FOOD AND AYURVEDA
Everything absorbed by five senses like Mouth (food, water), Nose (Breath), Ear (Chanting, sweet music), Skin (Sunlight), Eyes (Nature) is food.
When we consume food in adequate amount, it gives us long life and youthfulness. When consumed in inadequate amounts, it increases production of toxins, which is harmful for life. Having right food is the initial step towards achieving healthy life. But just having right food is not enough. Right combination and proportion of food is also important for an individual.
According to Ayurveda, every food has its own taste (Rasa), a heating or cooling energy (Virya) and post-digestive effect (Vipaka). When two or three different food substances of different taste, energy and post-digestive effect are combined together, Agni (digestive fire) can become overloaded inhibiting the enzyme system and resulting in production of toxins in the system. While it is true that an individual's Agni largely determines how well or poorly food is digested, food combinations are also of great importance.
The dieticians & nutritionist should give consideration to these types of agni when making suggestions concerning diet.
There are five types of nutritional disorders:
- Quantitative dietary deficiency. This includes under-nutrition due to insufficient food, and even starvation.
- Qualitative dietary deficiency. This includes wrong food combination, which results in malnutrition, toxic condition and lack of essential nutrients.
- Qualitative and quantitative over-nutrition. This includes emotional overeating, which can result in obesity, and/or high cholesterol, which can lead to hypertension, heart attacks or paralysis.
- Toxins in food. Certain foods and food combinations lead to toxaemia and to certain digestive disorders.
- Foods not suitable to one's constitution may affect natural resistance and cause disease.
These five factors are closely connected to the strength of Agni (the gastric fire). There are four types of
1. VISHAMA AGNI. Due to Vata dosha the gastric fire becomes disturbed, causing irregular appetite, indigestion and gases. Emotionally this can result in insecurity, anxiety, fear, and neurological or mental problems.
2. TIKSHNA AGNI. Pitta dosha is responsible for this. It may cause hyper-metabolism, hyperacidity, heartburn and hypoglycaemia leading to inflammatory diseases.
3. MANDA AGNI. This is due to an excess Kapha condition, leading to slow metabolism, overweight, allergies and congestive diseases.
4. SAMA AGNI. This type of Agni is the result of balanced tri-dosha. A person having this type of Agni can eat almost any type of food without difficulty. Digestion, absorption and elimination are all normal.
Ayurveda categorizes food in to three categories: Satvic, Rajasic and Tamasic. These types of foods have different effects on the body and the mind.
Nutritional phase of Ayurveda involves eating according to:
(a) One's body type i.e. constitution or Prakriti and
(b) The season.
We human beings are an outcome of a very planned and organized process of evolution. Evolution started from one single cell living beings- protozoon. These developed in porifera then came coelenterates and we mammals are the last in this chain. We mammals are the ultimate developments of the Mother Nature. Evolution has two important points – one is work division and second is perfection. Perfection comes when there is a smart work division. In protozoon a single cell performs all the vital activities like respiration, digestion, assimilation etc. In mammals these activities are divided among trillions of cells. In protozoon everything was in crude form and in us there is much perfection. Cells work together for a complete human body and these cells make tissues. All the cells are complimentary to the whole body and whole body is complimentary to these cells. Body is nothing, if these cells won’t work properly. So for complete health it is important that each and every cell should work properly.
All the living creatures are blessed with a cosmic/universal intelligence. This natural intelligence resides in all of us in a silent mode. It never interferes in any physical activity, done by body in relation to the external environment. This intelligence holds all the rights to control the behavior of a body on gross level and also that of every cell on minute level. This universal intelligence makes us sure to do things in a right manner. This intelligence, when challenged gives signals. All these diseases and their sign and symptoms are signals from this intelligence, which want to convey that something wrong is going on somewhere inside the body.
So over all it is important that we should have a wholesome diet, which will nourish each and every part of the body and will lead us to complete health. Health is a matter of the whole body, not of a particular system or an organ,though we have to give some emphasis to some organ, if affected.
Ayurveda says that the Attributes of food are:
- VARNA (Colour and complex)
- PRASADA (Pleasure)
- SUKHAM (Comfort and Health )
- THUSTI (Satisfaction)
- SAUSVARYAM (Tone)
- PUSTI (Nourishment)
- PRATIBHA (Skill)
- MEDHA (intellect)
- BALA (strength and immunity)
Also it’s very elaborately mentioned that –
The diet, which maintains the balance among body elements/ homeostasis, is called Balancing diet or Wholesome diet . Mere physically balanced diet may not achieve balance in all instances. Several factors are considered in ayurveda as the determinants of balancing diet.
Determinants of Balancing Diet
- PRAKRITI (quality)
- KARANA (processing)
- SAMYOGA (combinations)
- RASHI (quantity)
- UPYOGA SAMSTHA (socio-emotional status)
- DESHA (source)
- KALA (season)
- UPAYOKTA (recipient depending upon age, sex, disease etc.)
The man who receives balancing diet determined by foregoing factors will be able to maintain health and prevent diseases. He can live throughout his full span of life without any disease.
Factors Responsible for Unbalancing Diet
The following factors turn a diet into unbalancing and unwholesome diet.
- Place of living (DESHA)
- Season of intake (KALA)
- Quantity (MATRA)
- Natural quality (VIRYA)
- Recipient (UPAYOKTA)
- Digestive ability (AGNI)
- Type of intestine (KOSTHA)
- Habit (SATMYA)
- Likening (HRIDAYA)
- Physiological state (AVASTHA)
- Gross pathological type (DOSHA)
- Processing (SAMSKARA AND PAKA)
- Method of intake (UPYOGA SAMSTHA)
- order of intake (KARMA)
- Procedure of intake (VIDHI )
- Combinations (SAMYOGA)
Due to foregoing factors a diet turns against to the body elements. They excite certain body elements and will not allow body to expel, thus produce a persistent disturbance in the homeostasis. A prolong imbalance leads to disease.
Hence the diet could be of two types.
- Balancing diet maintains health
- Unbalancing diet produces diseases.