Prevention and Cure by Diet Restraints
Ayurvedic treatment emphasizes more on fasting and diet restraint rather than on consuming medicines to fight out the diseases. Ayurveda
asserts that half the disease is cured simply by appropriate diet control. As the principles of diagnostics and therapeutics under Ayurveda
are based on the identification of the level of tridoshas vata, pitta and kapha, so are the disciplines of fasting and diet. Let us first look at the recommended diet for the maintenance of generally good health. Followed by this are some common guidelines for major classes of diseases and disorders due to the three doshas.
What is generally recommended as good or edible?
Wheat among the cereals, green kidney-bean pulse (green-gram) among the pulses, and vegetables like green gourd, raw papaya, pointed gourd, round gourd, ridged gourd, bitter gourd, cabbage, spinach, carrot, green fenugreek, sprouted beans, etc cooked with some ginger and / or a little quantity of green chilly, etc are most commonly recommended for people of all age groups. Except for variations in the mode of preparations, these are also suitable as food ingredients for patients as well. Cow-milk and ghee of cow-milk’s butter, are regarded the best for maintenance of vigorous health. In case of non-availability of cow’s milk, it could be replaced by buffalo’s milk.
The generally recommended fruits are naturally ripened apples, papaya, chikku, pomegranate, guava, sweet lime, blackberry, pears, etc. Those in the category of dry fruits are cashew nut, chestnut, dates, figs, small and big resins, chilgoza (pine-tree fruit), dry dates, and fox-nut.
The lists of edibles and non-edibles in different classes of diseases are as follows.
The diseases caused by excess of vata dosha:
The diseases under this category include gastro problems, arthritis, rheumatism, joint-pains, spondylitis, etc. Vegetables like flower of silk cotton or kidney-bean, flowers and fresh beans of drumsticks, green fenugreeks, cabbage and pointed gourd, prepared in steam with a little amount of ginger, garlic and aniseed are supposed to be excellent in reducing the vata dosha.
Avoid taking black gram (horse bean), red gram (masura), dry grams and beans such as chana (black gram), rajama (red kidney bean), rice, cauliflower, potato, green peas, cucumber, tomato, lemon, orange, grapes, and carbide ripened fruits which are usually mango, banana, papaya, etc. Sour substances like curd, butter-milk, pickles should also be avoided. The patients having bone related ailments due to vata, should not bathe with cold water. Fomentation of the swollen parts of the body (e.g. near the joints), using salt in hot water, helps allaying the pains.
The diseases caused by excess of pitta dosha:
Acidity and related ailments of the digestive system, some kinds of blood related diseases, chronic fever etc, are common manifestation of the disorders due to pitta dosha. Light diets of the eatables listed for generally good health are also beneficial here. Thin chapatis of whole wheat, daliya (meal prepared from coarse wheat-flour), easily digestible boiled vegetables, and oil-free watery pulses prepared from green gram, etc are supposed to be good in reducing the pitta dosha. Coconut water, cold diluted milk, big resin or figs soaked in milk are excellent supplements.
While coconut water is good, its cream (core) is harmful in the pitta diseases; so are vegetables like brinjal, green and red chilies and deep fried, oily and spicy eatables. These should be strictly avoided. Use of green chilly, garlic and ginger should also be stopped or kept to a minimum as per the Ayurvedic doctor’s advice.
The diseases caused by excess of kapha dosha:
Cough, cold, asthma, and other ailments of the respiratory, chest and throat-nose-ear system, etc fall under this category of diseases and disorders. Warm and fresh food prepared using the items listed in common category of edibles is suitable here. Drinking warm milk, which is boiled with small quantities of turmeric and dry-ginger (sauntha) or dates, big resins, dry dates, etc is good antidote for the kapha dosha. Black pepper is also a good remedy; if possible one may just keep one or two of its seeds in the mouth or some pieces of harada (chabulic myrobalans). However, care should be taken that these two things are not suitable in case the patient also has problems of piles or acidity. Chapati prepared from mixed flour of wheat and roasted gram (chana) with bathua saga (vegetable prepared from leafs of white goose - foot plant) is also beneficial. The non-edibles listed for vata problems are usually harmful in case of kapha dosha as well. Butter, oil, ghee and other fatty substances should also be avoided. Mustard or sesamum oil in small quantities could be used for preparing the vegetables.
In case of Diabetes:
Eating thin chapatis of wheat flour mixed with soya bean and gram flours along with vegetables like bitter gourd, soya bean and blackberry seeds are supposed to be beneficial for the patients having this disease in acute state. They should also eat few leafs of margosa (neem) or drink its juice. Blackberry is also the best fruit for them. If the blood sugar level is not so high, they may also eat guava, apple, sweet lime, pomegranate and Indian papaya.
The diabetic patients should refrain from eating sweet substances (including fruits like ripened banana, mango etc), rice, potato and other carbohydrates.
In case of Piles:
The items listed as edible for generally good health would suit the patients of piles. Extra care should be taken not to have chilly or spicy and deep- fried eatables. Raw mangos, brinjal etc should also be avoided. They should also pay attention to eat well before sleep and have substantial water throughout the day. This would minimize the chances of constipation as well.
