Exercise Without Stress by Following the Principles of Ayurveda

Ayurveda views exercise as an important part of a healthy daily routine. When done properly, it clears the body of toxins, improves circulation and creates energy.

Ideal exercise, according to Ayurveda, does not produce stress in the body. In fact, the ancient science holds that the true purpose of exercise is to reduce stress and to improve mind-body coordination.

Rather than being focused on how far you can run, how big your muscles are, how many pounds you weight—the common goals and end-products of being fit—Ayurvedic exercise focuses on how much comfort, balance and exhilaration you are experiencing. If you feel exhilarated and rested while working out, then you know you are exercising properly. Rather than being object referral (how many steps have I taken today) Ayurvedic sport and exercise is completely self-referral, focusing only on the inner experience of happiness.

With Ayurvedic exercise you stay within the realm of comfort and ease—never stressing the body. By staying completely within your comfort zone, you will naturally increase your capacity for exercise each day. And because you will not be stressing the body, you will not need to spend any time recovering. Rather than creating a cycle of stress and recovery, Ayurvedic exercise produces unrestricted improvement in performance each day.

Tips for Exercising Without Stress

  1. Use comfort, balance and rest as your criteria for healthy exercise. If your breath becomes labored or uneven, if your heart starts to beat uncomfortably fast, if your foot starts to drag or your arm starts to ache, then you know you are pushing yourself too far and should slow down or stop to rest.
  2. Exercise according to your body type. If you are a Vata type, then calming, milder activities—such as walking or swimming—are best for you. Pitta types can sustain moderately vigorous activity, but need to be careful not to get overheated in the sun. Kapha types need regular, vigorous exercise, which their stronger bones and muscle structure can handle well.
  3. Do not divide the mind. Exercise should reconnect the mind and body. Watching TV or listening to music or audio books while exercising breaks down the mind-body connection. During exercise, the mind should be completely on the body, responding to its signals.

For more information on Ayurveda, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

 

Ayurveda’s Approach to Dental Hygiene, Gum Disease and Bad Breath

Dental health and a pure breath are thought of as good indicators of health and vitality. The ancient science of Ayurveda offers preventive dental tips that are easy to follow and pack surprising results.

Diet

Of course when thinking of promoting healthy teeth and gums, proper diet is a key approach. In particular, eating too many sweets, refined sugars and carbohydrates can lead to tooth decay and other dental problems. Therefore, it is helpful to avoid too many sugary foods and drinks.

Just as your dentist has told you, it is also necessary to clean your teeth properly. The original Ayurvedic texts mention using special twigs to clean teeth. The toothbrush and dental floss are our modern equivalents.

Tongue Scraping

Ayurveda recommends the usage of tongue cleaners for the scraping of the tongue.

This daily cleaning of the tongue’s surface helps removes any build-up on the tongue, which, if left untreated, could lead to bad breath. Tongue scraping stimulates the reflex points of the tongue and stimulates the secretion of digestive enzymes. It also helps contain bacteria growth (approximately 500 varieties). There is actually medical evidence now indicating that regular usage of tongue scrapers can help eliminate anaerobic bacteria, while decreasing odor from the mouth.

Gandusha

Gandusha (sesame-oil gargle and sesame-oil massage of the gums) can protect your mouth from bacteria and gum deterioration. Research on the practice showed that seame-oil gargle significantly reduces bacteria in the space between teeth and gums. Researchers consider bacteria in this area to be the major cause of gum disease.

Traditionally one performs gandusha in the morning after a full-body Ayurvedic oil massage. Use fresh, warm sesame oil.

Here are the instructions for performing gandusha:

  1. First, fill your mouth as full as possible with warm water. Hold this in your mouth for about half a minute. Then spit it out.
  2. Next, fill your mouth as full as you can with warm sesame oil. Hold it in your mouth for about a half a minute to a minute. Dispose of the oil.
  3. Take a little oil in your mouth and gargle for half a minute to a minute. Dispose of the oil.
  4. Massage the oil into your gums with your finger. Be gentle, but use enough pressure for the message to be pleasantly invigorating. Take two or three minutes to do this thoroughly.
  5. Finally, if you wish, you can rinse your mouth with warm water to reduce any oily residue.

Note: Although sesame oil is healthy for your gums, it can clog bathroom drains and pipes. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep a small container handy to hold the used oil until you can dispose of it properly.

