Ayurveda is About Choice

The most important contribution to that anyone can make to their overall state of health is their every day lifestyle. Every day we have a choice in our diet and our routine. These choices ultimately create our body, our mind, and our consciousness. The more we understand these choices, the more we support our continued health and happiness.

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Choosing the optimal Ayurvedic diet and routine begins with understanding not only your underlying body “type” but also your current state of balance and imbalance. For instance, given the fast pace of our modern lives, even those with a predominately Kapha constitution may find themselves with a Vata imbalance. To simply choose foods and activities that reduce Kapha would end up exacerbating that imbalance. If you do not have an Ayurvedic expert in your area to help you determine your current state of balance, you can base your choices on an understanding of the basics of the Ayurveda daily routine that apply to everyone, no matter what your body type.

Foundational to following an ideal daily routine is understanding which dosha predominates at the different hours of the day. There are two cycles, in the morning and in the evening:

From 6:00 to 10:00, both morning and evening, Kapha predominates

From 10:00 to 2:00, both morning and evening, Pitta predominates

From 2:00 to 6:00, both morning and evening, Vata predominates.

Ideal Times for Sleeping

There is a saying, “The day starts the night before”. Only by going to bed early can the next day’s activity be fully supported. By going to bed during Kapha time, (before 10:00 P.M. when the evening Pitta period begins), we take advantage of Nature’s natural cycle of healing and rejuvenation. The qualities of Kapha, (heaviness and dullness), allows us to get to sleep most quickly, and to have the deepest, least interrupted sleep.

The Pitta that begins to dominate at 10:00 PM is meant to be directed towards metabolic cleansing. The body needs to be inactive at this time so that it can focus its intelligence and energy on restoring and rejuvenating the body. If we are up and active during this time, we may enjoy an effective spurt of energy but we cheat our bodies on much needed self-repair. Over time this can take a serious toll on our physical and mental health.

Going to bed on time allows us to easily rise at the proper time, before 6:00 A.M. The period before 6 AM is the time when all of Nature is waking up, and a time when Vata is enlivened in the environment. If we start our day in Vata time, our mind will experience more of the qualities of balanced Vata throughout the day: increased energy, clarity, intelligence and alertness.

If we sleep past 6 AM, we sleep into the Kapha time of the day. When a person sleeps until 7:30 AM they have been lying dull and dormant for one and a half hours in Kapha time and they wake experiencing the qualities of Kapha: dullness, heaviness and lethargy.

Understanding and following the ideal times for eating and sleeping means harmonizing our behavior with the rhythms and cycles of the body and the cycles of nature. This is the key to living a health-promoting life. If we live a lifestyle that disrupts our natural biological rhythms, we are sabotaging our own health, breaking down the resistance of the body and contributing to the creation of disease.

Ideal Times for Eating

Breakfast

Digestion is not strong when we first awake, so breakfast should not be a heavy meal. Cooked apples and pears are a perfect way to begin the day. It is best to avoid cheeses, meats and other heavy, hard-to digest foods at breakfast.

Lunch

In the middle of the day the transformational element in nature is at its peak. This activates that same principle, Pitta, in our own bodies. Pitta is responsible for our digestion and metabolism.

For this reason we should eat our largest meal at noon. The ideal time for lunch is between 12:30 and 1:00, as this is the period of highest Pitta and greatest digestive power. Lunch should be a warm, cooked meal, with all six tastes. Take at least 30 minutes, eat in a relaxed setting, and then sit comfortably for 10 to 15 minutes after you finish.

Dinner

In the evening, digestion is less strong. In a few hours we should be sleeping, which further slows the digestive and metabolic processes. Therefore dinner should be a lighter meal. Heavy foods like cheese, ice cream and meat are best avoided at this meal.

It is better to eat earlier in the evening than later. The later you eat, the less food you should consume and the lighter the food should be.

