Bitter Tastes Help with Asthma

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.

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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

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

Keeping Kids Healthy with Ayurveda

From an Ayurvedic perspective, kids are inherently healthy. Then why do we think that colds, fevers, allergies, earaches and sore throats are a natural part of childhood?

The traditional medical view is that kids get sick with colds, flu and other common illness because their immune system is untested and they have not previously been exposed to viruses. When they do come in contact with viruses and upper respiratory infections, they easily succumb. Later in life, having developed a resistance to these diseases, they do not get sick as often.

Ayurveda takes the view that children tend to stay healthy if they eat the right foods, get proper rest and have a good routine. This helps the child maintain his or her own resistance and immunity. We know that some children are exposed to such things as upper respiratory viruses and do not get sick at all, where as other children seem to get sick all the time. To some extent this is due to the child’s body type and inherent resistance, but proper rest, diet and routine will maximize the possibility of remaining in good health.

UNDERSTANDING KAPHA

According to Ayurveda, each of the three doshas—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha—are responsible for the expression of various aspects of nature in the body. Vata is responsible for movement, quickness and change. Pitta is related to heat processes and energy production. In the body, Vata directs circulation and nervous system functioning. Pitta governs digestion and metabolism.

Kapha is more structural and is responsible for heaviness and solidity. And Kapha is responsible for maintaining the structural aspects of the body—muscles, joints, tissues, etc. as well as lubrication.

During the growing years, as the physical structure of the body is forming, Kapha dosha is more predominant than the other doshas. Kapha is slow, heavy, sticky, firm and strong. And its proper functioning is essential for the ever-strengthening physiology to grow. If Kapha becomes imbalanced, it can—because of its heavy and sticky qualities—slow digestion and produce excess mucus in the body. This will lead to colds, ear infections, etc.

DIET

What is a proper diet for your child? The recommendations from Ayurveda take into account the Kapha-dominated period of early childhood.

Excess of sweets and cold drinks and foods are more difficult for the slower digestion of early childhood to handle. It is better to avoid offering these kinds of foods to children. Unfortunately, many of these foods—especially candy, chocolates, pastries, ice cream, cold drinks, cheese, potato chips and highly processed foods—tend to be easily accessible and are often what children ask for. This is one reason that holiday times—between Halloween and Christmas—are times when it is common to see an increase in colds and sickness in children.

Ayurveda recommends a vegetarian diet as the ideal diet for a young child. It should include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and can provide plenty of protein through a combination of grains, legumes, dairy and nuts.

Ayurveda recommends mild for most children. Boiling milk makes it easier to digest and it is best to drink it warm. Avoid serving milk with a meal containing tastes other than sweet as milk mixed with salty, sour, astringent, bitter and pungent tastes causes problems with digestion. Milk is best taken with grains (cereal) or by itself.

Children should take their main meal at noon, when digestion is stronger. Try to avoid serving heavy foods such as cheeses, yogurt or meat in the evening.

REST

The second essential in keeping kids healthy is making sure they get enough rest. According to Ayurveda, the great the rest (in both children and adults) the stronger the immune system.

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When children are tired from staying up too late they become more susceptible to colds and other respiratory illnesses. For greater strength and balance physiological functioning, children should go to bed earlier in the evening than is generally practiced. Children under five should go to bed between 7:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Children between the ages of eight and ten should go to bed by 8:30 p.m.

EXERCISE

Ideally, children should get enough exercise through their daily play. Try to avoid having them sit for hours in front of the television or playing on electronic devices. Kapha requires exercise to keep balance and healthy. Otherwise, dullness and lethargy can develop.

If your child has repeated health problems, a parent should ask, “Do I have a proper routine?” Children are very sensitive and impressionable. If a parent is stressed, fatigued, has a poor diet or does not have a good routine himself, the child can easily pick up these habits.

In fact, the diet and routine that Ayurveda recommends for adults is very similar to that for children: early to bed, early to rise, eat fresh, well-cooked foods, get proper exercise, and meditate regularly to relieve stress and promote well-being and happiness.

The close relationship between parents and children is reflected in the health of the entire family. As a parent it is important not only to give care and guidance to your children but to take care of yourself as well.

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

www.theraj.com

Act Now to Banish Spring Allergies With Ayurveda

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Although it seems odd to think about spring allergies when the forecast for the next week is snow flurries, mid-February is the ideal time to start taking action.

Our bodies are more susceptible to health problems when the seasons are changing because our body functions differently in each season. For example, our agni (or digestive fire) can fluctuate dramatically during the change from hot to cold or cold to hot. Poor digestion can lead to a build up of ama (or toxins) in the body.

This is why respiratory illnesses and allergies pop up during the autumn and early spring. We especially see this in the early spring. As the weather starts to warm up, any ama that has accumulated in our tissue and circulatory channels during the winter begins to soften and liquefy, flooding the numerous channels of circulation (shrotas) throughout our body and taxing our immune system.

