Have you lost your hunger? Understanding Anorexia(aruchi) through Ayurveda

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Anorexia is a common problems now-a-days esp. in young women and kids. It is as dangerous as obesity itself, only it is on the opposite side of the spectrum. In developed countries like US, Canada, France etc, anorexia is one of the main disorders in adolescent girls.

India is known more for mal-nutrition in children. But recently, the rate of anorexia has increased significantly in Indian children and adults. Let’s lt see what Ayurveda has to say about anorexia.

Anorexia is not a new disorder. It has been mentioned and amply documented in all central Ayurvedic text like Charak Samhita, Sushrut Samhita, Ashtang Hridaya etc. some 5000 years ago by the name of aruchi. Anorexia is as several names and varieties according to Ayurveda. Each name has a different meaning that points at a different dimension or type of anorexia.

Aruchi/Arochaka

One of the names of anorexia is “aruchi” in Ayurveda.  It is made by adding “a” suffix ((meaning – no) to the main words “ruche” (meaning – interest). Therefore aruchi means lack of interest. This word is also used as a general Sanskrit and hindi words. However, in Ayurveda, it denotes to having no interest to eat.

In aruchi, the person experiences hunger. However, even if the person is hungry and there is delicious food in front of him, he feels no interest towards the food. Now one can face mild aruchi every now and then. It can be becuaes of over-eating or some other digestive disorder. The condition produced due to oer-eating is temporary and gets cured naturally, if we allow a break to the stomach. Fasting is a natural and the most effective way to prevent aruchi.

If aruchi happens because of some other disorder, for example fever or jaundice, it is cured as the base disorder gets cured. The above 2 types of aruchi are not dangerous and are self-healing most of the time.

Bhaktadvesha

However, there is a severe form  of aruchi called “bhaktadvesha”. This is the condition that resembles closely with anorexia. The terms is a made with the union of 2 words – bhakta (feeding, food, to eat) + dvesha(hatred, disgust). In this condition, any exposure to food can induce a feeling of disgust in the afflicted individual.

This condition can have different manifestation in different individuals. However, common symptom is a intense feeling of disgust when –

  • talked to about food
  • thinking about food
  • seeing food
  • touching food
  • smelling food

This intense feeling of disgust can also induce nausea in a person. Such is a patient is completely averse to food. Ayurveda suggest both medicinal as well as psychological treatment for such a patient.

Annanabhinandan

This term means “food not welcomed” (anna- food/grains, anabhinandan- not welcome). Mind is primary essense that runs the body. It is the interface between the soul and the world. Ayurveda seriously advocates to have a happy and peaceful mind while taking a meal. The mind set in which the food is consumed decides the effect that the food might  have on the body.

This type of anorexia is defined primarily by the mental state of an individual. This condition occurs in following conditions –

  • When the individual is extremely angry
  • When he is terribly scared
  • When he is extremely sad (depression)
  • When full of hatred
  • Due to some mental disorder like hallucinations, bi-polar disorder, psycosis etc.

Types of Aruchi

According to Ayurveda, there are 2 dimensions where the diseases can take roots in the body –  physical and mental. Same goes for aruchi.

Physical Reasons

On the physical plane, aruchi can develop primarily because of the misbalance of the 3 dosha. Dosha  are the metabolic systems of the body that govern the functioning of the body. They are different in their properties and actions, for example vata is cold and dry, whereas pitta is hot and clear and kapha is cold and unctuous. They have multiple other contradictory properties which help them to balance each other. However, when one of the dosha gets the better of the others, it can cause imbalance in the natural system of the body and produce disorders.

In this way, aruchi can also be of 4 types

  • Vataj – caused by increased vata
  • Pittaj – caused by increased pitta 
  • Kapha – caused by increased kapha
  • Sannipataja – caused by increase in all the 3 dosha

Aruchi is mostly caused by a combined imbalance of vata and kapha. These 2 dosha are always involved, even if in small degree, in an aruchi.

Mental Reasons

Ayurveda says that emotions, feelings and prejudices can severely affect a person. According to Ayurveda, negative feelings like  misery, fear, excessive greed, anger can disrupt the normal physiology of the body and produce hatred towards the food.

Toddlers and little children also might face anorexia even if their body dosha are completely intact. This condition is mainly induced by the fear, anger and hatred that a child feels when fed forcefully. Therefore , force-feeding is one of the main triggers of anorexia in kids at a later age.

How to know what type of anorexia you have?

Each type of aruchi has a different defining symptom based on its causal factors. Sometimes, you might see mixed symptoms if more than one dosha or one causal factor is involved.

Vataj Aruchi

Following are the primary symptoms of a vata induced aruchi

  • Persistent astringent taste in the mouth of the patient. Astrengent taste (Kashaya rasa) is a indication of increased vata dosha. Also this taste reduces sensation of the taste buds and dulls the tasting process.
  • Sour taste in the mouth.
  • Pain in the chest region. This can be because of intestinal  gas or muscular spasm induced by vata.

Pittaj Aruchi

The defining symptoms of a pittaj aruchi are –

  • Constant sour or bitter taste in the mouth
  • Oral inflammation
  • Burnt Foul smell
  • Inflammation in the chest region
  • Persistent thirst

Kaphaj Aruchi

The most prominent features of a kaphaj aruchi are –

  • Either salty or sweet taste in the mouth on an enduring basis
  • Excess mucus in the mouth
  • Foul smell
  • Numbness in the body parts
  • Heaviness in the body
  • Excessive slimy secretions on the skin like sweat, sebum etc.
  • Pain in swallowing the food

We hope that this information helps the ones in need. In the next blog, we will focus on the dosha related treatment of aruchi based on Ayurvedic herbs and procedures.

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