Eat food like medicine or you may have to consume medicines like food, says Dr Anupama Krishnan
In Ayurveda, cancer can broadly brought under the heading of arbuda — the word means ‘one hundred million’, which points towards the mad multiplication of abnormal cells.
Arbuda is negative reflection of energy, which involves the malfunctioning of the three doshas (namely vata, pita and kapha), the mutation of dhatu (tissue elements accounting for structural entity), the disruption of agni (error in digestion and transformation at the cellular, molecular and metabolic level), and the weakening of vyadhikshamatva (power of the body to resist progression of disease). All these factors collectively lead to the decline of ojus (vital essence of the human body).
Among the preventable and modifiable factors, diet management has a significant role to perform.
Food follies include poor selection, unhealthy combination, faulty processing and storage, poor quantity and faulty consumption (time of the day and season).
* Food selection should be based on the knowledge of one’s constitution, age, season, gender, and status of health.
* One should eat only after the previous meal has been digested.
* One must include the six rasas (sweet, sour, salt, pungent, bitter, astringent) in every meal.
* One must avoid over-eating.
* Incompatible and unhealthy combinations, such as milk and fish, milk and sour fruits, must be avoided.
* Eating in good company and in a clean place is advised.
* One must give due respect to food — avoid talking, laughing or walking when you eat.
* One must abstain from eating when the mind is agitated, distressed, depressed or anxious.
Ayurveda classifies food into:
Sattvik ahara: Food that pleasantly nourishes the body, like broken wheat porridge, whole wheat roti, buttermilk, seasonal fruits.
Rajasik ahara: Food linked to action and restlessness, like fried or spicy food, bitter/sour/ salty/ pungent food, fast food, chillies, alcohol.
Tamasik ahara: Food linked to a state of inertia, negative obstructive energy, lethargy, depression, addiction, extreme action. Such food causes bowel irritation, nausea, and degeneration. Unfortunately the flourishing food patterns of today are rajasik and tamasik, thereby resulting in stress, lack of insight and compassion.
Refined or raw?
On entering a bakery, one is tempted by the goodies made with maida (refined flour), which causes indigestion, heartburn and bloating of the abdomen. Moreover, saturated fats or transfats are used in puffs, cakes and biscuits to give them a long shelf life. The use of unhealthy oil, reheated oil and deep frying food are harmful cooking practices. So is the excessive reliance on ready-to-eat/ processed food. Ready-to-eat processed meats are known to contain nitrosamine and ajinomoto, which cause conditions ranging from skin allergy, heartburn, liver trouble, menstrual abnormalities, repeated abortions to cancer. Parota and chicken curry are seen on almost every dining table at dinner time, when the ideal choice should be light and easily digestible food. Another favourite meal is rich, spicy biryani followed by ice cream. All such meals can be categorised under virudhaahara (discrepant) foods. The long-term consumption of such meals weakens the body, causes malfunctioning of the system and renders the body vulnerable to ailments ranging from fever, indigestion, gastric disorders to obstinate skin disease and cancer.
Dietary do’s and dont’s
The daily consumption of vegetables and fruits is strongly advised. Plant products are cancer-fighting powerhouses as they are rich in fibre. Fibre helps in moving toxins swiftly out of the gastro intestinal tract. Moreover, fibre reduces the production of fecapentanes, which are bacteria produced by decaying food in the stomach. For those suffering from hereditary pre-cancerous colorectal polyp, a daily intake of 15 grams of wheat bran is suggested. Wheat bran, whole wheat, beans and legumes are important fibre sources. Vegetables like carrot, spinach, yellow and dark green leafy vegetables contain beta carotene which neutralises free radicals.
Fruits like pomegranate, gooseberry and grapes have high anti-oxidant concentration. All seasonal fruits and vegetables contain organic compounds that inhibit carcinogens from accessing the target site. They protect the cell memory and prevent faulty metabolism. The phytochemicals present in brightly- coloured fruits and vegetables are immunity boosters and disease fighters. Whole wheat and brown rice should be bought instead of polished varieties of rice and flour. Spices like garlic, ginger and turmeric are advised because they have proven evidence of cancer resistance. In Ayurveda, milk and ghee are considered sattvik food items which should be consumed every day. Indigenous oil should be the prime choice because, logically, the vegetation of a particular region will nourish its inhabitants. However, use of reheated oil should be discouraged. Meat consumption should be marginalised. The amount of meat consumed in a day should be equivalent to the size of one’s palm. Eating fruits like gooseberries and oranges (rich in Vitamin C) is advised for obsessive meat eaters since Vitamin C can neutralise the harmful nitrosamine effect in processed meat to a large extent. Cooking style should be preferably steaming and low-flame cooking instead of deep frying.