The Ethnophysiology and Folk Dietetics of Pregnancy: A Case Study from South India

  • Mark Nichter
Part of the Culture, Illness, and Healing book series (CIHE, volume 15)

Abstract

A series of successive pregnancies subject most rural South Indian women to dietary restrictions for a significant part of their lives (Gopalan and Naidu 1972). While folk dietary restrictions have frequently been cited in Indian health sector reports (Voluntary Health Association 1985b; United States Department of Health, Eduction and Welfare 1979) as negatively affecting the health status of pregnant women among the rural poor, little attempt has been made to understand how and to what extent. Moreover, few studies have examined in any detail the contingency between popular notions of ethnophysiology, lay health concerns, preventive and promotive health behavior, and folk dietetics.1 In this paper, we investigate these issues in southwest peninsular India. An initial topic explored is the relationship between lay ideas about appropriate baby size and food consumption behavior. Both the quantity and quality of foodstuffs deemed appropriate to consume during pregnancy are considered. Alternative patterns of food consumption associated with baby size preference and reasons for this preference are discussed in relation to folk health ideology. Concepts of ethnophysiology and pathology are highlighted in relation to specific dietary practices and folk medical behavior. Public health ramifications of the study are discussed and suggestions made toward enhancing nutrition education efforts by greater anthropological perspective.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Baroda Operations Research Group 1972 Food Habits Survey Conducted in Southern India (Vols 1 and.2). Protein Foods Association of India.Google Scholar
  2. Brems, S. and A. Berg 1988 Eating Down During Pregnancy. Unpublished Discussion Paper. UN Advisory Group on Nutrition, September. Population and Human Resources Department, The World Bank.Google Scholar
  3. Bonfil-Bantalla, G. 1970 Conservative Thought in Applied Anthropology: A Critique. In Applied Anthropology, A. A. Clifton (ed.) pp. 246–53. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  4. Cantor Associates 1973 Tamil Nad Nutrition Study: An Operations Oriented Study of Nutrition as an Integrated System in the State of Tamil Nadu. Washington, D.C.: United States Agency for International Development.Google Scholar
  5. Cruz, P. S. 1970 Maternal and Infant Nutritional Practices in the Rural Areas. Journal of the Philippino Medical Association 46:668–682.Google Scholar
  6. Dandekar, V. M., and N. Rath 1971 Poverty in India. Bombay: Indian School of Political Economy.Google Scholar
  7. Fabrega, H., and P. Manning 1973 The Experience of Self and Body: Health and Illness in the Chiapas Highlands. In Phenomenological Sociology: Issues and Applications. George Psalkas, ed. New York: J. Witz and Sons.Google Scholar
  8. Fisher, S. 1974 Body Consciousness. New York: Jason Aronson.Google Scholar
  9. Foil, C. V. 1959 An Account of Some of the Beliefs and Superstitions about Pregnancy, Parturition, and Infant Health in Burma. Journal of Tropical Pediatrics 5: 51–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) 1973 Energy and Protein Requirements: Report of a Joint FAO/WHO Ad Hoc Expert Committee. Rome: Food and Agricultural Organization.Google Scholar
  11. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) 1978 Report of the First Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on Energy Intake and Requirements (Danish Fund in Trust, TF/INF 297). Rome: Food and Agricultural Organization.Google Scholar
  12. Fuglesang, A. 1982 About Understanding. Uppsala, Sweden: Dag Hammarskjold Foundation.Google Scholar
  13. Gonzalez, N. S., and M. Behar 1966 Child Rearing Practices, Nutrition, and Health Status. Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly 94:11–95.Google Scholar
  14. Good, Mary Jo Delvecchio 1980 Of Blood and Babies: The Relationship of Popular Islamic Physiology to Fertility. Social Science and Medicine 14b, 147–156.Google Scholar
  15. Gopalan, C. 1974 The Nutritional Problems of India. Journal of the Indian Medical Association 62: 224–227.Google Scholar
  16. Gopalan, C., S. C. Balasubramanian, B. V. Ramasastri, and K. Rao 1971 Nutrition Atlas of Asia. Hyderabad: National Institute of Nutrition.Google Scholar
  17. Gopalan, C, and N. Naidu 1972 Nutrition and Fertility. The Lancet, November 18, pp. 1077–1079.Google Scholar
  18. Harfouche, J. K. 1970 The Importance of Breastfeeding. Journal of Tropical Pediatrics 16(3) (Monograph No. 10).Google Scholar
  19. Indian Council of Medical Research 1975 Report on Nutritional Status and Pregnancy. Cited in Nutrition in Pregnancy and Lactation, Fact Sheet M-3. New Delhi: Voluntary Health Association of India.Google Scholar
  20. Jyothi, K. K., and R. Dhakshayani 1963 A Study of Socioeconomics, Diet, and Nutritional Status of a Rural Community near Hyderabad. Tropical Geographical Medicine 15: 403–410.Google Scholar
  21. Katona-Apte, J. 1973 Food Behavior in Two Districts. In Cultural Anthropology and Nutrition 2B, Tamilnadu Nutrition Study. Report to USAID Mission, New Delhi, India.Google Scholar
  22. Katona-Apte, J. 1977 The Sociocultural Aspects of Food Accordance in a Low Income Population in Tamilnadu, South India. Environmental Child Health (April): 83–90.Google Scholar
  23. Kay, M. 1980 Mexican, Mexican American and Chicana childbirth. In Twice A Minority: Mexican American Women, M. Melville (ed.). St. Louis: C. V. Mosby.Google Scholar
  24. Krantzler, N., and B. Mullen 1980 Measuring Food Intake Patterns. Paper presented at the 4th Annual Meeting of the West Coast Nutritional Anthropology Society.Google Scholar