As gandushan strengthens and purifies your mouth, it also improved digestion. This is helpful during the summer months when our natural ability to digest weakens. From the Ayurvedic perspective, the root cause of bad breath is poor digestion and/or poor oral hygiene. The two are usually related, in that poor digestion accelerates oral activity that leads to unsavory breath.

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If you find you consistently have bad breath or wake up with a thick white coating on your tongue, you probably have some accumulated impurities or ama in your body. The traditional purification treatments of Ayurveda, known as Panchakarma, are designed to remove deep seated impurities and toxins. You might also want to consult an Ayurvedic expert about improving your diet and strengthening your digestion.

For more information, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

WHEN We Eat Affects Weight and Insulin Levels

In Ayurveda there is a basic framework for health that you can’t escape. No matter what subject you are dealing with, whatever specific tips and recommendations might apply to that subject, there is always an underlying truth: live in tune with the cycles and laws of nature that apply to the rest of the world and your body will function in a better way. Because, whether we acknowledge it or not, we are a part of nature.

Ayurveda gives us a handy reference guide. It outlines the building blocks of life, Vata, Pitta and Kapha, and shows us how they relate to our individual physiologies and how the three doshas support various activities and functioning at different times of the day, different seasons of the year and different times of our life.

For the majority of man’s existence, it was natural to life a life in tune with these cycles. When it got dark, folks settled into their homes and headed to bed. When the sun came up, so did the population. The biggest meal was at noon because people had been working since sunrise and needed fuel to work the rest of the day. Now our lives are topsy turvey. We stay up until the wee hours, work through lunch and enjoy big family dinners at night. This throws all sorts of things out of balance.

There is now emerging evidence that people who consume the exact same diet in terms of calories, fats, carbohydrates, and protein may see big differences depending on how food is distributed during the day. When we eat affects weight control, blood sugar control, triglycerides and cholesterol levels. Researchers concluded that it is metabolically better to consume most of our carbohydrates and calories in the early part of the day, as opposed to consuming them in the evening.

We know the Ayurveda take on this: it is basic Ayurveda 101. Eat your main meal at noon. Pitta is at its peak from 11:00 to 1:00 and thus the body is better able to transform and metabolize food during this time. In the evening the Pitta quality in our physiology is more subtle. It is meant to repair the body from the activity of the day rather than digest large amounts of food.

How does modern science explain this? They say that these results relate to our hypothalamus, the part of our brain that governs our “master biological clock,” also known as circadian rhythms. In response to different cues, most notably light and dark, the master clock regulates genes that produce the hormones, enzymes and cell receptors responsible for metabolizing and storing carbohydrates and fat.

In the early hours of the day, people are more sensitive to the effects of insulin, requiring less of this hormone in order to clear our blood of the sugar produced from our meal. At night, people are less sensitive to insulin, resulting in higher blood sugar levels, higher levels of insulin secreted and increased amounts of fat storage in response to higher carbohydrate meals.

Because insulin is an “anabolic” hormone, it promotes storage and retention, making it difficult for us to burn stored carbohydrates and fat for energy. Having chronically high levels of insulin circulating, therefore, can have an effect on our weight in the longer term.

This is why Ayurvedic programs for conditions such as diabetes and weight loss can be so successful. They recognizes the multifactorial nature of these conditions and offer a framework that covers all aspects of life, rather than considering parts in isolation. Our body is an ecosystem. We need to treat the body as in intelligent, self-interacting system, in which each aspect of our lives affects all the other parts.

For more information on Ayurvedic programs for diabetes and weight loss, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

Summer Recipes—Foods That Can Lengthen Your Life

One of the delights of summer is the joyful abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables on grocery shelves—or growing up out of your garden. According to Ayurveda, sweet fruits and bitter greens help pacify Pitta dosha.  According to the scientific community they also protect us from falling ill.

An international research study conducted by the University of Adelaide found that people who consumed a diet high in fruit, vegetables and certain grains had a lower risk of developing not just one but multiple chronic conditions including anemia, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, hepatitis, coronary heart disease, asthma, stroke, fracture and cancer. The study found that people who eat a higher amount of fruit are less likely to develop any chronic disease, while a high intake of vegetables helps prevent people with one chronic disease from developing a second.

In addition, numerous studies at Harvard and other research facilities in the United States and Europe found that individuals who ate more than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day had roughly a 20 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke compared with individuals who ate less than 3 servings.

So pile your plate high with these health-creating foods! Here are a few summer recipes to try out:

Asparagus and /or carrots with lemon-herb sauce

Steam your chosen amounts of asparagus and/or carrots to the point where they are “fork-friendly”. This means a bit more than al dente but not soft or mushy. Then pour the following lemon-herb sauce over the vegetables.

