Weight Control for Obesity— Some Ayurveda Insights
There are two conditions of the body—excess leanness and overweight. Both of these conditions are described in one of the classical Ayurvedic texts, Caraka Samhita, Su. XXI. Some consider leanness a condition of poverty (too little in life) and obesity a condition of wealth (too much of the life). Both have their causes and complications.
Caraka describes the features of obesity as: appearance of pendulous buttocks, abdomen, breasts, slow metabolism and low energy. Complications of obesity as eight-fold: shortened life, impaired movement, restricted sex function, debility, foul smell, excess sweating, excess hunger, and excess thirst. Its causes are over-eating, excess heavy, sweet, cold, fatty diet, day sleep, excess in exhilaration, lack of mental work, and genetic defect. Caraka explains the causes for each of these defects as: from excess and accumulation of only fat (not the other tissues) thus life is shortened; because of laxity, softness, and heaviness of fat there is impaired movement; there is lack of semen and blockage of the seminal ducts, etc from accumulation of fat there, leading to sexual debility; because of disequilibrium of the formation of tissues there is debility; foul smell arises from defect and nature of fat; excess sweating arises from fat tissue and being associated with kapha, its oozing nature, abundance, heaviness, and intolerance to physical exercise; because of excess agni/digestion and vayu in the abdomen there are excess hunger and thirst. Vayu accumulates in the abdomen because its movement is obstructed by the accumulation of fat. Accumulation of vayu is described metaphorically as a blowing wind contained in the stomach causing excess digestion or burning of food. This leads one to eat more frequently and a generalized increased body heat results. This result/condition has many severe complications, including: diabetes, renal failure, hypertension, slow metabolism, sluggish thyroid, depression, lethargy, glaucoma, congestive heart failure, respiratory congestion (asthma or emphysema)., and more. Caraka says compared to the too-thin the obese condition is more problematic as there are more complications from it.
Caraka describes the treatment of obesity as follows: Generally, one has to be managed with bulk-reducing or lightening measures: dietary measures which reduce vata, kapha, and fat, including rough, hot sharp enema, rough oleation/massage (udvartana), guduci, devadaru, musta, triphala, takrarishta, and honey are recommended. Vidanga, Âun¦»h² (ginger), yavakshara (alkali of barley), and black iron bhasma with honey, barley powder and amalaki are good. Bilvadi pancamula with honey, and shilajita (mineral pitch) and juice of agnimantha are recommended, too. Diet should include prashatika, kangu, shyamaka, yavaka, barley, jirna, kodrava, green gram, kulattha, makushtha, adhaki, with fruits of patola and amalaka. Following meals one should drink honey water, and arishta (fermented decoctions) which reduce fat, muscle and kapha. One should gradually decrease sleeping, increase sexual activity, physical exercise and mental work.
Desaturation is of three types—lightening, lightening with digestives, and Dosha elimination. Lightening is for those cases involving weak doshas. In this manner agni and vata are increased which dries up the little Dosha as in wind and sun drying up a little water. Lightening with digestive therapy is used when doshas are of medium strength. In this manner the excess Dosha is dried up as with sun, wind, and some absorptive dust sprinkled on it. In the case of heavy Dosha only elimination of Dosha is suggested. There is no remedy for overflowing of a small pool except by breaking down the walls. Thus works the therapy of elimination of doshas (Ca. Vi. III.41-44).
Four Therapies of Use in Obesity
Lightness—whatever produces lightness in the body is known as langhana Ca. Su. XXII.9-42
- The drug possessing light, hot, sharp, clear, rough, minute, coarse, mobile, and hard properties has got mostly the reducing effect.
- Reducing therapy may be applied in various forms such as four types of evacuation, thirst, exposure to wind and sun, digestive measures, fasting, and physical exercise
- Those having big body and strength, abundant kapha, pitta, blood and excreta, and aggravated vayu should be subjected to reducing by evacuation measures.
- Those afflicted with diseases of moderate severity and caused by kapha and pitta such as vomiting, diarrhea, heart disease, cholera, alasaka (indigestion with stasis), fever, constipation, heaviness, eructation, nausea, anorexia, etc. should be treated mostly with digestives in the beginning by learned physician.
- Those diseases having less severity should be overcome with control of thirst and fasting
- Diseases of moderate and little severity in strong persons should be treated with physical exercise and exposure to sun and wind.
- The person suffering from skin disorders, diabetes, and those using excess unctuous, channel-blocking and promoting diet and also patients of vatika disorders should be subjected to reducing therapy in the ÂiÂira (late winter)
Roughening—that which produces roughness, coarseness, and clarity/non-sliminess is rukshana
- The drug possessing rough, light, coarse, sharp, hot, stable, non-slimy and hard is mostly roughening in effect.
- Roughening therapy consists of the regular intake of pungent, bitter, and astringent items, sex, oil cakes, buttermilk and honey, etc.
- The roughening therapy is indicated in the diseases which are caused by blocking of channels, strong doshas and located in the vital parts (marmani) and in stiffening of thighs (³rustambha).
- The roughening therapy should be regarded as properly administered when there is proper elimination of wind, urine, and feces, lightness in the body, cleansing of heart, eructation, throat, and mouth, disappearance of drowsiness and exhaustion, appearance of sweat, relish and both hunger and thirst together, and also the feeling of well-being. Pain in joints, body-ache, cough, dryness of mouth, loss of hunger, anorexia, thirst, weakness of hearing and vision, confusion of mind, frequent eructation, feeling of darkness, loss weight, digestive poser and strength—these are the symptoms of excessive reducing therapy.
Scraping—that which produces emaciation, lightness, scraping
- Diet—mineral salt, honey, hot water, coriander, barley, mustard oil; bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes
- Medicines—vaca, kushtha, tamra, Âodhana via panchakarma
- Surgical Measures = tumor removal and related measures, such as yantras
- One writer suggests (Kotecha) that space, air, and fire elements may be involved according to the classical expert one quotes, and that hot, sharp, rough, gunas are used with --dry, light, subtle, and clear acting as supportive
Sweating—that which produces sweat and alleviates stiffness, heaviness and cold is svedana
- The drug possessing hot, sharp, unstable, unctuous, rough, minute, liquid and stable is mostly sweating in effect.
- Depending upon pitta’s involvement heat may by mild, moderate, or severe; depending upon vata’s involvement dry heat may or may not be favored.
Some Simple Guidelines
- Avoid sleeping or napping during the day
- Eat only if hungry
- Eat only at regular meal times = never snack
- Never eat cold food or beverage
- Chew food thoroughly before swallowing
- Sip hot lemon or lime water with meal
- Eat main meal at noon, lighter foods and less quantity of foods in evening meal
- Avoid carbohydrates, starchy foods (sugars, pastas, grains) in the evening meal
- Eat evening meal more than three hours prior to bed time
- Fast on a liquid diet one or two days per week
- Try to avoid eating breakfast
- Supplement diet with EFA minutess = 1t per meal
- Consider Ayurvedic supplement—Chandraprabha 1-2 tablets 3x per day after meals
- Take 1-2t triphala at night before bed
- Do full-body, brisk bare-hand, vegetable brush, raw silk glove hand massage each morning
- Regularly get to bed before 10PM and arise before 5AM
- Walk for 30 minutes minimum each morning prior to (optional) breakfast
- Drink 1 pint water upon rising and stay hydrated during the day; drink 8 oz. water 30 minutes before meals
© Copyright 2001 Michael S. Dick All Rights Reserved