Role of Diet in Prevention & Management of Diseases

Ahara (Food) is the best preventive medicine and solely responsible for health and illness, sorrow and happiness. Almost all diseases occur due to unwholesome diets and dietary habits. Although specific drugs are required for the management of specific diseases, Ahara is the best of all. It has been considered equally essential to follow the dietetics rules and regulations for a successful treatment. Many instances food itself are used as a curative measure and hence prescribe specific diet patterns in the diseased conditions, besides prescribing the medicines. Ayurveda also offered a number of nutritional preparations. 28 Yavagus (gruels), and 24 Sneha Kalpanas and a variety of food preparations were mentioned in classical texts considering the different needs of healthy and diseased. So having a rich knowledge pertaining to the dietetics, Ayurveda can contribute promising attributes for the restoration of health through prophylactic and interventional dietetics. The need of the hour is to explore the potential of the science of dietetics in Ayurveda and find ways and means to adopt the recommendation of our ancient sages to achieve the ever-cherished target of health for all.

Ayurveda offers some basic dietary guidelines that include choosing appropriate food, combinations of food and utensils for serving the food, eating atmosphere, hygiene and etiquette. Anna is 'Brahma'. It is not only meant for fulfilling the appetite but it should be considered as equal to Yajyakarma. Thus, before eating, our great culture reminds us about humanity, the difference from rest of the animals. Jatharagni is considered as God and the food is Ahuti given for God. These rituals definitely affect the psychology; give a feeling of satisfaction and this in turn affects the physiology of digestion.

1.  Time of meal:

Once in the morning (between10am to12noon) and once in the evening, after the morning meal has completely been digested and lightness pervades the body, only hunger has been keenly felt, the meal to be eaten at a quietly pleasant, un-crowed, illuminated holy place.

2.  Temperature of Food:

When taken warm it is delicious; it provokes the enzymes in the abdomen responsible for digestion. Extreme hot is not advisable, if consumed it causes, intoxication, burning sensation, excessive thirst, loss of strength, giddiness and bleeding disorder. Even extreme cold food should not be taken. Eating the food prepared before a long time causes Stambha (stiffness), Agnimandya (loss of digestive power), loss of taste, nausea etc.

3.  Quantity of food:

The amount of food which, without disturbing the equilibrium, gets digested as well as metabolized in proper time is to be regarded as the proper quantity. For the purpose of taking food the stomach capacity should be divided into four parts in which two parts filled with solid foods and one part for liquids and the remaining part should be kept vacant for the movement for Vata etc. One who takes food with due regard to this principle, does not affect with any diseases. It promotes longevity in its entirety without afflicting Tridosha. Intake of food in excessive quantity causes serious type of indigestion. Intake of irregular meals causes irregularity in digestive power.

4.  Intake of food after digestion of previous meal:

If diet is taken before digestion of previous food, the food lies undigested in the stomach, mixes with the semi digested Ahara Rasa and provokes all the Doshas immediately. This is a major cause for most of the diseases. Exactly opposite to this condition, i.e., if person does not consume food even after the digestion of previous food, is also not favourable. Thus Kala Bhojana (timely consuming food) should be practiced. Food which is taken before the proper digestion of previous food is poisonous. This is a major cause for most of the diseases like Grahani (I.B.S), Atisara (diarrhea), Udara (ascitis), fever, tuberculosis, Alasaka, Visuchika etc. Exactly opposite to this condition i.e. if required quantity of food is not taken even after the digestion of previous food is also not favorable. Intake of food before the digestion of previous meals causes vitiation of Grahani. Intake of heavy food causes improper digestion.

5.  Incompatible food:

Correspondingly intake of incompatibility food articles are seen much often in this era. The diseases that are caused by Viruddha Ahara (incompatibility food) are listed by Acharyas like Adhmana (distension of abdomen), Grahani (I.B.S), Amlapitta (gastritis) Kushta (leprosy), Pandu (Anaemia), Shotha (swelling), Jwara (fever), Andhata (blindness), Indriya Dourbalyam (weakness of sense organs) and even death. Some examples of the Viruddhashana which is commonly seen nowadays that can be avoided are - Having milk with food items containing salt (e.g. Biscuit, bread), combination of milk with fruits (fruit salad), regular usage of milk preparations like paneer, malai etc. Intake of food having mutually contradictory properties causes eight incurable diseases.

6.  Intake in proper place and with all accessories:

In desired place and desired vessel, not only favoured but also beneficial is expected. One should take food in proper place equipped with all the accessories. By this one does not get afflicted with such factors which result in emotional strain. Appropriate appliances for dining are needed and indicated in detail by Acharyas. There is a large list of utensils required for preparation, serving, storage and dining etc. For specific kind of food, specific material is mentioned –

  • Ghee and oily foods- Steel/ iron which improve eyesight and cure anemia and edema
  • Liquids, meat, fruit juices- Silver, which is Kaphavatanasaka, improve eye sight
  • Water (cooled after boiling) - Copper which promote intelligence, Raktapitta nasaka

In the next article, I will talk about the Classical Ayurvedic way of eating food and other details. Keep reading and Stay Natural-Stay Healthy!