Improve Digestion, Improve Health—Tips for Healthy Eating

According to Ayurveda, the two most important pillars of good health are diet and digestion. Add proper sleep and you’ve got a very simple template for creating health and vitality. What you eat and how your body processes what you eat are key factors in determining not just your level of health, immunity, but also our emotional mindset.

Did you know that over 90% of our body’s serotonin is located in our digestive tract? And 50% of our body’s dopamine? The enteric nervous systerm (ENS) consists of a mesh-like system of neurons that governs the function of our gastrointestinal system. It manufactures more neurotransmitters than the central nervous system and has been referred to as our second brain. This amazing system alters its response depending on factors such as nutrient composition and bulk. There is no longer any challenge to the statement, “what you are what you eat.”

In addition, according to Ayurveda, if we are not able to properly digest our food, either because of the poor quality of the food we are eating or because of the poor quality of our digestive fire, a sticky toxin (ama) is created that gets absorbed into the body and ends up building up in the joints and tissues, blocking the proper circulation of nutrition and information to those areas. Ama can also trigger an immune response, leading to disorders such as chronic fatigue, asthma, and psoriasis.

Here are some simple Dos and Don’ts for improving your digestion at home:

  1. DO Savor your meals

Don’t divide your attention by reading, working, watching television, and specially driving. Eating mindlessly doesn’t allow you to properly taste and digest your food. You’ll feel unsatisfied and want to eat more, even though you are full

  1. DON’T bolt from the table immediately after finishing your meal.

Sit quietly for a few minutes so that your body can settle into its digestive rhythm.

  1. DO include all six tastes in a meal

Sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Each taste satisfies a different need. Missing one or more of the tastes can result in cravings.

  1. DO drink plenty of warm or room temperature water throughout the day (although during meals you should only sip water moderately.) Sipping water during the day helps keep the digestive tract flushed of accumulated toxins.
  2. DON’T eat heavy foods

Red meat, leftovers, processed foods and deep-fried foods are either hard to digest or lack energy-giving freshness, and will sit in your digestive tract causing toxins to accumulate.

  1. DO favor light, nutritious foods. Fill up on sweet, juicy fruits and vegetables. The fresher and purer the produce, the better.
  2. DON’T drink cold beverages

Cold drinks and foods douse the digestive fire.

  1. DO eat freshly cooked meals whenever possible
  2. DO visit an Ayurveda expert

An Ayurveda expert can determine your individual mind/body balance and pinpoint any areas of imbalance. An individualized diet and routine will help address imbalances and put you back on the road to health.

10 DO have regular Panchakarma treatments.

Panchakarma, the traditional purification and detoxification treatments of Ayurveda help remove accumulated toxins while nourishing the physiology.

For more information on Panchakarma treatments and programs to improve digestion, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

WWW.THERAJ.COM

Is Aging Necessary? Ayurveda Approach to Maintaining Youth and Vitality.

What is the aging process? In some cases it is the inevitable result of wear and tear on our system. But in many cases, what we consider normal effects of age are really the results of years of accumulated toxins and impurities taking their toll on our bodies.

Stiffness, chronic disorders, memory loss, insomnia, decrease in skin tone…too often the myriad of problems that confront us in our later years are in fact manifestations of deep underlying imbalances that may have been deposited in our physiology as long ago as childhood. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, chemicals from food, water and our environment—any of these influences may still be buried deep in our tissues. If fact, the earlier our exposure to these, the more likely it is that their effects are present at deeper, more fundamental levels in our physiology.

Addressing Deep-Seated Imbalances

The traditional purification and detoxification therapies of Ayurveda, Panchakarma, are designed to dissolve and remove impurities from the dhatus or tissues of the body. The longer the program, the deeper level of purification can be provided. At The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa, Panchakarma programs range from three days to 21 days. Over the last years we’ve seen a growing trend towards longer treatments, reflecting the growing need of a maturing population to address deep-seated imbalance that are beginning to show themselves as “signs of aging” or worse, as chronic disorders.

