Aharparinamakara Bhavas (आहारपरिणामकराः भावाः)
Aharaparinamkara Bhavas are the factors responsible for transformation of food into bio-available nutrients which are capable of building and repairing body tissues. These factors are responsible for proper digestion of food so that most of the nutrients from that food required by body are absorbed and utilized. If function of any one of these factors is disturbed, the food undergoing the process of digestion is not processed well and instead of fulfilling the nutritional requirements of body, the improperly digested food becomes the cause for multiple ailments. Therefore Ayurveda lays high importance on well regulated functioning of all these food transforming factors to achieve health and well-being.
Ahara refers to the food that a person consumes for survival. The entire body-mind-senses system of purusha is dependent on Ahara (food) to get energy and nourishment. Physical body develops from food and is also sustained due to food which the person consumes. Thus Ahara is identified as one of the 3 pillars of the life. Nidra and Brahmacharya are the other 2 pillars of life. Among these 3 pillars, Ahara is the one which is taken inside from the outside environment to fulfill the demands of internal environment of body. Thus it has to be transformed into the form which is suitable for body and which can be easily utilized by body to fulfill energy requirements. The food consumed is worked upon by the agni (Jatharagni and Panchabhutagni), undergoes pakam (digestion) and nourishes the whole body. Thus transformation of food into a form suitable to the internal environment of body is the key step in energy dynamics of body. Ayurveda acharyas have identified 6 such factors which play important part in the process of digestion. Transformation is called as Parinamana in Ayurveda. Thus these 6 factors are called as Aharaparinamakara bhavas. Acharya Charaka has described these factors as below,
आहारपरिणामकरास्त्विमे भावा भवन्ति| तद्यथा- ऊष्मा, वायुः, क्लेदः, स्नेहः, कालः, समयोगश्चेति ॥ (Char Samh. 6.14)
āhārapariṇāmakarāstvime bhāvā bhavanti| tadyathā- ūṣmā, vāyuḥ, kledaḥ, snehaḥ, kālaḥ, samayogaśceti ॥ (Char Samh. 6.14)
Meaning: Factors responsible for transformation of the food are, Ushma (Heat), Vayu (Air), Kleda (Moisture), Sneha (oiliness or lubrication), Kala (time) and Samayoga (appropriate combination of all these factors for every individual).
Each one of these factors has a specific role in the process of digestion. Food which is digested and metabolized properly helps in nourishing the Dhatus. Dhatus are responsible to hold and sustain the body. Absence or lack of any of these Ahara Parinamakar Bhavas leads to improper digestion. And improper digestion is quoted the root cause of almost all diseases in Ayurveda. Therefore, to be healthy one must keep in mind the importance of Ahara Parinamakar Bhavas.
Function of Aharaparinamakara bhavas
Each of the 6 factors responsible for food transformation play specific role in the process of digestion and transformation. Acharya Charaka has described role of each factor as below,
तत्र तु खल्वेषामूष्मादीनामाहारपरिणामकराणां भावानामिमे कर्मविशेषा भवन्ति| तद्यथा- ऊष्मा पचति, वायुरपकर्षति, क्लेदः शैथिल्यमापादयति, स्नेहो मार्दवं जनयति, कालः पर्याप्तिमभिनिर्वर्तयति, समयोगस्त्वेषां परिणामधातुसाम्यकरः सम्पद्यते ॥ (Char Samh. 6.15)
tatra tu khalveṣāmūṣmādīnāmāhārapariṇāmakarāṇāṁ bhāvānāmime karmaviśeṣā bhavanti| tadyathā- ūṣmā pacati, vāyurapakarṣati, kledaḥ śaithilyamāpādayati, sneho mārdavaṁ janayati, kālaḥ paryāptimabhinirvartayati, samayogastveṣāṁ pariṇāmadhātusāmyakaraḥ sampadyate ॥ (Char Samh. 6.15)
Meaning: Specific role of each of the Ahara parinamakara bhavas is described here. Ushma means heat is responsible for digestion, Vayu helps move the food forward in digestive system, kleda helps in loosening the bulk of food, sneha softens the food consumed, kala is required to complete this process and produce the desirable outcome from it, samayoga means appropriate combination of these factors helps to establish equilibrium in the formed Dhatus.
The way in which Ahara Parinamakar Bhava can help us transform the ingested food into healthy Dhatus and attain a healthy bodyis discussed in detail below.
