A healthy diet: what tradition prescribes

While fitness experts advise health zealots to have a “balanced diet,” the Bhutanese traditional medicine system (soba rigpa) redefines what a healthy diet and lifestyle entails.

In soba rigpa, the fundamental healing philosophy revolves around the concept of three somatic humors (basic types of energy or functional principles): lung ( ether and air), thriba   (fire and water), and bethken ( water and earth).

According to the principles of soba rigpa, they are present in everyone and everything. ‘Lung’ (wind) is the energy of movement, ‘thriba’ (bile) is the energy of digestion or metabolism and ‘bethken’ (phlegm) is the energy of lubrication and structure. Although all three somatic humors are present in everyone, one is usually predominant in an individual.

Just as the outer four elements, “jungwa zhi” (ie earth, water, fire and wind) have to be balanced,  the three elements – lung, thriba and bethken which are present inside the body have to be balanced in order to produce good health, said  a senior lecturer  at National Institute of Traditional Medicine (NITM).

He added that excess of anything will make a person fall sick.

Soba Rigpa divides a year into six seasons; spring, summer, monsoon, autumn, early winter and winter.

When it is spring time, the temperature outside begins to rise and open up the skin pores resulting in the decrease of the digestive fire power. The bethken that was built in the body by eating nutritious and fatty foods in the past two seasons begins to melt leading to vomiting, loss of appetite and chest pain. In order to counter this increased bethken levels, foods that taste sour, salty and have astringent properties have to be consumed.

In summer, temperature is too high resulting in the body utilizing huge energy.  Exercising and sun bathing should be avoided.

Traditional medicine prescribes cold food and drinks, butter, easily digestible and meltable items during this season.

Monsoon makes water turbid. The humidity is high and soil is wet and cold. The digestive fire decreases and to restore this stomach fire, intake of foods and drinks like wine, fats and protein should be there, according to soba rigpa.

In summer, thriba (bile) increases but the lung (wind) element is frozen and suppressed. This begins to reverse during the autumn months and the bile is increasingly released. To counter this effect fresh butter, cold water, milk and curd have to be taken.

In early winter the outer elements are cold and this leads to the closing of pores   to help built digestive fire in the body. One must eat well to fully utilize high digestive fire power that will consume energy reserve in the body and weaken the body at this time of the year hence meat soups, fatty and nutritious food, sweets, milk and protein are recommended.

Finally, during the cold winter, the outside elements gets even colder, therefore the eating habits and behaviors prescribed for the early winter season must be further reinforced and continued.

“Whereas when it comes to modern medicine there is no such seasonal eating habits; the only thing is to eat the correct diet”, said a dietician from NITM.

Meanwhile, on the other side, a trainer in Planet Gym, Thimphu, Sonam Tobgay said the Bhutanese know little about the correct diet.

He said that gym diets cater to the body type of a person. Some people have to follow particular diets to lose weight while some have to eat to gain special food to gain weight.

“To gain weight I suggest people to take more carbohydrates, fatty foods and to lose weight take less carbohydrates, more green vegetables, olive oil and avoid sweets.”

For a fit body, a person has to take less but good quality food, meat, eggs and green vegetables, he added.

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One comment

  1. Cool article! It is very helpful for me. Thanks for sharing!

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