Concept of diet in Ayurveda (heres the meat and bones of it)
Ayurveda = Ayus + Veda = Life + Knowledge
Body is a microcosmic universe made up of the five primordial elements or panchmahabhutas
- Ether (akasha)
The field from which everything is manifested and into which everything returns; the space in which events occur. Space has no physical existence; it exists only as distances which separate matter.
- Air (vayu)
The gaseous state of matter, whose characteristic attribute is mobility or dynamism. Air is existence without form.
- Fire (agni)
The power which can convert a substance from solid to liquid to gas, and vice versa, increasing or decreasing the relative order in the substance. Fire’s characteristic attribute is transformation. Fire is form without substance.
- Water (jala)
The liquid state of matter, whose characteristic attribute is flux. Water is substance without stability.
- Earth (prithvi)
The solid state of matter, whose characteristic attribute is stability, fixity or rigidity. Earth is stable substance.
- Vata – Ether + Air
Vata is the principle of kinetic energy
- Pitta – Fire + Water
Pitta controls the body’s balance of kinetic and potential energies.
- Kapha – Earth + Water
Kapha is the principle of potential energy
- Controls movement and the remaining two doshas.
- Is responsible for basic body processes such as breathing, cell division, circulation, sensory and motor nerve transmissions.
- Resides in the large intestine, pelvis, bones, skin, ears, and chest.
- People with more vata in their constitution generally are quick-thinking, thin, and fast, and are susceptible to anxiety, dry skin, and constipation.
- Is thought to control hormones, enzymes, metabolism and the digestive processes.
- Resides in the small intestine, stomach, sweat glands, skin, blood, and eyes.
- People with more pitta in their constitution generally have a fiery personality, oily skin, and are susceptible to heart disease, stomach ulcers, inflammation, heartburn, and arthritis.
- Is responsible for strength, immunity, stability and growth.
- Resides in the mouth, stomach, chest, lungs, joints, head and sinus cavities.
- People with more kapha in their constitution generally are calm, have a solid body frame, and are susceptible to diabetes, obesity and sinus congestion.
There are not dosha siet plans like what is sold in Western Ayurveda. To follow those will lead someone into imbalance. Deeper knowledge is Ayurveda. A little knowledge or superficial knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Lifestyle according to bodytype
- Based on dosha predominance, there are 7 body types
- Each body type characteristics are listed with fine details and therefore it is possible to identify every individual’s body type.
- If the individual follows the diet (rules of diet to follow under Hitaahaar: (beneficial food)), regimen and lifestyle according to the season, the land or environment that they live in and one’s basic constitution, he or she can keep diseases at bay.
Seasonal variations (Rtu Parinama)
- Based on the sun and moons influences to create the seasons and the interchanging of the five elements within this and its effect on the doshas
- The external environment can trigger disease by unbalancing the body
through unnatural or extreme variations in temperature, rainfall or wind.
- Excessive parinama is extraordinary or unexpected climatic conditions, such as excessive heat in summer or cold in winter.
- Deficient seasonal conditions include very mild temperatures in summer or winter.
- Incorrect parinama occurs when conditions are opposite to the normal season, such as being cold in summer or warm in winter.
What is health:
Sushruta Samhita Sutrasthana 15/41
Samadosha samaagnishch samadhautu malakriya|
Prasannaatmendriyamana swastha itiabhidhiyate||
- Ones whose has balanced doshas, agni, functions of dhautus, and malas are in the state of equilibrium and one who has cheerful mind, intellect and sense organs is termed healthy (swastha).
Asatamya indriyartha samyoga
- Indulgence in unhealthy subjects of sensory organs / Violation of intellectual transgression Asatmaya means “improper”, indriya means “sense organs”, artha is “the objects of the senses” and samyoga means “to combine” or “to link”.
- Organs of: Hearing, touch, vision, taste and smell
Pragyaparadha – Misuse of intellect
- Pragya means “wisdom” or “intelligence”, and aparadh means “offence”. So
the literal meaning of pragyaparadha is “an offence against wisdom”.
Health is “prasanna” – exhalted state of the body, mind, soul and senses.
