Ayurveda and Nutrition

By Noelle noelle bio picture

Lets get deeper into Ayurveda shall we? I want to talk more about Ayurveda and Nutrition!

Nutrition plays a central role in Ayurvedic living. Ayurveda places special emphasis on diet and food as a means to good life, health and wellness. Healthy and wholesome food nourishes the mind, body and soul. Ayurveda asserts that although the digestive capacity of each person may be different, the quality and appropriate quantity of food are necessary for a healthy life. Food taken in proper quantity provides strength, vigor, and good complexion and nurtures the health of the tissues (dhatus).

Ayurveda believes that a diet can be vegetarian or non-vegetarian and portion size should be customized for each individual according to ones own needs, body constitution (doshas) and digestive power (agni). Also, the quality and properties of food should be taken into consideration such as heavy, light and oily.

Ayurveda recommends that diets, which aggravate doshas, and are antagonistic in respect to season, place, time, and combination, are harmful and should be avoided. For example: rough and cold food in the winter is antagonistic in terms of time and season, honey and ghee in equal quantity is antagonistic in dosage, milk with melon is a bad combination of food (in addition melon should always be eaten alone), drinking too hot or too cold is not favorable for the digestive system, and eating too many nuts in summer aggravates pitta.

As we all know food and eating is much more than just putting food into our mouths and chewing, it is an experience of the five senses. Ayurveda asserts that the mind is directly influenced by the quality of food eaten, food preparation, appearance, aroma and freshness of the food. These factors influence all the five senses and regulate proper digestion. Ayurveda promotes selection of fresh food, preparation of food by combining compatible foods and use of herbs and spices to enhance flavor and taste of the food. It advocates that the quality of the food also regulates emotion, mental agility and mental vigor.

Today modern science supports Ayurvedic principles that there is a close connection between food and mind as hunger (feeding) and satiety both are regulated by the hypothalamus in the brain. Stimulation of the lateral part of the hypothalamus excites the emotional drive to seek out food. Over stimulation may cause hyperphagia (excessive eating). Similarly, the satiety center of the brain located in the ventro-medial nuclei of the hypothalamus may cause aphagia (refusal to eat) upon stimulation. Control of the appetite is governed by amygdala of the brain and is closely connected with the sense of smell and the limbic system. According to Ayurvedic principles there is a close connection between smell and hunger. Taste, salivation, chewing, and swallowing all influence hunger and satiety and aid in digestion.

Activities of the feeding center are regulated by nutritional need such as low blood glucose level. However, feeling of hunger when the stomach is empty is due to the stimulation of the Vegas nerve, which causes stomach to contract, referred to as hunger “pains”, is regulated by the blood glucose level, amino acids, and fatty acid metabolism. Bypassing any of these regulations may lead to digestive problems. Ayurveda recommends eating only when one is hungry and only one-third capacity of ones stomach, so that body is at optimal condition for proper digestion. As body temperature, feeding and emotions are regulated by the limbic system; there is a close relationship amongst these physiological functions. When the food intake increases, the metabolic rate becomes faster and the production of heat is intensified. In order to maintain a physiological balance, Ayurveda asserts not to consume too hot or too cold food and to restrict other activities during food intake, including too much talking. Additionally, since emotions are processed by the limbic system, Ayurveda recommends maintaining a state of calm while eating to maximize the digestive process and recommends avoiding eating when emotions such as anger, anxiety, worry or grief sets in.

The individual is inseparable from his or her surroundings and is a “microcosm” within the “macrocosm.” In other words, as a microcosm one is constantly under the influence of vast environmental transformations. Although these changes may not be inherently apparent to the naked eyes, these concepts are unique and establish the fact that individuals should be treated within the context of his/her surroundings. Similarly, in order to live healthy, one must live in harmony with his/her surroundings and formulate a diet that balances ones doshas.

Ayurveda is a 6000-year-old health care system that believes science; philosophy and spirituality are necessary aspects for healthy living. Ayurveda is considered not only a comprehensive medical system but also a way of life and is relevant as ever!

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