Strengthening the Immune System with Ayurveda

The specialty of Ayurveda is determining what brings balance to each individual. The term Ayurveveda means “knowledge of life”. Ayurveda helps create balance by looking at every aspect of your life and how it affects you. Balance means balance in the biological factors of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. It means balance in the agni (digestive fire), balance in the tissues, balance in the functioning of elimination, and balance in one’s vitality and emotions.

Ayurveda was the first health science to recognize that different things can create balance or imbalance for different people. It also identifies an underlying framework that supports the ideal functioning of the basic human physiology. For instance, recommendations such as going to bed before 10 P.M. eating one’s main meal at noon and waking up early in the morning are recommendations that will enhance the health of everyone.Immunity_Green_Road_Sign_5038491.jpg

Having a balanced physiology results in a balanced immune system. You probably know people who have been healthy all their lives. These people probably had a strong immune system to begin with. According to Ayurveda there are three types of immunity:

Natural or inherited

Seasonal

Acquired

Natural immunity comes from birth. When both parents are healthy and in good balance and if the “family tree: has had a long line of healthy people, it is often the good fortune of the children to inherit that strong immune system. For this reason, Ayurveda recommends that parents-to-be undergo a three month period of purification prior to conception.

Seasonal immunity means immunity according to the seasons or time of life. For example, in winter, immunity can be affected by an aggravation of Vata dosha and in the spring, by an aggravation of Kapha dosha. During childhood, the body is more susceptible to certain types of imbalances such as coughs and earaches because this is a Kapha time of life.

In the middle years of life, people tend to be more active and more susceptible to Pitta types of imbalances, such as digestive problems. In old age, the body is more susceptible to Vata imbalances, such as stiffness in muscles and joints or memory problems.

Acquired immunity results from the choices you make every day. Examples are organic, fresh foods, enjoying exercise that does not deplete the body’s strength, following a regular daily routine, going to bed on time, eating at the right times and enjoying regular purification (Panchakarma) to eliminate impurities from the cells and tissues of the body.

According to Ayurveda, perfect health is not just the absence of disease, but rather, life in balance, life in wholeness, life in complete happiness. The goal of an Ayurvedic expert is to identify which factors in your life are causing your mind/body system to be out of balance and to help design a routine, diet and lifestyle that will support your continued health and vitality.

For more information on Panchakarma and programs to enhance immunity, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

 

Spinach and Chicory Salad to Balance Kapha

 

The bitter, astringent and pungent tastes of spinach and chicory and the light, hot and dry properties of this salad are especially beneficial during the cool, wet Kapha season.

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For the Salad

2 cups spinach, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces

1 small head chicory—radicchio type—torn into pieces

1/2 cup red cabbage, thinly shredded

3 or 4 radishes, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons blanched, slivered almonds

 

For Kapha Vinaigrette

1/4 cup oil

1 tablespoon warm water

1 tablespoon vinegar or fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dry mustard

Kapha churna, or turmeric, pepper, coriander, and ginger to taste

 

Mix all the vinaigrette ingredients in a small jar. Cover and shake vigorously. Place the spinach in a serving bowl and pour the vinaigrette over it. Toss well. Add remaining vegetables, toss again, cover. Sprinkle with almonds before serving

 

Cooling Alternative Vinaigrette

Salads also pacify Pitta. When the weather is hot, this is a more cooling salad dressing:

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons warm water

2 teaspoons Pitta Churna, or coriander, cardamom and turmeric to taste

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vinegar or fresh lemon juice

Remember that raw foods can be hard to digest, especially in the summer when our internal digestive fire is diminished (in response to the high external heat.) Enjoy salads at noon when your digestive fire is at its peak. Favor warm, cooked food in the evening. Do not have cold or iced drinks with your meal. Make sure your salad is at room temperature.

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Keeping Limber as We Age

As we age it is common to find that we are not as limber as we once were. Elbows and knees become prone to soreness and other problems. According to Ayurveda, this reflects the natural increase in Vata dosha in the later stage of life. As Vata increases, Vata disorders can make the joints drier and stiffer. If we have a build up of ama (toxins that result from poor digestion) in the body, the combination of Vata and ama can lead to condition such as arthritis, stiffness and pain.

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Daily Oil Massage

To counteract the increasing accumulation of Vata in the body, Ayurveda recommends daily sesame oil massage. Before you bathe in the morning, massage the joints with warm sesame oil using a circular motion. Follow this by applying three to five minutes of moist heat to the joints.

