All living beings in the universe require food. The food is said to be cause of stability for all living beings. Complexion, clarity, good voice, longevity, intelligence, happiness, satisfaction, nourishment, strength and intellect all are conditioned by food. Health as well as disease is dependent on dietary lifestyle. Proper diet, taken in proper manner can lead to better health or else can lead to diseases. Ayurvedic diet provides an outline regarding which kind of food to eat, which to avoid and about guidelines for correct intake of food.
Diet supports the life constantly just like the house (is supported) by the pillars. Diet is believed to be one of the pillars of life on which life stands. Acharya Charak said that diet supports life if it is taken with discipline in the right way. Diet has a prime role in maintaining health and in treating various disorders. According to Acharya Kashyap, diet is considered as the Mahabhaishajya i.e. the great medicine.
Factors that must be considered for proper digestion of food are
- Jatharagni / Pachakagni /Digestive strength – The fire is used to cook the raw food to make it proper for consumption. In that same manner, the Jatharagni or digestive strength of a person which is present in the stomach is necessary to convert the food in the useful form to nourish body tissues. To maintain the good functioning of the body, the digestive strength must be conserved.
- Influence of Vata energy over the digestive process [Nervous mechanism of digestion] – Vata energy is responsible for the intake of food and to execrate the waste products which are formed during the digestive process. The main three types of vata energy (Prana vayu, Saman vayu, Apan vayu) take part in the digestive system.
- Prana vayu -The process of swallowing/deglutition is takes place under influence of Prana vayu.
- Saman Vayu- Saman vayu increases the digestive power. Saman Vayu is responsible to breakdown food into different forms at the site of intestine. Saman vayu also stimulate the pushing of useful part from digestion towards the heart and from it to send all over body, that process is known as rasa dhatu. It also stimulates action of pushing the remaining waste products (mutra, purish) to the lower portion of the abdomen or colon.
- Apana Vayu – Apana vayu is mainly situated in the colon, where the wastes from digestive process are kept for some time before its excretion.
- Kleda (moisturizing or hydrolyzing process over the food) This process eases the digestion and protect it. Food is moistening, soften and disintegrates to make easy for the digestion under influence of pachaka pitta.
- Sneha (Softening process of food) – Saliva and gastric juices helps to convert the food into liquid, smooth and soft which helpful for better function of digestion.
- Kaala Yoga (Time factor in digestion process) – Time also contribute in proper digestion of eaten food. It takes 12-14 hours for completion of total process of digestion on level of intestine.
If person does not follow the rules and guidelines that are mentioned in ayurveda, it will surely lead to diseases related to digestion because digestive strength is weaken due to faulty lifestyle. When the food is taken properly and according to rules, then only benefits of diet can be achieved. The faulty dieting habit is an etiological factor to have imbalance.
Rules and regulations of diet intake- Both the Diet and dietary habits have equal importance in life
- Ushnam Ashniyat (Eat when food is warm or freshly prepared) – If one follows this rule and eats warm food, it tastes well, also the eaten food stimulates the digestive fire and gets digested quickly. Intake of warm food helps in maintaining peristaltic movements, stimulates secretion and thereby helps digestion. Extreme hot food is also not advised as it may cause dizziness, burning sensation, excessive thirsty and giddiness etc.
- Snigdham Ashniyat (use of correct amount of fat in diet)– food without fats or oil, inside absorbs humidity of digestive tract and hampers digestion, producing dryness of skin, constipation etc.
- Laghu Ashniyat (less quantity and easy for digestion)– always take a food that is less in quantity and easy for digestion. That also means keep the frequency of diet more or eat with regular interval. It is not good idea to have only one meal with big portion of food.
- Jirne Viryavirudham (overeating habit)– One should take food only when previous meal is digested. Means don’t eat if you don’t feel hungry.
- Ishta Deshe, Ishta Sarvopakaranam (eat with pleasure and happiness) This term refers to eating in a hygienic place provided with all the necessary things for sound psychological condition during meals. One should take food in proper equipped place, with all the accessories and should not produce disturbing emotions like anger, fear, anxiety, stress etc.
- Na Atidrutam Ashniyat (do not to eat too fast)– The food should not be taken too hurriedly. If food is taken too hurriedly it enters the wrong passage and does not enter the stomach properly. In this situation, one can never determine the taste of food articles and defective foreign bodies, mixed with them. Also, the food when eaten with hurry violates its normal route.
- Na Ativilambitam Ashniyat (do not eat too slow). This concept refers to that one should not take food too slowly because this will not give satisfaction to the individual. In this situation he would take more than what is required, the food becomes cold and there will be irregularity indigestion. Therefore, one should not take food very slowly.
All these factors hamper Agni and the food can’t be digested properly.
Take a food with complete attention on the food only- person should not talk or laugh or be unmindful while taking food.
The secretion of digestive juices gets disturbed and finally the system also gets affected which affects body as well as mind. Talking and laughing divert the attention from the meals, and the food is eaten too hastily or too slowly. Thus, the uniform speed of eating can’t be maintained, hence both the above opinions are practically true. In one meal also, some food is eaten hurriedly while some slowly, if the attention is diverted by other things.