Homeopathic medicines are effective in curative, preventive and promotive care without any adverse effects. Further these are also cost efficient. World Health Organisation (WHO) has cited Homeopathy as one of the traditional medicines. Government of India encourages its integration in the national health care delivery along with the conventional medicine to ensure adequate outreach in health care. The medicines are capable to stimulate the auto regulatory and self healing process of the body.
Nutritional disorder is a major challenge before the health care providers in several countries. The conventional approach categorise this under malabsorption and resorts to supplementation therapy. The holistic concepts of homeopathy believes that the nutritional disorder is not due to the deficiency of nutrients and micronutrients alone, but also due to the body’s inability to absorb and assimilate them from the food and its inability to synthesize them wherever possible. This is considered as a constitutional error of the individual, which is further influenced by factors such as repeated infections, poor hygiene, emotional and low socio economic conditions. Constitutional correction through homoeopathic treatment facilitates the system to utilize the nutritional supply from food at an optimum extent. It will also take care of the adverse effects produced due to external supplements. More importantly, it is seen that in case of supplementary therapy, when it is stopped, the disorder reappear gradually, where as in constitutional approach, since the problem is dealt at the fundamental level, the nutritional status is maintained more efficiently for a long time.
Malnutrition is not a simple nutritional issue, but associated with social and economic factors. Creating awareness about healthy diet, good living habits, hygiene, avoidance of alcohol and smoking are equally important besides community development and health education. Along with creating awareness, there is need to ensure that resources for nutritional supplements are identified, generated and maintained by the society itself. This will happen only through community participation and community empowerment.
Major Nutritional disorders
Certain basic nutrients are required to maintain good health. The energy yielding nutrients are proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Dietary fibbers, vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium are other essential supplements. Apart from these, certain micronutrients such as chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, sulpur, zinc and so on are also required to keep the immune balance, haemopoetic system and maintain optimal health. All these nutritional supplements are essential at an appropriate quantity for maintaining health, enhancing immunity and speed up healing processes. Lack of essential nutrients in the body lead to diseases. Most of nutrients are readily available in the food. During certain phases of life like pregnancy, after major illnesses, the requirement of the nutrients will be different. If there is inadequate supply, it may lead to disorders such as babies with low birth weight, osteoporosis. There are also certain conditions where in the absorption of these nutrients get hampered leading to deficiencies. Thus, the quantitative or qualitative deficiency or inability to absorb the essential nutrients leads to malnutrition.
Protein Energy Malnutrition (PEM) contributes to 60% of the total 10 million deaths of children of less than five years. Two forms of PEM are kwashiorkor and marasmus1, and they commonly coexist. Anaemia is another nutritional disorder. WHO has estimated that prevalence of anaemia in pregnant women is 65-75% in India2. In India, anaemia appears to be the rule rather than the exception. The prevalence rate is not only in the lower socioeconomic group but it is so even among higher income educated segments of population. Five major surveys show that over 70% of pregnant women and adolescent girls in the country were anaemia. In India, anaemia is directly or indirectly responsible for 40 per cent of maternal deaths. There is 8 to 10-fold increase in MMR when the hemoglobin level falls below 5 g/dl3. The conventional approach to tackle the disorder is mainly supplementation of iron, folic acid etc. Studies have shown this has limited results and in many cases there is inability to absorb the required micronutrient and vitamins. There are also adverse reactions to certain supplements like iron by the body4. These are major challenges in tackling the PEM and anaemia in this country.
Vitamins are another category of nutrients required for proper development and growth.
Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of blindness in children. It also increases the risk of disease from severe infections5. The clinical feature of vitamin A deficiency includes those concerning the xerophthalmia, night blindness. Pellagra, Beriberi, Scurvy, Rickets and Osteomalacia are some other clinical conditions associated with vitamin deficiency.
