Healthy habits in Ayurveda 4
Annaharartham Karma Kuryadanindyam, Kuryadaharam Prana Sandharnartham | Pranaha Sandharyastatva Jijnasanartham, Tatvam Jijnasya Yena Bhuryo Na Duhkham – Yoga Vashishtha
Earn your food by proper, just, and honest means. Eat it with purity to sustain your vital energy. Elevate your vital energy to be able to gain knowledge and attain vigorous potentials to get rid of all infirmities and sorrows.
The food we eat is used in the production and strengthening of seven dhatus (tissues) in the body. At a gross level these dhatus are physiological fluids, blood, serum, flesh, bones, muscles and sperm/ovum. Food is given foremost importance in prevention as well as in cure of diseases as well as what kind of food should be taken for sustenance of a healthy body. As the levels of the three functional energies; vata, pitta, and kapha are regarded here to characterize one’s natural constitution, the triumphant of proper food, sound sleep and chastity are the predominant factors in regulating the health of the mind/body system. Of these three, food is given maximum importance as it plays a direct role in the maintenance of the seven dhatus and in affecting the balance of the tridosa.
There is no constraint of diet imposed in the Allopathic methods of treatment and Allopathic doctors have less than 20 hours of nutrition on average in their education. As of 2004, medical students across the US only averaged about 24 contact-hours of nutrition education during medical school. Also, medicines are given principal importance in allopathy with very little understanding of there being any responsibility of the individual in how they are eating and living having any effect on their health or disease.
Ayurveda appropriately selects and controls diet as an integral part of treatment to enhance vitality and regulate the medicinal effects in natural harmony with the entire system of the body and mind . Charaka has explained six aspects which should be considered in deciding what is worth eating and what is not in a given condition.
Matrakalakriya Bhumidehadosa Gunantaram | Prapya Tattaddhi Dashyante Tato Bhavastatha Thata | Tasmatsvabhavo Nirdistastatha Matradirashrayah | Tadapekshyobhayam Karm Prayojyam Siddhimicchata | Tadeva Hyapathyam Deshakala San yogaviryapramanati Yoga dbhuyastarampathyam Sampadyate | Tatra Khalvimani Astavaharvidhivishesayatanani Bhavanti | Tadyathaprakatikarana San yoga rashideshakalopa yogaSansthopayoktastemani Bhavanti|| Charaka Sutrasthana
1 Quantity of food
2 Time at which it is prepared or is being eaten as well as seasonal variations
3 Process of its preparation
4 Place including soil, climate and surrounding conditions, etc at which its raw constituents have grown
5 Constitution including chemical, botanical, properties, etc
6 Subtle and gross defects, unnatural effects or impurities, if any
These are the principal factors responsible for the making a food pathya (worth eating or healthy) or apathya (not worth eating and harmful). The unhealthy nature or flaw in any one or more of these could convert a generally edible food into inedible or apathya. Charaka further enjoins that some substances are naturally inedible. They should never be used in food. Even the medicinal plants, vegetables, and grains should be taken only in proper mode while taking into account the above aspects.
Astavidh Ahara Vidhi Vishesayatan
Charaka describes eight principal factors associated with the process of eating. These are collectively termed as Astavidh Ahara Vidhi Vishesayatan. These are supplementary to each other and comprehensively represent the process of eating. Each of them contributes to healthy or negative effects of the food being eaten. These are:
1 natural quality of food
2 method of preparation of food (who prepares the food, how and where all are part of this important factor; whereas, for most of us only the taste matters)
3 combination (of various components or constituents of the food);
4 amount or quantity of food;
5 place (at which the food-ingredients are grown; where it is prepared and being eaten) the seasonal effects are also included here;
5 time (of preparation and consumption of food);
6 the mode of eating;
7 the physical and mental state of the person who is eating it.
The importance of these factors is justified scientifically. It is well known which food will be digestible in which season and in what quantity etc,…… depends upon the basic properties of the raw substances in it, the method of preparation e.g., mixing some other substances increases or negates some of its qualities; or steaming it would be healthier than deep frying in oil, etc… and upon the metabolic health of the person who eats it. That the metabolic system is incredibly sensitive to mental condition is also confirmed in many clinical trials all over the world. Added to this, Charaka Samhita, the main text of Ayurveda, also takes into account the subtler aspects e.g. the sanskara of the food which includes the manner in which it is obtained and purchased, the way the money or resources used in getting or preparing it are earned, etc and the sanskara as intrinsic tendencies of the person who prepares the food, etc. Yes, it gets pretty detailed.
