Appetite: Lost & Found

Words: Dr Ambika P NAYAK

This elderly man walked into my clinic with only one complaint — severe lack of appetite. He was, otherwise, healthy, but was baffled with his ‘no taste’ for food for months. He was of the belief that one who eats well, poops well and sleeps well may not be touched by any sickness. So, it was important for him to be as fit as a fiddle.

He had already tried different home remedies, like drinking warm water that normally helps digestion while rekindling the digestive fire, roasted cumin powder with lukewarm water, chewing garlic buds on an empty stomach, fasting, eating light food, a few ‘tonics,’ as suggested by people he came across, and so on, but all in vain.

After the initial analysis about his past history, present history, current medication, which was surprisingly, also gladly ‘missing,’ in this good old man’s repertoire, and other everyday practices, I thought that he seemed to be doing everything right.

The physical examination, however, revealed a thick white coating on the tongue, weight loss of about 4kg, and dry skin. I concluded that his complaints mimicked age-related weakened metabolism.

I decided to observe his initial response to my medicines before further investigations to ascertaining any underlying cause. I advised him to do certain things about his diet and lifestyle, keeping in mind his age and requirements. I also prescribed basic appetising medicines from Ayurveda — Asta churna, 3gm with 100ml of lukewarm water to be taken just before each meal, and Kumaryasavam, 10ml diluted with equal lukewarm water, after every meal.

In the follow-up after a week the man agreed that he was able to perceive a strong taste in food: salt and spice, after a really long time. Yet, he wasn’t completely, as he outlined, all right, as he had not developed his normal appetite for food.

We took to the consultation again and tried to dig deep into the details. I was unsettled about the history traced. After a lot of discussion, I could find one factor that wasn’t revealed earlier, while assuming it could not possibly be the cause for the appetite mishap: the superfood-famed moringa powder, which was being used as an infusion every day, along with breakfast, for about six months, for its known health benefits.

The info the good, old man shared about moringa did not reveal the bad side. The stand-out qualities of the herb is — it is of a hot potency [ushna] and ‘drying effect’ [ruksha] by nature, with a good amount of tannins released in its tea; they are known gastric irritants. This, I deduced, may have eventually suppressed the man’s appetite.

My Prescription  

  • To discontinue the use of moringa tea with immediate effect
  • To continue with Asta churna, 3gm with 100ml lukewarm water, before each meal, and Kumaryasavam, 10ml diluted with equal water, after the meal
  • Diet: freshly cooked, light to digest food, with good hydration — all of this for a fortnight.

There was this grand follow-up, and the old man was all smiles. His appetite was back to normal.

After two months, this wise man reported an interesting observation, made by him, and this was the return of his normal skin complexion. He had noticed darkening of his skin, along with the dry patches which increased gradually, but he did not relate the time of occurrence to the origins of his complaints. In Ayurveda, however, I remember having read a reference that a healthy complexion was the outcome of good digestive fire [jathara agni]. I understood its import, pronto.

The first line of treatment as illustrated in Ayurveda is also the avoidance of the causative factor [nidanasya parivarjana]. This moringa-centric case showed the importance of it.

While we should all agree that all that is good can also have deleterious effects, if not followed properly, even when it is a nutritional supplement, it is also imperative to advise, or bear in mind, that taking them under the supervision of a health advisor is prudence, rather than following the ‘recommended gospel’ of WhatsApp University, or the ubiquitous, ‘all-knowing’ word of mouth.

Dr AMBIKA P NAYAK, MD [Ayurveda], is Founder & Managing Director of Ayurvedeeyam, a speciality Ayurveda Clinic in Bengaluru. Her passion for the ancient, yet ‘completest’ natural medical system, and professional clinical skills are keyed to raising awareness for Ayurveda as a first choice of treatment for illness and healthy living, just as much as her axiom, Svasthasya svāsthya rakṣaṇaṃ — the age-old, fundamental principle of Ayurveda. Dr Nayak, who has presented papers and participated in national and international symposia, is also a strong advocate of panchakarma, thanks to its fully holistic and proven therapeutic efficacy in the treatment and prevention of illness, or disease.

[This article was first published April 24, 2022].

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