Updated: Feb 17
This post is inspired by one of most repeated and dreaded question asked by our patients. The question is about following pathya. Why is pathya so important?
Ayurveda, is a life science , not just a medical system owing to the fact that it deals with every part of our lives, not only diseases. Even when it comes to disease, Ayurveda talks about prevention and cure. Ayurveda views the body as a whole, not in parts. As a result, when we are talking about health or disease, what we eat and what we do cannot be different from how we feel and how we heal.
The line of treatment for any disease is Ahara(food), Vihara (lifestyle) and Oushadha (medicine) in that order.
There is no plant/herb/root which is not a medicine, says our classics. So, when we choose the right kind of food, the food itself is the medicine. When the right kind of diet is adopted along with the medicines advised, it adds and accelerates the healing process.
The agni/digestive power in a diseased person is usually low. The indigestion (the ama produced due to it) probably, is the reason behind the diseased condition or could be the root cause. So, a good pathya will have food items which are easy to digest and does not burden the body’s digestive process.
The body is busy fighting the illness which should be supported with rest, medicines and the right kind of diet which is wholesome, but light. When we consume some food items which are heavy, spicy, salty the enzymes are used up to digest these, not leaving much for the body to synthesize the medicines and concentrate on the healing process.
Some of the food items can interfere with the healing process because of the opposite qualities of the medicines. It may these kinds of food items which may have contributed to the disease in the first place.
There is also this fear among some, that when we avoid some food items we will become weak. We all need to remember: We are not we eat, we are what we digest. The diseased body will not have the capacity to make use of the most nutritious food/ supplement in its weak condition.
Here is a broad list of food recommendations suitable to be taken during most illness. These are based on the above principles. This is just an indicative list and is not exhaustive. And remember to listen to your body.
Avoid the following during illness
Tubers like potatoes, sweet potato, colocasia, tapioca etc except yam. Root vegetables are heavy to digest.
Other vegetables: Brinjal, Cauliflower, mushroom, green chillies , cabbage, cauliflower, peas, Amaranth
Lentils like horse gram, Bengal gram,Kidney beans/Rajma, Livia, white chana
Refined flours like besan and maida
Nonveg- limited use (only in curry or soup form, not in fried/barbecues/Kabab form)
If eating eggs, take only white part.
Refrain from boxed foods like oats and flakes, processed food like noodles, pasta and aerated drinks and frozen food
Fruits which are sour in taste, tamarind and sour curd. Heavy to digest fruits like jack fruit can be avoided.
Nuts like peanut, cashew nut, pista due to their high pitta content
Milk and milk products, unless you are sure of the source of the milk and you digest milk easily. (except thin buttermilk and cow’s ghee)
Tea and Coffee on empty stomach
Deep fried food
Fermented food like stale and leftover food, fermented idli batter, or stale bread
High salty foods like pickle and dishes with garam masala can be avoided.
Meals on time
Fresh and light food
Vegetables growing on creepers like ash gourd, snake gourd, ridge gourd, bottle gourd, little gourd and cucumber, okra, beans are light to digest. Creeper vegetables have slight tikta rasa (bitters) and are healing in nature.
Green gram, freshly cooked non spicy food, plenty of boiled and cooled water
Nuts: Soaked almonds, walnuts, apricots, black raisins, fresh/dry dates can be eaten in small quantities
Buttermilk and cow’s ghee should be from grass fed cow’s milk
Fresh ginger, Cumin seeds, dhaniya, curry leaves, coriander leaves and small amounts of ajwain, saunf can be used in cooking pathya food.
Ahara/Pathya and importance of food itself is discussed in great detail in all the Ayurvedic Samhitas. After all,
“What is the use of medicine if Pathya is not followed properly? Or else what is the need of medicine if Pathya is followed properly?”
As mentioned before, this is a broad list and the best way to know the best foods for you in health and disease is to meet your Ayurveda Vaidya who will advise specific foods according to your prakriti.