Different levels of Purification: Understanding the Dhatus

To understand the levels of purification it is helpful to understand the Ayurvedic understanding of the sequential creation of tissues in the body. Ayurveda recognizes seven levels of bodily tissues:

  1. Rasa: blood plasma, lymph
  2. Rakta: red blood (hemoglobin, or oxygen-carrying compound)
  3. Mamsa: muscle
  4. Medha: fat
  5. Asthi: bone
  6. Majja: central nervous system and bone marrow
  7. Shukra: ova and sperm

Each tissue level is constantly reformed and nourished on a daily basis. Each level of the tissues nourishes the next. Thus a balanced rakta level can only be created from a fully developed and balanced rasa level, and so on. Impurities within one level of tissue can interfere with the ability to create balanced tissue at the next level.

Levels of Panchakarma

A three-day purification treatment can be very powerful in refreshing and energizing the physiology, ridding the body of day-to-day stress and fatigue. The effect of a three-day treatment would be most likely to be experienced more on the rasa and rakta level of the body.

Longer treatments dissolve ama (impurities) and stresses, and nourish deeper tissue levels; the medha, asthi, majja and shurkra levels. This helps in transforming the vital organs, the brain, nervous system, and eventually the reproductive tissues. As impurities are loosened in each tissue level, more intelligence can flow into these areas. This level of restoration, at the very basis of each organ and tissue, can help reset the essential functioning of the body.

(Although this is not relavant to the theme of aging, you can see why minimum of seven days of Panchakarma is recommended to those who want to have children. Because shurka (ova and sperm) is the final tissue level, nourished by every other tissue level, all seven tissue levels should be healthy and balanced before conception.)

If it is not possible to participate in longer, extended treatments, start with a consultation with an Ayurveda expert to find out your level of balance and imbalance. Ultimately, the most important contribution to our overall state of health is our every day lifestyle. Daily oil massage, the proper diet and routine and herbal recommendations that target specific imbalances can help extend our experience of health and vitality throughout our entire life.

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

www.theraj.com

 

Keeping Balanced During Kapha Season

The change from Vata season to Kapha season is not as clear as the change from Kapha to Pitta or Pitta to Vata. Both Vata and Kapha are characterized by cold. When the dry cold of fall and early winter transforms into a wetter cold, this heralds the switch of seasons. Often this change occurs in February or March. But if your climate is exceptionally cold and dry, the increase in Kapha may not happen until March.

During Kapha season, cold is accompanied by increased moisture (snow or rain), cloud-covered days and a feeling a heaviness. You may feel a tendency to “hibernate” during this time—and you may also be more likely to catch a cold or flu.

Lifestyle Tips for Kapha Season

Here are some lifestyle tips to help you stay balanced, warm and dry during Kapha season.

Eat hot food—hot in temperature and in spices as well.

Drink hot, stimulating drinks, such as teas with ginger.

Cut down on refined sugars. Substitute raw, unheated honey instead. Honey is the only sweetener that is also astringent and has the ability to reduce Kapha. Be sure not to heat your honey and only add it to hot drinks when they are at “sipping temperature”.

Favor foods with the following tastes: astringent (such as beans), spicy (chili peppers or curry powder, for example) and bitter (bitter greens and spinach). While you may find yourself tempted to start eating more salads as spring arrives, it is better to avoid cold foods.

Early to bed, early to rise will help maintain health in both Vata and Kapha seasons.  As Kapha season progresses, the sun rises earlier and earlier. If we are constantly waking up after the sun rises, during the Kapha time of the morning from 6:00 am to 10:00 am, we will feel sluggish and tired all day. This habit can result in the build-up of impurities (ama), which can predispose us to allergies and congestion.

