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Dr K K Aggarwal

Padma Shri and Dr B C Roy National Awardee

An ulcer is a breakdown in the lining of the stomach or the first part of the small intestine. A type of bacterial infection (Helicobacter pylori) is the most frequent cause, but lifestyle factors may also raise the risk. The following preventive steps may ward off a peptic ulcer:

• Limit alcohol to no more than two drinks daily.

• Stop smoking or chewing tobacco.

• If you need to take painkillers, avoid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen, ibuprofen or aspirin.

• Consider, with your doctor’s approval, paracetamol instead.

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Bhasma is the holy ash produced from the Homa, the sacrificial fire, wherein special wood along with ghee and other herbs are offered as a part of pooja. By the time a Bhasma is formed, no trace of original matter remains in the ash. Ash obtained from any burnt object is not bhasma.

The ritual involves worshipping the deity by pouring ash as abhishek and then distributing it as Bhasma, which is then applied on the forehead (usually), upper arms, chest, or rubbed all over the body. Some consume a pinch of Bhasma when they receive it.

The word Bhasma is derived from bha or “bhartsanam” (“to destroy”) and “sma” or “smaranam” (“to remember”). It denotes “that by which our sins are destroyed and the Lord is remembered”. Bhasma is also called vibhuti, which means glory. Bhasma is associated with Lord Shiva who applies it all over His body.

Spiritually, the Homa is the offering of oblations into the fire with sacred chants and signifies offering or surrender of the ego and egocentric desires into the fire of knowledge. The resultant ash signifies the purity of the mind. The fire of knowledge burns the oblation and wood signifying ignorance and inertia respectively.

The application of ash implies that one should burn false identification with the body. Bhasma has medicinal values in Ayurveda. It is supposed to be the strongest of all Ayurveda preparations. Ayurveda defines Bhasma as when the matter is converted into non matter by the process of homa. The non matter is the spirit or the energy of the matter being processed with strong healing powers. It has the same significance as any ‘potentised’ medicine in homeopathy.

It absorbs excess moisture from the body and prevents colds and headaches. When applied with a red spot at the center, the mark symbolizes Shiva-Shakti (the unity of energy and matter that creates the entire seen and unseen universe).

The Upanishads say that the famous Mrityunjaya Mantra should be chanted whilst applying ash on the forehead.

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1. Use spices and other flavor enhancers (spices, dried and fresh herbs, garlic and ginger, citrus, vinegars, and wine. Flavors can be black pepper, cinnamon, and turmeric to fresh basil, chili peppers, and lemon juice.

2. Use the right healthy fats, from roasted nuts and avocados to olive, canola, soybean, and other oils.

3. Searing and sautéing foods in a pan builds flavor. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of many vegetables and the taste of fish and chicken. If you do steam or microwave food, perk up these dishes with a finishing drizzle of flavorful oil and a squeeze of citrus.

4. Get your whole grains from sources other than bread. White bread contains salt, not just for flavor but to ensure that the dough rises properly.

5. Shop for raw ingredients with maximum natural flavor, thereby avoiding the need to add as much (if any) sodium. (Harvard)

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‘Love’ is what one is born with and ‘fear’ is what one learns. Spiritual journey is nothing but unlearning of fears and prejudices along with return of love back into ones heart. The first principle, therefore, of living a spiritual life is to be full of love. Love is not escaping from sufferings or from your thoughts but is the unity with your own divine self, which is the true consciousness.

It is easy to say ‘spread the message of love’. But most of us do not understand the literal meaning of love in our day-to-day life. Love basically involves doing two things: Firstly, not to willfully hurt someone (in thought, deed or action) and secondly, to seek out an opportunity to help someone.

Hurting an individual arises mainly due to unthoughtful speech or action. Often a cruel word is said and regretted later. Opportunity to help others is an inherent divine gift in every individual, which we all need to re-search in our body. The ‘help’ here does not means ‘helping for a reward’ and has to be a ‘selfless giving’. It should not be done to get some appreciation or to get something back, but rather this intention of helping others should be stitched to our consciousness and should become an inherent part of our nature.

Apart from love, the second principle in life for a spiritual journey is discrimination. We use our discriminating power in our day-to-day life while choosing situations between good and bad or real and unreal, and the choice in these situations is generally obvious as very little intellect is used.

The most difficult discrimination and the one which is the key to internal happiness, is the power to differentiate between the ‘will of the Self’ and the ‘will of the mind and body’. To choose between the ‘self’ and the ‘mind’ is often difficult, and one tends to tilt towards the voice of the mind for temporary external pleasure.

In all situations, there is always an inner voice, which is first to come and is often ignored. Immediately after the inner voice, the mind takes over. The decisions taken from the mind are often against the consciousness and are usually wrong. Consciousness based decisions are always the right decisions. The clutter and noise of the mind (thoughts) often blocks these decisions. Hypothetically speaking, suppose the mind or the consciousness wants to help an individual, but the body takes over and complains that it is too tired or, if the body is well-rested, the mind may take over in form of desires and make you feel greedy, envious or jealous, etc.