On top of this flood of toxins, our body has to deal with an accumulation of mucus.  From mid-February to May is the Kapha time of the year. As a response to the accumulated drying influence of the cold, dry, windy Vata conditions of late fall and early winter, our bodies start to produce large amounts of lubricating mucus. The sticky liquid can cause congestion in the mucus membranes that line our respiratory and digestive tracts, contributing to allergies and sinus conditions.

This is why late winter/early spring is the optimal time to cleanse mucus and toxins from our body. The classical texts of Ayurveda recommend specific detoxification treatments —called “panchakarma”—during the change of seasons.

Spring is nature’s natural detoxification season. The progression of the cold of winter to the warmth of spring triggers a natural process of releasing the winter’s accumulation of fats and toxins. Going through Ayurveda detoxification treatments at this time provides a boost to what our bodies are trying to do naturally: flushing out toxins and lubricating the channels of circulation. Working hand in hand with our own natural cycle allows for a more thorough and efficient removal of these unhealthy substances.

Signs of Ama

If you have high cholesterol, a coated tongue in the morning, joint pain, constipation, dull skin and eyes, gas, or excess mucus, you are displaying physical symptoms of ama. You may also feel the build up of ama as fatigue, dullness and/or irritability. Panchakarma treatments help remove years of accumulated ama (along with excess Vata, Pitta, and/or Kapha) and also help to return agni to its normal level of functioning.

Enjoying Panchakarma as an in-residence guest allows the body to get a profound rest. Pluses of an in-residence stay being protected from weather conditions, and complete ease in following a prescribed daily routine and diet, allowing you make the most of the rejuvenation experience. If you don’t have the opportunity for a residential stay, however, day treatments are highly recommended. Just be sure to follow the diet that is given to you.

Tips for Kapha Season

There are also adjustments that you can make in your home routine and diet that will help you during this winter to spring transition.

  1. Sip hot water throughout the day
  2. Eat more leafy greens. Favor the Kapha-pacifying tastes of bitter, astringent and pungent.
  3. Favor organic, fresh foods. Avoid processed foods, cold dairy products, and fried and high-fat foods. Remember, light, warm foods counter the cold, heavy qualities of kapha.
  4. Put a little zip in your food: spices like ginger, chili, cloves, and pepper help counter the cold quality of Kapha.
  5. Try not to sleep later than 6:00 in the morning. Sleeping into the Kapha time of the day can increase kapha qualities in body and mind. This means going to bed by 10:00 the night before.

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

www.theraj.com

Foods for Life

Along with increasing hours of sunlight and rising temperatures, spring brings an abundance of colors and options in the produce aisles. This is the area of the grocery store where indulgence is encouraged! A 2014 study found that eating seven or more servings of fruit and vegetables can extend life expectancy “a staggering 42%”. And, not surprisingly, the report found that fresh vegetables extend life more effectively than canned. The paper, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, concluded that the more fruits and vegetables we eat, the less likely we are to die at any age.

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This brings us to the on-going question of raw vs. cooked vegetables. Ayurveda’s main text, the Charak Samhita, recommends primarily cooked foods because cooking increases the element of agni that is essential for the assimilation of nutrients and their transformation into the bodily tissues. The higher proportion of nutrients available in raw food is useless if the food can’t be digested, absorbed and assimilated. In order to choose the best option for your physiology, it is helpful to understand your state of doshic balance and imbalance, the strength of your digestion, and to take into account seasonal influences.

In general, those of with Pitta, or Pitta/Kapha body types who do not have a significant Vata imbalance can handle raw foods in their diet, especially in the late spring and summer seasons. This is because the element of “fire” or “agni” is very lively in their constitutions and they benefit from a cooling diet.

The overly cold, dry, light qualities of raw foods, however, may create problems for anyone with a severe Vata imbalance. They may find an increase in symptoms of abdominal gas, bloating, constipation, worry and anxiety, and dryness. Those wishing to balance or counter Vata imbalances do better with a diet that is warm, moist and easily digestible.

Those with Kapha imbalances may find that the cold nature of raw foods leads to allergies, sinus problems or asthma.

One solution for those who prefer raw foods but lack a strong Pitta component is to enjoy raw juices. Juicing or blending with “super blenders” that basically pulverize foods allows you to break down the cellulose the surrounds the outer layer of fruit and vegetable molecules, thus allowing you to derive optimum nutritional benefits.

If you are adding raw foods to your diet, here are some tips that can help you to maintain a healthy digestive fire:

Sip small quantities of warm water with your meals

Never include ice-cold foods or drinks with your meal. Allow refrigerated foods to come to room temperature before eating.

Try eating a slice of ginger, topped with a pinch of salt and lemon juice, about 15 minutes before your meal. This will increase the element of fire or agni and will help improve digestion and the assimilation of nutrients

Add a bit of fresh lemon or lime juice to whatever you are eating

Adding organic olive oil to salads will help counter the drying property of raw foods

Next week we’ll look at which vegetables offer more nutritional value when they have been cooked and which offer more nutritional value when eaten raw.

www.theraj.com