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

Ayurveda is About Choice

The most important contribution to that anyone can make to their overall state of health is their every day lifestyle. Every day we have a choice in our diet and our routine. These choices ultimately create our body, our mind, and our consciousness. The more we understand these choices, the more we support our continued health and happiness.

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Choosing the optimal Ayurvedic diet and routine begins with understanding not only your underlying body “type” but also your current state of balance and imbalance. For instance, given the fast pace of our modern lives, even those with a predominately Kapha constitution may find themselves with a Vata imbalance. To simply choose foods and activities that reduce Kapha would end up exacerbating that imbalance. If you do not have an Ayurvedic expert in your area to help you determine your current state of balance, you can base your choices on an understanding of the basics of the Ayurveda daily routine that apply to everyone, no matter what your body type.

Foundational to following an ideal daily routine is understanding which dosha predominates at the different hours of the day. There are two cycles, in the morning and in the evening:

From 6:00 to 10:00, both morning and evening, Kapha predominates

From 10:00 to 2:00, both morning and evening, Pitta predominates

From 2:00 to 6:00, both morning and evening, Vata predominates.

Ideal Times for Sleeping

There is a saying, “The day starts the night before”. Only by going to bed early can the next day’s activity be fully supported. By going to bed during Kapha time, (before 10:00 P.M. when the evening Pitta period begins), we take advantage of Nature’s natural cycle of healing and rejuvenation. The qualities of Kapha, (heaviness and dullness), allows us to get to sleep most quickly, and to have the deepest, least interrupted sleep.

The Pitta that begins to dominate at 10:00 PM is meant to be directed towards metabolic cleansing. The body needs to be inactive at this time so that it can focus its intelligence and energy on restoring and rejuvenating the body. If we are up and active during this time, we may enjoy an effective spurt of energy but we cheat our bodies on much needed self-repair. Over time this can take a serious toll on our physical and mental health.

Going to bed on time allows us to easily rise at the proper time, before 6:00 A.M. The period before 6 AM is the time when all of Nature is waking up, and a time when Vata is enlivened in the environment. If we start our day in Vata time, our mind will experience more of the qualities of balanced Vata throughout the day: increased energy, clarity, intelligence and alertness.

If we sleep past 6 AM, we sleep into the Kapha time of the day. When a person sleeps until 7:30 AM they have been lying dull and dormant for one and a half hours in Kapha time and they wake experiencing the qualities of Kapha: dullness, heaviness and lethargy.

Understanding and following the ideal times for eating and sleeping means harmonizing our behavior with the rhythms and cycles of the body and the cycles of nature. This is the key to living a health-promoting life. If we live a lifestyle that disrupts our natural biological rhythms, we are sabotaging our own health, breaking down the resistance of the body and contributing to the creation of disease.

Ideal Times for Eating

Breakfast

Digestion is not strong when we first awake, so breakfast should not be a heavy meal. Cooked apples and pears are a perfect way to begin the day. It is best to avoid cheeses, meats and other heavy, hard-to digest foods at breakfast.

Lunch

In the middle of the day the transformational element in nature is at its peak. This activates that same principle, Pitta, in our own bodies. Pitta is responsible for our digestion and metabolism.

For this reason we should eat our largest meal at noon. The ideal time for lunch is between 12:30 and 1:00, as this is the period of highest Pitta and greatest digestive power. Lunch should be a warm, cooked meal, with all six tastes. Take at least 30 minutes, eat in a relaxed setting, and then sit comfortably for 10 to 15 minutes after you finish.

Dinner

In the evening, digestion is less strong. In a few hours we should be sleeping, which further slows the digestive and metabolic processes. Therefore dinner should be a lighter meal. Heavy foods like cheese, ice cream and meat are best avoided at this meal.

It is better to eat earlier in the evening than later. The later you eat, the less food you should consume and the lighter the food should be.

If we have been living a life that is out of tune with nature’s laws, it is never too late to make healthy changes. A consultation with an Ayurvedic expert can pinpoint imbalances that have built up in the physiology, and provide specific recommendations for restoring a healthy balance. The traditional purification and detoxification treatments of Ayurveda, known as Panchakarma treatments, can remove accumulated imbalances and blockages from deep within the tissues.. These treatments offer a giant step forward as a technology to maintain and create a deep level of health.

