Ayurveda Tips for the Spring-to-Summer Transition

hot.jpg

Now that the cool, wet Kapha days of spring are behind us, it is time to adjust to the increase in heat in our environment. The hot, sunny, and dry days of summer mean that that same heating, Pitta influence is increasing in our physiology. Pitta is hot, sharp, sour, pungent, and penetrating. It is a fundamental principle of Ayurveda that like increases like. To balance Pitta, we need to opt for choices that are cooling, sweet and relaxing.

Diet

Because the hot weather of summer increases Pitta within the body, we need to begin to favor foods that pacify (decrease) Pitta. Include more foods with sweet, bitter and astringent tastes. Include the fresh, sweet fruits and vegetable that grow in this season. Foods such as cucumbers, sweet fruits, and melons are considered very cooling. Dairy can help balance the heat of Pitta. This includes milk, butter, and ghee.

Opt for fewer foods with pungent, sour and salty tastes. Sour, fermented products such as yogurt, cheese, sour cream, and vinegar should be used sparingly as sour tastes aggravate Pitta. Eat fewer tomatoes and hot spices. Rice (especially white basmati rice), barley, wheat and oats are the best grains to reduce Pitta. Eat less corn, rye, millet, and brown rice.

Switch over to cooling herbs such as coriander, cilantro, fennel, cardamom, and saffron. Hard liquor, red wine, and red meat are too heating for the summer.

Enhancing Digestion

As the heat increases outside our body, our physical system tries to maintain balance by lowering our internal fires. As a result out metabolism becomes lower and our ability to digest food diminishes. While may seem natural at this time to indulge in colorful salads and plates of uncooked vegetables, unless your digestive capability is exceptionally strong, your body may not be able to absorb nutrients from raw foods. Ayurveda recommends cooked foods to strengthen one’s digestive power and optimize nutrient absorption. Ripe fruits are considered to be “cooked by the sun” and are fine to eat. Avoid sour tasting fruits, however, as they will increase Pitta.

Ayurveda recommends never eating iced or cold food and drinks. While it can be tempting to grab a drink from the refrigerator or enjoy some ice cream on a hot summer day, these foods will pretty much “put out” our already diminished digestive fire. If you must, indulge in ice cream in the late afternoon, after your lunch has been thoroughly digested.

Stay away from carbonated drinks, as they also act to slow down digestion.

Meal Times

To keep Pitta dosha from becoming aggravated, do not skip meals or wait until you are ravenously hungry before you eat. In the summer months it is good to follow good eating habits: Breakfast is important. Cooked apples or pears are a light yet nourishing way to start the day. If you need a heartier breakfast, include cooked cereal.

Eat your main meal at noon when your digestive fires are at their peak. While yogurt is not recommended in the summer, yogurt in the form of lassi can actually help boost digestion. Drink it at the end of your meal.

Stay Hydrated!

Pitta is drying by nature. It is important to drink 4 – 6 cups of water daily, as well as enjoying other cooling beverages.

Daily Routine

Those who enjoy daily Ayurvedic massage may want to switch from sesame oil to a cooler oils such as coconut oil or olive oil.

Avoid direct exposure to the sun from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Save your exercise for the early morning or late evening. Avoid extreme sports.

Go to bed on time. Because the days are longer in the summer, it is easy to stay up late. Unfortunately, because the sun rises early (along with the birds), we also tend to get up earlier. This lack of sleep can aggravate both Vata and Pitta. In addition, staying up late at night to watch television, or use the computer can aggravate the Pitta located in our eyes. Try to switch off electronic devices early in the evening to give your eyes a rest.

Favor aromas that are cooling and sweet. Sandalwood, rose, jasmine, mint, lavender, chamomile rose and geranium are recommended.

And don’t forget to meditate! Regular meditation will help lower your mental/emotional temperature.

Signs of Pitta Aggravation

The doshas, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, are primary forces that are responsible for the characteristics of both our mind and our body. Pitta imbalance can manifest emotionally as well as physically. Anger, jealousy, and finding ourselves being increasing critical of others are as much signs of Pitta imbalance as indigestion, rashes, skin irritations, and burning eyes. Other signs of Pitta imbalance include diarrhea, burning sensations, sweating, fever, inflammation and problems with the small intestine and the stomach. Excess Pitta can lead to acidity, ulcers and liver disorders. If you suspect any health problems, seek a qualified practitioner.

Some people find that insomnia can increase during the summer months. Pitta-based insomnia is associated with waking up in the very early hours of the morning and not being able to get back to sleep.

Making changes in our diet and daily routine at the beginning of the season can help us avoid Pitta imbalances and allow us to enjoy a healthful and blissful summer.

For more information of programs to address Pitta imbalances, such as insomnia, gastritis, and ulcers, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

http://www.theraj.com

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