Ayurvedic Management for Anorexia
By Dr Sajimon George BAMS, AAA, ATMS
Occasional fasting is good for maintaining health. When it becomes an obsession, it becomes a disorder. Anorexia is such an eating disorder with reduced appetite or total aversion to food. Modern media, such as television, fashion and film industry highlight very thin models and actors. This makes big impact on adolescents especially girls to work hard to become thin by avoiding food. While people like athletes, models, actors etc professionally want to keep weight under control. Impaired liver, tuberculosis, cancer also results in anorexia. People of moderate or high economic status usually develop this disorder. Average prevalence is around 2% but differ in different ethnic groups. Anorexia affects adolescent children’s normal growth and development. Chronic anorexia lead to severe anemia, heart arrhythmia (lack of rhythm), and heart failure and may lead to death. Osteoporosis or bone loss can lead to fractures later. Anorexia also results hormonal changes leading to absence of periods or low testosterone levels. Ayurveda consider this disorder under Aruchi. Ayurveda give details on physical, mental and emotional aspects of healthy food intake.
Cause of anorexia has a physical, mental and behavioral plane.
- Psychological- Emotional disturbances
- Environmental- Sports professionals, stage performers, actors etc
- Sex-Females who are worried about their shape
- Age- Adolescents are more vulnerable
- Hereditary factors- Blood relatives with anorexia
Physical signs and symptoms of anorexia include:
- Hair loss
- Abnormal blood counts
- Loss of sleep rhythm
- Loss of menstrual periods
- Chronic Constipation
- Irregular heart beats
- Low blood pressure
Emotional and behavioral anorexia symptoms
- Abstinence from food
- Suppression of hunger
- Always worried of getting obese.
- Indulgence in exercise
- Lack of emotions
- Reluctance to mingle with others
Aruchi is a symptom of defective digestive mechanism. Ayurveda suggests clearly that food should be taken when feeling hunger in a relaxed, comfortable and clean environment with happy mind and free from grief, anger, fear etc. Symptoms of Aruchi are loss of interest in food or willful abstinence leading to behavioral changes. Digestive fire or Jataragni cause transformation of food in to assimilable forms. Good digestive fire gives good taste and hunger. Impaired digestive fire or Jataragni result in the production of ama or partially digested food with toxic nature. Ama results in blockage of subtle channels or srothas carrying nutrients and life force. Gradually, Bodhaka Kapha, subdivision of Kapha humor in the tongue which aid in taste sensation and Kledaka Kapha which act in the digestive process in stomach are also get vitiated. Emotional disturbances, lack of sleep, malnutrition result in vitiation of Samana Vatha which functions in the stomach. Loss of harmonic equilibrium of digestive fire or Jataragni, Samana Vatha, Bodhaka Kapha and Kledaka Kapha result in lack of taste and aversion to food.
- Excess intake of heavy to digest food.
- Psychological trauma like grief, fear, stress, dissatisfaction etc
- Chronic illness
- Incompatible diet combinations
Types and their features:
- Vataja Aruchi In Vatha predominant aruchi – There will be astringent taste in the mouth
- Paittik Aruchi. In Pitha predominant aruchi- There will be bitter taste in the mouth.
- Kaphaja Aruchi – Loss of appetite and sweet taste in the mouth indicate Kapha predominant aruchi.
- Sannipathaja Aruchi – Mixed symptoms of Vatha, Pitha and Kapha type aruchis will be present.
- Agantuja Aruchi – Vatha predominant symptoms will be manifested.
Ayurvedic treatment protocol – Management of aruchi based on dosha predominance
- Vathika Aruchi
Digestion promoting, drugs with tastes ie, sweet, sour and salty (which alleviate Vatha) are administered. Anuvasana vasti or medicated enema in small dosage is also useful.
- Paithika Aruchi
Digestion promoting drugs with sweet, bitter and astringent in taste are used here. Virechana karma or Medicated purgation is useful.
- Kapha Aruchi
Digestion promoting drugs with bitter, pungent and astringent taste are used. Medicated vomiting is the useful procedure here.
- Sannipatha Aruchi
Based on the symptoms, above mentioned drugs and procedures may be used judiciously.
- Aganthuja Aruchi
Ideal food and drinks, steps to make the person happy and measures to elevate self confidence are useful.
Procedures specially useful for Aruchi
Gandoosha & Kabala: Keeping herbal decoctions or liquids inside mouth and gargling is very useful in anorexia.
Dhoomapana : Fumigation with herbs is applied here.
Mukha dhaavana : Cleaning the oral cavity with herbs is useful.
Diet & Lifestyle
- Physically active lifestyle.
- Food intake in stipulated time and avoid snacks in between regular food.
- Easily digestible food
- Unwholesome diet and habits.
- Heavy to digest food.
- Food of incompatible combinations
- Milk & curd
- Suppression of natural urges or vegas.
- Stress inducing surroundings such as fear, anger and grief.
- Cold food.
Chincha (Tamarindus indica ), Pippali (Piper longum), Maricha – ( Piper nigrum) , Shunti – Zingiber officinale , Vrikshamla – Garcenia indica , Draksha – Vitis vinifera , Talisa – Abbies webbiana , Vacha – Acorus calamus , Saindhava – Rocksalt , Hingu – Asafoetida , Sugar
- Hinguvachadi churna, Thaleesapatradi churnam, Vilwadi leha, Ashtachurna are useful preparations.
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