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Exploring An Alternative Medicine


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When conventional Western medicine isn't working, a Foster City doctor says, more and more people are turning to Ayurveda -- an ancient Indian healing science that treats health problems through diet, exercise and herbs.


"In conventional medicine, we focus more on the physical body and in Ayurveda -- it means the wisdom about healthy living -- we much more focus on the body, mind and spirit," says Dr. Jay Apte, who runs a Ayurvedic clinic in Foster City. "We always believe that our mind has more control over our physical body.


"We focus on prevention rather than treating disease, mainly through diet and lifestyle, meditation, exercise and taking natural herbs," she adds.


Apte, who received an integrated degree in Ayurvedic and Allopathic medicine in India and a master's degree in Pharmacology from the University of North Texas, said most of her patients have health problems such as weight gain, menopausal problems, stress, allergies and poor digestion. About 80 percent are women.


It's "usually after they try everything and nothing works" that they come to Ayurveda, Apte says.


Apte is also the director of Ayurveda Institute of America, a weekend program offering a certificate in Ayurvedic science in Foster City, Los Angeles, Houston and Hawaii.


Many of her students are already in health-related fields: massage therapists, nutritionists, yoga instructors, chiropractors and sometime medical doctors and nurses who want to incorporate Ayurvedic methods into their practices.


"It's always been popular in India, but Ayurveda is also becoming popular here as a contemporary alternative medicine," Apte says. "It's a 5,000-year-old science, the mother of all health science, but some people are just learning about it.


"What's old is new again."


Alternative to HRT Redwood Shores resident Kathie Smith says she first tried Ayurveda three years ago to help a digestive problem.


She started doing it again two months ago for menopausal symptoms that included intense hot flashes. Having eight to 10 hot flashes a day was interrupting her work and sleep, and she wanted to avoid hormone replacement therapy.


"HRT is too risky and I couldn't take it any more," Smith says. "It's (Ayurveda) taking a little time but I've noticed the frequency and intensity of the hot flashes has decreased, the fatigue is less, and the mood swings seem to be gone."



Western perspective Dr. Elliot Shubin of San Mateo says that although he is unfamiliar with Ayurveda, generally people should be careful when taking herbal medicines, which are classified as dietary supplements and therefore not monitored by the Food and Drug Administration.


The main reason, he says, is that there are so many herbal medicines out there, the FDA simply doesn't have the manpower.


"I tell them (patients) some things are good, some are untested and some potentially harmful," he says. "It's difficult to recommend something that hasn't been tested."


See Apte and the Ayurveda Institute of America online at www.ayurvedainstitute.com

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