’ AIDS too. Being a communicable disease which is caused by a virus entering into a person’s body, how does he expect his concoctions to strengthen the CD4 lymphocytes of the body to fight an attacking virus particle ? Can any form of ‘Yoga’ practiced by Ramdev ‘cure’ him of even ‘Malaria’ or ‘Dengue’ after an infective mosquito’s bite ?

Modern medicine has its limitations as drugs have adverse effects on some individuals who are genetically predisposed towards those effects. But medicinal drugs have scientifically proven mechanisms of action against the diseases and disorders they are used for. Whereas, people like Ramdev have no proof or logic to their claims except hearsay by their blind followers. And to further their agenda, they associate medicine with religion, language and nationality. Ramdev has often termed modern medicine as an invention of the British and had even demanded for higher medical education to be imparted in regional languages. I wrote about it then.

Sometime back, another of these frauds Asaram was seen to be advising pregnant women to drink cow’s urine if they wanted to undergo painless childbirth. Amazingly, these con-men have followers numbering hundreds of thousands. So it should be no surprise to find their methods of treatment to be so prevalent in the country.  

There are drawbacks in modern medicine most of which are more about faulty prescriptions and practices by the practitioners. But no form of alternative medicine can replace it in terms of emergencies. I won’t even mention surgical emergencies. But even in medical emergencies like cardiac failure, asthma, meningitis, shock and many more, one wouldn’t think of rushing to an ‘Ayurvedic’ or ‘Homeopathy’ practitioner. What one needs at such a time is emergency medical care.

No wonder Ramdev himself was rushed to the ICU of a hospital dealing in modern medicine when he collapsed after one of his fasts. Years of ‘Yoga’ practice could not help him endure the physical effects of a fast let alone help him recover.            

Alternative forms of medicine have their benefits specially as preventive measures. Even placebo effects may appear to be beneficial as in case of ‘Homeopathy’. But for non-surgical absolute cures, we will have to wait till the time ‘Nanomedicine’ makes its appearance in the medical world.

Image courtesy : Google Images


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