- Rasa – Chyle/plasma/lymph/cytoplasm – the “essence” of the body
Rasa has the property of nourishing (prinana)
- Rakta – blood
Rakta translates to the red blood cells but serves the purpose of providing life and oxygenating. (jivana)
- Mansa – flesh/muscle
Mansa has the responsibility of covering, gives shape, movement and plastering. (lepana)
- Meda – fat/adipose
Meda has the action of lubrication and providing unctuousness, gives bulk and smoothness. (snehana)
- Asthi – bone
Asthi has the responsibility of support and protection. (dharana)
- Majja – nervous tissue
Majja is that which fills space. (puranam)
- Shukra – reproductive tissue
Shukra is the expression of creation, reproduction. (prijanam)
- Feces (Vit)
- Urine (Mutra)
- Sweat (Sweda)
- Mental health is an important component of one’s health
- Mind and mental attributes have been described in great detail in Ayurvedic texts
- Various means of maintaining mental health like meditation, chantings, charity, community service, etc. have been listed
Rasa (6 Tastes)
- Madhura – sweet (Earth + Water)
- Amla – sour (Fire + Earth)
- Lavana – salty (Fire + Water)
- Katu – pungent (Fire + Air)
- Tikta – bitter (Air + Earth)
- Kashaya – astringent (Air + Ether)
Three pillars of health
- Aahaar (Diet)
- Nidra (Sleep)
- Brahmacharya (Controlled celibacy) (Ch. SS. 11/35)
Importance of Aahar
- Of the three pillars of health, aahar or diet is the most important, and that is why it is mentioned first
- Of all the factors that are responsible for the growth and development of the human body, diet is the most important. (Ch. ShS. 6/12)
Based on rasa (taste):
- Madhura (sweet)
- Amla (sour)
- Lavana (salty)
- Katu (spicy)
- Tikta (bitter)
- Kashaya (astringent) (Ch. SS. 25/36)
Based on properties:
- Guru-laghu (heavy, light)
- Mridu-kathina (soft, hard)
- Shita-ushna (cold, hot)
- Vishada-picchila (clear, unctuous)
- Snigdha-Ruksha (oily, dry)
- Sthira-sara (firm, moving)
- Shlaksna-khara (smooth, rough)
- Manda-teekshna (slow, piercing)
- Sukshma-sthula (subtle, gross)
- Sandra-Drava (viscous, liquid) (Ch. SS. 25/36)
- Heavy: Heavy foods include bread, pasta, cheese, and yogurt. The heavy quality decreases vata and pitta, but increases kapha.
- Light: Light foods include millet, buckwheat, rye, barley, corn, spinach, lettuce, pears and apples. The light quality decreases kapha, but increases vata and pitta.
- Oily: Oily foods include dairy products, meat, fatty foods, and cooking oils. The oily quality decreases vata and pitta, but increases kapha.
- Dry: Dry foods include beans, potatoes, barley, and corn. The dry quality decreases kapha, but increases vata and pitta.
- Hot: The hot quality describes hot beverages and warm, cooked foods. The hot quality decreases vata and kapha, but increases pitta.
- Cold: The cold quality describes cold beverages and raw foods. The cold quality decreases pitta, but increases kapha and vata.
Hitaahaar: (beneficial food)
- Is panchbhautik, because every individual is panchbhautik (made up of 5 components – Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Space)
- Has shadrasa, or has all or most of the 6 rasas or has rasas according to prakruti (body type)
- Is liked by the one eating
- Is clean and pure
- Not very hot
- Has been freshly prepared (Ch. SS. 25/33)(Su. SS. 46/465)
- It is only hitaahaar that is solely responsible for shareer vriddhi (growth and development of the body) and maintenance of health. On the contrary, ahitaahaar (inconducive diet) is responsible for disease development.
- Although there are other factors in the development of the body, aahaar is the most important (Ch. SS. 25/33)
Rules for the one eating:
- Should be hungry
- Should sit straight on a slightly elevated seat
- Should eat in silence focusing on the food
- Should eat not too fast, nor too slow, chewing many times before swallowing
- Should rinse mouth when changing rasa
- Should drink sips of water in between meals
- Should floss with herb twig or silver/brass wire, after meals
(Su. SS. 46/471, 489)
Rules for the one eating: Do not eat –
- Before or after meal time
- Less or more
- Contaminated, uncovered, spoilt, burnt food.
- Left over food
- Food that you do not like, or that which tastes and smells bad
- Food that has not been cooked properly
- Food that has been reheated, was cooked long time back or is very cold.
(Su. SS. 46/477-481)
Rule for order of rasas while eating:
- Madhur rasa should be consumed first
- Amla and lavan rasas should be consumed in the middle
- Katu, Tikta and Kashaya rasas should be taken at the end.