One should always listen to the consciousness and take conscious based decisions which are always accompanied by bodily comfort. On the other hand, decisions taken against the consciousness will always lead to bodily discomfort, which can be felt within seconds of taking wrong decisions.

According to Vedantic text, one should ask oneself four basic questions before doing anything.

1. Is it necessary?

2. Is it the truth?

3. Will it bring happiness to me?

4. Will it bring happiness to others?

If answer to any of them is ‘No’, one should not undertake that action. One should not visit the market to see how many things one wants or needs but see how many things one does not have and also does not need.

After love and discrimination, the third spiritual principle is to attain tolerance and a state of desirelessness. Internal happiness is directly proportional to possessions and indirectly proportional to the desires. In such a case, even if ones possessions are negligible and one still does not have any desires, one can get a long-lasting internal happiness. One should be attached to the actions but detached from the results.

No doubt it is extremely difficult not to have desires but at least one should not have egocentric desire. These desires should be towards one’s own consciousness, so that it can be transformed to love.

One should remember that happiness is within us. But one tends to run away from the sufferings based on past perceptions. Changing the perceptions of life can make all the difference. One should not judge an individual with one’s own level of perception but from that person’s level of perception, and only then can one judge an individual to the right extent.

It is the body and the mind which suffers or enjoys and not the consciousness. If one is in touch with ones consciousness, one will always remain internally happy. One of the formulae to remember is that when one does anything, it should be done as if everything matters, but when one wants to live a life, one should live as if nothing matters.

Another point towards self-realization is one-pointedness towards one’s chosen goal and practicing self-inquiry. One- pointedness in life means nothing can ever disturb one away from ones path and failures, success; temptations play only a minor role.

Pain and pleasure are the two sides of the same coin, and it is all in the perception. One can perceive the same thing as pain in one situation and as pleasure in the other. Changing one’s level of perception can convert pain into pleasure and pleasure into pain.


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Yoga is a science, which shifts one from sympathetic to parasympathetic mode. It is a combination of Hatha Yoga (asanas or postures), breathing and meditation. Meditation means concentrating on the object of concentration and giving preference to the object of concentration over thoughts. Mindfulness meditation, breathing awareness can shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic mode.

Breathing exercises in yoga can be both slow & deep breathing and fast breathing. Kapalbhati and bhastrika are fast breathing exercises.

In modern system of medicine, every movement in an exercise is accompanied by the opposite movement. The same is true for yoga. For every movement, there is a reverse movement.

Often when patients come to us for consultation or follow up, they ask if it is safe for them to do yoga. Yes, patients can do yoga but they should do it under the guidance of a trained yoga instructor. Teaching yoga is the job of an expert. In the hands of an untrained person, yoga may be risky. Also, it is important that patients observe specific precautions pertaining to their illness while doing yoga. They should practice yoga slowly and take care to not overdo any asana and avoid some postures that may aggravate their health problems

Here are some precautions, which patients should follow while doing yoga:

• Yoga is not included as an aerobic exercise.

• Fast breathing exercises stimulate the sympathetic system. Slow breathing stimulates the parasympathetic system. Therefore, cardiac clearance needs to be taken for all breathing exercises.

• In three situations in Hatha Yoga (headstand, handstand, shoulder stand), the total body weight is put on head, wrist and shoulder. This requires medical clearance, especially for heart patients.

• When you get up from a sitting position, nine times weight is put on the knees. Hence, patients of osteoarthritis should avoid sitting down, low height beds or chair or Indian toilets. Yoga may prevent osteoarthritis, but once developed, Hatha Yoga practices need to be modified.

• The Lotus position, forward and backward bends need orthopedic clearance in selected patients.

• Forward spine exercises may require orthopedic clearance in selected cases as they may precipitate sciatica, if done incorrectly.

• Painful and/or difficult yoga postures should be avoided

• Patients with cervical disc disease, glaucoma should avoid doing inversion postures (head stand, shoulder stand).

• If pain or paresthesia worsen, stop and consult a doctor

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It is natural for us to promise or offer to pray for someone who suffers from sickness. So many people believe in the power of prayer that it has now caught the attention of scientists and doctors. Today most hospitals and nursing homes are building prayer rooms for their patients, based on the principle that a relaxed mind is a creative mind. During prayer, a person is in touch with the consciousness, and is able to take correct decisions. Most doctors even write on their prescription “I treat He cures”.

Medically it has been proved that the subconscious mind of an unconscious person is listening. Any prayer therefore would be captured by the patient, building inner confidence and faith to fight terminal sickness. We have seen the classical example of the effect of mass prayer on a person’s health in the case of Amitabh Bachchan’s illness.

