Creating Health Bite by Bite: The Wonders of Diet and Digestion

The process of eating and digesting is a wondrous thing. It is magic. It is alchemy. Ayurveda acknowledges this. In our Western culture the process of eating has become mindless or, at best, a form of entertainment. Too often as we eat we watch TV, have meetings or socialize or, worse, we eat standing or on the run. The consequences of this disconnection to the process of eating and digestion are seen in the growing prevalence of problems such as malabsorption, irritable bowel, food sensitivities, bloating, gastritis, indigestion/heartburn, and excess gas. It also leads to lowered immunity. Before opting for a flu shot this winter, think about fine-tuning your eating habits.

There is an ancient Ayurvedic proverb: “Without proper diet, medicine is of no use. With proper diet, medicine is of no need.” When we think of proper diet we need to think not just of what we eat but also how we eat and how we support our ability to digest and assimilate what we have eaten.

Let’s think about what happens when we eat. We take in vegetables, grains, and animal products and we transmute those materials into their fundamental components in a form that our cells can assimilate. From that we create tissues, organs, bones, and fluids. We eat a tomato and turn it into a heart. We are recreating ourselves everyday through a process to which we give little to no thought or attention.

According to Ayurveda, food is a tiny package of intelligence. The reason we eat is to extract and assimilate that intelligence. If digestion is incomplete or if we eat food that is essentially devoid of intelligence, we are deprive ourselves of the basic building blocks needed to create healthy balanced physiologies. What is the secret of good health? Choosing the right diet and maintaining a strong digestion. Everything else is icing on the cake. If you are looking to avoid colds and flues during the winter, if you are trying to avoid binge eating, if you are looking for more energy and focus, the answer may simply be to elevate eating to a position of proper respect and priority.

Let’s look at these two aspects of creating health.

Digestion

Ayurveda focuses on enhancing digestion so that we are able to get the most from the food we eat. Below are some general guidelines. However, if your digestion is compromised, you may benefit from an Ayurveda consultation in which individualized recommendations can be given to address your specific doshic imbalance and state of balance.

Eat only when hungry—when your digestive fire is strong. If you do not feel hungry, try eating a small slice of ginger with salt as you first sit down. This stimulates the digestive process.

Avoid cold foods and cold drinks while eating or immediately after meals. These will “douse the fire of digestion”.

Eat in a settled and quiet atmosphere. Avoid the telephone, television, reading material, and over-stimulating conversation during meals.

Avoid eating when upset.

Avoid eating when standing (or walking).

Savor each mouthful and chew your food well. When you chew your food, your body releases digestive enzymes in the stomach that help to break down the food. Saliva also contains digestive enzymes, so the longer you chew, the more time these enzymes have to start breaking down food, making digestion easier. When large particles of improperly chewed food enter your stomach, they may remain undigested when they enter your intestines. This may lead to gas, bloating, constipation, cramping and other digestive problems.

Eat until you are satisfied—but not full. Avoid overeating.  Leave room in your stomach for the digestive process to take place.

Sip small amounts room temperature or hot water during your meal.

After you are finished, sit quietly for at least 5 minutes. Don’t immediately jump up from the table.

Healthy Foods

The food you eat should contain lively intelligence. Processed food, canned and packaged foods are essentially “dead”. Fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fresh dairy products can provide the intelligence your body needs to build healthy tissues every day.

Choose organic foods, when possible, so that you are not introducing harmful chemicals into your body. In addition, studies have shown that organic foods contain between 20 to 40% more antioxidant activity than conventional foodstuffs. These antioxidant compounds, which go by names like carotenoids and flavonoids, protect cells from the effects of aging and from the sort of damage that can lead to cancer.

Food without intelligence or heavy foods such as meat and fried foods tax the body’s digestion capabilities and end up creating ama in the body. Ama blocks the body’s channels of communication and delivery. Thus as well as not supplying your body with needed intelligence, these foods end up blocking other sources of intelligence from reaching your cells.

