Fast the fever and feast the cold is a pretty old folk saying, but it is the soul of traditional medical principles.
Fevers according to Ayurveda are not just raise in one's body temperature but an indication of an error in the metabolic activity of the body. It is considered as the most important disorder and has been addressed with prime attention. Ayurveda, a way to living, addresses fever too in similar terms. It isn't just a few medicines and symptoms of the different patterns of fever that has been mentioned by ancient physicians but a regime that begins from the earliest signs of fever to days post the subsiding of symptoms and until the patient regains complete health.
Importance of fasting in fever:
Our body tries to adjust to the lowered metabolic rate while a fever is on. Fasting is only one of the many modes of helping the body to cope up with the reduced metabolic activity. During fever the enzymatic actions in the body is also lowered, hence having food beyond the body's capacity will pose a toll on the system, leading to indigestion and other complications of fever such as fatigue, weakness etc.
Fasting helps in regulating the faecal and urine output and thereby lightens the body. It also helps to overcome lethargy as well as regularise sweating, hunger and thirst. A person who has fasted adequately has no aftertaste in the mouth and emits clean belches.
Fasting should not be undertaken by the generally weak, pregnant and old.
Such fastings should not last more than 3-6 days and one should gradually shift from total abstinence of food to light meals such as gruel.
Those with fever should take warm water. It is advisable to boil water with astringent drugs such as red sandalwood, dry ginger, vetiver, common nut-grass or fumaria and cool it before consumption.
Different variations of rice gruel be considered during the initial six days of fasting. Start with a light puffed rice porridge with dry ginger and long pepper. The solid content (puffed rice) to water content should be in the ratio 1:3. Different formulations of gruel is prescribed in accordance to the area of pain.
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For fever accompanied by headaches and pains in the pelvic region, brown rice gruel be consumed. If afflicted with encephalitis, porridge with bamboo shoot and yelow-berried nightshade (kantkari) is consumed.
After 8 days, green gram, masoor dal, channa, horsegram and tuvar can be given as in a south Indian rasa formulation along with shastika rice or broken red rice.
Leaves and vegetables such as snake gourd leaves, leaves of oval-shaped cassia, bitter gourd, nut-grass, giloy and tender bamboo shoots also help overcome the fever.
In fevers that cause emaciation, rice with mutton soup is good.
However, there are a few items that have to be avoided. Processed foods, including the traditional breakfast recipes such as dosa, idli and steam cakes, should be avoided. Exercises, day sleep, bathing, oiling, exposure to heavy winds and eating food that is too pungent and astringent should be strictly off the menu.
A mouthful of warmed ginger extract mixed with pink rock salt, dry ginger, pepper and long pepper is to be used to gargle and cleanse the mouth. This is to be done for about 2-3 times a day as it will help cleanse the area of phlegm, bacteria and also any indigestion.
The person needs to be strong and have a good digestive capacity to receive the medicines. Hence 6 days post the fasting period medicines or kasayams are given appropriate to the symptoms. Food should be had only once the medicine is digested. But for the weak, such as the old, children and the pregnant, formulations that can be had with food are given by the doctor. These medicine vary from nasal instillations, kajals, lickables and anoinments.
The nourishing diets
Medicated ghee is given 10 days post the above treatments if the person seems weak and slight fever persists but has a good appetite. Milk acts as ambrosia for a person who has overcome fever. This milk is to prepared such that ratio of herbs to milk to water is 1:8:4 and this is boiled down to the quantity of the milk.
Upon submission of fever and gaining of appropriate appetite, oiling of the body with appropriate oils to regain the strength of the muscles and luster of the skin are also advised. Oils such as narayana tailam and chandanadi tailam serve these purposes. Until the person regains his strength the person is advised to refrain from exercises, extensive baths, travel and such intensive workouts.
Fevers were given this due importance as preparing the weakened body during the episodes of fever is very essential to help upkeep the general immunity of the person and thus it always helped improve the quality of life.
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(The author is an Ayurveda doctor. You may reach her on firstname.lastname@example.org)