Ayurveda and Western medicine have differing outlooks on diet and health. The focus of Ayurveda is on understanding the cause of the underlying symptom. This entails looking closely at the persons daily life, diet, relationships, exercise, attitude and beliefs.
Our mind, body and what we actually do, eat and think has an effect on our health and wellbeing. Ayurveda offers guidelines that involve taking responsibility for our own health for that reason.
The 8 limbs of Yoga as taught by Patanjali provide tools to go within. In time we learn to connect with ourselves and look deeply and what we may or may not be doing. This is based on the principles of cause and effect. It is no surprise what we ingest through our senses has an effect on the whole organism, including the mind.
Diet affects our health and well-being
I am constantly amazed how many people do not recognise the connection between their diet, lifestyle, habits and their health. Ayurveda and western medicine have a different focus on health. Such as, Ayurveda teaches us to notice and reflect on what we ingest through our senses and the resulting effects.
With Western medicine the patient asks the doctor to tell them what is wrong with them. Often a patient will be prescribed medications yet no attention is paid to their diet, lifestyle, or exercise. Most people are looking for a quick fix, and do not want to take responsibility or make changes to their lives. They want to come away with an answer and a pill to take and this leaves doctors in a bind. As a one treatment often effects the next symptom. Initially the patient may begin to feel they are on the mend but sooner or later the new treatment will cause a new problem. And so it goes on, forever looking outside for the answer. Yoga provides a bridge between the mind and the body to find the answer within.
Ayurvedic ancient text
The most ancient and venerated Ayurvedic textbook is the Charaka Samhita. This text states, “the distinction between health and disease arises as the result of the difference between wholesome and unwholesome diet. A disease is the result of faulty nutrition.”
Along similar lines, perhaps, Western medical opinion is slowly shifting and beginning to recognise diet as a risk factor in many diseases. To optimise health and well-being in the positive sense Yoga and Ayurveda looks at the diet, lifestyle, exercises and beliefs.
Ayurveda makes no distinction between food and medicine as both are considered one category, not two. The food taste is not mere decoration, but has nutritional value and meaning.
The terms tamasic, rajasic and sattvic are used to classify food types.
A sattvic diet is optimal as it is the middle path between tamasic that is heavey and sluggish and rajasic that is manic and fast.
Ayurveda respects individual differences for health
Different people respond differently to the same foods, and conversely, different foods suit different people. For instance, an egg can be good for one person and a searing time bomb to another.
Western nutrition has not yet paid much attention to individual differences. Today food allergies are on the increase and people are starting to see that what we put into the body has an effect on our health and wellbeing.
Modern nutrition tends to say you should eat only x grams of fat or at least y grams of protein (with few medical exceptions.) By contrast Ayurveda systematically analyses why one type of food benefits one person yet it can harm another.
As important as what we eats is how we digest. A patient complaining that his digestion is sluggish or weak would not be a candidate for Western treatment. Yet Ayurveda holds that sluggish or weak digestion is a significant pathogenic factor. If not properly digested any diet is useless and creates ama (toxins) in the body that can travel to organs and effect the mind.
Agni is our digestive fire
Ayurveda recommends a purifying diet as toxins have accumulated in the digestive tract due to lifestyle and eating habits. The digestion in Ayurveda is viewed as a furnace and is called the agni. Throwing too much fuel on the fire snuffs it out. This is what happens when one eats foods that are too heavy, eats foods at the wrong time, or eats before one has completely digested the previous meal.
Eating incorrectly overwhelms the stomach and the food is not processed correctly and instead it putrefies. In turn this leaves impurities that collect in the body, weigh it down and cause many types of disease.
Agni – Toxins
The body removes ama with its own self-cleaning mechanisms when not weighed down by too much food, liquids or the wrong kinds of food. Likewise an optimal digestive fire prevents the ama or toxins forming and accumulating.
Our body naturally eliminates impurities through the bowels, bladder and skin. As well as its own mechanisms to dissolve clots in the legs or plaque in the arteries. Blockages in the arteries can be removed through a program of meditation, diet, exercise with a healthier lifestyle. Sounds too simple to be true, but these natural methods do not make money for the economy and alternative therapies are deemed inferior to western medicine.
Hippocrates said: “Leave your drugs in the pot at the pharmacy if you can’t cure your patient with food”Hippocrates