Daily Oil Massage to Pacify Vata and Remove Toxins

Among the top recommendations for guests at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa is to add daily oil massage (abhyanga) to their daily routine when they return home. The effects of daily Ayurveda oil massage (recommended before bathing in the morning) are multifold: Not only will a morning oil massage help pull toxins from the skin (the largest organ in the body and an important organ for the elimination of toxins), it also leaves a protective film that acts as a barrier between your skin and harmful environmental elements.

While oil massage helps balance all doshas — especially when you use oil infused with herbs that specifically target Vata, Pitta or Kapha — it is especially good for balancing Vata. I know many people who never travel without a small container of sesame oil. After a long plane or car ride, there is nothing more grounding than an oil massage followed by a good soak in a hot bath. (Add in some Vata tea and aroma oil to your travel kit and you are well on your way to sidestepping the jangling effects of travel.)

But the beneficial effects of oil massage don’t stop there. Research also suggests that sesame oil (the oil most often used in abhyanaga) selectively stops malignant skin cancer cells from growing in laboratory tissue culture, and at the same time allows normal skin cells to proliferate.

According to the study, sesame and safflower oils selectively inhibited the grown of malignant melanoma cell cultures, but coconut, olive and mineral oils did not. The traditional Ayurveda texts specifically recommend sesame oil massage to promote health and longevity.

(One note of caution: sesame oil has a naturally heating property. Those with a Pitta body type or with Pitta imbalances may need to opt for more cooling oil. Sesame oil can cause rashes or redness in Pitta-sensitive skin. If you are in this category, you might want to try coconut or olive oil. Although these oils do not inhibit the growth of cancer, they will help to pacify Vata and to remove toxins.)

Researchers have known for years that linoleic acid, an essential polyunsaturated fatty acid that is present in small quantities in the body, inhibits many kinds of cancer growth. But because pure linoleic acid is highly unstable and can irritate a person’s skin and eyes, it cannot be used or ingested safely. In the above mentioned research study, scientists used the whole vegetable oil, rather than trying to isolate the active ingredient, thus avoiding unnatural side effects.

Research also shows that oil massage is an important component in removing synthetic chemicals from our physiology. In the US there are thousands of these kind of chemicals used in various types of industry or agriculture. These toxins are present everywhere in our environment and can be found in virtually every living organism around the world. Regardless of our lifestyle, profession, eating habits, or geographic location, by the time we are 40 years old, our toxin level is substantial.

A study on clients participating in the traditional Ayurveda detoxification and purification treatments (Panchakarma) at The Raj showed that blood levels of these chemicals were reduced by 50% after a 5-day course of treatment. Because these harmful chemicals are fat-soluble, the toxins can be “washed” from our fat cells by the deeply penetrating sesame oil (as well as by other components of the treatment program.)

Integrating a 10-minute sesame oil massage into your morning routine can have a significant impact on reducing Vata imbalances, purifying the skin and maintaining balance throughout the body.

To learn more about the research on removing fat-soluble toxins through the detoxification treatments of Ayurveda (Panchakarma), visit The Raj website:

www.theraj.com/rajresults/index.php

www.theraj.com

 

Ayurveda and Prostate Health

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men. In addition, prostate enlargement is found in 50 percent of American men in their sixties, and up to 90 percent of men in their seventies and eighties. While modern science claims that the specific cause of prostate cancer is unknown, the traditional view from Ayurveda is that most prostate problems can be prevented by making simple lifestyle and dietary changes. Recently researchers have suggested a link between growing numbers of prostate cancer and the rise of environmental chemicals. Today let’s look both at lifestyle and dietary factors that can support prostate health and at specific toxins that need to be avoided.

Lifestyle Factors Supporting Prostate Health

All three doshas are involved with prostate problems: a Kapha imbalance contributes to the abnormal growth; a Pitta imbalance contributes to inflammation and a Vata imbalance creates the physical discomfort. Therefore, if you are concerned with prostate health, your diet needs to simultaneously balance all three doshas. This means moderation in all areas. Nothing too spicy, too cold, too dry, or too heavy.

  1. Turmeric is a helpful spice when dealing with any kind of inflammation. In addition, the presence of curcumin (contained in turmeric) has been proved to arrest the spread of cancerous cells in the prostate. Spices like turmeric, cumin, ginger and fennel help purify the body of toxins that can build up and lead to imbalances or infection. Turmeric is one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants and has DNA-protective qualities.
  2. Black pepper helps strengthen the body’s detoxification systems, aiding in purification of the blood tissue and enhancing the overall immune system. Black pepper also helps boost the bioaccessability of turmeric and other spices, so that the body can make maximum use of their helpful properties.
  3. Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts are anti-androgen and have been proven to fight the production of cancerous cells in the prostate.
  4. Asparagus is recommended because it helps support balanced hormones.
  5. Quinoa is an ideal grain because it is rich in zinc. Maintaining proper levels of zinc in the seminal fluid contributes to maintaining a healthy prostate. Zinc is stored in the prostate gland. Quinoa is considered a “light” grain and can be eaten at night without increasing Kapha.

