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Misconceptions about Ayurveda (part 2)
Among our population we find a class who never go for Ayurvedic medication just because of pathya! Pathya means restricted diet. But obviously nobody wants limitations over food! People have made their mindset as Ayurvedic treatment has plenty of pathya. Frequently we hear statements like- “I have pathya of tomato” or “doctor has asked me to follow pathya of fermented food. Commonly people think that, substances that should be avoided are called as pathya but the fact is exactly opposite! Pathya are those things which patient should have, whereas apathya are those which should be avoided. Pathya are beneficial for body but apathya are not. After excluding apathya what remains, all comes under pathya.
Whatever we eat affects our body. Some substances have good impact and some others have bad impact. Most of times we don’t know the effect of particular food item we eat. Simply if it tastes yummy, we like it. Once we like, we go on eating the same frequently that too in large quantity. Initially for some period body tries to adjust and counters bad impacts of it, hence it dosen’t harm. But later health problems start gradually. E.g. hair problems such as hair fall, greying of hair arise if salty stuffs (like Chinese dishes, chips, pickles etc.) are taken frequently. Digestive disorders like constipation start with daily intake of bakery products. When a patient goes for an Ayurvedic treatment, the consultant finds out the reason behind that illness and asks to avoid that, labelling it as apathya. Since patient likes that stuff very much, asks- “Is it mandatory to follow the pathya?” otherwise, takes a commitment from doctor to allow that stuff again soon. How will patient recover from that illness unless the causative factor i.e. apathya is stopped? Symptoms will reduce with medication for that moment, but they can recur if apathya continues. So, the disease never gets cured. In fact, such troublesome viands always have bad impacts on our body; still they don’t trouble when taken occasionally or in little amount or along with other substances which counter their ill effects. It is wise to avoid spicy, sour eatables which can cause hyperacidity rather than taking milk when acidity troubles. That will be beneficial for health also. When control over your tongue is going to solve your health issue then, what is the problem in doing so? Following pathya is always a better way out. Pathya is not only about eatables, Behavioral and mental pathya also exist. Those having habit of sleeping late at night, losing their tempers on small issues or having irritable nature suffer frequently with mouth ulcers. These behavioral things or psychological issues vitiate pitta dosha in these people. That’s why dietic, behavioral and mental pathya is the only key towards good health.
Some people wonder that- “How the same foodstuff is called as pathya in Allopathy and apathya in Ayurveda though for the same health problem?” for e.g. Allopathic doctors state that- eat plenty of fruits daily whereas Ayurvedic physicians ask to have them occasionally. How is this possible? It is because of the difference in basic principles of both pathies. To eat and to digest are two different things. In allopathy, diet is divided into carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. They emphasize on sufficient intake of every element to maintain its level in the body. Digestion is the process which converts external substances into body elements so that they can get assimilated in the body. That’s why “Agni”, the digestive fire has tremendous importance in Ayurveda. Nutrition based allopathy don’t even think of digestion. Patients are forced to eat despite of having any desire towards food. That too just because enough quantity of proteins or minerals or carbohydrates like elements are required daily. How will this food nourish the body if it doesn’t digest properly? Proper nutritious diet is also of no use if taken without having appetite, after the hunger time has passed, in very little quantity or in excess quantity. On the contrary, if healthy food is taken at the time of hunger and in a quantity considering the digestive power of that person, it gets digested easily and provides energy to body. In short, digestion is more important than nutrition. In the universe we see, fire extinguishes on adding very less or too much of fuel, if fuel like wood is wet. Similar thing happens with digestive fire. If someone goes on eating improperly cooked or heavy food frequently, Agni fails to digest it. How can such person manage to get nourishment?
Pathya is prescribed in Ayurveda according to the digestive power of that patient and the nature of illness. For e.g.- if eatables like paneer, eggs or flesh which are heavy to digest are advised to a patient with poor digestive capacity, how will he or she digest it? Though it is a heavy protein diet will it nourish that patient? Therefore, diet which is easy to digest like- rice water, dal- khichadi, moong dal soup or non-veg soups etc.is advised at initial stage and later when the digestion improves necessary nutritious diet is suggested. Then gradually as Agni becomes stronger, patient is shifted to normal diet. When digestion is good, balanced diet nourishes the body. Hence, following pathya definitely help to recover early from health hazard. Sometimes without medication patients recover totally only keeping pathya strictly. My point here is that, pathya should be undertaken voluntarily instead of making it a huge issue.
Dr. Sonal Darekar- Sahane
Satmya Ayurveda And Panchkarma Clinic