By definition, autoimmune is “relating to health concerns caused by antibodies or lymphocytes produced against substances naturally present in the body.”
Autoimmunity occurs when the body’s immune system turns on itself and starts attacking healthy tissues of the body.
In western medicine, when the immune system goes rogue, doctors will do everything possible to suppress the immune system in order to stop it from attacking healthy parts of the body.
From the Ayurvedic perspective, it is never wise to suppress the immune system. Rather, it is best to look towards understanding why the immune system has turned on itself.
This is understood by the concept of “smirti” or cellular memory. The body is holistic – which means that all cells, glands and organs work together as one, thus the well-known saying, “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”
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According to Ayurveda, the origin of all physical, mental or emotional health concerns is when the cells lose their memory of how to function as part of the whole. When a cell or group of cells lose their holistic memory, they go rogue. They respond to the lack of connection to the whole as a life- threatening emergency and go into survival mode.
When cells choose to go into survival mode, all bets are off! These cells will do anything to survive. Imagine a group of cells that have lost their basic source of getting nutrients in and moving waste out – they begin to starve, become toxic and eventually isolated.
This can happen as a result of common nutritional deficiencies, stress, injuries, poor digestion, lymph congestion and much more.
For cells to maintain the memory of the whole, they must have a healthy communication with other cells and, therefore, the whole body. When digestion is compromised and the ability to detox efficiently is altered, the cells cannot communicate with the whole and slowly lose the ability to get fed and remove waste. This is the most common reason cells lose their memory, become isolated, and go rogue. Emotional trauma can result in the same.
Over time, these isolated cells lose their memory or “smirti” of how to function as part of the whole. In this starved, emergency, survival state, the cells are forced to adapt and learn to adapt in new ways, outside of the normal laws of division. When they start dividing and behaving in rogue ways as a means to survive, the immune system recognizes these rogue cells as a threat and sends its immune army to neutralize the threat. This process is normal and happens to all of us day-in and day-out.
Autoimmune is when the immune system’s response to this threat is overzealous, and it attacks not only the rogue cells, but healthy cells as well. The immune system is carried through the body’s lymphatic system – referred to as “rasa” in Ayurveda. If the lymphatic system becomes congested as a result of stress, poor digestion, lack of exercise, toxicity, deficiencies or more, the immune system can find itself stuck in traffic and unable to respond to the needs of the body in a timely fashion.
When congested lymphatics delay the delivery of the immune response, the threat can grow, allowing cellular mischievousness and dysfunction to sound the alarm. This time the firehouse sends every fire truck in the district to put out the fire in an overwhelming, overzealous immune system response. In this overzealous, “fire and fury” immune response, both healthy AND unhealthy cells are attacked.
The key to prevent such an occurrence is to re-train and maintain healthy “smirti” or holistic memory of every cell as part of the whole.
This is accomplished by making sure the cells can communicate with the whole, which requires a healthy delivery of nutrients into the cell and the efficient removal of waste out of the cell – this is called cellular communication.
Once the cells restore their natural nutritional supply chain along with a healthy waste removal system, the proper function of cellular memory naturally ensues. The cells would much rather function as part of the whole than risk their lives as rogue warriors and be hunted by an overzealous immune system.
Ayurveda aims to restore balance to the body, reinstate cellular memory and allow the body to effortlessly return to normal.
There are many Ayurvedic strategies to support healthy cellular memory and, in return, support overall health. In Ayurveda, the solution is simple, balance the ability to digest well and detox efficiently – as these are the primary ways cells communicate with the body as a whole.