Try to exercise in every morning. Getting some good, brisk exercise during the Kapha time of the morning (6:00 – 10:00) will help you maintain a healthy balance during this wet and cold season. Just as sleep is the number-one tool for balancing Vata, and as diet is the number-one tool for balancing Pitta, exercise is the number one tool for balancing Kapha.

Get the Most from Your Food

Digestion tends to be sluggish during Kapha season. Here are some ways to help you perk up your digestive fires:

Try eating a ginger pickle before lunch or dinner. To make a ginger pickle, slice a thin piece of fresh ginger root (peeled). Sprinkle the slice with lemon juice and salt and eat it about 15 minutes before a meal.

Be sure to remain seated for 5 to 10 minutes after you finish eating in order to give your digestion a chance start processing the meal.

Diet

Eat More

Light, dry, and warm foods

Foods that are spicy, bitter and astringent

Fruits which are lighter, such as apples and pears

Raw, uncooked honey: honey is the only sweetener that decreases Kapha because it has an astringent quality along with sweetness. (Do not cook with honey. Honey can be added to drinks such as tea when the temperature is “sip-friendly”. Heated honey can interfere with digestion and create ama.

Lighter grains such as barley and millet

Eat Less

Heavy, oily and cold foods

Sweet, sour and salty foods

Heavy or sour fruits, such as oranges, bananas, pineapples, avocados, coconuts, melons, figs and dates

Sugar and sugar products

Nuts

Wheat, rice or oats

Tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potato and zuchini

Salt

Sore Throat Relief

If you feel a sore throat coming on, try taking 3/4 teaspoon of raw honey mixed with 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric. The astringent tastes of turmeric and honey help to dry up congestion and prevent a sore throat. Of course, if the symptoms last more than two days, be sure to see your doctor.

Kapha season is also the perfect time to check in with an Ayurveda expert or to schedule Ayurvedic detoxification and purification treatments (Panchakarma). For more information, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa web site:

www.theraj.com

Improving Digestion Without Increasing Vata

According to Ayurveda, good digestion is the key to good health. When one’s digestion has been compromised, a light diet is often a recommended step in helping to get agni (the digestive “fire”) back in working order. Recently someone expressed concern about adopting this light diet. His concert was that he did not want to lose weight or increase Vata, which was already out of balance.

Eating light does not necessarily mean eating less—it means eating substantial quantities of lighter foods. Foundational to Ayurveda’s dietary advice is becoming attuned to your body’s signals. If your body is telling you that it is hungry, you need to eat. Otherwise, your agni (digestive fire), not having any food to digest, will start to digest your bodily tissues and you will lose weight. If you are trying to maintain a constant weight, eat when you feel hungry, even if the sensation is not very strong.

As you become more and more balanced, that feeling of hunger should begin to appear at mealtimes, especially at noon when your digestion is naturally stronger. And over time, you’ll find that at each mealtime you will have developed an appetite that suits your ability to digest and that maintains your weight.

Your ability to digest will be helped by a regular exercise program.

Of course when the advice is given to eat when hungry, this means to eat fresh, pure foods. Ayurveda recommends foods that are abundant in prana — the universal life-force that gives life to all life. These would include organic fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and healthy oils. Foods such as canned and processed food, foods prepared with chemical fertilizers or sprays, and left-over foods would not be considered foods that contain “life-force”.

To increase muscle mass, favor fleshy fruits like raisins, dates, figs and mangoes, all of which specifically nourish muscle tissue.

Also helpful for digestion is lassi, a drink made from freshly prepared yogurt mixed with water. You can add sweetener and spices such as cardamom to taste.