Sesame oil is inherently heating and is the most penetrating of all the oils. If you have sensitive skin or are Pitta in nature, it may be that a more cooling oil, such as olive oil or coconut oil, is better for you. Try the sesame oil on a small patch of skin first, to see if you have any reaction.

In addition to daily oil massage, regular stretching of the joints through yoga helps keep the joints limber. Avoid straining when you exercise.

AMA

If you have significant join problems, be sure to get medical attention. Joint problems commonly reflect a build up of “ama” in the system. Ama is a sticky substance that results from poor digestion. Essentially, it is a form of un-metabolized waste that cannot be utilized by the body. Over time, ama tends to accumulate throughout the body and block the channels circulation, causing a variety of conditions and often leading to chronic disorders. Ayurveda considers ama to be the main underlying cause of many health issues.

Lowering Ama

The first stage in eliminating ama is to address what is causing ama to build up in the first place. Common causes are:

Overeating

Eating food that is not fresh and organic,

Eating too many raw foods

Eating before the previous meal is digested

Eating large meals in the evening

Eating without full attention on one’s meal

Not sitting down to a relaxed meal

A lack of exercise

Consulation with an Ayurvedic Expert

Specific recommendations regarding herbs, topical preparations, diet and seasonal and daily routines can be given by an Ayurvedic expert who is experienced in Ayurveda Pulse Assessment.

Panchakarma

The traditional purification and detoxification therapies of Ayurveda, known as Panchakarma, is designed to loosen ama, toxins, and excess Vata, Pitta, and Kapha from the deep tissues, moving them to the digestive tract, and from there, eliminating them from the body.

More more information on consultations and on Panchakarma programs, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Special Foods For Kapha Season

Fruit

Desserts for springtime Kapha season should be fruits, fruit tarts, or pies made without sugar. Apple juice or dried fruits such as raisins can be added to many recipes as a sweetener. Dried fruits also make excellent desserts.

Kapha Spices

During Kapha season you’ll want to season your food with the spices that reduce Kapha. These include all spices except salt. Remember, avoiding does not mean going without. Just don’t add extra salt or eat salty foods.

RECIPE FOR KAPHA SEASON FROM THE KITCHEN OF THE RAJ AYURVEDA HEALTH SPA

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Deep Dish Apple Pie

Makes 6 to 8 servings. (Just spoon the filling into a 1 1/2 quart casserole and top with pastry)

6 or more medium, sweet organic apples

1 cup raisins

1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

1 thawed can of grape-apple juice concentrate

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Preheat oven to 450°

Rollout your favorite since crust pastry

In a small saucepan, use I tablespoon cornstarch to thicken the thawed grape-apple just concentrate.

Slice apples. In a large bowl, toss apple slices with cinnamon and nutmeg. Carefully pour juice over apples, then fold the apples into the juice mixture. Alternative layer the apples and raisins in the deep dish. The apples will cook down. Cover with crust. Seal and flute edges. Pierce crust. Protect edges of the crust from burning (see below.) Bake at 450° for 10 minutes and remove whatever you are using to protect your crust. Bake for another 35 to 40 minutes at 375°, or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly.

For years bakers covered the edge of their pie crusts with aluminum foil to keep the edges from burning. However, a growing concern about impact of  aluminum on health has led many cooks to look for alternative solutions. Turning a second pie plate or baking dish over the top of your crust is one easy solution.

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Spring Into Action with Ayurveda: Healthy Tips for Kapha Season

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Springtime brings with it a burst of action as the dry, cold weather gives way to the moist, milder climate that supports new growth and creativity. According to Ayurveda, cool and moist weather aggravates Kapha dosha, the biological principle that is cold, heavy, oily, and smooth. Hay fever, runny noses, sinus congestion or sinusitis, and allergies are some of the problems spring weather can cause. Here are a few tips to help you have a sunny and healthy Kapha season.

DIET

Eat More:

Light, dry and warm foods,

Foods that are spicy, bitter and astringent

Fruits which are lighter, such as apples and pears

Raw, uncooked honey (Ayurveda considers heated or cooked honey to be toxic)

Grains such as barley and millet

Eat Less

Heavy, oily and cold foods

Sweet, salty and sour foods

Heavy or sour fruits, such as oranges, bananas, pineapples, figs, dates, avocados, coconuts, and melons

Sugar and sugar products

Nuts

Wheat, rice or oats

Tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and zucchini

Salt

LIFESTYLE

DO: Exercise more, but keep your ears and head covered

DON’T: Heat or warm your honey, as this interferes with digestion

For information on consultations with Ayurvedic experts, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

http://www.theraj.com

Early to Bed — for a Healthy Mind and Body

If you struggle to fall asleep at night, you are not alone. As many as 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia — and that number is growing every year.