Lemon-Herb Sauce

Juice one lemon. Add a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of honey (use only unheated honey). Mix together in a blender with a few leaves of fresh basil and mint. Puree until smooth.

Cucumber Raita

This side dish goes well with dal, rice, curries and other Indian dishes.

Combine in a mixing bowl:

1 cup fresh yogurt

1/4 cup cucumber (peel and dice finely_

1 tablespoon ginger root, peeled and grated

1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro (the leaves of the coriander plant)

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

salt to taste

Cooling Mint Tea

1 cup fresh peppermint leaves

1 quart boiling water

1 quart room temperature water

2 teaspoons sweetener

Pour the quart of boiling water over the mint leaves. Cover and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain the tea into a pitcher or glass jar. Add cool water sweeteners. If you are adding honey, make sure the water has cooled down first. This is a great drink for aiding digestion. Drink at room temperature for maximum assimilation. Remember that iced and chilled drinks dampen our digestive fires, making it difficult to properly digest our food.

Dandelion Salad

If your lawn is full of dandelions, stop complaining and start picking. Dandelions are one of the most nutrient-dense plants you can eat. Their leaves, when young and tender, have a slightly bitter taste like arugula. The older the pant, the more bitter the greens. Before you start picking, be sure that the yard in which the dandelions are growing has not been treated with chemicals.

1 cup dandelion greens, washed and dried

8 large leaves of butter lettuce, washed and dried

1/2 cup feta cheese or goat cheese, chopped or crumbled.

Dressing

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/8 cup olive oil

sweetener to taste (just a bit is needed)

1 tomato chopped

fresh basil

fresh ground black pepper to taste

Boiling the dandelion greens is better for older, larger leaves as it removes their bitterness. Some even recommend boiling the older greens twice: once for 2 minutes, drain and boil again for 2 minutes.

For information on consultations with Ayurveda experts and learn more about your individual mind/body type, visit The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

How To Reduce and Manage Stress—a Key Tool for Healthy Living

Life, by nature, can be unpredictable and, therefore, stressful. If we are lucky, the stress we experience is a short-lived. Too often, however, situations occur that keep us stressed for days, weeks, or even months. This experience of unrelenting stress can cause significant damage to our health, mind and emotions. If you go to the Internet, you’ll find pages and pages of articles and research studies linking stress to ill health.

Stress Creates a Super-highway for Spreading Cancer

Depression and Chronic Stress Accelerate Aging

Moderate to High Stress Leads to Higher Mortality Rate

Mild Stress Linked to Long-Term Disability

Stress Can Control Our Genes

Chronic Stress May Cause Long-Lasting Epigenetic Changes

Chronic Stress Predisposes Brain to Mental Illness

Stress: Yes It Really Can Trigger a Heart Attack

Chronic Stress Can Damage Brain Structure and Connectivity

Clearly if we are interested in staying healthy, stress management should be one of our top priorities.

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Let’s take a look at the mechanisms of the stress response. Stress is described as “any physical, emotional, social, economic or other factor that requires a response to change.” Since it has been said that ” change is the only constant in life”, if stress is associated with change, it can also be considered a constant. Luckily the human body is brilliantly designed to react to stress. It does so by activating the secretion of the hormone cortisol. This initiates a beautiful cascade of physiological responses that allows us to deal with immediate danger or challenge.

When the adrenal gland releases cortisol into the body, the hormone “turns off” many of our normal physiological mechanisms while “turning on” many temporary mechanisms. This is the source of the “fight or flight” response. Ideally once the emergency situation has been resolved, our metabolic functions go back to their normal functioning. But if we are under constant stress the adrenal gland does not get a signal to stop producing cortisol. The long-term production of cortisol can severely compromise our health and permanently alter our metabolic process.

Results of Long-Term Stress

Some of the documented results of long-term stress include:

