Anorexia means the loss of desire to have food even when one is hungry. This disease is known as aruchi in Ayurveda. This condition can arise due to a sedentary lifestyle, stress and wrong eating patterns. In this condition a person has no appetite for food due to indigestion or psychological causes. In some cases the patient gets a bad taste in the mouth and has no desire to swallow the food.
Note that anorexia (simple loss of appetite) is not the same as anorexia nervosa (commonly known as anorexia), which refers to serious psychological and physiological conditions usually seen in women where they develop and aversion to eating and have a distorted body image and a fear of being obese. A person with anorexia nervosa often has severe and even life-threatening weight-loss. In contrast, anorexia (the simple loss of appetite) is usually temporary and does not develop into anorexia nervosa.
According to Ayurveda, anorexia is caused by an aggravation of vata, pitta and kapha doshas, and psychological factors such as fear, anger and stress, leading to incomplete digestion of food. This leads to the formation of ama (mucus). This ama blocks the gastrointestinal channels of the body and thus disturbs the sense of taste.
The following contribute to this condition: inactive lifestyle; oily, sweet and heavy foods; snacking between meals; and having meals in a disturbed atmosphere, such as eating while watching television.
When caused by vata dosha: Astringent taste in the mouth; sensitive tooth; tastelessness; and pain or discomfort in the heart region.
When caused by pitta dosha: Pungent and sour taste in the mouth; foul smell from the mouth; burning sensation in the heart; excessive thirst.
When caused by kapha dosha: Salty or sweet taste in the mouth; sticky mouth; heaviness of the tongue; excessive saliva formation in the mouth; laziness.
According to Ayurveda, the physical causes of aruchi (anorexia) are aggravation of vata, pitta and kapha in the stomach. Kapha is a mucus-like substance, which is cold, dense, heavy, firm, slow, thick, sticky, wet and clear in nature. Aggravation of a type of kapha, known as bodhak kapha, leads to a loss of appetite.
Negative mental feelings such as sorrow, fear, excessive greed and anger can also lead to anorexia. As Ayurveda treats the root cause of the disease instead of treating the symptoms, the Ayurvedic line of treatment pacifies the bodhak kapha and relaxes the mind. This ensures that neither physical nor psychological factors affect appetite.
Diet & Lifestyle advice
A single day of fasting is good for digesting ama (mucus). Have freshly prepared warm food. Meals should be taken at regular intervals, so that the previous meal gets digested. Avoiding snacking between meals. When psychological factors are involved, creating a happy and calm atmosphere helps to improve the condition. Being in the company of good friends and relatives relieves stress and improves digestive power. Yoga postures such as pawanmuktasan and bhramari pranayama is also beneficial for people with anorexia.
- Prepare a mixture of ¼ teaspoon of ginger juice, ¼ teaspoon of lime juice and a pinch of rock salt. This is one dose. Have this preparation 15 minutes before meals, twice a day.
- Clean the tongue after brushing the teeth. This removes the mucus and helps the taste receptors work properly.
- Make a powder of dried ginger root, black pepper, long pepper, celery seeds, cumin seeds, and rock salt in equal quantities. Store it in an airtight vessel. Take half teaspoon with the first bite of food at a meal, twice a day.
- Sip warm water whenever you are thirsty. This helps to digest ama.