“Praying for health is one of the most common complementary treatments people do on their own,” said Dr Harold G Koenig, co–director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University Medical Center.

About 90% of Americans and almost 100% Indians pray at some point in their lives, and when they’re under stress, such as when they’re sick, they’re even more likely to pray.

More than one–third of the people surveyed in a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine said they often turned to prayer when faced with medical concerns. In a poll involving more than 2,000 Americans, 75% of those who prayed said they prayed for wellness, while 22% said they prayed for specific medical conditions.

Numerous random studies have been conducted on this subject. In one such study, neither the patients nor the healthcare providers had any idea who was being prayed for. The coronary–care unit patients didn’t even know there was a study being conducted. And, those praying for the patients had never even met them. The result: While those in the prayer group had about the same length of hospital stay, their overall health was slightly better than the group that didn’t receive special prayers.

“Prayer may be an effective adjunct to standard medical care,” wrote the authors of this 1999 study, also published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. However, a more recent trial from the April 2006 issue of the American Heart Journal suggests that it’s even possible for some harm to come from prayer. In this study, which included 1,800 people scheduled for heart surgery, the group who knew they were receiving prayers developed more complications from the procedure, compared to those who had not been a focus of prayer.

Many patients are reluctant and do not discuss this subject with their doctors. Only 11% patients mention prayer to their doctors. But, doctors are more open to the subject than the patients realize, particularly in serious medical situations. In a study of doctors’ attitudes toward prayer and spiritual behavior, almost 85% of the doctors thought they should be aware of their patients’ spiritual beliefs. Most doctors said they wouldn’t pray with their patients even if they were dying, unless the patient specifically asked the doctor to pray with them. In that case, 77% of the doctors were willing to pray for their patient.

Most people are convinced that prayer helps. Some people are ‘foxhole religious’ types and prayer is almost a reaction or cry to the Universe for help. However, many people do it because they’ve experienced benefit from it in the past.

If a patient wants to pray and feels it might be helpful, there’s no reason he should not. If he believes that prayer might work, then he should use it.

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Choose fruits and vegetables wisely

• Get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

• When filling your plate with fruits and vegetables, choose from a full color palette.

• For even more health benefits, aim for nine servings a day. To get there, choose vegetable soups and vegetable or fruit salads. Sprinkle fruit on breakfast cereal, and select it for snacks or as a sweet end note after meals. Choose fats wisely

• Whenever possible, use monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils. Avoid trans fats entirely. Limit saturated fats to less than 7% of daily calories and total fat to 20% to 30% of daily calories.

• If you don’t have coronary artery disease, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating foods rich in omega–3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, or mackerel, twice weekly. If you have documented coronary artery disease (CAD), consume roughly 1 g a day of EPA or DHA from oily fish and supplements if your doctor advises this. Choose carbohydrates wisely

• Choose whole–grain foods over those made with refined grains, such as white bread. Look beyond popular choices like whole oats and brown rice to lesser–known whole grains like barley, bulgur, kasha and quinoa. Limit your intake of white potatoes. Choosing protein wisely

• Emphasize plant sources of protein, such as beans, nuts, and grains, to help you bypass unhealthy fats predominant in animal sources. Enjoying a wide variety of vegetables and eating beans and grains helps you get a full complement of amino acids over the course of a week. Shy away from protein sources high in saturated fat. Favor fish and well–trimmed poultry. If you do eat beef, pick lean cuts.

• Don’t char or overcook meat, poultry, or fish — it causes a buildup of carcinogens. Cutting off fat, which causes flames to flare on the grill, can help avoid charring; try gently sautéing, steaming, or braising these foods in liquid instead. Grilling vegetables is safe, however.

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In the epic Mahabharata, Yudhishthir symbolizes a person who has learnt the art of being in balance in loss and gain and the one who practices righteous living. Arjuna symbolizes the quality to focus and the quality to see only the eyes of a fish when focusing on the fish. Bheema symbolizes the power to fight the evil. Sahdev stands for the quality of helping others and Nakul symbolizes how to remain neutral in any circumstances.

The weakness of Yudhishthir was lust (gambling); of Arjuna was losing focus due to any doubt and of Bheem (Bal), to get instigated on small things.

A person who is too focused can easily get diverted by any doubt. This is what happened to Arjuna when the Kurukshetra war started. He was focused completely before and after the Bhagvad Gita.

Bhagvad Gita is a dialogue between Arjuna and Lord Krishna, which was delivered when Arjuna was overpowered by doubts in his mind whether he should fight or not? Was he justified in fighting with his own people?

Once the doubts were removed by Lord Krishna using the principles of cognitive behavior therapy (as it can be termed today), he regained his focus.

In Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna represents consciousness, therefore in any doubt one should redirect them to the heart/consciousness to take the right decision.

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