Ayurveda aims to maintain good health of individuals and provide curative treatments for illnesses. There are three major supporters or building blocks of good health – Aahar (food), Nidra (sleep) and Bramhacharya (good physical/sexual conduct). These are also called trayaupstambha or three pillars of life. Any imbalance or disturbance among the three affects health or may cause disorders.
Aahar (food) is the most important among the trayaupstambha. It is also called prana (life) of living beings as almost all their activities are directly or indirectly related to food, which nourishes the body and its organs in living beings. It has been observed that complexion, cheerfulness, happiness, strength, intellect etc. are dependent on Aahar. (ch.su.27/250).
The importance of food has not only been described in Ayurvedic literature, but, also in day-to-day life. It is considered as next to God and is an object of worship. It has also been noted that food impacts our mind and thoughts. References are available in one of the Ayurveda classics, wherein, Aahar has been termed as Maha-Bhaishjya or powerful/big medicine. (Kashyapa Samhita).
Aspects of Aahar: Classification
Aahar has been broadly classified into two categories in Ayurveda classics:
Wholesome food or Hitkar Aahar
Unwholesome food or Ahitkar Aahar
Wholesome food is that which contributes towards good health and corrects imbalances in body. Contrarily, unwholesome food is responsible for illnesses and originates diseases and imbalances. It has been said that all possible measures should be taken to eat proper food in requisite quantities to prevent mental and physical disturbances. Wholesome food, its types, methods of intake, right times of eating and the adjuvants with these foods – all have been well described. It has been categorically stated that foods and drinks with desirable smell, taste and touch and when consumed in accordance with prescribed methods, provide vital strength to body and mind. By contrast, if these foods and drinks are not consumed properly prove detrimental. (ch.su27/4)
World Health Organization (WHO) is working towards promoting the availability of safe, healthy and wholesome food in proper quantity for each individual to improve food and nutrition security standards and ensure good health. Proper nutrition is a lifelong commitment for an individual and not a temporary fad. WHO data clearly reveals that there has been a gradual rise in the problem of food-borne illnesses around the globe. Around 3, 51, 000 deaths occurred in the year 2010 due to food poisoning.
Correlation of Aahar with Tridoshas & Triguna Theory
As we know, all living and non-living things on the Earth are panchbhautika. Food is also essentially panchbhautika and accordingly, diets may be classified as having dominance in vataj, pittaj, kaphaj, as well as satvika, rajas and tamas properties. Appropriate intake of the right foods helps in balancing the similar panchbhautika components of body. In general, tridoshas and trigunas are elementally related to one another as follows:
The tridoshik activity of a dietary article is based on its inherent character, like, rasa, guna, virya, vipak etc. Trigunatamka composition of an article can be determined by knowing its elemental constitution, its rate of digestion after intake, metabolism and finally, its vital and mental effects.
In general, light food articles (e.g. old rice, moong dal, bird’s meat, meat of wild animals etc.) should be taken in large quantity whereas heavy food articles (e.g. preparation of flour, sugarcane, milk, sesamum, black gram, marshy and aquatic plants/animals etc.) should be taken in small quantity. In fact, light food articles are predominant in properties of vayu and agni in contrast to heavy ones that are prithvi and jala predominated. Thus, it is clear that due to their properties, light food articles stimulate digestion and produce little derangement even when taken up to the saturation point. However, heavy edibles because of dissimilarity are not digestion-stimulant and thus cause considerable derangement if taken up to the saturation point. But, all the above said, it also depends on the physical strength and digestive strength (agni bala) of an individual.
Effects of Aggravated Kapha Dosha on Agni (Digestive Fire)
Agni is the most important factor of human body. There are 13 types (1 jatharani/pachakagni + 7 dhatvagni + 5 bhutagni) of agnis in our body with jatharagni as the master of all. When agni is weak, a number of unwanted unripe by-products of digestion and metabolism start forming. Such by-products are called ama, which is toxic in nature. Ama accumulates at different levels in body from gross to molecular, from local GIT to systemic level over tissues and cells etc. Its presence is characterised by increasing impermeability and sluggishness of srotas or the body channels.