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 a modern technology doesn’t offer 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.

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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:

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Ayuveda’s Effortless Approach to Weight Loss: The Original Science of “Chrono-Nutrition”

The holiday season is over and so is the parade of celebrations and get-togethers with their enticing treats. How many New Year’s Resolutions lists have “Weight loss” (or “Improve diet” or “Cut out sugar and carbs”) near the top? Luckily for the diet-inclined, the ancient science of Ayurveda offers some simple tips that can help you lose weight easily and effortlessly.

Foundational to Ayurveda is the understanding of which dosha predominates at different times of the day and night, (and season and time of life) and how to structure activity so that these influences work for us instead of against us. (If you are new to Ayurveda, read our blog Understanding the Doshas.) Apparently modern science is catching up. There is now a whole “new” approach to dieting called “chrono-nutrition”. Basically, the thinking is that controlling eating patterns can have profound effects on weight loss. The “new tips” from chrono-nutrition seem oddly familiar to anyone with any knowledge of Ayurveda.

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Tip 1: Eat Less at Night

According to the experts on chrono-nutrition, the energy our body uses to process the food we consume is 50 percent lower during the evening meal. It turns out that about 10 percent of the energy we use every day is directed toward digesting and processing the food we eat. If we eat large amounts of food at night, we use significantly less energy than if we eat the exact same food earlier in the day.

A recent study comparing two groups — both consuming 1400 calories a day — found eating most calories for breakfast rather than at dinner produced greater weight loss and waist circumference reduction.

(In addition, a large carbohydrate load in the evening has been found to create some insulin resistance, which in turn may affect melatonin and cortisol  – and therefore sleep.)

In Ayurvedic terms, Pitta dosha is responsible for transformation, metabolism and digestion. Pitta is at is peak from the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. These are the hours when the most energy is available to transform the food we eat into a form that can be absorbed and utilized by our body. At night, Kapha predominates from 6:00 PM until 10:00 PM. Kapha is slow and heavy and it makes sense that we would be burning less energy while under this influence.

The proper use of the influence of the Kapha time of the day is to prepare us for bed. A light meal at night is recommended so that the body is not working on digestion while it is sleeping. This allows for the ideal use of Pitta dosha at night: to perform self-repair work while we are sleeping so that we can wake up refreshed and renewed.

Tip 2: Maintain a Steady Routine

While chrono-nutritionists admit they do not fully understand the mechanism, they found that maintaining a steady routine also helps with weight loss, even if what you are eating remains exactly the same. They theorize that when your body becomes accustomed to a schedule, your metabolism and hormones work better and digest your food more efficiently at meal times.

According to Ayurveda, maintaining a good routine is a key tool for keeping Vata dosha under control. Vata dosha governs movement throughout the body. It is the first dosha to go out of balance and can wreak havoc with the other doshas. When out of balance, Vata can compromise digestion, much as a strong wind can put out a small fire. Once again (as when we eat late at night) we are left with less energy with which to metabolize our food. When we stop being able to pull the needed nutrients out of our food, a message is sent to our brain that we are starving. This can trigger all kinds of food cravings. These food cravings are often for Kapha-type foods. This is because body automatically seeks balance. Because Kapha has the opposite qualities of Vata, it is natural to want to eat heavier foods to balance the growing instability of Vata.

Tip 3: Go To Bed On Time

The chrono-nutritionists have found that early sleepers have a 25 per cent better response in diets, both psychological and physiological reasons. Again, their understanding of the mechanics behind this fact is limited. They note that studies have found time and again that when we are tired we over-eat and have less control over what we consume. They offer the simple explanation that if you sleep well; you are likely to make better dietary choices the day after, which will result in a more balanced diet. Studies have also shown that if your sleep is disrupted or erratic, the production of cortisol is affected, which in turn affects many bodily functions such as metabolism and the regulation of the immune system.

Ayurveda offers a sophisticated understanding of how living in tune with the laws of nature that structure the world around us results in a healthier, more efficient mind-body system.

Staying on a steady routine, going to bed at 10:00 and getting up, rested and alert, around 6:00 is a way to make sure that you are getting maximum support from all three doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Our body is filled with biological clocks, not just in our brain but also in our in our organs, our joints and our muscles. When we are in tune with these clocks, the body automatically repairs itself at night, allowing us to wake up in the morning refreshed and energized, all systems go. If we have not eaten a heavy meal late in the evening and if we head to bed on time our evening Pitta will be put to work regenerating our muscles, joints, and cells. Our brain will have been cleared of waste products. The 10-hour fast will have reset our metabolic system. If we prime the system with a light but healthy breakfast (cooked apples, oatmeal) we are in balance and set for the day.