Ushma means heat. This heat is generated from the digestive fire known as Agni in Ayurveda. Ayurveda acharyas describe 13 types of agni which are responsible for various types of transformations happening in various systems of body. However Jatharagni i.e. the agni residing in the digestive tract along with Bhutagnis (of Panchamahabhootas) is responsible for digestion of food. Thus here, in the reference of digestion and transformation of food, Acharya Charaka refers to the heat of Jatharagni also represented by a type of pitta dosha known as Pachaka pittam. The seat of this pachaka pittam is stated as Amashaya (stomach). In the outer world we see that, the raw food items are cooked either on the flame of cooking gas or under high temperature generated by microwaves or induction coil. Thus it is clear that the common element between all cooking methods is heat. Thus by following Loka Purusha samya siddhanta, Acharya Charaka has identified the heat as one of the food transforming factors.
‘Vayu apkarshati’. Commentator Acharya Chakrapani has explained it as to bring the distant situated food more in contact with Agni. Praanvayu helps drive the food down to the stomach.  Samaan Vayu amplifies the Jatharagni which furthers boosts the process of digestion. As Gati is a karma of Vayu, food propulsion and peristaltic movements of intestines can be attributed to Vayu.
‘Kledah shaithilyamaapadayati’. Kledak kapha which is present in Aamashaya disintegrates food into smaller particles. After loosening, food comes more in contact with Agni and becomes easily digestible. Kleda is generated because of watery content. So one must not take too much or too low quantity of water.
‘Sneho mardawam janayati’. Snehansh in Aamashaya softens the food.
‘Kalah paryaptimabhinirvartayati’. Kala means time. For these factors to work it requires adequate time. Considering the above stated Ahara Vidhividhana, it is important to have food only if the previous meal is well digested (Jeerne). Atidruta (too fast eating) can cause improper chewing. Ativilambit (too slow eating) may cause mixing of engulfed food with the partially digested food and hamper the digestion. Kala is also important for proper mixing of saliva with food and for enzymes to work upon it.
‘Samyogastweshaam parinaamdhatu saamyakarah’. Samyog means appropriate administration of all the rules and guidelines we have discussed above under Ashta Aharavidhi Visheshaayatan, Ahara Vidhividhan and Ahara Parinamakar Bhava. All the remaining factors other than the five discussed (Ushma, Vayu, Kleda, Sneha, Kala) can be studied under the heading Samyog. Matravat ahara is necessary as Agni can digest adequate amount of food. If taken in more quantity it can cause Mandagni. And if taken in less quantity it can result in Dosha vitiation. Likewise, we must not talk or laugh during eating or drinking. We may aspirate the food particles or fluids, it may also cause coughing or choking. Tanmana bhunjeet means we should concentrate on food only while eating. Engaging in other activities during eating like TV and social media deranges the process of digestion as one might take a lot of time to finish his meal, he might eat too fast or he might eat inappropriate quantity of food (Atidruta/ Ativilambit/ Amatravat). Also, one must give a thought to the Prakriti of oneself and also of the food items he consumes. He must eat what is suitable to him according to his Prakriti and Desh. So, in short Samyog is all about maintaining an equilibrium state among all these factors and following all the rules and guidelines whenever we eat or drink something.
Significance of food transformation
परिणमतस्त्वाहारस्य गुणाः शरीरगुणभावमापद्यन्ते यथास्वमविरुद्धाः; विरुद्धाश्च विहन्युर्विहताश्च विरोधिभिः शरीरम् ॥ (Char Samh. 6.16)
pariṇamatastvāhārasya guṇāḥ śarīraguṇabhāvamāpadyante yathāsvamaviruddhāḥ; viruddhāśca vihanyurvihatāśca virodhibhiḥ śarīram ॥ (Char Samh. 6.16)
The four types of food are responsible for the formation and maintenance of our body. And also, food is the reason behind the origin of diseases in the body. So, we must take care that the food gets properly digested and nourishes our body and does not cause diseases. For this to achieve, Ayurveda mentions some rules to be followed, dietary habits to be adopted and some factors to be taken care of; in the form of Ashta Aharvidhi Visheshaayatana, Ahara Vidhividhana and Ahara Parinamakar Bhava.
- Charaka Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyayam 11 Sutram 35)
- Charaka Samhita (Sharirasthanam Adhyaya 6 Sutram 14)
- Ashtanga Hrudayam (Nidanasthanam Adhyaya 12 Sutram 2)