  25. Krantzler, N., B. Mullen, E. Comstock, C. Holden, H. Schutz, L. Grivetti, and H. Meiselman 1982 An Annotated Indexed Bibliography on Methods of Measuring Food Intake. Journal of Nutrition Education 14(3): 108–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Manners, A. 1886 Tulu-English Dictionary. Bangalore: Basil Mission Press.Google Scholar
  27. Margen, S. 1982 Studies of Maternal Nutrition and Infant Outcome: Statistical Versus Biological Significance. Birth 9(3): 197–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Matthews, C. and Benjamin, V. 1979 Health Education Evaluation of Beliefs and Practices in Rural Tamil Nadu: Family Planning and Antenatal Care. Social Action 29, 377–392.Google Scholar
  29. Mehta, A. 1980 Perinatal Mortality Survey in India. Paper presented at the 3rd International Seminar on Maternal and Perinatal Mortality, New Delhi, India.Google Scholar
  30. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare 1985 Monitoring Communication Needs for Health; and Family Welfare. Unpublished series of six state reports.Google Scholar
  31. Mitra, A., and S. Mukherji 1980 Population, Food, and Land Equality in India, 1971: A Geography of Hunger and Insecurity. Bombay. Allied Publishers.Google Scholar
  32. Nichter, M. 1980 The Layperson’s Perception of Medicine as Perspective into the Utilization of Multiple Therapy Systems in the Indian Context. Social Science and Medicine 14(B): 225–233.Google Scholar
  33. Nichter, M. 1984 Project Community Diagnosis: Participatory Research as a First Step toward Community Participation in Primary Care. Soc. Sci. Med. 19:3 237–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Nichter, M. 1986 Modes of Food Classification and the Diet-Health Contingency: A South Indian Case Study. In Modes of Food Classification in South Asia. R. Khare and K. Ishvaran, eds.Google Scholar
  35. Nichter, Mark, and Mimi Nichter 1981 An Anthropological Approach to Nutrition Education. Newton, Mass.: International Nutrition Communication Service Publications, Education Development Center.Google Scholar
  36. Pasricha, S. 1958 A Survey of Dietary Intake in a Group of Poor Pregnant and Lactating Women. Indian Journal of Medical Research 46: 605–610.Google Scholar
  37. Population Centre 1978 Classification of Districts in Karnataka State by Health Status. Population Centre Newsletter 4(3). Bangalore.Google Scholar
  38. Prema, K. 1978 Pregnancy and Lactation: Some Nutritional Aspects. Indian Journal of Medical Research 68 (Supplement), October, pp. 70–79.Google Scholar
  39. Rao, V. K., and C. Gopalan 1969 Nutrition and Family Size. Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics 6: 248–266.Google Scholar
  40. Shah, K. P., and P.M. Shah 1979 Relation of Maternal Nutrition and Low Birth Weight. Indian Pediatrics 14(11): 961–966.Google Scholar
  41. Sharma, D. C. 1955 Mother, Child, and Nutrition. Journal of Tropical Pediatrics 1:47–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Srinivasan, T. N. 1980 Malnutrition: Some Measurement and Policy Issues. World Bank Staff Working Paper No. 373. Washington, DC: World Bank Publications.Google Scholar
  43. Spradley, J. 1979 The Ethnographic Interview. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.Google Scholar
  44. Taylor, A., I. Emanuel, L. Morris, and R, Prosterman 1978a Child Nutrition and Mortality in the Rural Philippines: “Is Socioeconomic Status Important?” Tropical Pediatrics and Environmental Child Health (April): 80–86.Google Scholar
  45. Taylor, C., A. Kielmann, and C. LeSweemer 1978b Nutrition and Infection. In Nutrition and the World Food Problem. M. Reeheigl, ed. Pp. 218–243. Basel, Switzerland: Kaiger.Google Scholar
  46. Thimmayamma, B. V. S., P. Rau, V. K. Desai, and B. N. Jayaprakash 1976 A Study of Changes in Socioeconomic Conditions, Dietary Intake and Nutritional Status of Indian Rural Families Over a Decade. Ecology of Food and Nutrition 5: 235–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Todhunter, N. E. 1973 Food Habits, Food Faddism, and Nutrition. World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics 16:286.Google Scholar
  48. Trant, H. 1954 Food Taboos in East Africa. Lancet (October): 703–705.Google Scholar
  49. United States Agency for International Development (USAID) 1980 Paper presented by Cathy LeSar at a Title Two Workshop on Malnutrition and Mortality, March 25–27, New Delhi, India.Google Scholar
  50. United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare 1979 Background Paper on India’s Health Sector. Washington, D.C.: Office of International Health.Google Scholar
  51. Voluntary Health Association 1975a Anemia in Pregnancy. Fact Sheet M-7. New Delhi, India.Google Scholar
  52. Voluntary Health Association 1975b Nutrition in Pregnancy and Lactation. Fact Sheet M-3. New Delhi, India.Google Scholar
  53. Wellin, E. 1955 Maternal and Infant Feeding Practices in a Peruvian Village. Journal of the American Dietary Association 31: 889–894.Google Scholar
  54. Wilson, C. S. 1973 Food Habits: A Selected Annotated Bibiography. Journal of Nutrition Education 5(1): Supplement 1.Google Scholar
  55. Wilson, C. S. 1979 Food Custom and Nurture: An Annotated Bibliography on Sociocultural and Biocultural Aspects of Nutrition. Journal of Nutrition Education 2(4): Supplement 1.Google Scholar
  56. World Health Organization 1976 Nutrition Programs and Health Report of the Regional Office for Southeast Asia. November, New Delhi.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Nichter
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyThe University of ArizonaTucsonUSA

Personalised recommendations