Avoiding Flair-ups of Psoriasis with Ayurveda

Psoriasis is a complex disorder involving both the skin and the joints, which are governed by Pitta and Vata, respectively. While only an Ayurvedic pulse assessment can reveal an individual’s exact needs, imbalances of both Pitta and Vata are usually at the root of this problem.

The end of summer and beginning of fall can be a time when psoriasis can flare up. This is because Pitta dosha has been building up all summer and is at its peak in the physiology. At the same time, increasingly cool fall weather and brisk winds can begin to aggravate Vata. If you have not been taking steps to pacify Pitta dosha throughout the summer, the combination of Pitta and Vata aggravation can trigger episodes of psoriasis.

The accumulations of toxins and impurities in the physiology (referred to as ama in Ayurveda) can also play a role in the outbreak of psoriasis. During the summer months, the physiology reacts to the extreme external heat by turning down its own internal heat. As metabolism decreases, so does the ability to digest food. When we do not properly digest food, a sticky substance (ama) is produced that is not able to be utilized by the body. Instead it builds up in tissues, joints and channels of circulation, blocking the healthy functioning of the body. Unless you adjust your summer diet accordingly, it is easy to create ama during the hot months of the year.

Moving from Pitta season to Vata season does not automatically improve our digestion. In the fall, when Vata becomes more predominant in our environment, the drying quality of Vata can adversely affect our digestion. This combination of accumulated Pitta, increasing Vata, poor digestion and accumulated ama can lead to all kinds of health problems, including psoriasis. Seasonal transitions are known to be especially can be hard on the phsyiology. This is why the ancient texts of Ayurveda encourage Panchakarma (traditional purification and detoxification treatments) at the end/beginning of each season. While quarterly Panchakarma treatments may not fit into our busy modern-day lives, an Ayurvedic expert can suggest to you which seasonal transition puts the most demands on your physiology. Even once a year Panchakarma can help keep the body balanced and functioning properly.

The Ayurveda approach to the treatment of psoriaisis is multi-dimentional, and includes recommendations for diet, daily routine, yoga and meditation to reduce stress, herbal formulas, Panchakarma and other purification procedures.

Home Purification

One purification procedure that you can try at home is castor oil. Castor oil has been used as a home laxative by mothers around the world for many generations. But in addition to being a natural laxative, castor oil can be used to gradually draw accumulated impurities and toxins from the cells and tissues into the eliminative organs. Small quantities of castor oil can be used for this purpose without creating a laxative effect. If a laxative effect occurs, simply reduce the quantity of castor oil.

Recommended Diet

(Please note that these are general recommendations ~ with severe psoriasis it is better to get individual recommendations from an Ayurvedic expert.)

Avoid Pitta aggravating foods—foods that are sour, pungent and salty. This includes yogurt (except in the form of lassi —and even with lassi, yogurt should be fresh), citrus fruits, fermented foods, junk food and processed foods, red meat, and alcohol.

Favor foods that are sweet, astringent and bitter.

Avoid iced or refrigerated foods and drinks.

Avoid whey.

Avoid sweets, sugary pastries, and chocolates.

Avoid fried foods.

Avoid common table salt.

Avoid all kinds of chiles or pungent spices.

Only take milk with foods with a sweet taste (such a grains). Never drink milk while eating fruit or with meals that contain salty, pungent, bitter, astringent or sour tastes.

Eat your mail meal at lunch. Dinner should be light. Soup and steamed vegetables is ideal.

Pacifying Vata

To pacify the rising influence of Vata, be sure to get to bed on time, wake with the rising sun, give yourself a daily oil massage, eat at regular times and be regular with your mediation practice.

For more information about Panchakarma or scheduling a consultation with an Ayurvedic expert, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Can Ayurveda Help with Dementia and Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia, a brain disorder affecting the parts of the brain controlling thought, memory and language. About 4.5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s and the number of cases are expected to quadruple by 2050. Ayurveda, the original health science of India, offers much needed knowledge on how to reverse aging trends, even in cases of brain deterioration such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Early detection provides a greater opportunity to delay or reverse the existing symptoms of aging disorders. Ayurveda, offers a comprehensive system of effective interventions.

