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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.
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.