The phone rang. Patient of diarrhea i had seen the same day on phone “Doctor i have burning sensation in my stomach can I eat ice cream?”
Me: Are you asking or telling me after you had one cup of it ?
He (mumbles): “Yes I had one!”
Me in my mind (obviously): Stay close to toilet and keep tissue ready”
Yes, you meet patients who have their own out of the box ideas and even more irrelevant explanation for it. For some of you it will not look that odd. It was just ice cream. But to the eyes of an Ayurveda consultant it was the culprit to make his diarrhea worse. It was Apathya food for that patient.
Apathya? what is it? In simpler language it means unwholesome /not suitable in illness. Yes, you cannot eat anything or regular food in illness. Your body demands little different nutrition from the routine diet. You need rest in illness, your stomach needs rest to! The food you consumed can either befriend with the disease or the immunity fighting for your health. Its your choice who do you want in action.
Ayurveda highlights the importance of digestion and potential of well ignited digestive fire to cure the pathology as well as to be in good state of health. When disease exists, the normal digestion is hampered and Dosha are imbalanced. Regular unobserved food without considering the digestive fire may further diminish Agni more causing more Dosha imbalance.
“Food properties used wisely to balance the imbalanced Dosha, favor the symptoms relief, break the pathology, and achieve cure is called as Pathya diet.”
What is Pathya diet is like: Wholesome diet is chosen to break chain of disease formation, increase the Agni (good appetite) to combat with disease. It is easy to assimilate and replenish the tissue to overcome the wear and tear due to disease.
- It should be Dosha opposite to reduce/pacify the Dosha which causes disease.
- It should not be heavy to digest
- It must be nutritive to support recovery and immunity
- It should be fresh, easy to cook and treat to palate as appetite and taste are already affected in illness.
- It should be enriched with medicinal values too. E.g. spices and some specific fruits like Indian gooseberry (amla) , wood apple (Bael) etc
- General wholesome food: Diet which facilitates the health irrespective of person, health condition and other parameters can be included as a regular practice. Some food items are listed and advocated in Ayurveda as healthy meal practice. E.g. Sixty days cropped rice, Green Mung Daal, Lentils, Cow milk, honey, Barley, goat meat soup, black currents, warm water, cow ghee etc. Food listed do not need assessment of the body type, Dosha, age and other custom details as they are favorable to anybody anytime within other diet rules.
2.Disease specific Pathya food: This type of Pathya food is chosen as per the diseases. They have specific action of the pathology of that disease. Here are few examples.
- Fever: Initial therapeutic fasting (Langhana) followed by liquid diet as Rice cooked water , Soft rice with mild spices , green Mung soup , Goat Meat soup cooked with herbs . Cow ghee and milk with specific herbs in chronic fever. Bitter and astringent rasa dominating food is wisely used to overcome Pitta Dosha in fever.
- Diarrhea: Initial use of buttermilk to facilitates the expulsion of gut toxins also taking care of hydration well, increasing appetite all at the same time. Further food which is not heavy and will not diminish the digestive fire is chosen. E.g. rice water, soft rice, Buttermilk, lentil soup etc.
- Diabetes: Barley, warm water, Honey, mustard, pearl millet is some of the choice of food in Diabetes to overcome Kapha Dosha and abnormal lipid metabolism. Bitter, astringent taste dominant food are advocated in Ayurveda.
- Colitis: Buttermilk and ghee treated with ayurvedic herbs and spices are the choice of Pathya food in Colitis. Use of Wood apple, Bael fruit as food is a classic example of diseases specific wholesome food. Use of lentils cooked with spices like Coriander seeds, cumin, or vetiver roots for treating water controls watery motions, cramps in abdomen and reduce the fatigue in colitis.
Every disease needs diet correction. A Sanskrit verse in Charaka highlights the importance of diet by saying, “If the diet is correct there is no use of medicine and if the diet is not wholesome no medicine can be of use.” Proper application of the Pathya theory in acute, chronic, infectious, non-infectious disease can reduce the span of diseases. The supportive diet along with medication will reduce the medicinal load. Pathya food is gut bacteria friendly therefore it will preserve the gut biome and minimize the chances of dysbiosis. Proper application of wholesome food can replace the unnecessary use of synthetic multivitamins and other dietary supplements.
Do not just nod your head, ask your Ayurveda doctor more about it!