For more information on gastritis, constipation and other digestive disorders or to schedule a consultation, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Relieve Constipation, Pacify Pitta and Boost Immunity with Triphala

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While constipation is often associated with winter and Vata aggravation, it can also become a problem in the summer months. Vacation travel can aggravate Vata and soaring temperatures reduce our internal fire, leading to sluggish digestion. Add in the temptation to eat ice cream and enjoy iced drinks and it is not surprising that despite the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, constipation can be a summer time hazard.

One of the best herbal remedies for keeping the digestive tract healthy and toned is the traditional Ayurvedic formula, Triphala. The name “Triphala” means “the three fruits”. It is comprised of the Indian fruits amalaki, bibhitaki, and haritaki. These three fruits work together to support the elimination process. They also help to balance all three doshas.

Amalaki is a fruit that supports intestinal repair. Amalaki has a sour flavor and is cooling, astringent and mildly laxative. It is used to treat Pitta imbalances, including ulcers, inflammation of the stomach and intestines, liver congestion and constipation. In various studies, Amalaki has been shown to have a mild anti-bacterial property, as well as pronounced expectorant, anti-viral and cardio-tonic activity. It has been shown to help lower cholesterol and is high in vitamin C, having 20 times the vitamin C content of an orange. While appropriate for all doshas Triphala is particularly effective for balancing Pitta.

Bibhitaki acts to pull the old mucus off the intestinal wall. Bibhataki is astringent, tonic, digestive and anti-spasmodic. While its primary flavor is astringent, it has secondary flavors of sweet, bitter, and pungent. It targets imbalances associate with Kapha dosha. Specifically, Bibhataki purifies and balances excess mucus. It is helpful in treating asthma, bronchiole conditional and allergies.

Haritaki strengthens the intestinal muscles so that it can contract more efficiently when the bowels need to move. Traditionally it is used for heart conditions, spastic colon and other intestinal disorders. It’s believed to have a variety of positive health effects on the heart and brain. It has an anti-inflammatory and is calming to Vata.

Most laxatives act as irritants to the bowel, and over time can actually cause the body to require the use of more laxatives. During each meal, the intestinal tract produces a certain amount of mucus that helps lubricate it. If we are not eating enough fiber or if we are eating foods that create ama or compromise our digestion, digestive mucus can up in the digestive tract, clogging the little hair-like villi that help the body absorb its nutrients. With the overuse of laxatives, the mucosa can become desensitized. This creates a very sluggish and non-responsive bowel. Triphala helps to cleanse the mucus off the digestive villi, making for a more efficient digestive process. Triphala is designed to restore the muscular function and contractibility of the intestinal wall.

In traditional Ayurveda medicine, Triphala has important uses beyond its ability to stimulate digestion, relieve constipation and cleanse the gastrointestinal tract. It is also is said to:

Reduce serum cholesterol

Improve circulation

Stimulate the immune system

Contain 31% linoleic acid

Have a marked cardio-protective effect

Reduce high blood pressure

Improve anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties

Ayurveda also recommends Triphala in the treatment of diabetes and in the treatment of eye diseases.

Contemporary research on Triphala has shown preliminary evidence that Triphala has significant immunostimulatory effects on cellular immune response. Increases in the absolute number of these cells may provide a novel adjuvant therapy for HIV/AIDS positive people in terms of immunological improvement.

Triphala is available in power and tablet form. The powder can be quite bitter in taste, so many people prefer to take it in tablet form. The Raj Maharishi Ayurveda Health Spa sells an organic version of this traditional formula in their herb shop under the name of Digest Tone.

Visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa herb shop:

www.theraj.com

The Raj Herb Shop

Detox Tips for Spring

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Our bodies were not meant to be toxic dumps. Yet improper digestion, high levels of stress and pollutants such as chemicals in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the foods we eat, continuously create toxins in the body. If not flushed out on a regular basis, this toxic buildup can eventually manifest as disorders. And as we grow older, the body’s built-in mechanisms for eliminating impurities tend to be less efficient, thus stressing the need for periodic internal cleansing therapy.

THREE KINDS OF TOXINS

Ayurveda describes three kinds of toxins. The most common is “ama”, which is the sticky waste-product of poor digestion. Ama builds up in the digestive tract when your digestion is either weak or overloaded with the wrong foods.