According to Ayurveda, insomnia is most commonly caused by a disturbance in Vata dosha. Vata dosha is the principle concerned with movement in the body. When Vata is out of balance, your mind can be racing and your body can be so keyed up at bedtime that you are not able to fall asleep.

People with Vata disorders tend to keep irregular habits, including eating at different times of the day and going to bed at all hours — habits that can cause Vata dosha to become even more imbalanced.

Being out of tune with nature’s daily rhythms may actually be causing insomnia in millions around the world. With the invention of the electric light bulb, it suddenly became possible for many activities to take place after sunset. To re-attune yourself with nature’s rhythms, try going to bed at the same time every night, preferably with a bedtime of 10:00 or earlier.

According to Ayurveda, the many rhythms and cycles of the cosmos (such as the circadian rhythm, caused by the earth rotating on its axis every 24 hours, or the seasonal cycle of the earth revolving around the sun) have a counterpart in the human body.

Modern science is beginning to study this phenomenon. Research shows that many neurological and endocrine functions follow the 24-hour cycle. Our sleep-wakefulness cycle is one of those circadian rhythms. Science now knows that many of the hormones your body needs to repair itself are released while you sleep. Science tells us that between 10 p.m. – 2 a.m. the deepest and most regenerative sleep occurs. Remember that time: you’ll hear about it later.

Ayurveda has identified three “master cycles” that occur in your mind/body system — and in nature around us. You experience them in terms of the three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.

Kapha cycle in the evening takes place from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., after work is finished and the sun is setting. You naturally feel more relaxed and drowsy at this time, since your body is preparing to sleep. This is the influence of Kapha dosha, which by nature is slow and heavy.

If you go to bed during this Kapha cycle, before 10:00 p.m., sleep will come more easily and will have more of the slow, stable quality of Kapha dosha.

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Modern research concurs that sleep gets lighter and lighter as dawn approaches. Our deepest slumber (called NREM sleep) occurs within 20 minutes of falling asleep and gets interrupted around 90 minutes later by a five-to-ten minute round of REM-type sleep. For the rest of the night, you alternate between the two types of sleep in 90-minute cycles, with your NREM sleep getting shorter and less deep and the lighter REM cycles getting longer.

Because so many people suffer from an aggravation of Vata, it can be difficult to stop activity and head to bed early. If you go to bed after 10:00 p.m., you are going to bed during the Pitta cycle, between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.  Pitta is the principle that governs transformations. At noon, when we are also in a Pitta cycle, the increased principle of transformation helps us to digest our lunch (which Ayurveda recommends should be our biggest meal of the day). In the evening the transformative properties of Pitta are meant be used to help repair the body while we sleep, so that we awake refreshed and renewed. If we are awake during this time, many experience a spurt of intellectual activity and find that this is the “perfect” time to catch up on work or personal projects. This is a misuse of the Pitta cycle and we are robbing our body of its chance to repair and restore itself. Once the mind becomes active during the Pitta cycle, it is difficult to turn off thoughts. Combined with a Vata imbalance, which can “fan the fires” of Pitta, you could easily find yourself up until the wee hours of the morning — and enjoying a midnight snack to boot.

What happens when we rob ourselves of our nightly self-repair? Science is finding a wide range of negative effects, from being more susceptible to colds and infections to increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s. Deep sleep apparently allows us to deep clean plaque from the brain.

While there are many other aspects of insomnia to consider, the first step anyone who is serious about conquering insomnia should consider is to create a regular schedule which includes being in bed before 10:00 at night.

A visit to an Ayurvedic expert will help you to more precisely pinpoint which imbalances are keeping you from a good night’s sleep.  They can prescribe diet, supplements and lifestyle changes that will support your efforts.

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

http://theraj.com

Daily Oil Massage to Pacify Vata and Remove Toxins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.theraj.com/rajresults/index.php

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Ayurveda and Prostate Health

 

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

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Lifestyle Factors Supporting Prostate Health

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

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

Environmental Factors

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

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

Ayurvedic Tips for Reducing Toxins

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

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

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

www.theraj.com

Environmental Toxins Can Cause Weight Gain— How Ayurveda Can Help

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

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

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

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

A published study on the traditional purification therapies of Ayurveda (Panchakarma) offered at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa showed that blood levels of fat-soluble toxins decreased by 50% after a 5-day program.  Currently 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:

www.theraj.com

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