  1. Weakened immune response leading to heightened vulnerability to infection
  2. Memory loss: excess cortisol can overwhelm the hippocampus and actually cause atrophy. Studies of the elderly have indicated that those with elevated cortisol levels display significant memory loss resulting from hippocampus damage. Luckily the damage incurred is usually reversible.
  3. Shortening of telomeres. The link between memory loss and stress may in some part be due to shortened telmeres. The telomere is the outermost part of the chromosome. As we age, telomeres shorten. Research has shown that oxidative stress and inflammation accelerates this shortening. Shorter telomere length has recently been associated with cortisol levels indicative of exposure to chronic stress. If its telomeres get too short, a cell may die. Shortened telomere length has been associated with risks for dementia and mortality, and may be a marker of biological aging, according to a new study.
  4. An increase in abdominal fat. Researchers at Yale University found slender women who had high cortisol also had more abdominal fat. Abdominal, or visceral, fat is a key player in a variety of health problems Visceral fat has been linked to metabolic disturbances and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In women, it is also associated with breast cancer and the need for gallbladder surgery.
  5. Systemic inflammation. Researchers have found that chronic stress changes gene activity of immune cells before they enter the bloodstream so that they’re ready to fight infection or trauma — even when there is no infection or trauma to fight. This leads to increased inflammation in the body. Problematically, systemic inflammation is known to cause elevated cortisol levels. Thus chronic stress can create a vicious cycle wherein the cortisol and inflammation basically feed each other. Chronic inflammation has been linked with a range of conditions such as heart disease, depression and even cancer.

Stress-Busters

While we may not be able to eliminate the stress in our lives, we can take measures to give the body the relief from stress that it needs in order to stay healthy.

  1. Decrease consumption of caffeine and alcohol, both of which impact cortisol levels
  2. Go to bed by 10:00. Your body needs sleep. Getting six hours or less over time can significantly increase cortisol levels. It takes a full 7 to 8 hours of sleep to give your body enough time to recover from the stresses of the day before.
  3. Practice a stress reduction technique. Research has shown that the Transcendental Meditation technique (TM) can lower cortisol levels. The lowering is even greater in those who practice TM regularly. In fact, the longer people practice TM, the more pronounced is the effect. TM was also found to decrease the time it took for the body return to normal functioning following stressful stimuli. This is significant because high cortisol levels can actually create a self-perpetuating loop by disrupting the delicate feedback balance that tells the brain to stop releasing cortisol.Researchers concluded that the Transcendental Meditation technique gives the body a reprieve from experiencing stress, and as a result, the body is able to respond more normally to stress stimuli of short duration.
  4. Schedule a week of Panchakarma treatments. Multiple studies have shown that massage therapy can lower cortisol levels, increase dopamine and serotonin (our happy, feel-good hormones), and lower excitatory hormones like norepinephrine and epinephrine. A week of luxurious in-residence treatments can provide a much-needed break from the day-to-day pressures at work and home.

More Stress-Busting Recommendations

  • Get more spinach in your diet.  Spinach has magnesium, which help balance your body’s production of cortisol.
  • Eat more citrus fruits.  Research has shown that citrus fruits like oranges and kiwis have high content of vitamin C, which help slow the production of cortisol.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough healthy omega-3 oils in your diet.  These healthy fats not only inhibit inflammation, but also help lower cortisol levels and reduce stress.
  • Get some Holy Basil in your diet!  This tasty herb is an adaptogen herb, which is a unique class of healing plants that help reduce the production of stress related hormones.
  • Research has shown that zinc helps inhibit the production of cortisol.  Vegetarians can get zinc from cashews, pumpkin seeds, spinach and beans.
  • Good news! Dark chocolate has high levels of anti-oxidants that help decrease inflammation and slow the secretion of cortisol.  Just make sure that it’s at least 70% dark chocolate.

Arming ourselves with an understanding of the stress response and minimizing the impact of stress on our minds and bodies is one of the keys to maintaining balanced health. This is why any responsible health program must include stress reduction techniques. Learn more about Panachkarma treatments and learning the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique at The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

Protecting the Eyes with Ayurveda

According to Ayurveda, the eye is the seat Alochaka Pitta, one of the five subdoshas of Pitta. Pitta governs heat, metabolism and transformation. Whenever our eyes are open, they are involved in the complex process of transforming light into ideas: distilling foreground from background, recognizing objects presented in a wide range of orientations, and accurately interpreting spatial cues. In fact, researchers estimate that the human retina can transmit visual input at about the same rate as an Ethernet connection, at roughly 10 million bits per second.

Given the Pitta nature of our eyes, it follows that they become sensitive and irritated when we are exposed to excess heat. Regardless of whether you have a predominance of Pitta in your constitution, everyone should take extra caution in protecting their eyes in the summer.

Tips For Protecting Your Eyes in the Summer

Wear sunglasses and a hat during the day. Bright light can actually cause an inflammatory response in the eyes which can lead to damage of the optic nerve. Sunglasses will also help protect the eyes from the dust and other environmental particles that increase in the summer months. Look for a label that says 99-100 percent UV absorption or UV 400 (which means they block all UVA and UVB rays).

