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