In case of Cardiac Diseases:
In this case also, the easily digestible, light food as listed under the generally good category is suitable; the proportion of fresh green vegetables, fibers and sprouts should be more. Intake of salt and fatty substances should be minimized. Apple, papaya and juices of orange, sweet lime and other fruits are also supposed to be good for those suffering from heart related problems. Cow’s milk without cream is very good; small quantity of Isapgol (an Ayruvedic medicine) may be taken mixed in milk occasionally. Drinking the powder of the herb Arjun chhala (bark skin of the Arjun tree; Terminalia arjuna Bedd) boiled in milk is a useful remedy as well as a preventive medicine against blood pressure related problems.
In case of Jaundice:
Use of oil, ghee and other fatty substances and yellow colored eatables is prohibited for those suffering from this liver ailment. Even milk is restricted, so are rice, chilly and other spices. Chapatis of barley, wheat, fresh butter-milk, curd, boiled vegetables like green gourd, ridged gourd, boiled lentil of green gram with substantial water and similar light, oil-free food-items constitute healthy food in this case.
In case of Hypothyroidism:
It is caused due to deficiency of thyroxin hormone. The foods suitable for generally good health are also recommended here. Sour substances including raw mango (dried or fresh), curd, lemon, tomato, pickles, tart or acidic fruits etc should not be eaten. Cauliflower and artificially ripened fruits should be avoided. Naturally ripened (on the tree) sweet fruits like mango, papaya may be eaten. Iodine-rich fruits, vegetables are beneficial. Chapati prepared from mixed flour of wheat, gram and soya-bean is good. Kachanara (mountain ebony) is considered as most effective natural remedy against this hormonal disorder. Those suffering from hypothyroidism should keep a small, cleaned piece of the bark-skin of the kachanar tree in the mouth and suck it as long as possible every day.
In case of Obesity:
Overweight of the body is the root cause of many other diseases and disorders. Strict diet restraints should be followed in general. In particular, use of sweet, fried and fatty substances should be stopped. Light, but nutritious food (as described under generally good category) devoid of sweets and fats should be taken with large proportions of green leafy vegetables, fibers, etc; balanced amounts of cream-free cow-milk may also be taken. Drinking lukewarm water in the morning, physical exercises (especially morning and evening walk) and taking medicines as per the doctor’s advice help in getting rid of obesity in general.
What should be always avoided by everyone desirous of a naturally healthy life?
Tea, coffee, cold-drinks, ice-creams, tobacco, gutaka, paanmasala, wine (liquor/alcohol), synthetic food and confectionery, fruits that are ripened artificially (e.g. using carbide). Ayurveda
also warns against eating food-items preserved under cold storage and eggs, meat, breads prepared from maida (fine white wheat flour), etc.
Common Modes of Medication in Ayurveda:
Ayurvedic medicines are usually available in the forms of vati (tablets), curna (powder of herbs), ras-bhasma (specially grinded, prepared fine powders of processed herbs), syrups and decoctions of different types asava, arishta, kwatha or kadha etc. Apart from these, some herbal oils and ointments are also prescribed for external use. The following are general guidelines for using the different classes of Ayurvedic medicines.
For vati and churna:
These types are usually recommended to be taken around 10-20 minutes after meal. Should be taken with warm water in case of diseases due to vataj-kapha dosha, and with normal water in case of pitta doshas. Unless they taste bitter or pungent, the tablets (vatis) should preferably be chewed rather than gulped down with water. The special tablets like muktadi, madhunashini and kayakalpa vatis are recommended to be taken with fresh water about one hour before meals. Often people use some curnas just because of their taste and soothing effects on digestion. This is not correct, such curnas are also medicinal e.g. for controlling acidity and might cause imbalance in the dosha levels; these should also be taken only as per the doctor’s advice.
For rasa and bhasmas:
These are usually eaten with honey, fresh cream of milk or with warm water (depending upon the dosha and ailment type) at least half-an-hour before meals.
For asava and arishta:
These are drunk with fresh water (mixed in equal proportion) about 10 to 15 minutes after meals.
For kwatha (kadha):
Kwatha should be best drunk freshly prepared at timings as prescribed by the doctor. It is recommended that nothing should be mixed in it. However, if it is bitter in taste and one just can’t bear that bitterness then minimal quantity of honey or sugar-crystals (mishri) could be mixed.
At times, depending upon the type and state of disease, bathing or fomenting in the steam of boiling kwatha of specific types are advised. In such cases, the prescribed herbal medicines are to be cooked in a pressure cooker with about 1-1.5 kg water. A tube of appropriate size (and of material that could bear the high temperature) is to be connected at the outlet for steam (where usually a weight-whistle is kept on the cooker). A small piece of cloth is tied on the other end of the cloth; the desired body-part is exposed to this end at a safe distance so that direct spray of steam does not burn the skin. If available, an appropriate steaming device should be used instead of pressure-cooker. After steaming for prescribed duration of time, the desired body part should be fomented by gently bathing it in the medicinal solution (left in the cooker) while the latter is cooled up to a bearable temperature.
For Massaging (by Ayurvedic oils):
Massaging of the particular body-part should always be done gently and at a slow pace. Its direction should always be towards the heart.
If the guidelines and disciplines of Ayurvedic medication and preventive care are followed strictly, the patients enjoy fast recovery and natural vigor thereafter. In the succeeding issues we shall look at the therapeutic and other important aspects of Ayurveda.
(Ayurveda-series to be continued)