If ama is allowed to build up over time, eventually it can leave the digestive tract and start circulating through the body. Once it settles in a specific area, the ama begins to mix with the subdoshas and or the dhatus (body tissues). When it mixes with these parts of the physiology, it becomes “amavisha” — a more reactive and toxic type of ama. This is the kind of ama that underlies many chronic disorders and diseases.

Ama can also block the channels of circulation in the body, preventing the unrestricted flow of nutrients to the cells and organs. Or it can clog the channels that carry waste from the cells and tissues, resulting in a toxic build-up.

The third type of toxin is the category of environmental toxins — or “garavisha”. Environmental toxins come from outside the body and include pesticides and chemical fertilizers that make their way into our foods or get carried by the wind, as well as preservative, additives and genetically engineered foods. These toxins have been associated with hormone disruption, immune system suppression, reproductive disorders, several types of cancer and other disorders such as allergies.

SPRING IS THE IDEAL TIME FOR CLEANSING

The reason many people feel the signs of ama build-up in spring more than at other time of year is because that is when toxins that have built up in the body over the winter start to display their symptoms. If you don’t follow the proper seasonal diet and routine during the first two months of winter (November and December), the toxins you accumulate that time get stuck or “frozen” in the walls of the channels because of the cold weather. By the time spring comes and the temperatures rise, the “frozen” ama starts to melt.  As it flows the channels of the body become flooded with toxins. Because of this yearly phenomena, Spring is the best time to detoxify. By necessity the body goes into a mode of eliminating toxins at this time of the year, so it is the perfect time to support the body in that role.

If you experience a heavy feeling in your body, if your joints are stiff, if your tongue is coated when you wake up in the morning, if you have an unpleasant body odor, if you feel dull and sleepy after eating, and/or if your mind is foggy, you may have a build-up of ama. Diarrhea, constipation, joint pain, sadness, dullness, lowered immunity, and frequent bouts of colds and flu are all health problems that can be caused by ama.

Amavisha and garavisha types of toxins are best handled by an Ayurvedic expert and through the classic Ayurveda purification and detoxification treatments, Panchakarma. There are, however, are a number of things you can do on an ongoing basis to prevent ama from building up in your body. –

TIPS FOR REDUCING AMA

The most important thing is to eat your main meal at noon, when the sun is strongest and the digestive fire reflects that strength. If you eat too much at night, or eat heavy foods such as meat or cheese then, the food will sit in your stomach and create ama. Eat light at night and your food will be easily digested before you go to sleep.

Don’t snack between meals unless you are actually hungry, Wait until the food is digested before eating a meal. If your digestion is already occupied with digesting and you add new food on top of that, the result is ama, the sour, undigested waste product of undigested food.

Going to sleep before 10 p.m. is essential, because then during the Pitta time of night (10 p.m.-2 a.m.) your digestion has a chance to cleanse and rejuvenate itself. If you stay up, you’ll probably feel hungry about midnight and will want to eat, which will tax the digestion and create ama.

Waking up before 6 a.m. is recommended, because if you sleep late into the Kapha time of the morning (6-10 a.m.), the channels of your body will become clogged with ama and you’ll feel dull and tired.

Daily exercise that is suitable for your body type will stimulate digestion and help cleanse the body of toxins.

It’s also important to manage your stress. Everyone can benefit from spending time each day practicing the Transcendental Meditation program to remove mental, emotional and physical stress.

Spring is the ideal time to visit an Ayurvedic expert to determine if you are dealing with ama, and, if so, what type of ama it is. An Ayurvedic expert can then recommend an individualized approach to clearing your system of impurities. For more information on consultations and on the detoxifying programs of Panchakarma, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website.

www.theraj.com

Tasty Recipes to Balance Vata: Chapatis and Chutney

During Vata season digestion may be weakened because of the fluctuating characteristics of Vata. The integration of chapattis (flat breads made without yeast) and chutney into your meals can help promote good digestion and pacify Vata.

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CHAPATIS

Ayurveda does not recommend yeasted breads because yeasted breads can promote ama (toxins) in the body. Yeasted breads can be difficult to digest and can aggravate Vata and cause bloating. The ideal bread is non-yeasted and made freshly at meal-time. Chapatis are enjoyed best piping hot from the stove.