For more information on Ayurveda consultations and treatment programs, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Pepper and Turmeric: Enhancing Heart and Brain Health with Ayurvedic Spices

“Bioenhancer” is a term that has become very important to drug and food supplement companies. Bioenhancers are substances that increase the “bioavailability and bioefficacy” of other substances. What is “bioavailablity”? In terms of both pharmicudical and herbal supplements, it means the quantity or fraction of an ingested dose that is actually absorbed by the body. Because of either differing digestive capabilities or because of our body’s cellular membranes that block foreign particles, much of what we take in orally is actually not absorbed by our body. While we can see why this is of concern to drug companies, this concern should extend to our every day life and our ability to extract vital nutrients from our food.

Peririne was the first bioenhancer to be discovered by modern science. It is found naturally  in pepper. Peririne, along with cucumine (found in turmeric), and gingerols (found in ginger) are now being isolated and sold by numerous pharmacutical companies in order to improve the bioefficacy of their products.

This “new” science is in fact age-old wisdom offered by Ayurveda, the 5000 year old health science of India. Spicing has always been a key part of both Ayurvedic cooking and Ayurveda health recommendations. Not only do spices make our meals taste delicious, they help our bodies stay balanced and healthy. Spices help us better absorb nutrients in our food. They have been found to be antioxidants, prevent cancer, lower cholesterol and blood sugar, improve memory, flush out toxins, and enhance digestion During consultations at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa, spices are normally a part of the individualized recommendations given to help restore balanced health.

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Let’s look at these “new” bioenhancers:

Pepper Helps Feed Your Brain

Perinine is found in cracked black pepper. Perinine has been found to help carry nutrition across the blood brain barrier. The blood brain barrier is a layer of tightly packed cells that make up the walls of brain capillaries and prevent substances in the blood from entering the brain. This protects the brain from “foreign substances”, helps maintain a constant environment for the brain and protects the brain from hormones and neurotransmitters in the rest of the body.

Because our brain is made up of almost 60% fat, it needs high quality fats to keep the lining of the brain cells flexible so that memory and other brain messages can easily pass between cells. Getting fat to cross the blood brain barrier can be a challenge. If we are using healthy oils in our diet, adding freshly ground pepper helps us make the most of oils and other nutrients. Bioenhancers increase the absorption of oils and nutrients for our body, as well as our brain, supporting cell growth, protecting our organs and helping manufacture hormones in our body.

Perinine also helps strengthens the functioning of the heart and kidneys. It effective against colon cancer and inflammation and generally enhances immunity. Pepper it is very stimulating to the digestive system. It is also inherently heating and should be used cautiously by those with a Pitta imbalance.

Pepper is most efficient when it is fresh. A pepper grinder and organic pepper corns will allow you to get the most out of this important spice.

Turmeric

Cucumin is found in turmeric, the spice that gives curry its yellow color. Ayurveda considers turmeric a medicinal herb as well as a cooking spice.

Curcumin is said to have powerful anti-oxidizing effects. Because of its chemical structure, curcumin can neutralize free radicals. In addition, it supports and boosts the body’s own antioxidant enzymes. Curcumin, however, is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. To get the most out of turmeric it is recommended that you add freshly ground black pepper to your spice mixture. The piperine in black pepper has been shown to enhance the absorption of curcumin by 2000%.

Curcumin is also anti-inflammatory. Because inflammation and oxidative damage are contributors to many diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, arthritis and various cancers, turmeric is gaining world wide interest in the world of science. It has been noted that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and certain cancers in India is among the world’s lowest. Turmeric has been shown to have an effect in blocking the growth skin cancer, and inhibiting the spread of breast cancer into the lungs.

Curcumin has recently been shown to strengthen and order cell membranes, making cells more resistant to infection and malignancy. There is new evidence that curcumin can help keep away neurogenerative disease through its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and act as an antioxidant.

Ginger

Ginger is another spice that Ayurveda recommends for its medicinal properties. The active ingredient in ginger is gingerol, a compound that is thought to relax blood vessels, stimulate blood flow and relieve pain. Traditionally ginger has been used as a remedy for poor circulation, colds, flue, arthritis, heart disease, and poor digestion, as well as nausea and motion sickness. Gingerol is a is also potent anti-inflammatory agent, which means it may be useful in fighting heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis. Antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anticancer activity have also been reported. Gingerol has been reported to not only reduce pain levels in individuals suffering from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, but also to improve mobility.

Ginger is also heating by nature. If you have Pitta imbalances such as ulcers or heartburn, check first with an Ayurveda expert to see how best to use ginger in cooking.

Purchasing Spices

Turmeric, black pepper and ginger are all sold in the supermarkets in a ground form. While the pre-packaged, ground forms of black pepper and ginger may add flavor to your food, they are mostly deficient in their health benefits.

Ideally black pepper and ginger should be bought in their whole form and then ground or chopped at the time of cooking. To purchase high quality herbs, visit a local organic grocery or spice shop, or order them from a spice retailer online. Always use organic herbs that have their full range of nutrients and are not irradiated or sprayed with pesticide.