Tip 4: Pay Attention When You Eat

According to the chono-nutrition experts, “If you don’t give yourself enough time to eat, you cannot feel enough satisfaction.” Studies have shown that 21 minutes is the optimal time needed for satiety signals to reach your brain. Eating with one’s full attention on your food is proving to be essential for weight management, and several studies have shown that this approach results in greater satiety, improved food experience and better hormonal response.

The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa has always recommends guests practice Self Referral Eating. This means being aware of what you are doing during each meal. This involves sitting down to eat and putting your full attention on your meal (as opposed to watching TV, doing work or reading while you eat.) Chewing your food well is a part of this process: healthy digestion and nutrient absorption begin with proper chewing, which triggers the release of digestive enzymes.

Ayurveda recommends that you remain at the table for at least 10 minutes after you are finished eating, to allow your digestive process a chance to fully kick in. If you allow the act of eating to support your digestion, you’ll find more satisfaction with set meals, fewer urges to snack, and a more efficient digestive system that tends to quickly burn up what you have taken in.

Because of its ancient heritage, it is easy to miss the sophistication of the Ayurveda approach to health and wholeness. And while staying on a good routine, going to bed on time, eating according to the strength of Pitta dosha, and putting our full attention on what we eat may sound basic and run of the mill, these suggestions are grounded in a deep understanding of how our body works. Forget the new fads: put going back to basics on your list of New Year Resolutions and discover how quickly your physiology responds to living in tune with nature’s cycles.

For more information on The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa programs, including programs for weight loss, visit our website:

www.theraj.com

Ayurveda Tips for Holiday Eating

In the United States, the Thanksgiving holiday (the last Thursday of November) marks the beginning of six weeks holiday festivities, family feasts and seasonal treats. The ancient Indian health science of Ayurveda offers helpful tips on how to navigate holiday season without gaining weight or over-eating.

Winter cravings

The increasingly colder days of fall bring with them an increase in Vata dosha — the subtle energy in the body that governs movement. When Vata dosha predominates, there is an increase in dry, rough and cool qualities in the body. This dryness can disturb various tissues and organs. Many people notice dry skin and lips during the winter months. Dryness can also occur in the colon or large intestine, leading to constipation. Simultaneously you may find that you develop cravings for heavy, sweet and unctuous foods. This is simply your body’s attempt to balance the increase in Vata by increasing Kapha. Unfortunately, these heavier foods can also lead to poor digestion and to an accumulation of toxins over the winter, which could lead to allergies in the spring.

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Holiday Eating Tips

The following tips can help you navigate the holiday festivities, pacifying Vata dosha while avoiding the weight-gain often brought on by Kapha-increasing foods.

  1. At the start of the holiday season, consult an Ayurvedic expert to see if you have any nutritional deficiencies or imbalances. If these are left untended, you may find yourself at the mercy of cravings and compulsive eating.
  2. When you first arrive at a gathering, request a cup of hot water. This will help to pacify Vata and also help you avoid mindless eating. In addition, people often mistake thirst for hunger. If you are well hydrated, you will feel less compulsion to eat. Drinking plain hot water throughout the day is a simple Ayurvedic secret for improved health.
  3. Always sit down at a table to eat. Don’t eat if you are standing or moving.
  4. Whenever you eat, give eating your full attention. Enjoy your food — even if you are eating something “naughty”. Eating mindlessly does not allow you to properly taste, experience, or digest your food. As a result, even if you are full, you will feel unsatisfied and want to eat more later. Don’t multli-task at meal times.
  5. Learn about the six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Each taste satisfies a different need. Missing one or more of the tastes can result in cravings. Try to have all six tastes at each meal. If this sounds daunting, there are spice combinations (churnas) made specifically for this.
  6. Favor warm, cooked foods. If you want to indulge in heavier foods, do so at mid-day, when your digestive “fire” is stronger. Try to keep evening meals light, favoring soups and cooked vegetables.
  7. Try to take small portions. Ideally you should feel refreshed and energized after eating, not dull. Over-eating compromises digestion. When you overeat, even though you ingest more than you need, your body actually assimilates less. This can result in nutritional deficiencies, perpetuating cravings and the habit of overeating.

Eating with full attention and enjoyment improves digestion. It settles and strengthens your entire system. This can have far-reaching health benefits seemingly unrelated to nutrition.