The following recipe makes 12 individual servings

2 cups unbleached white flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 – 2//3 cup of warm water.

Step 1

Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Gradually add water until dough forms a firm ball.

Step 2

Dust the ball of dough with flour, cover and let set for 30 minutes. (This is an important step in increasing the digestibility of the chapatti)

Step 3

Cut the dough into 12 pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Put the ball onto a floured surface and use a rolling pin to create a 6 inch circle.

Step 4 — for those with gas cooktops

Place the chapati on a heated griddle or frying pan. Cook about 1 minute on each side.

Step 5 — for those with gas cooktops

Put the chapatti directly on the flame of a gas burner and cook until the bread puffs up.

Step 4 and 5 for those with electric cooktops

Take a clean kitchen towel and bunch the corner into a ball.

Place the chapati on a heated griddle or flying pan. Cook the chapatti until you see the surface become slightly darker in color. Flip the chapatti over and look for bubbles to form. Once the bubbles form, flip the chapatti again and quickly begin pressing the chapati with the cloth ball until the dough balloons. Flip once and remove.

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RAISIN-GINGER CHUTNEY (A specialty of The Raj)

This chutney makes a tasty addition to meals and acts to stimulate the digestive fires.

Combine in a food processor:

3 tablespoons lime juice

1/3 cup orange juice

3/4 cup chopped, pealed fresh ginger root

1/2 cup raisins

For information on Ayurveda, Ayurveda consultations or Ayurveda treatments, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa web site:

www.theraj.com

The Healing Powers of Hot Water

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Ayurveda considers removing toxins and impurities from the physiology, and preventing their build-up in the tissues, to be a key part of staying healthy. Ayurveda refers to these toxins and impurities as “ama”. Because ama disrupts the delicate biochemistry in the tissues and blocks the channels of circulation and communication within the physiology, it is a contributing factor in many physical disorders. The build-up of ama often starts with poor digestion. A sluggish digestion creates toxins and poor elimination, which allows the toxins to be absorbed into the circulation system and transported throughout the body.

Many of the recommendations given by Ayurveda experts during a consultation address the need for internal cleansing or detoxification. Of those that can be done at home, sipping hot water throughout the day is easy and effective.

Hot water flowing through the digestive tract helps to dissolve impurities and cleanse the digestive and eliminative systems. The result is an improvement in digestion and assimilation of food, improved elimination, and prevention of the formation of ama.

In addition, the hot water is absorbed into the circulatory system and travels throughout the entire body. The extra warmth and fluid aids in opening all the various channels of circulation, dissolving accumulated impurities and washing them from the body.

Many people report that after just a few weeks of sipping hot water throughout the day, digestion and elimination has improved and they feel fresher, lighter and more energetic.

Drinking hot water (water which just cool enough to be sipped comfortably) is especially helpful during vata and kapha season. During the hot summer months, warm or room-temperature water may be preferred, especially for those with pitta body types or with pitta-related disorders.

Ideally, Ayurveda recommends that water be boiled for ten minutes. Boiling the water allows excessive minerals deposits and impurities to precipitate out and increases the water’s lightness and its cleansing influence.

A slice of fresh ginger root, a pinch of turmeric or a few fennel seeds may be added to the boiling water if desired. These herbs can help increase the cleansing influence of the water in your system. Lemon may be added if it is not upsetting to the stomach.

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

www.theraj.com

Ayurveda Approach to Overeating or Binging

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According to Ayurveda, compulsive overeating or binging comes from cravings. An ideal weight loss program addresses imbalances in one’s physiology and in one’s diet that may be at the root of cravings and binge behaviors. Cravings can arise from imbalances in our body or from actual nutritional deficiencies. It is better not to try to suppress cravings, because they will only return with increased intensity. Instead, in order to eliminate cravings we need to learn to identify what our body really wants, and then thoroughly satisfy that need.

