Ayurveda for end of life care

The role of Ayurveda in end of life care for cancer patients

End-of-life care refers to the health care of patients with terminal condition and aims to improve the quality of life for patients. It relates to identification and assessment of the disease that has advanced, has become progressive and incurable, and aims to relieve from pain and other distressing symptoms.

Ayurveda affirms life and regards dying as a normal process, providing spiritual counselling. It works to alleviate suffering caused by the disease and the side effects of the ongoing treatment and therefore increases the well-being of patients and friends and family around them.

The first goal of Ayurveda is appropriate nutrition for patients. Ayurveda can improve immunity by strengthening the digestion and metabolism of the patient thereby helping to mitigate the side effects of chemotherapy. The body of a person who has a life limiting illness has the state of diminished digestion and metabolism, this can cause complications such as nausea, diarrhoea or constipation, anorexia; these factors deteriorate nutrition in the body and induce emotional and psychological stress to patients and their family members. Ayurveda provides food that is easy to digest, nutritive and satisfying to the taste, and therefore aids the absorption of nutrition to the body.

Depending on the state of the “agni” digestion of the patient, specific foods can be carefully selected for the patient and their disease, including rice, pulses, meat soup, pomegranate, sugar, salt, ghee, butter milk as well as medicinal plants to reduce inflammation in the body. Providing food in a way that is easily digested to the body restores the hydration of body and this can be modified in a form suitable for tube feeding where necessary.

Providing the correct food for the digestive system of the patient alongside herbs and diet and massage to reduce inflammation and pain can play a major role in increasing the well-being of the patient and family or friends caring for them.