If you find that you have over-indulged during the holidays, consider enjoying traditional Ayurvedic detoxification treatments, called Panchakarma in January or February. The soothing oils used in the treatments help detoxify body fat and the recommended diet before, during and after treatment is the perfect way to get back into healthy eating habits. Scheduling Panchakarma treatments in January can reset your physiology for the rest of the year and help eliminate the effects of holiday indulgences.

Learn more about Ayurveda treatments for weight loss and detoxification at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

Hidden Factors Blocking Your Weight-Loss Efforts?

Most people who lose weight gain it back within a few years – with many regaining even more than they lost. What they may not know is that there may be a number of factors triggering their weight-gain that are beyond their ability to control.

Mind/Body Types

According to Ayurveda, different mind/body types have different body shapes and sizes that are natural  — and healthful — for that particular physiology. The goal of Ayurveda is simply to maintain or restore one’s natural balance. As one restores balance, weight will naturally shift back to what is normal for that particular physiology.

Diet and Digestion

Crucial to maintaining balanced health is good digestion. Suppressing our appetite means suppressing our digestive “fire”. As a result, the food we eat does not get digested or metabolized property. When the body is not nourished properly it begins to send messages to the brain that it is starving. The dieter gets cravings that cannot be ignored. This can lead to binge eating, creating further imbalances and weight gain.

Toxins: Environmental Toxins and Ama

Environmental toxins

Environmental toxins are now being recognized as major contributors to obesity and removal of these toxins may be an effective treatment approach for treatment-resistant or chronic weight gain. Researchers are pursuing indications that certain chemicals, which have been shown to cause abnormal changes in animals’ sexual development, can also trigger fat-cell activity — a process scientists call adipogenesis.

The chemicals under scrutiny are used in many products, from marine paints and pesticides to food and beverage containers. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found one chemical, bisphenol A, in 95 percent of the people tested, at levels at or above those that affected development in animals.

The suspected link between obesity and exposure to “endocrine disrupters,” as the chemicals are called because of their hormone-like effects, has been called “plausible and possible.”

Exposed mice became obese adults and remained obese even on reduced calorie and increased exercise regimes.

Ayurveda offers a time-tested approach to removing fat-soluble toxins that is comfortable, safe, and, in fact, more effective than any other form of purification approach available today. A published research study (Sept./Oct. 2002 issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine) on the Ayurvedic panchakarma (purification) treatments offered at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa in Fairfield, IA showed that  50% of these dangerous toxins were removed with a 5-day program.  No other methods of detoxification have been shown to remove this class of fat-soluble toxins from the body.

Ama

Not all toxins come from our environment. We actually create some toxins ourselves due to poor digestion or poor food choices. Ayurveda refers to the toxins created by poor digestion as ama, a sticky residue that gradually clogs up the cells and channels of the body. This waste material can impair cellular functions and accelerate aging. It can also cause lethargy, fatigue, dullness, erratic eating habits and compulsive eating.

When ama blocks the channels of the body, Vata, the principle of movement, no longer flows property and can become trapped in the abdomen. This can stimulate an abnormal digestive “fire”. As a result, a person feels hungry and begins to eat excessively, beyond their actual need.

The specialized Panchakarma treatments can help “chisel away” impurities and toxins that have been slowly building up in the body over years. Removing these blockages and toxins allows the natural intelligence of the body to become more expressed. Cravings disappear and more natural eating habits are more easily established.

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Five Weight Loss Tips

Ayurveda recommends five actions steps that are helpful for everyone – no matter what your body type. These tips are easy to implement and can bring about great changes in your over-all health and wellness.

  1. Eat a light evening meal favoring easy-to-digest foods (fresh vegetables, soups, grains such as barley and couscous). According to Ayurveda, digestion is weaker in the evening.  Also, going to sleep just a few hours after eating slows digestion, metabolism and circulation. This leads to poor digestion and the accumulation of toxins, fat and promotes excess weight gain.
  2. Eat the largest meal of the day at lunch favoring a wide variety of warm, cooked, organic food. Digestion is strongest at noon and we have many active hours to metabolize the food before we sleep.
  3. Drink warm or hot water frequently during the day. This helps flush the digestion tract of accumulated toxins.
  4. Avoid eating heavy foods such as red meat, leftovers, packaged foods and deep-fried food. These are hard to digest or lack energy-giving freshness. “Eat fresh food, freshly prepared” sums up the essence of Ayurvedic food guidelines.
  5. Move!  Exercise improves digestion, metabolism, elimination, body tone and strength and bone density.  It helps us normalize weight gain. Try to take time every day to get out and walk. It is good to walk 15 minutes or so after eating. Walking after the evening meal is especially encouraged.

