Raising Super Healthy Kids
This month we interview authors Kumuda Reddy, M.D., and Linda Egenes, the writers of a new book called Super Healthy Kids: Happy and Healthy Children through Maharishi Ayurveda. Dr. Kumuda Reddy is a medical doctor who received training in Maharishi Ayurveda. Linda Egenes is the author of over four hundred articles and co-author of two other books on Maharishi Ayurveda. She is an adjunct associate professor of writing at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa.
Q: What is the Maharishi Ayurveda approach to raising healthy children?
Dr. Reddy: In the first section of the book, we explain to parents that the three doshas, or mind-body principles, are the crux of Maharishi Ayurveda. Balance in the child's mind and body is based on the proper balance of Vata, Pitta and Kapha doshas. These three doshas are found in every organ, system and part of the body, on the subtle and the gross levels.
For instance, Vata is the source of communication of nature's intelligence — Vata governs whatever is flowing, whether it's your child's nervous impulses, creativity or elimination. Vata is the flow of intelligence.
Pitta governs transformation, metabolism, digestion processes, and endocrine processes. Kapha governs structure, cohesion, and mass.
And of course there are also the emotional elements: the brightness and cheerfulness of Vata, the leadership qualities of Pitta, and the calm serenity of Kapha. So this is what a child is — a unique combination of the three doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Q: What is the practical application of these principles?
Dr. Reddy: It's important for parents to know their child's constitution, their unique combination of the three doshas. The child's prakriti, or constitution, is formed at the time of birth, and also takes into account imbalances at the time of conception.
Once you know his constitution and his imbalances through a consultation with an ayurvedic expert (vaidya), you know what health problems he may be prone to in the future, and you can tailor his diet and daily routine to prevent future illnesses. If Vata is predominant, for instance, he may be prone to being underweight, or to worry a lot. You can help him relax with daily oil massage (abhyanga), with particular foods that soothe anxiety, and with herbal food supplements that decrease stress.
By helping your child enjoy a balanced physiology, you can help him or her gain perfection at the level of consciousness, mind, body, and behavior. When Vata, Pitta and Kapha are in balance, the mind and body are at peace. Then there are no obstacles for spontaneous growth and development. The child's appetite is good, elimination is good, thirst and hunger levels are good.
A healthy child is like a flower blooming. What can stop it? If there are no obstructions, then the flower will blossom very quickly. It is there for all to enjoy. When the child is fully blossoming intellectually and emotionally, he is a joy to be around. This is what this book unfolds — a natural, simple way to help your child prevent illness and reach his or her full potential.
Q: What are some of the topics covered in the book?
Linda Egenes: The book contains many case histories of children treated by Dr. Reddy in her ayurvedic practice. For example, Nadia, an eight-year-old girl who had eczema, was healed through simple, natural ayurvedic treatments, such as changes in diet and daily routine and herbal food supplements. The book also includes a directory of common childhood diseases with ayurvedic solutions.
The book emphasizes prevention, outlining the deeper principles of Maharishi Ayurveda and giving hundreds of practical tips for preventing children's health problems that parents can start applying right away. For instance, you'll learn the top three foods to stop feeding your child, ten ways to protect your child against environmental toxins, and how to use yoga postures, aromatherapy, and even home design to help your child grow up healthy.
There's a chapter on stress-reducing habits you can teach your child, since today's kids are facing more pressures than ever before. There's also a chapter on how to give your child an ayurvedic massage, and another one on ayurvedic exercise for kids. Since eating wholesome, balanced foods is the basis for mental, emotional, and physical health in the growing child, diet is covered extensively in four chapters, including recipes. The link between immunity and digestion is another topic we cover in depth, since children need help in boosting their immunity against colds and flu.
Q: Can you explain in more detail how digestion is related to immunity?
Dr. Reddy: Conventional medicine does recognize that digestion plays a critical role in creating health. Maharishi Ayurveda explains that the main digestive fire (agni) not only transforms food in the stomach, but also guides the processes of metabolism and transformation in every cell, including biorhythms and chemical processes. Once we understand this, we see that balancing this digestive fire is very important to the child's health.
In fact, according to Maharishi Ayurveda, immunity is directly related to digestion. When digestion is dull, the child doesn't have a proper appetite. Impurities build up and vitality, spontaneity and immunity lessen. In fact, most diseases are caused by the build-up of impurities or digestive toxins, called ama in ayurvedic medicine. Digestion also affects biorhythms such as the sleep cycle. Or food allergies may form when the child is not digesting properly. Digestion is the key to deeper sleep, mental and emotional health, and strong immunity.
Medicines, vitamins, super calories, and other quick fixes are like band-aids — they address the symptoms but don't provide a real cure. Instead, the mother needs to know how to fix the problem at its source. This is the specialty of Maharishi Ayurveda. The book teaches parents the foods and habits that destroy digestion and immunity and the foods and habits that improve it.
Immunity Boosting Foods (excerpted from Super Healthy Kids)
- Choose fresh foods. Avoid serving your child leftovers, packaged, frozen or canned foods.
- Serve regular meals of warm, cooked food.
- Whenever possible, provide home-cooked meals for your child.
- Include sattvic (pure) foods in your child's diet. These are easy to digest, convert to healthy body tissue more quickly and are, in a sense, super foods. They include organic whole milk (ayurveda recommends boiling it first with ginger and cardamom and drinking it apart from meals); ghee and other healthy fats such as olive oil; freshly-made yogurt; panir; split mung dhal soup; rice and whole grains; healthy sweeteners such as jaggary, rock sugar, or raw honey; whole seeds and nuts, and organic fruits and vegetables.
About Dr. Reddy
Dr. Reddy has devoted herself to bringing the time-tested knowledge of Maharishi Ayurveda to the modern world. She has had her own practice in Maharishi Ayurveda Health Care for ten years. She served on the faculty of Albany Medical College and practiced Maharishi Ayurveda in upstate New York and Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Reddy has co-authored six books on Maharishi Ayurveda and a series of children's stories based on traditional Indian stories that she first heard as a child.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.