PURE FOODS

Fruits

Apples, Kiwi, Prunes, Apricots, Loquat, Tangerines, Bananas, Lychee, Pomegranate, Cantaloupe, Mango, Papaya, Cherries, Melons, Nectarines, Cranberry, Honeydew, Oranges, Grapefruits, Watermelon, Pineapples, Grapes, Peaches, Plums, Guava, Pears, Persimmon

Vegetables

Artichokes, Eggplant, Lettuce, Beets, Mustard, Greens, Asparagus, Daikon, Onions, Endive, Fennel, Maitake, Parsnips, Bok Choy, Peas, Broccoli, Green Beans, Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, Kale, Radishes, Cabbage, Leeks, Lima Beans, Shallots, Carrots, Celery, Spinach, Cauliflower, Chard, Chanterelles, Sprouts, Corn, Squash, Shitake, Mushrooms, Watercress, Turnips, Yams

Sprouted Whole Grains

Amaranth, Barley, Buckwheat, Bulgur, Millet, Quinoa, Rice: Basmati, Brown and Wild Rice.

Oils

Olive, Safflower, Sesame, Sunflower,

LEGUMES/BEANS

Garbanzo, Lentils, Mung and other Dals

Spices

Asafoetida (hing), Coriander, Basil, Cumin, Nutmeg, Black Pepper, Fennel seed, Parsley, Cardamom, Fenugreek, Turmeric, Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger

Nut/Seed

Brazil nuts, Pumpkin seeds, Sunflower seeds, Walnuts

Milks & Cheese

Unhomogenized Cow’s Milk, Seed milk, Hemp milk, Almond or other nut milk

Sweetners

Cane juice, Raw honey, Stevia, Fruit Juices, Maple Syrup

For more information on programs to improve digestion, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Staying Flexible And Pain Free as We Age

I’ve noticed that many friends over the age of 60 have switched their modes of exercise to less aggressive or intensive sports. Most of them were prompted by whispers from sore elbows and knees and/or aching muscles. This growing stiffness reflects in increase in Vata dosha that inevitably accompanies age.

According to Ayurveda, there are three stages of life. The first stage is Kapha-predominant. Childhood is all about growing and increasing structure. The second stage is Pitta-predominant. This stage begins at puberty and continues until we are around 50. The third stage is Vata-predominant and continues through the rest of our life. Many times what we consider signs of normal aging are actually the results of a growing imbalance of Vata: stiffness, memory loss, insomnia. By putting extra attention on keeping Vata in balance, as we grow older, we can often eliminate these symptoms.

Vata also increases when the weather is cold and dry. This is why many people experience more pulled muscles and joint problems in the winter, as well as during their later years.

As Vata increases, an imbalance in Vata can make the joints drier and more stiff. When Vata moves from its proper location is can start to dry out Kapha dosha, cutting down on Kapha’s natural lubricating abilities. To counter this tendency, daily oil massage can be extremely effective. Using warmed sesame oil (or olive or coconut oil for those with lots of Pitta); massage the joints in a circular motion each morning before your bath. If you are already experiencing joint pain, follow your massage by applying three to five minutes of moist heat to the joint.

YogaAsanas-c2.jpg

In addition, regular stretching of the joints and muscles through yoga and sun salutations helps keep the body limber. No matter what form of exercise you prefer, adding regular yoga exercises to your routine will help you enjoy your favorite sport for years to come. Yoga is unique in that it can strengthen and lengthen the muscles. Most forms of exercise that strengthen muscles also tend to shorten them. Shorter muscles tend to become stiffer due to the increase in collagen. Yoga, however, lengthens the muscles while they are being strengthened, and can prevent the increase of collagen.

Avoid straining when you exercise. Yoga (and any other form of exercise) should always be comfortable. Feel the stretch, but ease up if there is discomfort.

If you have significant joint problems, be sure to get medical attention. Joint problems commonly reflect ama in the system. Specific recommendations regarding diet, herbs, Ayurvedic topical preparations and Panchakarma can be made by an Ayurvedic expert.

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

www.theraj.com

Increased Digestive Power Equals Increased Health

familydinnervnd

While many of us put great thought into choosing healthy foods to eat, consideration of our ability to digest our meals is less common. Ayurveda considers good digestion to be central to our health. The best way to maximize the health-promoting benefits of the food we eat is to increase our digestive power.

