The Paradox of Anaemia
Anaemia is a major public health issue in India today. Anaemia can be called our national disease and in fact, it is a national calamity.The figures for anaemia among women and children of India are truly staggering. It is estimated that more than half of all Indian women and three-fourths of Indian children suffer from anaemia.
Ayurveda understands and treats anaemia effectively and can offer a solution to this national problem.
In the following, we focus on anaemia among women and children of India. We first examine the nature and extent of the problem facing our women and children.
WOMEN: According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-II, 1998-99), 52% of Indian women are anaemic. However, other estimates put this at a much higher level. In states like Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal more than 60% of the women suffer from anaemia! In Kerala anaemia level is the lowest in the country at 22.7%.
Data from the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau (NNMB-2003) indicate that in India nearly 75% of the pregnant mothers are anaemic. For the eight states for which data are available, anaemia among pregnant mothers ranges from a low of about 50% in Kerala, to a high of about 84% in Madhya Pradesh.
Anaemia has a significant detrimental effect on women’s health. Anaemia during pregnancy increases the risk of death or disease of both the mother and the child. In India, anaemia is by far the most significant cause of maternal mortality – that is, death from pregnancy
...as part of this programme, pregnant women were expected to consume 100 tablets of Iron and Folic Acid over a period of 3 months during pregnancy. Advice on so-called ‘iron-rich food’ was given. This programme is now part of the Reproductive and Child Health Programme (RCH) which is operative in every state. However, to say that this programme has been a failure is an understatement. After all these decades, with many hundreds of crores of rupees spent, women and children of India continue to be chronically anaemic.
Ayurvedic approach to Anaemia
Even after several decades, if we have not succeeded in getting rid of anaemia, it only means that we have not understood the disease. We have not understood the various factors related to food and regimen that give rise to anaemia. Anaemia affects blood, one of the seven dhatus in the human body. These dhatus are formed from the food that we consume. Of these, the second, rakta or blood is
responsible for the sustenance of life itself. When blood is vitiated, resulting in a loss of its quality and quantity, one is afflicted by anaemia. Therefore, anaemia leads to a whole host of problems affecting the life-sustaining factors in the body.
There are various factors which lead to a deficiency of blood. Improper food is one of the important causes of anaemia. For instance, a diet excessively sour, salty and pungent is one of the causative factors for anaemia. So also is the consumption of alcohol, physical exertion and day-sleep. Excessive physical exertion combined with wrong kind of food can leave anyone anaemic. That is why a majority of Indian women, especially the poor, are anaemic. Therefore, someone who consumes more than the stipulated levels of calories, proteins and fats and even iron, may yet be anaemic if the diet, work and regimen are not proper.
Anaemia and Pregnancy
The food and regimen recommended in Ayurveda for a pregnant mother ensures an anaemia-free pregnancy. This is because the diet and regimen which are beneficial and those which are harmful for a pregnant mother are the same as those for a person with anaemia. It is easy to see that when pregnant mothers are treated in the Ayurvedic way, there is very little chance of their being afflicted