The basis of successful weight-loss is a deep understanding of the most fundamental causes of weight gain: imbalance of the doshas, poor digestion and accumulated toxins. Ayurveda offers a time-tested approach that ensures that a comfortable, healthy weight can be both established and maintained.

For more information on Ayurvedic weight-loss programs, visit

www.theraj.com

Barley Soup: the Perfect Kapha Evening Meal

Barley is a wonderful grain to begin working into your diet during the late winter months. As we transition from the cold, dry Vata days of early winter to the cold, wet Kapha days of late winter and early spring, our attention should be on shifting our diet to Kapha-reducing foods. Favoring astringent, spicy and bitter tastes will help with weight loss and allow our physiologies feel lighter and more energetic and will help keep away colds and allergies.

Barley is the best grain for balancing Kapha dosha. It improves sluggish digestion, protects against diabetes and strokes , is diuretic in nature, and works as a natural regulator of excessive fat accumulation.

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Here a recipe for barley soup that is perfect for a chilly, damp Kapha evening.

Hearty Barley Soup

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

1/4 teaspoon rosemary

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 celery stalk with leaves, sliced

1 carrot, grated

1 tablespoon butter

5 cups stock or water

1/4 cup barley

1 turnip, cut into small pieces

1 bay leaf

salt and pepper to taste.

Salute the parsley, rosemary, basil, oregano, thyme, celery and carrot in the butter slowly for 10 minutes. Add to the stock. Add the barley, turnip and bayleaf. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This recipe makes about 6 cups.

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Self-Referral Eating for Weight Loss and Improved Digestion

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Poor digestion, being overweight, excess gas and bloating are all problems that can be triggered by poor eating habits. At The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa, what is taken into account is not only what you eat but also how you eat.

Self-Referral Eating means being aware of what you are doing during each meal.

Try the following tips:

  1. Research shows that eating too quickly can lead to weight gain. If we eat too quickly, we race so far ahead of the mechanisms in our gut that tell us we are full that we end up overeating. While you are eating, focus on what you are doing and how the food tastes — avoid distractions like reading, watching TV, and engaging in intense discussions.
  2. Try eating in silence for a few days to practice being consciously aware while eating.
  3. Chew your food well. Healthy digestion and nutrient absorption begins with proper chewing. Chewing triggers the release of digestive enzymes that help your body break down food so that it can be converted into energy. Chewing also helps break down your food into smaller particles, which can be more easily digested. Large, undigested particles of food can not be processed by the small intestine. They either travel through undigested or seep through fissures in the intestinal lining (leaky gut syndrome) and enter the bloodstream, triggering food allergies and other intolerances.
  4. Sip warm water during your meal. This helps your food to be more easily processed.
  5. Put down your eating utensils after each bite and focus on chewing.
  6. Don’t wait until you are starving or you may find that your hunger will overtake your commitment to eating with full attention.
  7. Eating is one of the great pleasures of life. Take time to savor the tastes and smells of the food. Inhaling your food without savoring the aroma does not lead to a satisfying experience. Digestion begins in the brain. Before you have even taken your first bite, the body begins to release enzymes needed for digestion. This is why your mouth waters at the smell of food.
  8. Always sit when you eat. Never eat standing up. Make sure that everything you need is on the table before you sit down so that you can remain seated and relaxed throughout your meal.
  9. If you have trouble telling whether you are full or not, stop sometimes during the meal, put your hand on your stomach and ask yourself, “Do I feel full or not?” The goal is to reconnectc your awareness with what is going on in the digestive system.

The Raj offers targeted programs to address colitis, constipation, gastritis and weight loss. Contact The Raj Health Office for more information.

800 864-8714 ext. 9000

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Ayurveda for Effective Weight Loss

There are many factors involved in becoming overweight and in deciding what is the most effective means of reversing that condition.

Your Appropriate Weight

Ayurveda recognizes that there are different healthy weights and builds for different people. By genetic nature, some people will have heavier builds than others. Heavy-built individuals are still healthy at weights that might be considered unhealthy for individuals with a genetically lighter constitution.

During an Ayurvedic consultation one of the first steps is to use the technique of pulse assessment to determine a person’s “body type”. This understanding of body type is important as too often the ideal body size image portrayed by the media and advertising is not natural or even healthy for a particular individual.