How do we know if our digestion is working well?

One of the easiest ways to judge the strength of our digestion is to notice how we feel after eating. If we feel light and comfortable after eating a full meal, the chances are good that we are processing our food well.

If we feel dull, heavy, fatigued, or have an uncomfortable feeling in the abdomen, this could mean that our agni, or digestive fire, is weak

Why does Ayurveda consider a strong digestion to be so important?

Our agni, or digestive power, must be strong in order to metabolize our food properly. When agni is strong, the body processes food efficiently, distributes the necessary nutrients to every cell, and burns off and eliminates waste products without leaving any toxins behind.

If our agni is weak, we don’t completely metabolize the food that we take in. The end product of partially digested food is a sticky, noxious residue that Ayurveda calls ama (impurities). When ama is absorbed into our body it blocks the channels of the body, inhibiting the normal functioning of Vata, Pitta and Kapha — the three governing principles of the physiology. One example of ama is the cellular debris that has been observed by Western medicine to build up over time in our body’s cells. This waste material impairs cellular functions and accelerates aging. It could even be a factor in causing the DNA to make mistakes, an etiological component in most cancers.

Because ama contributes to the early stages of many diseases, Ayurveda considers keeping our agni strong and our digestion healthy to be an essential component of prevention.

If you wake up in the morning with a white coating on your tongue, you need to start attending to your digestion. (And buy a tongue scraper to remove the build-up of toxins on your tongue.)

Other signs that your agni needs attention include bad breath and digestive complaints such as constipation or diarrhea.

Tips for Strengthening Agni

  1. Eat a “ginger pickle” before meals. Slice thin pieces of fresh ginger root, then sprinkle with lemon juice and salt. Eat a few pieces several minutes before your meal.
  2. Sip hot water throughout the day. Avoid cold or (worse) iced beverages.
  3. Get regular exercise. If you feel sleeping during the day, it is better to take a brisk, 30-minute walk rather than indulge in a daytime nap.
  4. Always eat sitting down and remain sitting for 10 minutes after you have finished your meal.

The traditional Ayurveda detoxification treatments, Panchakarma, offered at The Raj help dislodge toxins from the cells and flush out the ama that has been lodges in the system. The recommendations for diet and daily routine given by the Ayurveda experts will help prevent future accumulation of ama.

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

www.theraj.com

Finding Relief from Chronic Fatigue with Ayurveda

Chronic Fatigue syndrome is an illness that consists of a constellation of symptoms lasting for many months. These symptoms are fatigue, joint problems, muscle tissue pain, trouble focusing, and trouble concentrating. It is sometimes related to a preexisting viral illness caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. There is no effective treatment in Western, allopathic medicine. But at The Raj Maharishi Ayurveda Health Spa, we’ve seen guests who have generally done well with an Ayurvedic approach and have had good results from Panchakarma treatments.

fatigue.jpg

From an Ayurveda perspective, chronic fatigue is often related to a disturbance of the digestion and an accumulation of ama, or toxins, in the physiology. This causes clogging of the shrotas—or channels—through which energy flows throughout the body. This blockage, or clogging, results in a lack of energy and enthusiasm. Those suffering from this condition should first have a work-up by their physician to make sure that there are not other causes, such as thyroid imbalance or adrenal imbalances. But in the absence of those factors, Ayurveda looks toward the accumulation of ama and poor digestion.

Specific diet recommendations according to one’s doshic balance, together with measures to strengthen digestion, or agni, are the first steps in helping eliminate some of the backlog of ama. Specific herbs can also be used to increase the power of digestion.

Perhaps the most effective means of mobilizing and eliminating toxins is Ayurveda’s traditional purification and detoxification therapy, Panchakarma. These powerful treatments open up the possibility for many chronic fatigue sufferers to find relief. The herbalized heat treatments such as swedena, pizzichilli, and pinda-swedena, open the channels and allow ama to become dislodged from the tissues. The elimination therapy, or basti, then removes the ama from the lower digestive tracts.