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

Ayurvedic Treatments Help Combat Heart Disease

 

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Free radicals, or reactive oxygen species (ROS) are fragments of molecules that are electrochemically unstable. They are like tiny molecular “sharks” that damage every living cell and help cause problems such as heart attacks, cataracts, arthritis and cancer.

Pollution, poor diet, smoking, second-hand smoke, alcohol, pesticides, excessive exposure to sunlight, chemotherapy, and stress are know to contribute to the uncontrolled formation of free radicals, which can then initiate chain reactions capable of causing extensive damage to normal cells and tissues.

Free radicals are damaging because they are unstable molecules containing oxygen. Just as oxygen rusts automobiles and contributes to the burning of forests, so the oxygen in free radical molecules “rusts” and “burns” biological molecules within each cell. The resulting damage tears apart cell membranes, destroys the cell’s energy-producing mechanisms and disarranges the genetic code in the DNA.

This damage not only helps cause 80% to 90% of all diseases, but is also produces wrinkles, grey hair, stiffness and other signs of “normal” aging.

Panchakarma Removes Free Radicals, Promotes Heart Health

Studies on the Panchakarma treatments (traditional Ayurveda detoxification and purification therapies) given at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa found that Panchakarma:

  1. Reduces lipid peroxide levels. Lipid peroxides are fat molecules that have been damaged by free radicals. They are thought to be important in the initiation of atherosclerotic heart disease. Lipid peroxide levels in the blood are uses as a measurement of free radical activity.
  2. Balances biochemistry and improves cardiovascular risk factors: a) *VIP (vasoactive intestinal peptide) rose 80% three months after Panchakarma treatment; this is significant because VIP is responsible for dilating blood vessels and increasing blood flow to the heart. b) *HDL, or “good” cholesterol increased 75% three months after treatment. HDL protects against atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and is associate with decreased incidence of heart disease.

It is proposed Panchakarma achieves its results through tree possible mechanisms.

  1. The special, pure oils used in the cleansing program, massage and heat treatments of Panchakarma replace damaging lipid peroxides in the cells.
  2. Panchakarma treatment loosens lipid peroxides from the cells and sets them into the bloodstream from where they can be eliminated.
  3. The deeply soothing and relaxing influence of Panchakarma reduces biochemical stress factors that contribute to free radical formation.

Panchakarma fights free radicals with unique effectiveness. For more information on Panchakarma treatments, visit the The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

 

Improve Digestion, Improve Health—Tips for Healthy Eating

According to Ayurveda, the two most important pillars of good health are diet and digestion. Add proper sleep and you’ve got a very simple template for creating health and vitality. What you eat and how your body processes what you eat are key factors in determining not just your level of health, immunity, but also our emotional mindset.

Did you know that over 90% of our body’s serotonin is located in our digestive tract? And 50% of our body’s dopamine? The enteric nervous systerm (ENS) consists of a mesh-like system of neurons that governs the function of our gastrointestinal system. It manufactures more neurotransmitters than the central nervous system and has been referred to as our second brain. This amazing system alters its response depending on factors such as nutrient composition and bulk. There is no longer any challenge to the statement, “what you are what you eat.”

In addition, according to Ayurveda, if we are not able to properly digest our food, either because of the poor quality of the food we are eating or because of the poor quality of our digestive fire, a sticky toxin (ama) is created that gets absorbed into the body and ends up building up in the joints and tissues, blocking the proper circulation of nutrition and information to those areas. Ama can also trigger an immune response, leading to disorders such as chronic fatigue, asthma, and psoriasis.

Here are some simple Dos and Don’ts for improving your digestion at home:

  1. DO Savor your meals

Don’t divide your attention by reading, working, watching television, and specially driving. Eating mindlessly doesn’t allow you to properly taste and digest your food. You’ll feel unsatisfied and want to eat more, even though you are full

  1. DON’T bolt from the table immediately after finishing your meal.

Sit quietly for a few minutes so that your body can settle into its digestive rhythm.

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  1. DO include all six tastes in a meal

Sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Each taste satisfies a different need. Missing one or more of the tastes can result in cravings.

  1. DO drink plenty of warm or room temperature water throughout the day (although during meals you should only sip water moderately.) Sipping water during the day helps keep the digestive tract flushed of accumulated toxins.
  2. DON’T eat heavy foods

Red meat, leftovers, processed foods and deep-fried foods are either hard to digest or lack energy-giving freshness, and will sit in your digestive tract causing toxins to accumulate.