(Su. SS. 46/466)
Rule for optimum serving:
- According to one’s agni (digestive fire)
- Conducive to one’s doshic prakruti (body type according to dosha)
- That which gets digested in time
(Ch. SS. 5/1-4)
- Assessing the gurutva/laghutva of the diet:
– One must evaluate whether the food is guru (heavy) (milk products like curd, cream, etc., red meat, meat of animals of marshy or wetlands, sesame seeds, etc.) in terms of digestion,
– Or laghu (light) – mung dahl (green gram), red rice, bird meat, deer meat, etc.
- Assessing the rasas of the diet:
– A shadrasa (6 tastes)diet is highly advocated.
(Ch. SS. 5/5-6)
- Fill the first 1/2 of stomach with solid diet, guru diet taken first, followed by laghu diet; but if diet is very heavy, fill only 1/3rd of the stomach with solids
- Fill the next quarter or third with anupaan (adjuvant).
- Leave the rest quarter or one third space for action of different doshas
(Ch. SS. 5/7)(Ch. VS. 2/4)(As. Hr. SS. 8/46)
- Eat solids first
- Eat the highly beneficial amalaki (gooseberries) in the beginning, middle and end of meal
- Meals should be taken in a timely manner or when hungry.
- Meals should be taken in the right amount, neither too much nor too less.
(Su. SS. 46/468-470)
- One should take into account the characteristics of the season, one’s body type, time of the day and other factors, before selecting their diet.
(Su. SS. 46/468-470)
Avoid after meals:
- Sleep or sit for a long time
- Laugh or talk excessively
- Avoid unpleasant sensory exposure
- Consume large amount of fluids
- Excessive physical activity like swimming, horse riding, etc.
(Su. SS. 46/495-496)
- Hot food – increases taste perception
– kindles digestive fire
– easily digested
– is carminative
– dissolves excess kapha
- Well oliated food
– kindles digestive fire
– easily digested
– is carminative
– acts as a building block of the body
– increases strength and is good for complexion (Ch. VS. 1/24)
- Optimum quantity – easily digested and absorbed
– does not cause dosha imbalance
– conducive to long life
- Proper time
- Proper combination Increase longevity of life
- Proper place
- Eating not too fast
- Eating silently (Ch. VS. 1/25)
- Eating not too slow – results in satisfaction
– does not become cold
– does not become uninteresting
– does not cause indigestion
- Eating according to Atma Shakti
(means eating with knowledge of what is good and beneficial to one self)
– health and longevity (Ch. VS. 1/25)
Beneficial foods for regular consumption:
- Shashtika rice(ripens in 60 days), shali rice
- Mung dahl (Green Gram)
- Saindhava lavana (rock salt)
- Amalaki (Gooseberry)
- Millet flour
- Cow milk
- Lean meat
- Honey (crystallized honey)
- Aakaash jal (rain water collected at strategic high points)
(Ch. SS. 5/12)
Foods not recommended for regular consumption:
- Dried flesh
- Dried plants
- Lotus stem
- Pippali (long pepper), Kshaar (alkalies), Lavan (salt)
- Meat of pig, cow, buffalo
- Bengal gram (Ch. SS. 5/10-11)
Vairodhik aahar (diet which is harmful due to processing, combination or other factors):
– Heated honey
– Milk with sour things
– Milk with fish
– Curd taken at night
– Ghee and honey mixed in equal amounts (Ch. SS. 26/80-111)
Properties of diet are dependant on 8 factors (ashtvidh aahaar ayatan) namely:
– Prakruti (Natural Qualities)
– Karana (Preparation)
– Sanyoga (Combination)
– Raashi (Quantity)
– Desha (Habitat)
– Kala (Time)
– Upyoga sanstha (Rules of use)
– Upyokta (User) (Ch. VS. 1/21-22)
In the Ayurvedic literature there are five types of nutritional disorders:
1. Quantitative dietary deficiency – includes under-nutrition due to insufficient food and even starvation.
2. Qualitative dietary deficiency – resulting in malnutrition, toxic conditions and lack of essential nutrients. Certain food combinations disturb the normal functioning of the gastric fire and interfere with the state of our vata, pitta and kapha. This disturbance may create a toxic substance called ama, which is the root cause of many ailments.
3. Qualitative and quantitative over-nutrition – includes emotional overeating which can result in obesity and/or high cholesterol which can lead to hypertension, heart attack or paralysis.
4. Toxins in food – certain foods can cause toxemia and lead to digestive disorders.
5. Foods unsuitable to one’s constitution – may affect natural resistance and cause disease.
These five factors are closely connected to the strength of agni (gastric fire). There are four types of agni:
1. Vishama Agni. Gastric fire is vitiated, causing irregular appetite, indigestion and gases. Emotionally this can result in anxiety, insecurity, fear, and neurological or mental problems.