Often there is a mental stress that resulted from dealing with on-going chronic fatigue. In this case, we recommend an approach from the level of consciousness, the Transcendental Meditation technique. In conjunction with Panchakarma and appropriate diet, this can help create an effective and complete program to revitalize the entire mind/body system.

For more information on Ayurvedic programs for Chronic Fatigue, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

WWW.THERAJ.COM

Improve Immunity and Vitality with Ojas—Your Body’s Secret Weapon Against Disease

Last week we discussed how Ayurveda considers good digestion to be central to maintaining health and vitality. We also discussed how poor digestion could lead to a build-up of toxins (called ama) throughout the body.

Ama-und-Ojas_.jpg

Today I want to touch on another product of digestion: ama’s opposite: ojas. When our digestion is strong and is capable of thoroughly digesting the food that we eat, a state of balance is created in our entire mind/body system. As digestion improves it creates more of a subtle substance called ojas.

Ojas is the finest product of digestion and brings a healthy glow to the skin. It nourishes the experience of bliss in the mind and body. According to the original texts of Ayurveda, the Charaka Samhita, when the quality of ojas diminishes too much, life itself is threatened. The more ojas we have in our body, the more our health, immunity from disease and sense of well-being increase.

Ojas is also said to stand as the “lamp at the door” between consciousness and matter, connecting them and thus assuring that the sequence of intelligence is expressed properly in the body. Ojas is said to be the most important biochemical substance mediating the influence of consciousness on the body.

All Ayurvedic treatments and recommendations are designed to increase the abundance of ojas and to avoid reducing ojas. both aspects are considered central to restoring health and preventing illness. Foundational for increasing ojas is good digestion and balanced diet.

WHAT INCREASES OJAS, BESIDES GOOD DIGESTION?

Food

There are some foods that directly increase ojas, while others decrease it.Foods that increase ojas (providing that you are properly digesting them) are milk, ghee, and rice.

Food should be fresh and organic.

Preparation and eating of food

Food taken in an atmosphere of warmth, upliftment and congeniality increases ojas.

Behavior

Positivity in feelings, speech and behavior are said to increase ojas. Love, joy, and appreciation produce more ojas and, therefore, better immunity. This ties in well with the current findings in mind/body medicine and may provide a way of understanding such findings.

Panchakarma

Ayurvedic purification therapies remove impurities from the channels of circulation in the body. This is said to improve the cells’ ability to take up and receive ojas, thus helping rejuvenation the body.

WHAT DECREASES OJAS?

Negative emotions

Stress, hurrying, and excessive exercise

Staying up too late

Overexposure to wind and sun

Injury or trauma to the body

Alcoholic beverages

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

WWW.THERAJ.COM

Increased Digestive Power Equals Increased Health

familydinnervnd

While many of us put great thought into choosing healthy foods to eat, consideration of our ability to digest our meals is less common. Ayurveda considers good digestion to be central to our health. The best way to maximize the health-promoting benefits of the food we eat is to increase our digestive power.

How do we know if our digestion is working well?

One of the easiest ways to judge the strength of our digestion is to notice how we feel after eating. If we feel light and comfortable after eating a full meal, the chances are good that we are processing our food well.

If we feel dull, heavy, fatigues or have an uncomfortable feeling in the abdomen, this could mean that our agni, or digestive fire, is weak

Why does Ayurveda consider a strong digestion to be so important?

Our agni, or digestive power, must be strong in order to metabolize our food properly. When agni is strong, the body processes food efficiently, distributes all the necessary nutrients to every cell, and burns off and eliminates waste products without leaving any toxins behind.