Sushruta has described the major categories from medical point of view of food under the heading “dwadashashana vicara”. Ata urdhwam Dwadashashan, Praticaran Vakshayamah | Tatra Shitosna Snigdha Ruksha, Dravshuskaika Kalika Dwikalika Ausadhiyukta Matrahina Dosa Prashamana Vatyarthah || This shloka tells twelve different types of food in terms of their gross basic properties and also tells what type is good under what natural conditions. Seeing these properties and the conditions in terms of the prominent natural constitution or tridosa level and/or diseases caused by the imbalance in the tridosa under which they are prescribed will give a deeper understanding to the fundamentals that are applied throughout.
1. Shita (Cold): This type of food (which has a cooling tendency) is advised for those suffering from acidity, heat or plethora. It is also advised for those weakened by excessive sexual indulgence, or due to some toxic effect.
2. Ushna (Hot): It is recommended for those suffering from the diseases or problems of excess of vata or kapha dosa. The food intake in small quantity after total stomach cleansing, fasting, etc, should also be of this category.
3. Snigdha (Oily): This type of food is suitable in appropriate quantity to suppress vata dosa. Those used to physical labor or substantial physical exercises also benefit from such food. It is also remedial against dry skin, bony, thin or weak body.
4. Ruksha (Rough & Arid): It helps controlling kapha dosa. Those having fatty body or oily skin should also use this type of food.
5. Drava (Liquid): The diet of those suffering from dryness inside the body which may lead to boils, peptic ulcer, or ligament problems, etc should consist of this type in substantial proportions.
6. Shuska (Dry): Those suffering from leprosy, prameha (what we call diabetes but diabetes is an extremely limited term, instead, it is the excretion of sperm and several vital hormones with the urine), erysipelas or wounds should be given dry food.
7. EkaKalika (One-timely): Those suffering from loss of appetite or weak digestive system should take food only once a day to help normalization of the appetite and metabolic disorders.
8. DwiKalika (Two-timely): In normality, healthy people should take proper meals only twice a day. (not three or even worse what is popular in the west for supposed blood sugar problems is to eata small meal every few hours)
9. Ausadhi-Yukta (Medicinal): Those who cannot take medicines orally may be given these mixed in appropriate food. Sometimes, specific medicinal plants or herbs are also advised as essential ingredient of the regimen in specific diseases.
10. Matrahina (Light): Those having liver problem, suffering from fever, or having loss of appetite due to some other disease(s), should take light and easily digestible food. This may be dry or liquid, warm or cold type, as per the nature of the ailment and natural tendency in terms of the level of dosha.
11. Prashamanakaraka (Tridosa-Controller): For healthy as well as diseased persons, the choice of food should be according to the season and the level of dosas. For example, warm, sour, and sweet foods help suppress vata dosha when it is high in autumn or rainy season.
12. Vatti Prayojaka (Naturally Soothing): For healthy persons, nourishing food is that which helps maintaining and strengthening the vital elements and stamina and which increases resistance against diseases.
Apathya (unsuitable) Food: This category of food corresponds to what either causes some ailment or disorder of some kind or aggravates or prolongs an existing disease or weakness. Ayurveda has affirmed food as the essential source of sustenance and strengthening of health. However, they had also alerted that “what one eats and how?” could be the major factor for or cause of illness; it could even prove to be toxic. In fact, the same type of food could have contrary effects, though invisible, under different circumstance or for different persons; most important is what kinds of guidelines one follows in the selection and preparation of food and in his eating habits. According to the following shloka in SutraSthana in Charaka Samhita, the food or medicine, which might suppress an ailment or temporarily control the imbalance of the dosas but does not uproot or eliminate them completely is also apathya (unsuitable and harmful). Yatkincitaddosamasadya, Na Nirharati Kayatah | Aharajatam Tatsarvamahitayopapadyate ||
Charaka Samhita describes unsuitability of different types of foods or medicines under different circumstances:
Non-compatibility of Place: Rugged or arid food and herbs are harmful or unsuitable in a wild land or in a desert, while cold and greasy-smooth, oily or fatty substances or preparations including medicines are bad for health or have negative effects in a wet or highly humid or swampy area.