Environmental Factors

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit, non-partisan environmental health research and advocacy organization, has named four high-risk substances to watch out for in terms of prostate health.

  1. Cadmium in tobacco: People who smoke have twice as much cadmium exposure as those who do not. Studies have associated cadmium with an increased risk of prostate cancer in human epidemiological studies. This adds one more reason to the already extensive list (preventing lung cancer, respiratory and heart disease) of reasons to stop smoking.
  2. Pesticides: Studies show that farmers who mix and apply pesticides on their crops have a much higher risk of developing prostate cancer. These same pesticides are also prevalent in our food supply, unless you buy organic food. If your budget makes it difficult to buy organic, at least consider going organic for the 12 fruits and vegetables called “the dirty dozen”. These foods are commonly contaminated with pesticides exceptionally toxic to the nervous system.  The dirty dozen are: apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, chili peppers, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, kale and collard greens, and zucchini and summer squash.
  3. PCBs (often found in animal fat) Even though polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were banned more than 30 years ago, these industrial chemicals are pervasive in our environment and show up in the blood of most individuals. They have been linked to a number of health concerns, including prostate cancer risk, lower cognitive performance, depression and fatigue. Since PCBs typically accumulate in animal fatty tissues, especially in fish, choose leaner meats and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. PCBs build up in our fat tissues and remain there until they naturally decay (which may take up to 20 years). While modern science offers no means of removing PCBs, published studies have shown that Panchakarma, the traditional Ayurveda detoxification treatments, can actually reduce blood levels of PCBs by 50% in just 5 days.
  1. Bisphenol A (BPA) BPA is a chemical found in plastic. According to the EWG, a number of animal studies have shown that even at low exposures, BPA can cause DNA damage and development of precancerous lesions in rats. One study has also shown DNA damage in humans. Use glass kitchenware instead of plastic. Reuse old glass bottles and glass jars for storing food. If you use plastic containers, buy BPA-free and avoid those with recycling code #7, which may contain BPA. While it was once thought that BPA cleared the body quickly and completely, new studies show that, like PCBs, BPA may build up in our fat tissues, releasing slowly into the body over time. This is leading to a serious reevaluation of the risk of exposure to BPA.

Ayurvedic Tips for Reducing Toxins

  1. Scheduling regular Panchakarma treatments to remove fat-soluble toxins that build up in fat tissues. Add morning oil massage to your daily routine.
  2. Reduce your intake of animal fat. Choose fresh, organic foods and make sure you get lots of fruits and vegetables.
  3. Get regular exercise and avoid being sedentary for long periods of time. A sedentary lifestyle is thought to be a risk factor of aggressive prostate cancer.

If you are worried about your prostate, talk to an Ayurveda expert who can give individualized recommendations for herbs and dietary and lifestyle changes that would best support your balanced health. You should also have your prostate checked regularly by your regular doctor.

Learn more about the traditional Ayurveda purification and detoxification treatments, Panchakarma, at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center:

www.theraj.com

Environmental Toxins Can Cause Weight Gain— How Ayurveda Can Help

The customary approach to weight loss is that one is overweight because one eats too much, exercises too little, and/or is destined by genetics to gain weight. While these are indeed contributing factors, the prevalence of environmental toxins that adversely affect metabolism is now seen as important part of the obesity epidemic. Removal of these toxins is being recognized as an effective treatment approach for treatment-resistant or chronic weight gain. Ayurveda offers a time-tested approach to removing environmental toxins that is comfortable and safe. In fact, oddly enough, this ancient approach is actually much more effective than any existing modern form of purification.

More than 80,000 chemicals are currently a part of our U.S economy. Only 200 of these chemicals have been tested for safety. Yet dozens of studies have shown the deleterious effects of these environmental pollutants, pesticides, plastics, and food additives.

Specifically relating to obesity, researchers have found that certain environmental chemicals act as endocrine disruptors that alter fat production and energy balance, leaving some people more susceptible to weight gain. These compounds work in different ways. Some alter adipogenesis—the process of creating fat cells—causing people to have a greater numbers of fat cells, a bigger size of existing fat cells, or abnormal fat cell distribution. Other toxins alter levels of the appetite-regulating hormone leptin, or increase the activity of estrogen. Many researchers feel that exposure to chemical may have damaged many of the body’s natural weight-control mechanisms.