If our agni is weak, it doesn’t completely metabolize the food that we take in. The end product of partially digested food is a sticky, noxious residue that Ayurveda calls ama (impurities). When ama is absorbed into our body it blocks the channels of the body, inhibiting the normal functioning of Vata, Pitta and Kapha — the three governing principles of the physiology. One example of ama is the cellular debris that has been observed by Western medicine to build up over time in all our body’s cells. The waste material impairs cellular functions and accelerates aging. It could even be a factor in causing the DNA to make mistakes, an etiological component in most cancers.

Because ama contributes to the early stages of many diseases,Ayurveda considers keeping our agni strong and our digestion healthy to be an essential component of prevention.

If you wake up in the morning with a white coating on your tongue, you need to start attending to your digestion. (And buy a tongue scraper to remove the build-up of toxins on your tongue.)

Other signs that your agni needs attention include bad breath and digestive complaints such as constipation or diarrhea.

Tips for Strengthening Agni

  1. Eat a “ginger pickle” before meals. Slice thin pieces of fresh ginger root, then sprinkle with lemon juice and salt. Eat a few pieces several minutes before your meal.
  2. Sip hot water throughout the day. Avoid cold or (worse) iced beverages.
  3. Get regular exercise. If you feel sleeping during the day, it is better to take a brisk, 30-minute walk rather than indulge in a daytime nap.
  4. Always eat sitting down and remain sitting for 10 minutes after you have finished your meal.

The traditional Ayurveda detoxification treatments, Panchakarma, offered at The Raj help dislodge toxins from the cells and flush out the ama that has been lodges in the system. The recommendations for diet and daily routine given by the Ayurveda experts will help prevent future accumulation of ama.

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

www.theraj.com

Ayuveda’s Effortless Approach to Weight Loss: The Original Science of “Chrono-Nutrition”

The holiday season is over and so is the parade of celebrations and get-togethers with their enticing treats. How many New Year’s Resolutions lists have “Weight loss” (or “Improve diet” or “Cut out sugar and carbs”) near the top? Luckily for the diet-inclined, the ancient science of Ayurveda offers some simple tips that can help you lose weight easily and effortlessly.

Foundational to Ayurveda is the understanding of which dosha predominates at different times of the day and night, (and season and time of life) and how to structure activity so that these influences work for us instead of against us. (If you are new to Ayurveda, read our blog Understanding the Doshas.) Apparently modern science is catching up. There is now a whole “new” approach to dieting called “chrono-nutrition”. Basically, the thinking is that controlling eating patterns can have profound effects on weight loss. The “new tips” from chrono-nutrition seem oddly familiar to anyone with any knowledge of Ayurveda.

chrono-nutrition

Tip 1: Eat Less at Night

According to the experts on chrono-nutrition, the energy our body uses to process the food we consume is 50 percent lower during the evening meal. It turns out that about 10 percent of the energy we use every day is directed toward digesting and processing the food we eat. If we eat large amounts of food at night, we use significantly less energy than if we eat the exact same food earlier in the day.

A recent study comparing two groups — both consuming 1400 calories a day — found eating most calories for breakfast rather than at dinner produced greater weight loss and waist circumference reduction.

(In addition, a large carbohydrate load in the evening has been found to create some insulin resistance, which in turn may affect melatonin and cortisol  – and therefore sleep.)

In Ayurvedic terms, Pitta dosha is responsible for transformation, metabolism and digestion. Pitta is at is peak from the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. These are the hours when the most energy is available to transform the food we eat into a form that can be absorbed and utilized by our body. At night, Kapha predominates from 6:00 PM until 10:00 PM. Kapha is slow and heavy and it makes sense that we would be burning less energy while under this influence.

The proper use of the influence of the Kapha time of the day is to prepare us for bed. A light meal at night is recommended so that the body is not working on digestion while it is sleeping. This allows for the ideal use of Pitta dosha at night: to perform self-repair work while we are sleeping so that we can wake up refreshed and renewed.