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Cool compresses can help draw out Pitta from the eyes. There is a reason for the traditional spa image of a lady relaxing with slices of cucumbers over her eyes. Cucumbers not only have high water content, they also have an anti-inflammatory effect. Cotton balls with sprayed with rose water or chamomile water can also be used as compresses to reduce heat in the eyes.

Air conditioning, dry winds and dust can cause eye dryness or irritation. If your eyes are feeling dry, see an Ayurvedic expert regarding lubrication for the eyes, and drink lots of room temperature water and fluids.

Getting a good night’s sleep will help refresh and rejuvenate the eyes. Your eyes are very busy during the day and need a good night’s sleep stay healthy. Additionally, a lack of sleep tends to increase the retention of blood and fluid around the eyes, leading to dark circles under the eyes.

During the Pitta season, everyone should eat a Pitta reducing diet, even if Pitta is not your main dosha. Increase your intake of vegetables and fruits. Cucumbers, cilantro, dill, fennel are all are very cooling. Rice, especially white basmati rice, and barley are ideal grains for summer. Emphasize foods that are liquid rather than dry, and cool or lukewarm rather than hot.

Stress, anger, anxiety, alcohol, spicy food, pollution will all increase your risk for eye irritation.

If you spend long hours in front of a computer, your eyes can become strained. Be sure to look away from the computer every thirty minutes or so. If you are able, take time to stretch and look out a window. Switching focus from near to far allows the ciliary muscles in the eye to relax. The ability of our eyes to change shape to allow for near-focus or far-focus is high when we are young and decreases with age. Doing focused work for hours on end can increase eye strain and decrease our overall ability to change focus.

Netra Tarpana

Netra Tarpana is a special Ayurveda treatment that strengthens and protects the eyes against the sun’s rays, relieves tired, achy eyes, and improves vision. This treatment is known to be very rejuvenating for the eyes and is an ancient remedy for many eye and sight ailments.

Freshly made dough rings filled with fragrant oils are placed around the eyes, and gently filled with herbal healing to bathe and lubricate the eyes and surrounding area. As a side benefit, Netra Tarpana also helps address sagging around the eyes and crows feet.

Ayurveda Consultations

Burning, red, or bloodshot eyes, extreme sensitivity to light, and a yellowish tinge in the whites of the eyes are all signs of excess Pitta circulating in the system. If you have any of these symptoms, it is best to consult with an Ayurvedic expert.

To schedule a consultation with an Ayurveda expert or to learn more about Ayurveda treatments, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

Live Longer, Be Happier with…Fruits and Vegetables!

I love when modern researchers spend time and money to tell us things that our parents and grandparents took as basic common sense. That said, it is fascinating to learn the specifics of why certain things are good for you. I have to admit; every time I come across a new study I gain a new appreciation for various foods. This week I’m going to share a few studies that especially tickled my fancy.

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Pomegranates = The Fountain of Youth!

After experiments with worms and mice produced results that researchers called “a miracle…nothing short of amazing”, studies are now starting on humans. Apparently the fruit contains chemicals that our stomach bacteria turn into urolithan A — a compound that helps strengthen muscles and extend life by supporting our mitochondria. Mitochondria are rod-shaped structures within our cells in which the biochemical processes of respiration and energy production occur. They are known as the power generators of our cells. Pomegranates seem to have the ability to keep these “battery packs” charged. And to recharge aging cells, which tend to weaken and run down over time.

This information adds to past research on the health benefits of pomegranates. Pomegranates have anti-oxidant, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. They contain vitamins A, C and E, as well as folic acid. They have been show to help lower high blood pressure and strengthen bones. They also have anti-angiogenic properties, meaning that they may help to prevent growing tumors from acquiring a blood supply, preventing those tumors from receiving the nutrients that would allow them to grow large. In those with mild memory complaints, individuals drinking pomegranate juice daily performed better on a memory task compared to placebo and displayed increased brain activation.

Eating More Vegetables Can Make You Happy. Really!

A recent study in Great Britain found that a higher consumption of fruits and vegetables resulted in higher life satisfaction scores. In fact, going from “none” to eight portions was likened to getting a job if unemployed. The lead researcher observed, “‘Eating fruit and vegetables apparently boosts our happiness far more quickly than it improves human health.” Researchers adjusted the effects on incident changes in happiness and life satisfaction for people’s changing incomes and personal circumstances. They believe it may be possible eventually to link this study to current research into antioxidants, which suggests a connection between optimism and carotenoid in the blood.