Ideally the first step in dealing with food cravings or binging would be to consult with an Ayurveda expert (or with your doctor) to make sure that your nutritional needs are being addressed. If you are a vegetarian, are you getting all the necessary amino acids? Vitamin B12? Remember that absorption of B12 can diminish with age. Even if you are eating animal products, if you are over 60 you might want to get your B12 levels checked. If you are not a vegetarian, are you getting enough fruits and vegetables? Keep a log of what you are eating at breakfast, lunch and dinner in order to objectively assess whether or not your diet is balanced and healthy.

If you are eating a balance diet, the second question is, are you absorbing the needed nutrients from your meals? Proper digestion is the key to transforming your food into all the essential elements your body needs to function properly. (See Raj Blog post “Digestion, Digestion, Digestion“)

The third question is, are you getting all 6 tastes (sweet, sour, salty, astringent, pungent and bitter) in your meals? Not only does eating all 6 tastes ensure that all the major food groups and nutrients are represented, it also gives us the feeling of satisfaction. As we eat, our taste buds send messages to our brain letting it know that we have taken in the energy and nutrients that we need. The six tastes are the codes that inform our brain of our meal’s nutritional content. If we take foods that correspond to each of these tastes throughout the day, our meals will provide us with a wide assortment of health-promoting nutrients. If we do not take in the proper nutrients, our brain sends us hunger signals.

The average American diet is short on astringent, pungent and bitter tastes. If our brain does not get the signal from our taste buds that all the important nutritional content has been consumed, the brain will continue to send signals telling us to eat more. Due to longstanding habits, our intellect may misinterpret these signals. A lack of bitter taste, for example, may lead to the consumption of chocolate or coffee, when, in fact, the body is craving the bitter taste of spinach. If we are alert to having all six tastes in our meals we are much less likely to find ourselves searching through our cupboards for “something more” an hour after dinner. (See Raj Blog post “Creating Balance Through Taste

When you feel the desire to eat, ask yourself if you are truly hungry. Notice the sensations in your body. Do you feel hunger or something else? If you are indeed hungry, eat. If you are not sure, try the following:

  1. Notice any physical sensations that come up. Where are they coming from? Do you feel some tension or discomfort? When you feel a sensation, your mind will naturally be drawn to the area of the body that is feeling uncomfortable. This is nature’s way of facilitating the healing process. Because attention by itself has healing power, it brings wholeness to the area. With a few minutes you may find that the discomfort completely subsides.
  2. Drink some plain warm water to see if that settles your system. Also, make a habit of drinking water throughout the day. People often mistake thirst for hunger.
  3. Schedule a consultation with an Ayurveda expert.

For information on consultations with an Ayurveda expert, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

( Picture of fruits and vegetables in basket. Source: Google Advance Image Search.
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Healthy Foods for Life: Ayurveda and Prana

images-1Recently I read an article about a man who lived on meal substitutes for a week. Since the packaging on many shakes and bars say the products are full of vitamins and provide all the benefits of a balanced diet, he wanted to see if he could swap them for real food. The results were startling. He felt weak after the first day. By the week’s end, he was miserable and felt shaky, weak, and headachy. His “good” cholesterol had reduced by 15%. While his physician explained his symptoms in terms of lowered phosphate levels and depleted glycogen stores, Ayurveda would note that he had taken in nothing to restore prana to his body. His entire weekly diet was “dead” and inert—completely lacking in life force.

According to Ayurveda, prana is the principle of energy responsible for giving life to and maintaining the body. Prana is the vital energy present in fresh vegetables and fruits and pure air that we breathe. Because one of the reasons for eating is to take in prana, we always want to choose foods that are high in this lively energy.

Whatever we take in through our five senses gets transformed into our own physiology. In essence, we metabolize our environment. Ayurveda emphasizes that along with fresh food,  pure water and clean air are vital for giving proper nutrition to the body.

Ideally the food we eat should be organic and should be eaten the same day that it is prepared. Processed food, overly refined flours and sugars, and frozen and canned foods (which are prepared long before the time of consumption) contain less vital qualities to nourish the body. They are also harder to digest.

Incorporating more fresh vegetables and fruits in your diet will give you an immediate energy boost. It is also important to cut your vegetables fresh at every meal. Buying pre-cut vegetables or cutting up vegetables days beforehand means that you will lose some of the food’s essential vitality.

