Food is Medicine

Excerpts from Maharishi Ayurveda and Vedic Technology: Creating Ideal Health for the Individual and World,

Revised and Updated from The Physiology of Consciousness: Part 2 by Robert Keith Wallace, PhD, Dharma Publications, 2016 available at Amazon Click Here

In Maharishi Ayurveda, food is regarded as medicine. It would be unheard of to prescribe any treatment for a disorder without first taking into consideration the individual’s body type, and second, determining which  particular foods would be most beneficial in correcting the physiological imbalance that may be present, and preventing new ones from arising.


This is in high contrast to our current tradition of nutrition, which emphasizes an ideal or “best” diet for everyone. And, as we well know, this best diet is constantly changing! Every few months, new best-selling diet books are prominently displayed across the country. Do you ever wonder why more and more and more books keep appearing? Either there is a steady stream of brilliant Nobel Prize-level scientific research being done in this area, or none of these new diet plans really works, so people who want or need to lose weight are forced to keep trying new and “better” ones.


Most of the modem medical profession would agree with the latter statement. Quick and easy diet plans do sometimes produce some initial results, but in the long run the best approach seems to be a slow and steady process that is tailored to each individual and based on factors such as lifestyle and exercise.


And if we are not already confused enough about the plethora of “new” diet plans, what about all those books about vitamins? It’s a huge area of controversy, not only between the medical profession and health food experts, but even among the different health food experts themselves. And diet and nutrition probably have more self-styled “experts” than any other health-related area. Who can we believe? Will vitamin C cure my cold? Will selenium protect us against cancer? These are some of the many issues that no one seems able to agree upon.


The health food people say the medical profession is too conservative and wants to control everything, and, therefore, doesn’t let the public in on the latest scientific findings. The medical profession is equally critical of the health food people, saying that based on only a few animal studies—or even without any research whatsoever—extraordinary and unsubstantiated claims are made for various vitamins, minerals, etc. The problem is that in both cases the conclusions about diet are based on incomplete knowledge, or knowledge that is constantly changing.

Maharishi Ayurveda places very great emphasis on diet. Many foods and spices are considered to have important value for health, and are, therefore, recommended along with other treatment modalities. But the most important difference between Maharishi Ayurveda and modem nutrition is Maharishi Ayurveda’s concern for individual differences. If we were to analyze the various Maharishi Ayurveda diets, we would find that virtually all them conform to what modem nutritionists consider a balanced diet. They contain the right proportion and quality of fats, protein, minerals, vitamins, and carbohydrates. However, Maharishi Ayurveda clearly states that no one diet is right for all people. What is considered nourishing for one individual can actually be detrimental to another.


For example, some sweets are said to be good for the vata type, while for a kapha type they may cause respiratory congestion or excess fat. Hot, spicy foods are very good for kaphas, yet they can severely aggravate the digestion of a pitta type, leading to indigestion, or even ulcers, as well as a marked tendency towards anger! Each individual type has its own needs.


Spontaneously, most of us have noticed over the years that certain types of food seem to be bad for us or are less appealing. On the other hand, sometimes we eat them anyway even though we know they have bad effects on us. This could be because of imbalance, habit, ignorance, or failure to listen to the messages our physiology gives us. Maharishi Ayurveda provides a reliable, systematic body of knowledge that explains why we should or should not have certain types of food. Maharishi Ayurveda is based on a long tradition of practical experience and a profound theoretical basis. But because of our often superior attitude toward “folk medicines,” the dietary principles of traditional medical systems have unfortunately never been scientifically studied.


According to Maharishi Ayurveda, an important consideration when determining our diet is the strength of our digestion. Each body type has a different strength of digestion, which is also influenced by factors such as climate and one’s age and state of health. Most importantly, digestive strength depends upon die activity of our agnis. The agnis are the “fires of digestion,” perhaps equivalent to our modem understanding of digestive enzymes. Weak agnis and improperly digested food can be a source of imbalance in the doshas. The by-product of undigested food is a substance which Ayurveda calls ama. The accumulation of ama aggravates the doshas and leads to all types of disorders.


The concept of disease caused by undigested food products is similar to many early theories on the aging process, which suggested that aging was caused by the accumulation of toxic materials in the colon. Studies on aging suggested that the waste products from bacteria in the colon, known as endotoxins, can modify certain activities of the immune system. This suppression of the immune system would correspond to the imbalance of the doshas as described in Maharishi Ayurveda. More research in this important area of digestion should help us understand some of the traditional Ayurvedic concepts in the framework of modem terminology.


Reference information on immune function and digestion can be found in Horan, M. A., Fox, R. A. (1984), Aging and the Immune Response—A Unifying Hypothesis? Mechanisms of Aging and Development, 26:165-181.


Excerpts from Maharishi Ayurveda and Vedic Technology: Creating Ideal Health for the Individual and World,

Revised and Updated from The Physiology of Consciousness: Part 2 by Robert Keith Wallace, PhD, Dharma Publications, 2016 available at Amazon Click Here