If we have been living a life that is out of tune with nature’s laws, it is never too late to make healthy changes. A consultation with an Ayurvedic expert can pinpoint imbalances that have built up in the physiology, and provide specific recommendations for restoring a healthy balance. The traditional purification and detoxification treatments of Ayurveda, known as Panchakarma treatments, can remove accumulated imbalances and blockages from deep within the tissues.. These treatments offer a giant step forward as a technology to maintain and create a deep level of health.

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

www.theraj.com

Pepper and Turmeric: Enhancing Heart and Brain Health with Ayurvedic Spices

“Bioenhancer” is a term that has become very important to drug and food supplement companies. Bioenhancers are substances that increase the “bioavailability and bioefficacy” of other substances. What is “bioavailablity”? In terms of both pharmicudical and herbal supplements, it means the quantity or fraction of an ingested dose that is actually absorbed by the body. Because of either differing digestive capabilities or because of our body’s cellular membranes that block foreign particles, much of what we take in orally is actually not absorbed by our body. While we can see why this is of concern to drug companies, this concern should extend to our every day life and our ability to extract vital nutrients from our food.

Peririne was the first bioenhancer to be discovered by modern science. It is found naturally  in pepper. Peririne, along with cucumine (found in turmeric), and gingerols (found in ginger) are now being isolated and sold by numerous pharmacutical companies in order to improve the bioefficacy of their products.

This “new” science is in fact age-old wisdom offered by Ayurveda, the 5000 year old health science of India. Spicing has always been a key part of both Ayurvedic cooking and Ayurveda health recommendations. Not only do spices make our meals taste delicious, they help our bodies stay balanced and healthy. Spices help us better absorb nutrients in our food. They have been found to be antioxidants, prevent cancer, lower cholesterol and blood sugar, improve memory, flush out toxins, and enhance digestion During consultations at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa, spices are normally a part of the individualized recommendations given to help restore balanced health.

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Let’s look at these “new” bioenhancers:

Pepper Helps Feed Your Brain

Perinine is found in cracked black pepper. Perinine has been found to help carry nutrition across the blood brain barrier. The blood brain barrier is a layer of tightly packed cells that make up the walls of brain capillaries and prevent substances in the blood from entering the brain. This protects the brain from “foreign substances”, helps maintain a constant environment for the brain and protects the brain from hormones and neurotransmitters in the rest of the body.

Because our brain is made up of almost 60% fat, it needs high quality fats to keep the lining of the brain cells flexible so that memory and other brain messages can easily pass between cells. Getting fat to cross the blood brain barrier can be a challenge. If we are using healthy oils in our diet, adding freshly ground pepper helps us make the most of oils and other nutrients. Bioenhancers increase the absorption of oils and nutrients for our body, as well as our brain, supporting cell growth, protecting our organs and helping manufacture hormones in our body.

Perinine also helps strengthens the functioning of the heart and kidneys. It effective against colon cancer and inflammation and generally enhances immunity. Pepper it is very stimulating to the digestive system. It is also inherently heating and should be used cautiously by those with a Pitta imbalance.

Pepper is most efficient when it is fresh. A pepper grinder and organic pepper corns will allow you to get the most out of this important spice.

Turmeric

Cucumin is found in turmeric, the spice that gives curry its yellow color. Ayurveda considers turmeric a medicinal herb as well as a cooking spice.

Curcumin is said to have powerful anti-oxidizing effects. Because of its chemical structure, curcumin can neutralize free radicals. In addition, it supports and boosts the body’s own antioxidant enzymes. Curcumin, however, is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. To get the most out of turmeric it is recommended that you add freshly ground black pepper to your spice mixture. The piperine in black pepper has been shown to enhance the absorption of curcumin by 2000%.

Curcumin is also anti-inflammatory. Because inflammation and oxidative damage are contributors to many diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, arthritis and various cancers, turmeric is gaining world wide interest in the world of science. It has been noted that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and certain cancers in India is among the world’s lowest. Turmeric has been shown to have an effect in blocking the growth skin cancer, and inhibiting the spread of breast cancer into the lungs.

