Our nutritional health has a direct effect on not only our physiological functioning but also our psychological well being. There is a direct and constant relationship that we can use for personal as well as spiritual enhancement.
In Ayurveda for example, the liver is understood as a seat of the fire principle or pitta. The fire principle is not only responsible for the liver functions but also digestion, metabolism, perception and mental acuity. If the liver is troubled, the mind will also be affected.
The regulation of our blood sugar and other nutrients is affected by the functioning of the liver. After nutrients are absorbed during digestion through the intestinal tract, they are sent via the portal vein to the liver for processing before they enter the blood stream and circulate throughout the body. Part of the fatty portion of the nutrients are the only exception. The liver’s job is also to detoxify the blood by removing toxins, wastes, and other contaminant forms of ama dosha that might impair the proper function of the body’s cells. Ama dosha includes such external contaminants as pesticides, preservatives, insecticides as well as many metabolites that circulate in the body and impede proper functioning.
When the liver is strong and functioning properly, it regulates blood sugar and prevents rapid surges as well as drastic drops. The nervous system and the adrenals are protected from dramatic fluxes that they otherwise would have in reaction to excesses of blood sugar and nutrients. The health and functioning of the nervous system relates directly to the balanced internal homeostasis created by the liver. Mental peace and calmness are direct evidence of a smoothly functioning nervous system and vice versa.
The foods we eat and the nutrition we derive from them through digestion has a direct effect on the mind. Conversely the mind has a direct effect on our digestion. We also use food to effect our moods and emotions in different ways. Our minds and bodies are not separate, but rather analogous structures with the mental level being the subtle reflection (of an even more subtle form) and the physical form proceeding from the subtle. In essence, the body and the mind are one.
The degree of conjugation of the body and the mind determines the level of health a person experiences. Doubts and conflicts produce the constant need for re-evaluation which depletes the ojas or over-all vitality of an individual.
Because the mind is itself elusive and notoriously changing Ayurveda often works with the more stable client first — the body. When the mind is addicted to conflict, confusion, bickering, and contradiction we can approach it both through regulating it directly with yogic practices and through regulating it by regulating and harmonizing the functioning of the body. In Ayurveda this is done initially by purification and establishing a daily routine.