Organic foods contain more prana than foods that have been polluted with chemical pesticides and fertilizers. If your body has to work hard to purify the chemicals every time you eat, you’ll feel fatigued. Plus, despite your body’s best efforts, toxins will build up in your system. (We’ll look into that more next week, along with tips for foods that can help you detox.)

Locally grown foods are higher in prana because they don’t have to be shipped or stored and can be bought tree-ripened. Locate the local farmers market near to your home and indentify the sellers there who grow organically. Obviously many climates prohibit buying fresh, local foods all year round, but during the months when they are available, these foods will provide optimal nourishment and energy. The ideal, of course, is to create your own organic garden in your backyard.

Next week I’ll look at other aspects of our environment that we “metabolize”, and at some of the simple steps we can take to ensure that we are nourishing ourselves to the very best of our ability. Remember we ingest all of life through our five senses: touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell. Good health is dependent on our ability to fully metabolize all aspects of life, assimilating what is nourishing and expelling or eliminating that which is not. Through bad choices or through environmental factors that are beyond our control, we can easily end up metabolizing impurities can create imbalances or ama (toxins)—which can then lead to the formation of chronic disorders.

Ayurveda offers the gift of wisdom of how to live in harmony with nature. Ayurveda also offers healing modalities and regular seasonal routines to help restore balance and vitality when it has become lost. For more information on the healing treatments of Ayurveda, visit The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

 

( Picture of lime, pepper, strawberry, and flowers. Source: Google Advance Image Search.
Creative Commons. The image is used under the terms of Googles Creative Commons rules:http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en. This photograph and credit do not constitute an endorsement of this blog or products mentioned.)

Panchakarma: Sublimely Effective Ayurveda Detox

The ultimate goal of all Ayurveda modalities is to restore balance to the level of biological intelligence in the body and allow the free flow of communication and circulation. This allows perfect coherence of the body’s innate healing mechanisms.

Ayurveda believes that the functioning of the body breaks down as impurities and toxins (caused by diet and poor digestion, stress, environmental toxins and other factors) accumulate in the cells and tissues. Over time these impurities begin to block various channels of the body (blood vessels, lymph circulation, capillaries, cellular pores, etc), limiting the flow of biological intelligence.

Panchakarma is one of the specialties of Ayurveda. Literally translated as “five actions”, Panchakarma is series of integrated procedures that, together, dislodge impurities from the tissues and cells and flush them from the body. This sequence of massage, heat treatments and internal cleansing helps to balance the doshas and allows for a more normalized flow of nutrients, blood, hormones, etc. Developed thousands of years ago to give long life to the the rulers of India, Panchakarma is the cornerstone of rejuvenation programs at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa.

Panchakarma provides the ultimate mind-body healing experience. It restores the connection of any weak or diseased area of the body with the mechanisms of biological intelligence responsible for healing. Sounds intense? It is surprisingly luxurious and gentle, especially considering the profound results that this ancient detoxification treatment provides.

Studies on the effects of Panchakarma have shown reductions in cholesterol levels and a decreased risk of heart disease. Many doctors recommend PK to their patients as a follow-up to chemotherapy, once the patient has regained his or her strength. (The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa recommends allowing 6 months from the end of one’s chemotherapy treatments or radiation treatments before undergoing any Ayurvedic massages and therapies.) Guests have also reported relief from fatigue, depression, digestive disorders, and stress.

A study published in the Sept./Oct. 2002 issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine showed that a 5-day course of Panchakarma treatment decreased blood levels of fat-soluble toxins (such as DDE, PCBs and dioxins) by 50%. Western medicine offers no means of removing these harmful chemicals, which are associated with hormone disruption and immune system suppression.

Panchakarma treatments can be taken for as few as 3 and as many as 30 consecutive days. Participants always begin with a consultation with an Ayurvedic expert who then creates a customized program based on their individual levels of balance and imbalance.

Panchakarma uses three types of therapies:

1) The first group stimulates the release of toxins from the cells using various types of massage, many of which involve herbalized oil.