Curcumin has recently been shown to strengthen and order cell membranes, making cells more resistant to infection and malignancy. There is new evidence that curcumin can help keep away neurogenerative disease through its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and act as an antioxidant.

Ginger

Ginger is another spice that Ayurveda recommends for its medicinal properties. The active ingredient in ginger is gingerol, a compound that is thought to relax blood vessels, stimulate blood flow and relieve pain. Traditionally ginger has been used as a remedy for poor circulation, colds, flue, arthritis, heart disease, and poor digestion, as well as nausea and motion sickness. Gingerol is a is also potent anti-inflammatory agent, which means it may be useful in fighting heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis. Antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anticancer activity have also been reported. Gingerol has been reported to not only reduce pain levels in individuals suffering from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, but also to improve mobility.

Ginger is also heating by nature. If you have Pitta imbalances such as ulcers or heartburn, check first with an Ayurveda expert to see how best to use ginger in cooking.

Purchasing Spices

Turmeric, black pepper and ginger are all sold in the supermarkets in a ground form. While the pre-packaged, ground forms of black pepper and ginger may add flavor to your food, they are mostly deficient in their health benefits.

Ideally black pepper and ginger should be bought in their whole form and then ground or chopped at the time of cooking. To purchase high quality herbs, visit a local organic grocery or spice shop, or order them from a spice retailer online. Always use organic herbs that have their full range of nutrients and are not irradiated or sprayed with pesticide.

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Kapha Detox Diet — Act Now to Avoid Springtime Allergies and Colds

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During late winter and early spring (when the weather is cool and wet) Kapha predominates in our environment. This is the time when all of us need to put attention on balancing Kapha dosha. Additionally, this is the key time of the year to put attention on creating a strong and balanced digestive capability. Why? Because springtime is when “ama” (toxins) that have accumulated in our bodies over winter start “melting” and being released throughout our physiology. A strong, healthy digestion will help us metabolize and eliminate these deposits of wastes and impurities. This, in turn, will help us to avoid allergies and spring colds. Try this diet for 2 to 3 weeks before winter transitions into spring. (Please note that this is specifically a detox diet that is not meant to be followed for  extended periods of time.)

Main Principles of Spring, Kapha-Reducing Diet

  • Food should be freshly prepared, preferably in your own home.
  • Do not use frozen or canned foods
  • Try to avoid leftovers (food that has been cooked and then refrigerated. This includes most deli foods, such as pasta salad, potato salad, etc.)
  • Use organically grown foods as much as possible

Items to Avoid: During the Kapha detox diet, avoid the following:

Red meat

Oily or heavy food preparations such as fried foods, cream sauces or heavy desserts.

Raw vegetables and salads (! I know! But raw foods can be difficult to digest if you do not have a robust digestive capacity. Remember, this is a 2 or 3 week diet designed to boost and balance your digestion as well as reduce ama and balance Kapha.)

Hot spices such as chilies, hot peppers or jalepeno

Carbohydrates: this means cutting out pizza, bread, cookies, candy chocolate, cocoa, pastries and baked goods. Freshly made chapattis or flatbreads are the exception to this rule.

Be selective with diary: avoid curdled milk products such as yogurt (except if you are drinking lassi), cheese, cottage cheese, and sour cream. Do not ice cream, or any frozen desserts. Opt for ghee over butter.

Only eat fresh fruit. Avoid jam or dried fruits, except soaked figs and raisins. In this case, raw is fine. Ayurveda considers ripe fruit to be “cooked by the sun” and easy to digest. Cooked apples or pears is a perfect breakfast choice, recommended by Ayurvedic experts to “create bliss” in the body.

Cold anything: No cold water or iced drinks.

Other drinks to avoid: carbonated drinks, alcohol, caffeinated drinks, bottled or canned fruit or vegetable juices.

Sour foods: avoid vinegar or vinegar-containing condiments such as catsup, mustard, pickles, olives, relishes, etc.

Avoid processed soy products like tofu, tempeh, soy dogs, etc.

If you feel the need to follow a non-vegetarian diet, freshly cooked chicken is the best option during this Kapha-reducing diet.