Watercress Has It All

This peppery-tasting green tops the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of powerhouse foods. Why? Because it has been found to be the most nutrient-dense food. Watercress is an excellent course of vitamin C, containing a denser concentration of the vitamin than an orange. Watercress also is an excellent course of vitamin A, B6 and K, as well as calcium, iron and folate. A recent study showed that a daily portion of watercress could have a significant impact on reducing DNA damage to blood cells — an important trigger in the development of cancer.

Can Watermelon Help Weight Reduction?
Watermelon is the perfect summer snack. It has many wonderful health benefits: it contains L-citrulline/L-arginine, an amino acid that lowers blood pressure, thus reducing your risk of heart disease It is also rich in vitamins A, C, B-6 and thiamine, as well as lycopene, a phytochemical that’s responsible for watermelon’s red color and might offer protection against some types of cancer.

And it also turns out that watermelon may help with weight loss. As its name implies, this fruit is almost 92% water, making it a great source of hydration in hot weather. A recent study has shown a connection between weight loss and hydration. Among the people involved in the recently published study (July, 2016), the less hydrated they were, the more likely they were to have a higher body mass index (BMI). Researchers concluded that water might deserve greater focus in weight management research.

Watermelon only has 88 calories in a two-cup serving and one gram of fiber, which slows digestion and helps keep you feeling full longer.

Basil

One of the herb’s medicinal properties comes from the antioxidant eugenol. Lab studies found that this compound sparks anticarcinogenic activity in cervical cancer cells, causing them to self-destruct. A recent study indicated that the antioxidant content of basil was highest right before flowering. Growing your own basil allows you to pick basil at its point of peak medicinal value.

Are you inspired? The Ayurvedic texts remind us that fresh foods are optimal, as they contain more of the life energy that our body needs stay healthy and vital. Foods consumed in a state as close to nature as possible provide the most nutrients and the greatest benefit to your health. Do you know that more than half of what American’s eat is “ultra-processed”? These foods, researchers agree, are replacing more nutrient-dense foods and leaving people “simultaneously overfed and undernourished.” No wonder Americans die sooner and experience unhealthier lives than residents in other high-income countries. A return to a more natural diet allows us to take advantage of the perfect nourishment that nature provides.

For more information on Ayurveda, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

Summer Foods that Protect and Heal

For the US and other mid-latitude countries north of the equator, the sun’s rays in the summer months hit the Earth at a steeper angle than in the winter. The sun’s rays at this time are not as spread out and thus hit the earth more directly. Therefore the environment absorbs more of the sun’s energy. As we are exposed to increased heat from the sun, the quality of Pitta or heat in our own physiology increases.

The sun gives off three kinds of ultraviolet waves throughout the year: UVA, UVB, and UVC. Only the UVA and UVB rays actually hit the earth. UVA rays are fairly consistent in intensity all year round. The amount of UVB rays that hit the earth, however, increase from April to October, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM. During this time we are essentially getting a double dose of light rays. If we expose our skin during this time it can contribute to conditions such as premature skin aging, eye damage, and skin cancers. UVB rays can also suppress the immune system, reducing our ability to fight off other maladies.

Luckily, the perfect organizing power of nature provides summer fruits and vegetables that actually have the capacity to protect our skin from damaging effects of UV rays.

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Foods with Vitamin C

A medium-size red bell pepper provides more than 200 percent of the daily recommended amounts of vitamin C. Researchers have suggested that vitamin C can promote the repair of DNA that has been damaged by UV rays.

It also triggers the production of white blood cells. White blood cells are the cells of the immune system that help fight off germs and bacteria. One study found that people with diets high in vitamin C were less prone to wrinkles.

Red and Orange Vegetables and Fruits

Red fruits and vegetables are rich in lycopene. a natural pigment and carotenoid, or antioxidant, responsible for the red color. Lycopene can combat free radicals (ions or molecules that can damage healthy cells and suppress our immune system.) In addition, it turns out that consuming lycopene can protect skin from sunburn. One study showed that the intake of 2.5 tablespoons of tomato paste daily can reduce the UV rays damage up to 50%.

Beta-carotene — another type of carotenoid found in red and orange produce (like carrots) — has been linked to reduced reactions to sunburns.

Orange and pink citrus fruits contain flavonoid, which has also been shown to improve the skin’s ability to protect against UV rays.

Spinach

Spinach contains lutein, a carotenoid that protects your skin from UV damage.