Root Imbalances at the Basis of Overweight Conditions

There can be many factors creating the overweight condition, and it is important to determine which ones are predominant in each individual. For example, people often assume that weight gain is created by an imbalance in Kapha. In fact, many times the underlying imbalance is that of either Vata or Pitta. It is important to identify these underlying factors in order to begin a successful program to create balance.

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Proper Diet

Dietary knowledge is a foundation of the Ayurveda approach. Knowing your body type and level of balance and imbalance helps provide an understanding of which foods to favor and avoid. In general, “avoid” foods are foods that are hard to digest, clogging to the physiology and heavy in nature. As a general rule, those looking to lose weight should favor foods that are easy to digest, help cleanse the physiology, strengthen digestion and balance metabolism.

Creating Strong Digestion

Our ability to digest food is as important as what we eat. Incompletely digested foods create toxins and impurities that are eventually absorbed, travel throughout the physiology, and localize in the tissues, disrupting their function. This process is at the basis of a wide variety of complications in the overweight condition.

Preventing Toxic Build-Up

It is one thing for extra tissue and structure to accomulate in the body. When the accumulation includes damaging toxins, the serious effects of being overweight begin. According to Ayurveda, almost every major disease condition, from arthritis to allergies to cardiovascular disease, is caused by the buildup of toxins in the tissues and by blockages in circulation.

This is why an Ayurvedic weight loss program will include purification treatments as well as dietary and herbal recommendations and life-style changes.

Panchakarma Detoxification and Rejuvenation Therapy

The most powerful treatments for removing toxins and opening the channels of circulation are the traditional detoxification treatments of Ayurveda, Panchakarma. The daily combination of Ayurveda massage, heat and internal cleansing therapies provide a deeply powerful cleansing for the entire body.

Stress Management

Many individuals experience that improper eating habits and craings are worsened by heightened stress, anxiety and mental fatigue. It is common to find that accumulated stress and mental imbalance drive the eating behavior at the basis of overweight conditions.

Learning the Transcendental Mediation technique provides a simple and effective tool to remove the mental and stress components of the overweight condition

Proper Lifestyle and Daily Routine

One of the most important factors for balancing digestion and keeping our natural cleansing processes strong is to have a lifestyle that does not disturb natural bodily rhythms. When we eat, sleep and exercise in constantly fluctuation patterns, the body loses its natural balancing cycles and can not digest, cleanse or heal itself as effectively. Therefore, regularity in our daily routine can be extremely important in maintaining a healthy, balance physiology.

For more information on consultation, panchakarma treatments or The Raj Weight Loss Program, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Center:

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.
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.)

Ayurveda Tips for Holiday Eating

images-2Here are a few guidelines for everyone during the holidays, whether you have a tendency to overeat or just want to maintain a healthy digestion.

  1. Sit at a table when you eat or drink.
  2. Don’t do anything else while you eat. This includes watching TV, listening to music, reading or discussing business. Eating mindlessly does not allow you to properly taste and digest your food. You are more apt to feel unsatisfied and want to eat more, even though you are full.
  3. Avoid eating heavy meals in the evening when our digestion is naturally weaker. Try to schedule heavy holiday meals at lunchtime and favor light nutritious foods such as vegetable soups or steamed vegetables and couscous in the evening.
  4. Include all six tastes in each meal—sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent. Each taste satisfies a different need. Missing one or more can result in cravings.
  5. Perk up your digestion with a slice of fresh ginger sprinkled with a bit of salt and lemon before your meal. This helps get the digestive fires stimulated and ready for the job of breaking down your food to their essential nutrients in a form that can be easily absorbed and utilized by the body.
  6. Do not overeat. According to Ayurveda, ideal digestion takes place when your stomach is no more than three-fourths full, which for most people measures about two cupped handfuls of food. If you still feel hungry, eat a little more. You should feel refreshed and energized after eating, not dull. Remember that overeating impairs digestion. When you eat more than you need, your body actually assimilates less. This can result in nutritional cravings and a habit of overeating. This can also result in being more susceptible to colds and flues. This is because a weak digestion results in the accumulation of undigested food or ama in the physiology. This can weaken the immune system, making it easier for viruses and bacteria to attack. If we can put attention on keeping our digestion strong, we can reduce or avoid the accumulation of toxins, and thereby throw off any bugs more easily. If you are interested in weight loss, maintaining strong digestion is essential.
  7. Avoid cold drinks and beverages. Avoid cold, raw or frozen foods.
  8. Sip warm water throughout the day to help cleanse the body. As soon as you arrive at a holiday festivity, ask for a cup of hot water or herbal tea. This will help you to avoid snacking.

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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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