2) The second group uses heat to dilate the channels of the body, allowing the impurities that were loosened through oil massage to be drawn into the intestinal tracts.

3) The sequence ends with a gentle internal cleansing treatments consisting of either warm herbalized oil or water-based decoctions.1. Shiro#3

This sequence of treatment occurs every day. As an example, one day may start with an herbalized sesame oil massage followed by an herbalized steam treatment, ending with gentle elimination therapy. Another day may begin with a massage with warm rice and milk packs, followed by Shirodhara, the pouring of warm oil over the forehead, followed by elimination therapy. Treatments will vary from day to day, depending on one’s needs.

Never had detoxing felt so good! Sometimes it is hard to remember that behind the pampering there is a powerful restructuring of the physiology taking place. Even though I’m ready to take on the world after my treatments, it’s better to take it slow for a week or so after you return home, so the body has a chance to integrate all the changes.

For me, my yearly treatment is my opportunity to reset my diet and my daily habits. To make the most of your PK treatments, a low-fat, vegetarian diet is recommended starting one week before, and continuing through treatments. If I’ve gotten into any bad habits during the year (sugar, snacks, late nights on the computer) I emerge from my treatments with a new resolve. And the new state of balance in my physiology naturally helps to support that resolve.

I’ve managed to have Panchakarma treatments once a year for the last 25 years. It is like spring-cleaning for one’s house. I can’t imagine going without.

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

www.theraj.com

 

Ayurveda #1 Health Tip: Digestion, Digestion, Digestion!

Once again, I am writing about digestion. The reason this topic comes up over and over again is because, according to Ayurveda, it is vital to maintaining good health. If you aren’t digesting your food properly, 1) you aren’t getting needed nutrients and 2) you are creating toxins, or ama, as a result of partially digested food.

Lets look at these consequences a bit more closely:

1) Remember that even the best diet will not provide proper nutrition if our digestion is not doing its job. Not getting needed nutrients out of your food can result in a lack of strength, fatigue, slower problem solving ability and muscle response time, hypertension and more.

Poor nutrition can also set off a vicious cycle of poor eating habits. When the body is not getting what it needs to function properly, it gets “cravings”. It is easy for the intellect to mistakenly interpret these cravings and turn to a “quick fix”. Feeling lethargic, many opt for caffeine or sugar or carbohydrates (or a combination of all three.) These foods fail to give the body what it really needs, are difficult to digest and lead to more cravings.

2) Ayurveda believes that most disease and disorders stem from blockages to the free flow in intelligence in the body. When impurities build up in the various channels of the body (blood vessels, lymph circulation, cellular pores, etc),

These areas become cut off from biological intelligence and can become weak or diseased.

Improving Digestion with Ayurveda

So let’s get down to basics. How to restart a sluggish digestion?

Breakfast:

Digestion is no as strong early in the morning, so breakfast should be light and according to hunger. Avoid meat or eggs. Favor cooked cereal, fruit and fresh juice.Korean_abalone_porridge-Jeonbokjuk-02

Remember if you are taking milk not to combine it with anything other than sweet tastes (like cereal). Milk should be boiled. If you are eating fruit, do not have milk, even in coffee.

Lunch:

This should be your main meal of the day because digestion is strongest at mid-day.

Lunch should be a warm, cooked meal containing all six tastes. Ideally you should have at least a half hour for lunch, including 10 to 15 minutes to sit quietly after you are finished eating. This will allow the digestive process to get well under way.

 Dinner:

The later dinner is served, the lighter you should eat. Avoid heavy foods like cheese, yogurt, meats, oils and fried foods. If you like these foods, these should be eaten at lunch when digestion is stronger.

 Other General Principles:

Eat according to your hunger levels. Do not eat if you are not hungry.

Eat in a settled environment. Business lunches, eating in front of the TV and eating while walking or driving (or standing up) can disturb our digestive process.

Sip hot water during the meal. This enlivens digestion and helps the food be better digested and absorbed. Never drink cold beverages (or iced foods) either during the meal or right after a meal.

Chew your food well. Digestion starts in the mouth.

Avoid heated honey. Read your labels carefully and only buy unheated honey. Do not use honey in baking or add to beverages that are too hot to sip comfortably.