2. Tikshna Agni. It may cause hyper-metabolism, hyperacidity, heartburn and hypoglycemia leading to inflammatory diseases.
3. Manda Agni. slow metabolism, overweight, allergies and congestive diseases.
4. Sama Agni. A person having this type of agni can eat almost any type of food without difficulty. Digestion, absorption and elimination are all normal.
The nutritionist should give consideration to these types of agni when making suggestions concerning diet. According to Ayurveda, every food has its own taste (rasa), a heating or cooling energy (virya) and a post-digestive effect (vipaka). Some also possess prabhava, an unexplained effect. So 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. When two or more foods having different taste, energy and post-digestive effect are combined, agni can become overloaded, inhibiting the enzyme system and resulting in the production of toxins. Yet these same foods, if eaten separately, might well stimulate agni, be digested more quickly and even help to burn ama.
Poor combining can produce indigestion, fermentation, putrefaction and gas formation and, if prolonged, can lead to toxemia and disease. For example, eating bananas with milk can diminish agni, change the intestinal flora, produce toxins and may cause sinus congestion, cold, cough and allergies. Although both of these foods have a sweet taste and a cooling energy, their post-digestive effect is very different – bananas are sour while milk is sweet. This causes confusion to our digestive system and may result in toxins, allergies and other imbalances. Similarly, milk and melons should not be eaten together. Both are cooling, but milk is laxative and melon diuretic. Milk requires more time for digestion. Moreover the stomach acid required to digest the melon causes the milk to curdle, so Ayurveda advises against taking milk with sour foods.
These incompatible food combinations not only disturb the digestion but also cause confusion in the intelligence of our cells, which can lead to many different diseases. Before you say “This is MUCH too complicated, how will I ever figure it out?”,
there are some useful guidelines to introduce you to these concepts. And remember that Ayurveda is a strong proponent of the “go slowly” school of thought. You might want to introduce yourself to food combining by eating fruit by itself, as many fruits create a sour and indigestible “wine” in the stomach when mixed with other food. Once you have adopted this change into your eating habits, try other suggestions from the list below. As a general principal, avoid eating lots of raw and cooked foods together or fresh foods with leftovers.
♦ A strong digestive fire can be the most powerful tool of all to deal with “bad” food combinations.
♦ Different quantities of each food involved in a combination can sometimes help significantly. For instance equal quantities by weight of ghee and honey are a bad combination—ghee is cooling, but honey is heating—whereas mixing a 2:1 ratio is not toxic. The reason? Prahbav, the unexplainable.
♦ Very often spices and herbs are added in Ayurvedic cooking to help make foods compatible or to ease a powerful effect, e.g. cooling cilantro in very spicy food.
♦ If our bodies have become accustomed to a certain food combination through many years of use, such as eating cheese with apples, then it is likely that our body has made some adaptation or become accustomed to this. Which is not to say that we should continue this practice, but to explain why the newcomer to apples and cheese may experience a strong case of indigestion whilst the “oldtimer” digests it adequately.
Definition of Antagonism of Foods:
The substances which are contrary to “deha-dhatus” (the body tissues) behave with “virodha” (antagonism) to the tissues. This antagonism may be in terms of properties of the substances themselves, combination, processing, place, time, dose etc. or natural composition.
For An Example of Antagonism of Foods:
One should not take fish with milk. Combination of both of them is madhura
(sweet); madhura vipaka, “mahabhisyandi” (creates great moisture in the tissues when the tissues are being created and it obstructs the channels), because milk has sita (cold) virya and fish has usna (hot) virya the result is
“viruddhavirya” (antagonistic in terms of potency), due to conflicting viryas; it vitiates blood and due to being mahabhisyandi, creates obstruction in channels.
Results of taking antagonistic foods:
impotency, blindness, erysipelas, ascites, pustules, insanity, fistula-inano,
fainting, narcosis, tympanitis, spasm in throat, anaemia, ama visa, leucoderma,
skin diseases, grahaniroga, oedema, acid gastritis, fever, rhinitis, genetic disorders and even death.
Measures to counteract disorders caused by antagonistic foods:
Emesis, purgation, use of medicines for pacification, and prior conditioning of the body with similar substances.
Purgation, emesis, pacification or prior use of wholesome substances alleviates the disorders caused by antagonistic food. Antagonism becomes inert due to: suitability, small quantity, strong digestive power, in young age, in persons having: unction, physical exercise, and strength.