A consultation with an Ayurvedic health expert using the ancient technique of Ayurvedic pulse assessment can help with early detection. Pulse assessment can help identify specific imbalances in the body which can predispose an individual to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders. This individual diagnosis is a powerful tool for designing an individualized treatment program and home recommendations.

Factors Affecting Alzheimer’s

Drugs, alcohol, stress, the buildup of toxins and poor nutrition are all factors whose effects accumulate over time and contribute to the degeneration of our brain’s ability to function properly. While available drugs have been shown to be somewhat effective in reducing some aspects of cognitive decline, changes in diet and lifestyle remain the only proven means of affecting the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s.

Don’t Let Your Brain “Dry Up”

The thousand year-old texts of Ayurveda indicate that with advancing age, the brain and body gradually become more agitated and dry. Alarik Arenander, Ph.D, a UCLA-trained neuroscientist with degrees in Molecular Biology, Developmental Biology, and Neuroscience, notes that Alzheimer’s is often associated with marked shrinkage of the brain. “The ‘drying’ effect of Alzheimer’s”, says Arenander, “must be remedied by proper diet, digestion and routine. This is the specialty of Ayurveda.”

Ayurvedic experts can offer individualized recommendations to regain balance in the physiology and nourish the brain in an effort to counteract the brain’s natural “drying” influence and establish an optimum level of mental and physical function.

In addition, Ayurvedic treatments and massages help to increase lubrication and stability and sustain quality of functioning, thereby decreasing drying, agitation and distruption of body and mind. These treatments also remove accumulated toxins and impurities which are associated with the degeneration of optimal functioning of the mind and body.

Toxins linked to Alzeimer’s

A recent study published in JAMA Neurology found that patients with Alzheimer’s had four times as much blood levels of DDT as healthy people. While the findings are not conclusive, researchers believe the chemical increases the chance of Alzheimer’s and may be involved in the development of amyloid plaques in the brain, which contribute to the death of brain cells. Even though DDT has been banned in the US since 1972, the average American still ingests small amounts of the toxic chemical every day.

It turns out that the ancient science of Ayurveda provides the only known means of removing this harmful chemical from the body.

Current mainline thinking is that the only way to eliminate DDT from the body is to let nature take its course. DDT’s half-life — the time it takes to naturally fall to half it’s original value — is 2 to 15 years. But a published research study conducted on the traditional Ayurveda detoxification treatments at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center in Fairfield, IA showed that 50% of DDE levels (DDE is the by-product of DDT found to be linked to Alzheimer’s) can be eliminated through a 5-day treatment program. To read more about the study visit http://theraj.com/rajresults/index.php

Ayurvedic Tips to Nourish Your Brain

  • Stay physically active: Recent studies suggest that exercise which raises your heart rate for at least 30 minutes several times a week can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s. One study, conducted at the University of Chicago, looked at two groups of mice. One group was allowed to exercise and the other was not. The brains in the physically active mice had 50 to 80 percent less plaque than the brains of the sedentary mice. In addition, the exercising mice produced significantly more of an enzyme in the brain that prevents plaque.
  • Mental activity: stay mentally alert by reading, playing cards, crossword puzzles and writing.
  • Eat a wide variety of green vegetables and include milk products (only milk contains significant levels of B12 which is absolutely essential for proper nervous system function) in your diet. If you are feeling mentally weak and are experiencing memory loss, have your doctor check your vitamin B levels, especially vitamin B12
  • Include plenty of antioxidants in your diets. Free radicals and oxidative stress are major factors in premature aging. Include plenty of organic fruits and green vegetables in your diet.
  • Include high quality oils in your diet. It is good to sauté spices such as tumeric and black pepper when you use oils. Your brain is composed of over 50% fat. Nervous system tissue is most nourished by oils, especially ghee, or clarified butter. Organic ghee and olive oil are the best cooking oils. Tumeric and freshly ground black pepper have the ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, which helps lubricate the brain. In India, where tumeric is used in great quantity, the rate of Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases are very low.