Other Health Creating Fruits and Vegetables

While not directly linked to protecting us from the increase in UV rays, many fruits and vegetables pack a lot of other health benefits. Since overexposure to UVB rays can suppress the immune system, it makes sense to enjoy foods that can help give our system an extra boost. Here are just a few:

Blackberries are high in rutin, a type of antioxidant that has been found to block an enzyme linked to the formation of blood clots, thus lowering the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

Brussels sprouts contain sulfur compounds that have been shown to reduce inflammation and activate cartilage-protecting proteins. These qualities suggest the vegetable may be helpful in treating rheumatoid arthritis.

Basil contains the antioxidant eugenol, which has been found to have cancer-fighting properties.

Kale contains 12 times the recommended daily amount of vitamin K. Vitamin K has been linked to decreased heart disease and osteoporosis.

Ayurveda Tips for Summer

Staying out of the mid-day sun, eating meals on time, choosing Pitta-reducing foods, avoiding strenuous activity, keeping well hydrated with room temperature water and other drinks, and eating lots of fresh produce are all simple steps you can take to help keep your Pitta pacified during the hot summer months.

Signs of an aggravated Pitta include excess stomach acid, gastritis, heartburn, skin eruptions, insomnia, and irritability. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, a visit with an Ayurveda expert can help to identify foods or habits that are aggravating Pitta and give recommendations to avoid more serious imbalances.

For more information on consultations with Ayurveda experts, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

Minimizing Summer Skin Problems with Ayurveda

By this point in time, everyone knows that the sun can cause severe damage to the skin. Our skin is the largest organ in our body and is one of the main organs of purification. It acts as an insulator, regulates body temperature, and protects us from the harmful radiations of the sun. During the long days of summer, when exposure to the sun is at its peak, the risk of damage to our skin increases multifold.

Over-exposure to sunshine can allow extreme ultraviolet (UV) rays to penetrate through the layers of our skin, harming the DNA of our cells. From the perspective of Ayurveda, the intensity of the sun’s heat during the summer also aggravates Pitta dosha.

According to Ayurveda, most skin problems are associated with an imbalance of Pitta dosha, which governs metabolism, heat, and digestion. Pitta has five subdivisions or “subdoshas”, and one of them, Bhranjaka Pitta, resides in the skin. Its imbalance can cause rashes, boils, acne, and skin disorders of all types.

Problems with Pitta dosha are not limited to the summer time. One of the reasons that acne is common in early adolescence is because that is the time of life when Pitta begins to increase in the physiology. In babies and young children, Kapha is the predominant dosha. Kapha is the formative element that maintains the physical structure, providing support and substance in the body. Kapha makes up our bones, muscles, and fat; it lubricates joints and helps us maintain immunity. During the crucial early years of growth and physical development, Kapha is working overtime.

As we approach adolescence, however, the body begins transitioning from Kapha-predominate to Pitta-predominant. The hormonal changes of puberty are activated by Pitta. This increase in Pitta also causes skin problems.

Whether we are in the Pitta time of life or not, if we have problems with acne, rashes or other skin problems, one of the most basic Ayurvedic approaches is to pacifying Pitta dosha.

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Tips for Pacifying Pitta Dosha

1) Avoid foods that aggravate Pitta, such a fried and oily foods, processed foods, chocolate, and junk food. Avoid hot, spicy or sour foods (including cheese). Avoid red meat, which is especially Pitta aggravating.

2) Opt for foods that pacify Pitta. Sweet fruits and fresh vegetables are your best choice in the summer. In addition to being cooling, they provide essential nutrients and have free-radical fighting properties. Look for locally grown asparagus, zucchini, summer squashes, celery, cucumbers and an assortment of leafy greens. Sweet, juicy fruits such as watermelon, mangos, grapes and pears all help cool, nourish and cleanse.

3) The sun can increase the production of sebum, causing the skin to become more oily than usual. When the oil combines with dirt and sweat, pores can get clogged. Be meticulous about your cleansing routine, morning and night. Do not apply oils to areas affected by acne, even when you do your daily Ayurvedic oil massage.

4) Avoid harsh chemicals. Make sure the water you bathe with is not highly chlorinated or chemically treated. Swimming pools, while providing a cooling sports activity during the summer, can aggravate Pitta-related skin conditions. Fresh lakes and ponds are a better option, if available. Ideally, use a water filter on your shower.

5) Instead of washing your face with soap, mix room temperature, purified water and barley flour to a thin paste to make a gentle and effective cleanser. To really pamper your skin, remove the paste using room temperature milk — followed by a final rinse with room temperature water.

