Food is an important constituent for all living beings. Proper food with good qualities gives strength, complexion, immunity, and good life.
Food is the main ingredient in the trayopstambha, the tripod of life; the other ingredients are proper sleep and sex. Specific knowledge about food is a special subject called aharshastra or dietetics.
According to the main aim of Ayurveda, the important use of dietary prescription or food as medicine (pathya-apathya) is for keeping one’s health fit and curing disease.
Food is classified into three types according to its predominant properties: palliative (shaman), vitiating (prakopak) and healthy (swasthaitakar).
Palliative foods are known as pathyakar. Foods having vitiating (prakopak) qualities create diseases after aggravating doshas. Those who maintain health have been classified as healthy (swasthaitakar).
If we study according to the information given above, one specific food cannot be shaman, prakopak or swasthaitakar for everyone. Hence while deciding the do’s and don’ts of food, it is essential to make a detailed study of factors like age, constitution, habitat, tolerance, the capacity of agni, etc.
'One which is not harmful to our body and one which is pleasant to our mind is pathya. This is always recommended, and one which is harmful both for body and mind is not recommended and hence called as apathya.'
We also have to consider the classification where food is harmful for body but seems pleasant to mind and another one, which is helpful to our body but unpleasant to our mind. This should be considered as a general rule regarding do’s and don’ts because these can change according to quantity of food processing etc. For example ghee is useful in proper dose, but intake of equal quantity of ghee and honey and intake in spring is not recommended.
While making an elaborate explanation of do’s and don’ts properties of food should also be consider. Excess eating, eating incompatible food or eating less food are important causes in disease and hence intake of food in such a manner is not recommended – apathyakar.
Diet according to different diseases –
Diet is an important factor in all systems of medicine. Ayurveda has a different approach in the inter-relationship of diet and health. According to the ancient Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita, 'food is a supreme remedy.' It says that “if you do not follow the dietetic injunctions, what is the benefit of medicine? And if you follow the dietetic instructions there is no need for medicine.” Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician also gave us the diction. “Let your food be your medicine and not your medicine be your food.”
Diet has many qualities and its proper use along with medicine is useful for breaking the
pathogenesis in every disease.
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