The treatments and techniques of Ayurveda are based on age-old wisdom of how to maintain perfect balance in the physiology. This ancient wisdom sheds light on how to maintain and promote healthy, youthful brain functioning.

Learn more about Ayurvedic programs to optimize brain functioning at The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Hidden Factors Blocking Your Weight-Loss Efforts?

Most people who lose weight gain it back within a few years – with many regaining even more than they lost. What they may not know is that there may be a number of factors triggering their weight-gain that are beyond their ability to control.

Mind/Body Types

According to Ayurveda, different mind/body types have different body shapes and sizes that are natural  — and healthful — for that particular physiology. The goal of Ayurveda is simply to maintain or restore one’s natural balance. As one restores balance, weight will naturally shift back to what is normal for that particular physiology.

Diet and Digestion

Crucial to maintaining balanced health is good digestion. Suppressing our appetite means suppressing our digestive “fire”. As a result, the food we eat does not get digested or metabolized property. When the body is not nourished properly it begins to send messages to the brain that it is starving. The dieter gets cravings that cannot be ignored. This can lead to binge eating, creating further imbalances and weight gain.

Toxins: Environmental Toxins and Ama

Environmental toxins

Environmental toxins are now being recognized as major contributors to obesity and removal of these toxins may be an effective treatment approach for treatment-resistant or chronic weight gain. Researchers are pursuing indications that certain chemicals, which have been shown to cause abnormal changes in animals’ sexual development, can also trigger fat-cell activity — a process scientists call adipogenesis.

The chemicals under scrutiny are used in many products, from marine paints and pesticides to food and beverage containers. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found one chemical, bisphenol A, in 95 percent of the people tested, at levels at or above those that affected development in animals.

The suspected link between obesity and exposure to “endocrine disrupters,” as the chemicals are called because of their hormone-like effects, has been called “plausible and possible.”

Exposed mice became obese adults and remained obese even on reduced calorie and increased exercise regimes.

Ayurveda offers a time-tested approach to removing fat-soluble toxins that is comfortable, safe, and, in fact, more effective than any other form of purification approach available today. A published research study (Sept./Oct. 2002 issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine) on the Ayurvedic panchakarma (purification) treatments offered at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa in Fairfield, IA showed that  50% of these dangerous toxins were removed with a 5-day program.  No other methods of detoxification have been shown to remove this class of fat-soluble toxins from the body.

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Not all toxins come from our environment. We actually create some toxins ourselves due to poor digestion or poor food choices. Ayurveda refers to the toxins created by poor digestion as ama, a sticky residue that gradually clogs up the cells and channels of the body. This waste material can impair cellular functions and accelerate aging. It can also cause lethargy, fatigue, dullness, erratic eating habits and compulsive eating.

When ama blocks the channels of the body, Vata, the principle of movement, no longer flows property and can become trapped in the abdomen. This can stimulate an abnormal digestive “fire”. As a result, a person feels hungry and begins to eat excessively, beyond their actual need.

The specialized Panchakarma treatments can help “chisel away” impurities and toxins that have been slowly building up in the body over years. Removing these blockages and toxins allows the natural intelligence of the body to become more expressed. Cravings disappear and more natural eating habits are more easily established.

Five Weight Loss Tips

Ayurveda recommends five actions steps that are helpful for everyone – no matter what your body type. These tips are easy to implement and can bring about great changes in your over-all health and wellness.