Eat freshly prepared foods. Avoid packaged foods and leftovers. Cooked food is easier to digest than raw.

Foods that are especially nourishing (and are quickly converted into ojas) include boiled milk, ghee (clarified butter), ripe fruits, freshly made fruit juices, almonds (pre-soaked in water — be sure to throw out the water), and dates.

Visit an Ayurvedic expert and find out what your body needs. Vata, pitta and kapha types may receive different recommendations on creating a healthy and strong digestive fire. They will also take into consideration any imbalances that you have. If you have a pitta imbalance, for example, you might be encouraged to avoid ginger and other heating spices. Remember that, unlike Western medicine, Ayurveda always looks at the whole. Your digestive problems may simply be one symptom of a larger imbalance.

Next week we’ll look at Panchakarma, the ulitmate approach to restarting digestion, getting rid of years of accumulated ama and restoring balance to the body.

For more information on Ayurveda consultations and Panchakarma treatments, go to The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Fasting and Ayurveda

pea soupOne of the most popular diet plans in the news today involves intermittent fasting. Interest in the approach was sparked by a BBC2 documentary called “Eat, Fast and Live Longer”. Since its initial airing in 2012, books on fasting have popped up on bestseller lists in Europe and the US. The basic idea is that a lower caloric intake leads to a longer and healthier life.

Intrigued by the concept, I started investigating Ayurveda’s view on the wisdom of such an approach. As with most aspects of Ayurveda, the answer depends on who is asking the question, because according to Ayurveda, every individual is unique.

For certain body types, fasting can increase lightness, improve appetite and revitalize digestion. During a fast, the body uses energy that is normally spent processing food to eliminate impurities and repair the system. In this way, fasting helps clear the srotas (channels or pathways of the body) and improve resistance to disease. (These same mechanics are behind the specially designed diet that one receives while going through Panchakarma, the detoxification programs of Ayurveda.)

According to Ayurveda those with Kapha constitutions often benefit from taking a “liquid day” one day a week. This helps increase energy and well being for Kapha types who tend to have heavier builds, slower digestion and weaker appetites. (It is good to note that Ayurveda does not recommend prolonged fasts, even for those with Kapha physiologies.)

Although most people feel better if the skip one evening meal a week, for those with Vata or Pitta constitutions, fasting could actually decrease well-being. Someone with a Vata body type, for example, will tend to be lighter, more easily excitable and quicker. For them fasting might aggravate insomnia, anxiety or other symptoms of Vata imbalance.

Similarly, the strong appetites of Pitta types may cause irritability or other symptoms of Pitta imbalance during a fast. Because even people with Kapha constitutions could have Pitta or Vata imbalances, it is recommended that you consult with an Ayurvedic expert before deciding to follow an intermittent fasting diet.

Can you reduce caloric intake without fasting? Ayurveda has, in fact, always recommended the light intake of food. Traditionally it is said that at each meal one should eat only the amount of food that can fit in your cupped hands. In order to promote ideal digestion, at the end of a meal half your stomach should be filled with solid food, a quarter with liquids and a quarter should be left empty in order to give enough room for the stomach acids and enzymes to do their job. This means leaving the table satisfied, but not full.

According to Ayurveda, over-eating leads to an accumulation of ama. Ama is the debris of partially digested matter. When allowed to accumulate in the body, this turns into a sludge of toxic metabolic waste-products which blocks circulation through the tiny channels of the body and thus becomes a breeding ground for disorders. Ama also interferes with the proper absorption of food and can lead to a constant craving for food, even after you’ve just eaten.

For many people, fasting offers an opportunity to give the digestive system a rest. This helps to revitalize and re-ignite the digestive fire, thereby improving overall health. It also gives a chance for the body’s internal “fire” to burn up existing toxins, or ama. Check with an Ayurvedic expert and find out if this approach is right for your body type. If Vata or Pitta imbalances prohibit fasting, an intermediate plan can be worked out to accomplish a lower calorie approach without aggravating imbalances and creating health problems.

For more information on consultations with an Ayurveda expert, visit the website for The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa:
www.theraj.com

 

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