What CAN You Eat?

Enjoy cooked vegetables, grains, legumes (beans, dals), most fresh fruits (better to eat sweet fruits rather than sour. Also, avoid heavy fruits such as bananas and avacodo), nuts and seeds.

Proportionately, eat more vegetables and less grains. Green, leafy greens are a great option at this time of year. Try to include one cup every day.

Barley is the ideal Kapha-reducing grain. Millet, oats, rye, and kashi are good grains at this time of the year. Couscous and quinoa can be enjoyed several times a week, but not every day. Rice and pasta should only be eaten once or twice a week and only at noon.

Low-fat milk is fine to eat if it is boiled with a pinch of ginger or turmeric. (Honey can be added when the milk is cool enough to sip. Honey has an astringent quality that makes it the ideal sweetener for Kaphas.)

A vegetarian diet is helpful in maintaining a healthy weight and good digestion.

Fresh soups are easy to digest and nourishing.

If you like deserts, cooked fruit or homemade fruit crisps are recommended.

Spice your food at every meal. This will help the boost your digestive process. Favor ginger, black pepper, mustard seeds, oregano, sage, thyme, mint, basil, turmeric, cinnamon and cloves.

 

Panchakarma Treatments

Spring is the ideal time to enjoy Panchakarma treatments, the traditional detoxification and rejuvenation therapies of Ayurveda. Panchakarma treatments will help to remove toxins and imbalances that have accumulated within the body’s tissues over the winter months. Late winter Panchakarma can help you to avoid allergies during the spring and early summer.

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

www.theraj.com

Ayurvedic Treatments Help Combat Heart Disease

 

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Free radicals, or reactive oxygen species (ROS) are fragments of molecules that are electrochemically unstable. They are like tiny molecular “sharks” that damage every living cell and help cause problems such as heart attacks, cataracts, arthritis and cancer.

Pollution, poor diet, smoking, second-hand smoke, alcohol, pesticides, excessive exposure to sunlight, chemotherapy, and stress are know to contribute to the uncontrolled formation of free radicals, which can then initiate chain reactions capable of causing extensive damage to normal cells and tissues.

Free radicals are damaging because they are unstable molecules containing oxygen. Just as oxygen rusts automobiles and contributes to the burning of forests, so the oxygen in free radical molecules “rusts” and “burns” biological molecules within each cell. The resulting damage tears apart cell membranes, destroys the cell’s energy-producing mechanisms and disarranges the genetic code in the DNA.

This damage not only helps cause 80% to 90% of all diseases, but is also produces wrinkles, grey hair, stiffness and other signs of “normal” aging.

Panchakarma Removes Free Radicals, Promotes Heart Health

Studies on the Panchakarma treatments (traditional Ayurveda detoxification and purification therapies) given at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa found that Panchakarma:

  1. Reduces lipid peroxide levels. Lipid peroxides are fat molecules that have been damaged by free radicals. They are thought to be important in the initiation of atherosclerotic heart disease. Lipid peroxide levels in the blood are uses as a measurement of free radical activity.
  2. Balances biochemistry and improves cardiovascular risk factors: a) *VIP (vasoactive intestinal peptide) rose 80% three months after Panchakarma treatment; this is significant because VIP is responsible for dilating blood vessels and increasing blood flow to the heart. b) *HDL, or “good” cholesterol increased 75% three months after treatment. HDL protects against atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and is associate with decreased incidence of heart disease.

It is proposed Panchakarma achieves its results through tree possible mechanisms.

  1. The special, pure oils used in the cleansing program, massage and heat treatments of Panchakarma replace damaging lipid peroxides in the cells.
  2. Panchakarma treatment loosens lipid peroxides from the cells and sets them into the bloodstream from where they can be eliminated.
  3. The deeply soothing and relaxing influence of Panchakarma reduces biochemical stress factors that contribute to free radical formation.

Panchakarma fights free radicals with unique effectiveness. For more information on Panchakarma treatments, visit the The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com