Diet affects health and well-being
According to the most ancient and venerated textbook of Ayurveda the Charaka Samhita, “the distinction between health and disease arises as the result of the difference between wholesome and unwholesome diet….. A disease is the result of faulty nutrition.”
Along similar lines, perhaps, Western medical opinion is slowly shifting and beginning to recognise diet as a risk factor in many diseases. Diet can be used to optimise health and well-being in the positive sense.
Ayurveda makes no distinction between food and medicine – they are considered one category, not two. The foods taste is not mere decoration, but have nutritional meaning.
Different people respond differently to the same foods, and conversely, different foods suit different people. For instance, an egg can be good for one person and a searing time bomb to another; Western nutrition has not yet paid much attention. Everyone it tends to say should take only x grams of fat or at least y grams of protein (with few medical exceptions) by contrast Ayurveda systematically analyses why the food that benefits one person can harm another.
As important as what one eats is how one digests it. A patient complaining that his digestion is sluggish or weak would not be a candidate for Western treatment; medical training prepares us only to treat fully formed diseases such as cancer, ulcers or colitis. Yet Ayurveda holds that sluggish or weak digestion is a significant pathogenic factor and that an optimal diet would be not only useless but even harmful if it were not properly digested.
Ayurveda recommends a purifying diet as toxins have accumulated in the digestive tract due to lifestyle and eating habits.
To understand how this can help is to think of the digestion as a furnace. Throwing too much fuel on the fire snuffs it out. This is what happens when one eats foods that are too heavy, eats foods at the wrong time, or eats before one has completely digested the previous meal. The digestion gets overwhelmed and instead of getting processed correctly the food putrefies and creates impurities that collect in the body, weigh it down and cause disease.
Agni – Toxins
When the Agni (digestive fire) is burning strongly, the digestive fire not only digests food completely, preventing ama from being formed but it is said to burn off the toxins that have already accumulated. It is important to note that, when not weighed down by too much food or the wrong kinds of food, the body removes ama with its own self-cleaning mechanisms. It naturally eliminates impurities through the bowels, bladder and skin. It even has mechanisms to dissolve clots in the legs or plaque in the arteries. Research has shown that blockages in the arteries can be removed through a program of meditation, diet, exercise and healthier lifestyle.
Daily Oil Massage – Abhyanga
A daily oil massage has profound health benefits. It promotes softness and lustre of the skin, lubricates the muscles, tissues and joints and increases their flexibility. Moreover stimulating the tissues in the body it is said to help keep impurities from accumulating in the system; further making one strong and least affected by old age and more able to handle strenuous work and accidental injuries.
Modern medicine is beginning to recognise that the skin is not just a barrier but is also a major immunologic and hormonal organ.
Sesame Oil the Boone to Humanity
Preliminary research on sesame oil is emerging. Those who practise it daily have significantly less bacterial infection on their skin. This may have to do with the major component of sesame oil, linoleic acid, which makes up 40% of the oil. Linoleic acid is known to inhibit the growth of certain bacterium, especially pathogenic bacteria. Linoleic acid also is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent; some researchers have compared its potency to indomethacin (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug commonly used to reduce fever, pain, stiffness and swelling).
Abhyanga massage helps with joint problems. Finally, linoleic acid appears to be anticarcinogen, sesame oil has been shown to inhibit vitro malignant melanoma and human colon adenocarcinoma cell line growth (cancer of an epithelium that originates in glandular tissue. Epithelial tissue includes, but is not limited to, the surface layer of skin, glands and a variety of other tissue that lines the cavities and organs of the body).
Further sesame oil contains antioxidants and heating the oil – which is traditional in Ayurveda – has been shown to increase the antioxidants potency. It is strongly recommended because it offsets the drying effect of Vata to the body and everyone can benefit from this daily routine.
Hippocrates said: “Leave your drugs in the pot at the pharmacy if you can’t cure your patient with food”