Scientists estimate that the average person has at least 700 environmental chemicals in their body. Many of these chemicals are fat-soluble and build up in the body over years. “Fat-soluble” means they adhere to our fat tissues — and can stay there for up to 30 years. When we lose weight, reducing the amount of fat in our bodies, these chemicals are not necessarily removed along with the fat. Rather they can get reabsorbed by other fat cells. This creates a vicious cycle—the body gains weight because the natural metabolism has been disrupted by chemicals; the process of losing weight ends up increasing the concentration of chemicals in the body, further altering the body’s natural functions.

A published study on the traditional purification therapies of Ayurveda (Panchakarma) offered at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa showed that blood levels of fat-soluble toxins decreased by 50% after a 5-day program.  Currently modern technology does not offering any method of detoxification that can remove this class of fat-soluble toxins from the body.

Once these chemicals are eliminated from the body, people can avoid increasing their toxic load through specific lifestyle changes: Drinking filtered water, changing to stainless steel (rather than coated “non-stick”) cookware, buying organic food and clothing, and switching to natural household and personal care products are all recommended.

Self-care cannot be overlooked—developing healthy sleep habits, adding relaxation and meditation to the daily routine, and engaging in regular exercise all allow for more effective detoxification and improve overall quality of life.

The benefits of weight loss cannot be overstated—a reduction in risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.  And all of the other factors associated with weight-gain need to be considered: issues of overeating, lack of physical activity, poor food choices, and genetic metabolic issues. However, we can no longer ignore the impact of environmental toxins on weight gain and obesity.

The Raj Ayurveda weight loss program can produce dramatic shifts in body composition, along with better blood sugar balance, healthier lipid levels, and improved liver enzyme function. People who had previously been unable to lose weight may find that they’re able to break through the weight loss resistance.

For more information on The Raj Ayurveda weight-loss programs, please visit The Raj website:

www.theraj.com

Bitter Tastes May Open Airways Better Than Drugs

For years a friend of mine has extolled the use of bitters in dealing with congestion. Because bitter is one of the six taste identified in Ayurveda and associated with decreasing Kapha, and because are one of the main seats of Kapha, I thought it made sense. Recently I learned that back in 2010, researchers at the University of Maryland School of medicine found that bitter taste receptors are located in the human lungs as well as in the mouth. Although the taste buds located in the lungs do not send signals to brain, they respond to bitter tastes by opening the airways “more extensively than any known drug that currently exists to address asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease”.

According to the American Lung Association, asthma affects nearly 23 million Americans, including seven million children, and COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.

During asthma attacks, the smooth muscle cells contract, causing a narrowing of the airways and subsequent breathing difficulties. The fact that bitter tastes can relax these smooth muscles cells has opened new possibilities for natural treatments of asthma.

While Ayurveda acknowledges many types of asthma, Kapha-related asthma is the most common and involves the production of sticky, thick mucous. Even with a Kapha-related asthma, however, an imbalance of Vata dosha is often involved, along the presence of ama (a sticky toxin caused by poor digestion.) Because Kapha and Vata have opposite qualities, finding a course of treatment that will pacify both is delicate. For this reason is it best to consult an Ayurvedic expert to help determine the most beneficial approach to any individual case of asthma.

While bitter is not a taste that is common in the traditional American diet, bitter flavored foods have long held a special place in traditional medicine. From the ancient Egyptians to the 16th century prescriptions of the physician Paracelsus, elixirs brewed from bitter herbs have been considered cure-all remedies. Studies have confirmed that getting an adequate amount bitter flavor is important for digestive balance and bitter is linked with many related health benefits. Kale, bitter melon, grapefruit and turmeric are examples of bitter tastes.

Experiencing the bitter flavor on the tongue initiates an effect that starts with the salivary glands, which is why bitters should not be taken in pill or capsule form. The stimulation of the taste buds and increased saliva output is the signal to rest of the digestive process to produce and release the necessary enzymes and digestive juices for proper and thorough digestion of food.

The first line of treatment that is traditionally recommended for asthma is the purification therapies of Panchakarma. These treatments expel the excess doshas from their sites of accumulation. This treats the condition at a deep level and decreases the chance of recurrence.

A diet and lifestyle that avoids aggravation of both Kapha and Vata dosha should also be followed. This means avoiding heavy, cold or dry foods. Warm, soupy foods that are freshly prepared nourish Vata without aggravating Kapha. Again, balancing of both Vata and Kapha at the same time is tricky. It is best to consult with someone who is experienced in this area to avoid creating more imbalances.

For more information on the Ayurveda approach to asthma, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com