Fluorosis is a condition resulting due to ingestion of large amounts of fluorine when the drinking water contains fluorides in excess of 3-5 ppm. Fluorides are present in the environment. Excessive systemic exposure to fluorides can lead to disturbances of bone homeostasis (skeletal fluorosis) and enamel development (dental/enamel fluorosis). The severity of dental fluorosis is also dependent upon fluoride dose and the timing and duration of fluoride exposure.6 Dental and skeletal fluorosis is known health hazards. Fluoride deficiency leads to dental caries.
Obesity is emerging as another major nutritional disorder of the modern world7.
Constitutional approach in Homeopathy
Homeopathy has got tremendous potential in health care delivery in India. One of the evident strength of the system is its constitutional approach towards the patients. The constitutional medicines selected on the basis of a detailed profiling of the patient at their physical, mental, social and spiritual level are found to reverse inherent imbalances of body and correct several clinical conditions which are not amenable to treatment in other medical systems. Homeopathy gives importance to the fundamental factors for the disease expressions. This is the main reason why most of the preventive and promotive programmes, modelled on biomedical concepts, fail to meet their basic objectives.
Nutritional disorders are major health problems affecting all age groups, both sex and different socio economic strata. With an exploding population and emergence of long term lifestyle diseases, the health care delivery system in India, is now facing serious challenges. The conventional approach on nutritional disorders is supplementation of the deficient nutrients and micronutrients. This model works well if there is deficiency due to inadequate supply, but there are several clinical conditions related to malabsorption and malassimilation where the supplementation therapy do not give the desired results. In fact, such supplementation may result in overloading the system and create unpleasant symptoms with avoidable consequences.
Homeopathically, the malassimilation and malabsorption are due to inherent constitutional errors of the body to absorb or assimilate the essential nutrients required for a balanced health. This can be corrected through constitutional therapy. The constitutional approach is a time tested, well established practice in the system, based mainly on individualistic traits, modulating the inability of the individual to absorb or assimilate the micronutrients. The constitutional medicines not only provide long term prevention but also correct the constitutional disorders like malnutrition and malabsorption. Eventually, it goes a long way in transforming the community and the society. However, this strength remains an untapped area in the existing health care delivery system. If integrated, this will support the unmet needs in the implementation of National nutritional programmes especially in meeting the needs of the vulnerable segments that have innate inability to assimilate and absorb the nutrients.
Prevention of Nutritional Disorders
Prevention of nutritional disorders includes proper health promotion, nutrition education on food, hygiene, family planning and good weaning practices. Specific protective measures are adequate diet; growth monitoring, early diagnosis and treatment of infections and hospitalization of the critical case that will help in tackling the problem. Dietary improvement with dark green leafy vegetables, deep yellow fruits, eggs, milk or milk products, meat, fresh fruit, exposure to sunlight, moderate exercise will go a long way to tackle the problem to a great extent.
The constitutional approach shall be to give a remedy that takes care of basic problem of malabsorption & malassimilation of nutrients. Simultaneously the underlying cause, if any like parasitic infection, chronic alcoholism, inadequate availability of micronutrients shall be assessed and appropriate measures are required. This will be supplemented with Biochemic remedies that act according to the concept of tissue deficiencies. Both these approaches conjointly help the body to use the nutritional supply from food to an optimum extent which helps the body to maintain good health. Biochemic preparations like Ferrum Phosphorica 6X, Calcarae Phosphorica 6X, Natrum phos 3 X, Magnesia Phosporica 3X or Biochemic combination No 24 or Five Phos are widely used by many homeopaths for the management of nutritional disorders.
AYUSH systems and therapies have untapped potentials in dealing with nutritional disorders. Homeopathy is an important component of AYUSH. The constitutional treatment in Homeopathy is an important strength of the system. The present model of supplementation of nutrients in nutritional disorders has a limited benefit. Malabsorption and malassimilation occur due to the constitutional errors of the body to assimililate and absorb the essential micronutrients. Homeopathic constitutional therapy is an effective intervention in controlling and managing the nutritional disorders.
By controlling and managing the nutritional disorders, we will be giving a healthy society. This would be the foundation of healthy and prosperous nation.