Tip 2: Maintain a Steady Routine

While chrono-nutritionists admit they do not fully understand the mechanism, they found that maintaining a steady routine also helps with weight loss, even if what you are eating remains exactly the same. They theorize that when your body becomes accustomed to a schedule, your metabolism and hormones work better and digest your food more efficiently at meal times.

According to Ayurveda, maintaining a good routine is a key tool for keeping Vata dosha under control. Vata dosha governs movement throughout the body. It is the first dosha to go out of balance and can wreak havoc with the other doshas. When out of balance, Vata can compromise digestion, much as a strong wind can put out a small fire. Once again (as when we eat late at night) we are left with less energy with which to metabolize our food. When we stop being able to pull the needed nutrients out of our food, a message is sent to our brain that we are starving. This can trigger all kinds of food cravings. These food cravings are often for Kapha-type foods. This is because body automatically seeks balance. Because Kapha has the opposite qualities of Vata, it is natural to want to eat heavier foods to balance the growing instability of Vata.

Tip 3: Go To Bed On Time

The chrono-nutritionists have found that early sleepers have a 25 per cent better response in diets, both psychological and physiological reasons. Again, their understanding of the mechanics behind this fact is limited. They note that studies have found time and again that when we are tired we over-eat and have less control over what we consume. They offer the simple explanation that if you sleep well; you are likely to make better dietary choices the day after, which will result in a more balanced diet. Studies have also shown that if your sleep is disrupted or erratic, the production of cortisol is affected, which in turn affects many bodily functions such as metabolism and the regulation of the immune system.

Ayurveda offers a sophisticated understanding of how living in tune with the laws of nature that structure the world around us results in a healthier, more efficient mind-body system.

Staying on a steady routine, going to bed at 10:00 and getting up, rested and alert, around 6:00 is a way to make sure that you are getting maximum support from all three doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Our body is filled with biological clocks, not just in our brain but also in our in our organs, our joints and our muscles. When we are in tune with these clocks, the body automatically repairs itself at night, allowing us to wake up in the morning refreshed and energized, all systems go. If we have not eaten a heavy meal late in the evening and if we head to bed on time our evening Pitta will be put to work regenerating our muscles, joints, and cells. Our brain will have been cleared of waste products. The 10-hour fast will have reset our metabolic system. If we prime the system with a light but healthy breakfast (cooked apples, oatmeal) we are in balance and set for the day.

Tip 4: Pay Attention When You Eat

According to the chono-nutrition experts, “If you don’t give yourself enough time to eat, you cannot feel enough satisfaction.” Studies have shown that 21 minutes is the optimal time needed for satiety signals to reach your brain. Eating with one’s full attention on your food is proving to be essential for weight management, and several studies have shown that this approach results in greater satiety, improved food experience and better hormonal response.

The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa has always recommends guests practice Self Referral Eating. This means being aware of what you are doing during each meal. This involves sitting down to eat and putting your full attention on your meal (as opposed to watching TV, doing work or reading while you eat.) Chewing your food well is a part of this process: healthy digestion and nutrient absorption begin with proper chewing, which triggers the release of digestive enzymes.

Ayurveda recommends that you remain at the table for at least 10 minutes after you are finished eating, to allow your digestive process a chance to fully kick in. If you allow the act of eating to support your digestion, you’ll find more satisfaction with set meals, fewer urges to snack, and a more efficient digestive system that tends to quickly burn up what you have taken in.

Because of its ancient heritage, it is easy to miss the sophistication of the Ayurveda approach to health and wholeness. And while staying on a good routine, going to bed on time, eating according to the strength of Pitta dosha, and putting our full attention on what we eat may sound basic and run of the mill, these suggestions are grounded in a deep understanding of how our body works. Forget the new fads: put going back to basics on your list of New Year Resolutions and discover how quickly your physiology responds to living in tune with nature’s cycles.

For more information on The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa programs, including programs for weight loss, visit our website:

www.theraj.com