Non-compatibility of Season: Cold eatables and drinks and foods having chilling potency are avoidable in winter; whereas the use of hot and spicy foods and substances having potency to increase body heat should be avoided during summer and spring.
Non-compatibility of Appetite: Eating without having proper appetite is harmful. Similarly, not eating nourishing food in appropriate quantity even while feeling hungry is also harmful to health and has negative effect on appetite and metabolism.
Non-compatibility of Combination: Eating a combination of ghee and honey in equal proportion causes severe toxic effect while individually each has important nourishing and medicinal effects if taken in appropriate quantity with respect to other factors. Similar is the case with several other non-compatible combinations.
Non-compatibility of Body’s Adaptability: If one’s body has got accustomed to acrid, spicy, and hot in potency foods then sweet and cold in potency foods would be generally unsuitable to his body’s adaptability.
Non-compatibility of Tridosas: The food or medicine, that might have properties similar to those inducing the tendencies of any of the three dosas (vata, pitta and kapha) but, that causes contrary effects because of disharmony with one’s natural constitution, habits and physical or mental work pattern in practice is said to be non-compatiblity of tridosas.
Non-compatibility of Utensils: Boiling milk in pure copper pot makes it poisonous in its effects. These or some other types of metallic utensils are highly unsuitable for cooking meals; while several types of substances are unsuitable for preparation of chilled drinks, desserts, etc.
Non-compatibility of Eating Habits: Eating hot potency food with cold potency substances or vice-versa, simultaneously or without substantial time gap causes harmful effects.
Non-compatibility of Digestive System: Giving laxatives or strong medicines or foods to someone having a delicate digestive system or intra-body structure is harmful. (Now think about this one for a second in connection to all the detoxing dieting programs and books that are out there, what do you think they are doing to people since they have absolutely no possible way to diagnose an individuals ability to do any detoxing and they think everyone should do them)
Non-compatibility of Sleeping Habits: Food or medicine which intensifies kapha tendency is not suitable for people who are generally slow and sluggish in their routine or who sleep heavily; it further induces lethargy or drowsiness. (this would also apply to eating kale chips or doing any dieting or fasting for a vata person who thinks and speaks to much and does not sleep much)
Non-compatibility of Routine: Eating without proper excretion of urine and stools is harmful. Those desirous of good natural health should never eat food without really feeling hungry.
Non-compatibility of Sequence of Eatables: Having water, cooling food or any medicines after drinking or eating smooth oily stuff causes negative effects. (One might even vomit instantly or have sour throat in such cases.)
Non-compatibility of Cooking: Eating half-cooked or overcooked or over-fried food is unhealthy. Similar is the case with food cooked using polluting fuel.
Non-compatibility of Composition: Drinking any preparation of mixing acidic substances including fruits with milk is harmful for health. Unless well set and fresh, curd and desserts prepared with fruits kept in milk for some time are also prohibited in Ayurveda.
The Twelve Categories of Nourishing Eatables: Charaka Samhita and other Ayurvedic texts discusses a great deal about the impact of food on physical, mental and spiritual health. It broadly classifies the nourishing substances into twelve categories. This description is based on the common crops and vegetation available in ancient times. They are not all available today and some of those that are named is not even correctly identified. What cereals, pulses, plants, etc are available today could also be added into the corresponding categories.
Shukadhanyam Shamidhanyam Samatitam Prashasyate | Puranam Prayasho Ruksham Prayenabhinavam Guru || Yadyadagacchati Kshipram Tattallaghutaram Smatam| Puranamam Sanklistam Krimivyalahimatapaih|| Adeshakalajam Klinnam Yatsyatphalamasadhu Tat ||
The twelve categories of nourishing eatables are identified as
Shuka: grains or monocots like cereals, e.g. barley, maze, wheat, rice, etc
Shami: grains (duocots like all kinds of pulses and grams)
Shakas: all fresh vegetables
Greens: fresh, naturally green substances that contain chlorophyll
Ambu: watery substances
Goras: cow-milk and its pure, fresh products
Ikshu: sugar cane and its fresh products
Krattana: (food cooked on fire from cereals, pulses and vegetables)
Yaugika: (all kinds of nourishing minerals and compounds).
Alcoholic substances (wine etc) and Animal-based foods (including meat, fish, etc) are used in Ayurveda medicinally. They are also known for their negative impact on spiritual health and subtle mental tendencies.