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Ageing is a natural process which will culminate in the complete cessation of life at a predetermined time. Ayurveda prepares one to face old age with dignity and strength so that the process of ageing can be enjoyed rather than suffered. For this one has to understand what ageing is and how to prevent or reduce its ill effects.

Mostly vata-related diseases appear at this stage, so one has to prepare the body against vitiation of vata. Diseases above the neck region which are seen at a young age do not commonly occur in old age since it is dominated by vata. Some of the common problems which occur in old age are sneezing, allergic rhinitis and chronic running nose.

Many of these conditions can be prevented or corrected if one follows some lifestyle modifications after the age of 60.The body as a safety reaction, tries to expel allergens that attack the olfactory region in the form of forceful sneezing. If the body’s immunity is strengthened and the dryness of the body is reduced through internal and external unctuousness, this can be prevented.

An oil prepared with leaves of Bilwa(Aegle marmelos), black pepper and a piece of dry ginger, used as a head application before having a bath every day can prevent or reduce sneezing. Vilvam Pathyotyadithailam which is available in the market can be used for this purpose.

Also the application of five drops of Ksheerbala  101 as nasya(after warming slightly) in the nose at 7.30am for 14 days is very useful to stop sneezing.

Application of oil on head regularly is a good practice in old age which will prevent drying up of organs above the neck. This condition has to be understood from the Ayurvedic point of view. Dryness and unctuousness are not objectively measurable. But one can appreciate the subjective condition. Whenever there is sneezing one should stop consuming foods that can vitiate kapha and vata like fermented foods, baked foods, curd and certain kinds of fruits especially banana. Sneezing is not a major disease but can be a nuisance and hinder day to day life. Sneezing can be a premonitory symptom of conditions like asthma. So, one should always be careful to lead a healthy life.

Food is important in old age. Very light and easily digestible food should be eaten. Take warm water, avoid milk products except ghee and reduce intake of fried food. Ghee is one of the most misunderstood foods in the science of nutrition. In Ayurveda, ghee is the only food which has been equated with longevity to the extent that on of the symptoms of ghee is Ayu(long life) itself- ‘Ghritham Ayuruchyate.’

Ghee when made using the traditional method from cow’s milk goes through four different stages of ‘Paka’ or digestion:

First, milk is boiled and cooled. Secondly, a few drops of buttermilk are added and left overnight for fermentation. Third, the curd which is formed is churned with a wooden instrument and the butter is removed. And lastly, the butter is melted under a low fire till all the water has evaporated. This can be measured by the absence of bubbles in the heated ghritham. When the ghritham or clarified butter or ghee is made in this way it becomes life-enhancing ghee. This is what Ayurveda prescribes for old age in moderation.

Any indigestion in old age can result in a cold and running nose. We have to ensure that the agni or the digestive fire is maintained properly in old age. For this, take one tablespoon of Ashta choornam either with honey or with hot water before breakfast, lunch and dinner.

If there is a tendency for constipation always drink plenty of water boiled with half teaspoon of jeera(cumin seeds) and a piece of dried ginger. Whenever there is a cold and running nose, take a pinch of dried ginger powder and smell it several times a day. This is very effective in treating a running nose. Also avoid washing the head since it will help the body to fight against cold. Soups made of horse gram dressed with onion, black pepper, and minimum salt are very useful in fighting cold. Not only will such soups improve the agni, they will also help to strengthen the body’s immune system.

During old age it is advisable to avoid all deep fried foods since these are difficult to digest and low in nutrients. When there is cold or sneezing or both conditions prevail, one should not go out at night. If at all one has to go out, properly cover the ears and head first. Proper nutrition which reduces vata, controls kapha and pacifies pitta is the food for the old age. They can be designed as per one’s eating habits and food culture. Take only warm food. Do not consume refrigerated and reheated food, deep fried foods and cold water. These will keep you away from cold and sneezing.

Written by Dr.G G Gangadharan