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Let food be thy medicine

Sujal Torgal Patil

The aim of Ayurved is two fold, firstly it is swasthya rakshan or preserving an individual’s good health and secondly, it is vikaar prashaman or curing disorders of a diseased individual. The knowledge of ayurveda is devoted to these two attributes. While we have discussed the importance of dietetics for the maintenance of good health in terms of eating according to our constitution, diurnal or seasonal fluctuations, this article emphasises on the importance of eating appropriately while fighting a disease as that becomes the first step towards reversing the conditions which contribute to disease formation.

According to the principles of ayurveda, derangement of the digestive power (agni) occurs in many diseases. This is the prime reason for the formation of vitiated dosha, ama (toxic substances) and malformation of dhatus (body tissues). It is important to restore the digestive power’s normalcy and this can be attained through a good diet regimen. Unfortunately medicine gives negligible importance to the task of correcting a patient’s diet and therefore people find it difficult to do any sort of diet-intervention when they opt for ayurvedic treatment. An ayurvedic physician corrects one’s diet and lifestyle and puts them on minimum medication.

Pathya-apathya is a unique concept true to ayurveda which provides guidelines about pathya (beneficial diet and lifestyle) and apathya (harmful diet and lifestyle) for a particular disease or pathological condition. Food characteristics and properties change according to the season, place and person hence pathya also changes accordingly. Pathya not only advocates intake of wholesome food but also directs  one to follow a certain regimen to fasten the process of recovery. That which is beneficial may not be comfortable or enjoyable! For an instance having tea on an empty stomach may be enjoyable for some but it is definitely not healthy. For a patient of hyperacidity, this could be a grave mistake. But we seldom see any counselling done by conventional doctors about this and the patient is put on antacids without appropriate dietary intervention and therefore there is only a temporary cure to the disease and never a permanent solution.

People conveniently forget an important fact that most disorders are borne due to unhealthy eating and living. Correcting these becomes mandatory and that is exactly what treating the root cause is. These are some points to ponder on:

l Treatment of any disorder specifically metabolic disorders starts with diet and lifestyle intervention.

l Diseases like diabetes mellitus, hypercholesterolemia, obesity, digestive disorders, etc, can be easily reversed when in early stages, merely with an appropriate dietary regimen. Even high degree fevers or infectious conditions could be reversed in no time with appropriate diet and minimum medication.

l Dietary recipes which are propagated as home remedies may not be useful for all and may even prove dangerous for some.

l The knowledge of dietetics in ayurveda is profound and thoroughly scientific. Individuals suffering from long-standing illnesses should consult an ayurvedic physician.

l Specific allergies to foods like milk, gluten, eggs, seafood, certain fruits, etc, are borne out of inappropriate ways of eating them. For an instance drinking milk after meals or before going to sleep may induce milk allergy or consuming wheat which is newly harvested may cause gluten intolerance. In such cases completely giving up on these food items is not advisable but treating the underlying cause of this intolerance and eating them appropriately is the solution.

l Even if two patients are suffering from the same disorder their dietary programme may vary. What may be good for one person may not be good for another. Another important point in this context is the rule that one must exercise moderation in everything one eats or does else even nectar can turn poisonous and defy its very purpose.

l When patients are put on a restricted diet they worry whether they will get nutrients proteins, vitamins, minerals, etc. When diseased, the body is in an agitated condition and bringing it out of this state should be the physician’s priority. When subjected to the right diet the patient starts recovering and feeling better and thus the digestive system is further boosted and becomes capable of assimilating nutrients better than before. The food may seem insufficient by itself but in combination with treatment and medicines, the body is definitely being well cared for.

An appropriate dietary regimen for a prescribed amount of time could be cumbersome for that period but it will prove to be fruitful in regaining lost health. It creates a favourable environment in the body of the diseased individual which aids in healing and also any medication that is administered works better in such an environment.

To be continued…

(Writer is a consultant at Traya Natural Health Centre,


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