6) Drink more water. Water is the best beverage for those with skin problems. Fresh fruit and vegetable juices are also fine but avoid canned or bottled juices and sodas, as those contain less of the vital qualities needed to nourish your skin. Air conditioners are also dehumidifiers. While they keep us cool they are also very drying. Air conditioners also prevent sweating, which is our body’s natural way of detoxing. Drinking lots of water will help keep your skin hydrated and will also help in the elimination of toxins.

7) Avoid caffeinated drinks, carbonated drinks and iced drinks. Caffeinated drinks are actually dehydrating. Ices and carbonated drinks can diminish our ability to digest food, leading to a toxic accumulation of ama. Because the skin is one of the leading organs for elimination and purification, an accumulation of ama can lead to skin problems.

8) Get plenty of rest. Because the summer daylight hours are longer, it can be tempting to stay up late. However, no matter what the season, the rest gained from 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM is considered to be the deepest and most regenerative sleep.

Your pineal gland is your internal clock. As the sun sets, the pineal gland senses the change in light transmitted through your eyes and it begins to secrete melatonin, preparing the body for sleep. Typically, within one to two hours after the sunset, you will begin to feel drowsy as melatonin levels rise. This is the body’s signal to go to sleep. By midnight your melatonin levels have peaked. There is a gradual decline in melatonin levels after midnight.

If you are still up and active after 10:00, the “second wind” phenomenon kicks in. This is driven by Pitta dosha. This late-night Pitta cycle is designed to repair and regenerate the body. This can only be experienced if you are asleep. Repeatedly staying up during the evening Pitta cycle can create deep Pitta imbalances and interfere with the body’s ability to stay balanced and healthy.

9) One of the main seats of Pitta is the eyes. Always wear sunglasses in the summer. In the evening, try splashing cool water on your eyes. Soaking a cotton ball with cool water or rose water and placing it over your eyes for 10 minutes can help cool the eyes.

If your skin condition persists or worsens, you may want to consult with an Ayurveda expert in your area. For more information on consultations at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa visit the web site:

http://www.theraj.com

Rose Petal Lassi to Aid Digestion and Cool Pitta

Lassi is a traditional Ayurvedic drink that aids digestion. Made from yogurt, water, and spices, it is good for all mind-body types. It is best to drink lassi after you have finished your main meal at lunchtime. Remember that the increase of Pitta in our environment and in our body during the summer causes our own internal fire of digestion to become diminished. The Pitta-pacifying influence of roses and the digestion-enhancing quality of lassi makes this drink the perfect summertime refresher.

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Rose Petal Lassi (serves 4)

2 cups fresh yogurt

2 cups water

1/2 tablespoon Rose Petal Jam

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 cup sugar or honey (to taste)

Blend ingredients in a blender until frothy. Serve immediately and enjoy.

As an alternative to Rose Petal Lassi, try the traditional Digestive Lassi served at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa.

Digestive Lassi (one glass)

1/2 cup yogurt

1/2 cup water

1 pinch black salt

1 pinch freshly ground pepper

1 pinch cumin

1 pinch ginger

Blend all the ingredients and drink it after your meal.

Yogurt in and of itself is not recommended in the summer because it aggravates Pitta. When made into lassi, however, yogurt’s Pitta qualities enhance digestion without increasing Pitta elsewhere in the body. Store-bought yogurt is more sour and Pitta-aggravating than homemade yogurt. For this reason, fresh yogurt is ideal for making lassi. Convenient yogurt makers are widely available in stores. Or you can make it easily with what you already have in your kitchen.

Fresh Yogurt

Heat 1 quart of milk to 185-195 degrees.

Take the pot off the stove and let it cool for a bit. Then place it in a sink filled with cool water until the milk cools to 120-115 degrees.

Once the milk cools to 120°-115°, add plain yogurt as a starter (1/4 cup). Do not use Greek yogurt. Mix well.

Pour milk with starter into a sterilized quart-sized canning jar.

Place the yogurt in a warm place and leave it undisturbed for 10 to 12 hours. Wrap the jar with a towel if your house is cool.

Here are some options:

Some people turn their oven on to 200° for about 5 minutes, turn off the oven and put the towel-wrapped yogurt in the oven with the oven light on.

Others prefer to put their yogurt in a cooler filled with 120° water and close the lid. Make sure the water comes to the top third of the jar.

Another approach is to wrap the towel-wrapped jar in a heating pad set to “high”.

Refrigerate your yogurt for at least 3 hours before eating.

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