  1. Eat a light evening meal favoring easy-to-digest foods (fresh vegetables, soups, grains such as barley and couscous). According to Ayurveda, digestion is weaker in the evening.  Also, going to sleep just a few hours after eating slows digestion, metabolism and circulation. This leads to poor digestion and the accumulation of toxins, fat and promotes excess weight gain.
  2. Eat the largest meal of the day at lunch favoring a wide variety of warm, cooked, organic food. Digestion is strongest at noon and we have many active hours to metabolize the food before we sleep.
  3. Drink warm or hot water frequently during the day. This helps flush the digestion tract of accumulated toxins.
  4. Avoid eating heavy foods such as red meat, leftovers, packaged foods and deep-fried food. These are hard to digest or lack energy-giving freshness. “Eat fresh food, freshly prepared” sums up the essence of Ayurvedic food guidelines.
  5. Move!  Exercise improves digestion, metabolism, elimination, body tone and strength and bone density.  It helps us normalize weight gain. Try to take time every day to get out and walk. It is good to walk 15 minutes or so after eating. Walking after the evening meal is especially encouraged.

The basis of successful weight-loss is a deep understanding of the most fundamental causes of weight gain: imbalance of the doshas, poor digestion and accumulated toxins. Ayurveda offers a time-tested approach that ensures that a comfortable, healthy weight can be both established and maintained.

For more information on Ayurvedic weight-loss programs, visit

www.theraj.com

Vata Can Cause….Dandruff!

The foundational understanding of doshas gives us insights into every aspect of our physiology — including dandruff.

An excess of Vata dosha is behind the onset of dandrfuff. Dandruff is a common chronic scalp condition marked by flaking of the skin on your scalp. While dandruff is not a serious medical condition, it can be embarrassing and sometimes difficult to treat.

Vata dosha governs the nervous system and activity in general. The head is a high-Vata area because of all our intellectual and mental activity. Dandruff is caused by the drying quality of Vata (when it is imbalanced). Dandruff often appears hand-in-hand with fatigue, stress, overthinking, worry, anxiety or sleeplessness—all Vata disorders.

Excessive or imbalanced Vata dosha can also result in an obstruction in the flow of the food nutrients that supply nourishment to the hair cells, leading to dry scalp, dry hair, split ends, and finally, thin hair or hair loss.

In order to control dandruff, we need to control Vata. One helpful approach is to start the day with Ayurvedic oil massage, particularly of the scalp. Sesame oil is a deeply penetrating oil that is good for Vata. However, sesame oil is also very heating. If you have Pitta imbalances as well as Vata imbalances and/or if you are giving your scalp a massage during the hot summer months, you may be more comfortable using coconut oil or olive oil.

Here are some other measures to address dandruff:

Drink plenty of water. Sometimes inadequate fluid intake can cause dryness in your body, skin and scalp.

Avoid harsh soaps or shampoos. Wash your hair with filtered water (use a shower filter that can remove the chlorine). Anti-dandruff shampoos claim that they can get rid of dandruff, but they do not address the root-cause of imbalanced Vata. Avoid overuse of hair styling gels and products that contain chemicals.

Don’t keep your head under water for too long during your shower. Best not to use hot water on your head. Room temperature water is best for washing your hair.

Get enough sleep. The best short-cut to balancing Vata is rest. If you are not getting the sleep hours you need ‑— and if you are not getting them during the Pitta hours of 10:00 PM to 4:00 AM — you are short-changing your body’s self repair mechanisms.

Those who suffer from dandruff may notice that the problem may increase with age. This is because the later time of life is governed by Vata dosha. Other symptoms of a Vata imbalance as we grow older are creaking joints, dry skin, memory problems, weak digestion and constipation. While we can’t turn back the clock, it is possible to take measures to balance Vata. Check with an Ayurvedic expert for a list of recommendations that will address your body’s needs.

Panchakarma treatments are very helpful in balancing Vata. Panchakarma is a series of therapies that systematically remove deep toxins from the body.  The following are treatments that support hair health.

  • Shiro abhyanga – warm oil massage on the scalp to prevent dry scalp and to enhance the lustrous nature in hair
  • Nasya – nasal administration of oil to promote circulation
  • Shirodhara – prevents stress, improves the nervous system
  • Shirolep – This is an herbal paste application that includes the herbs triphala, amalaki, neeli, bringaraj, etc.

For more information on programs to balance Vata and for specific treatment that will vitalize your hair and scalp, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Exercise Without Stress by Following the Principles of Ayurveda

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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.

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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.

Ama

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.

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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:

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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