  1. DO favor light, nutritious foods. Fill up on sweet, juicy fruits and vegetables. The fresher and purer the produce, the better.
  2. DON’T drink cold beverages

Cold drinks and foods douse the digestive fire.

  1. DO eat freshly cooked meals whenever possible
  2. DO visit an Ayurveda expert

An Ayurveda expert can determine your individual mind/body balance and pinpoint any areas of imbalance. An individualized diet and routine will help address imbalances and put you back on the road to health.

10 DO have regular Panchakarma treatments.

Panchakarma, the traditional purification and detoxification treatments of Ayurveda help remove accumulated toxins while nourishing the physiology.

For more information on Panchakarma treatments and programs to improve digestion, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

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Is Aging Necessary? Ayurveda Approach to Maintaining Youth and Vitality.

What is the aging process? In some cases it is the inevitable result of wear and tear on our system. But in many cases, what we consider normal effects of age are really the results of years of accumulated toxins and impurities taking their toll on our bodies.

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Stiffness, chronic disorders, memory loss, insomnia, decrease in skin tone…too often the myriad of problems that confront us in our later years are in fact manifestations of deep underlying imbalances that may have been deposited in our physiology as long ago as childhood. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, chemicals from food, water and our environment—any of these influences may still be buried deep in our tissues. If fact, the earlier our exposure to these, the more likely it is that their effects are present at deeper, more fundamental levels in our physiology.

Addressing Deep-Seated Imbalances

The traditional purification and detoxification therapies of Ayurveda, Panchakarma, are designed to dissolve and remove impurities from the dhatus or tissues of the body. The longer the program, the deeper level of purification can be provided. At The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa, Panchakarma programs range from three days to 21 days. Over the last years we’ve seen a growing trend towards longer treatments, reflecting the growing need of a maturing population to address deep-seated imbalance that are beginning to show themselves as “signs of aging” or worse, as chronic disorders.

Different levels of Purification: Understanding the Dhatus

To understand the levels of purification it is helpful to understand the Ayurvedic understanding of the sequential creation of tissues in the body. Ayurveda recognizes seven levels of bodily tissues:

  1. Rasa: blood plasma, lymph
  2. Rakta: red blood (hemoglobin, or oxygen-carrying compound)
  3. Mamsa: muscle
  4. Medha: fat
  5. Asthi: bone
  6. Majja: central nervous system and bone marrow
  7. Shukra: ova and sperm

Each tissue level is constantly reformed and nourished on a daily basis. Each level of the tissues nourishes the next. Thus a balanced rakta level can only be created from a fully developed and balanced rasa level, and so on. Impurities within one level of tissue can interfere with the ability to create balanced tissue at the next level.

Levels of Panchakarma

A three-day purification treatment can be very powerful in refreshing and energizing the physiology, ridding the body of day-to-day stress and fatigue. The effect of a three-day treatment would be most likely to be experienced more on the rasa and rakta level of the body.

Longer treatments dissolve ama (impurities) and stresses, and nourish deeper tissue levels; the medha, asthi, majja and shurkra levels. This helps in transforming the vital organs, the brain, nervous system, and eventually the reproductive tissues. As impurities are loosened in each tissue level, more intelligence can flow into these areas. This level of restoration, at the very basis of each organ and tissue, can help reset the essential functioning of the body.

(Although this is not relavant to the theme of aging, you can see why minimum of seven days of Panchakarma is recommended to those who want to have children. Because shurka (ova and sperm) is the final tissue level, nourished by every other tissue level, all seven tissue levels should be healthy and balanced before conception.)

If it is not possible to participate in longer, extended treatments, start with a consultation with an Ayurveda expert to find out your level of balance and imbalance. Ultimately, the most important contribution to our overall state of health is our every day lifestyle. Daily oil massage, the proper diet and routine and herbal recommendations that target specific imbalances can help extend our experience of health and vitality throughout our entire life.

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

www.theraj.com

 

Keeping Balanced During Kapha Season

The change from Vata season to Kapha season is not as clear as the change from Kapha to Pitta or Pitta to Vata. Both Vata and Kapha are characterized by cold. When the dry cold of fall and early winter transforms into a wetter cold, this heralds the switch of seasons. Often this change occurs in February or March. But if your climate is exceptionally cold and dry, the increase in Kapha may not happen until March.

During Kapha season, cold is accompanied by increased moisture (snow or rain), cloud-covered days and a feeling a heaviness. You may feel a tendency to “hibernate” during this time—and you may also be more likely to catch a cold or flu.

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Lifestyle Tips for Kapha Season

Here are some lifestyle tips to help you stay balanced, warm and dry during Kapha season.

Eat hot food—hot in temperature and in spices as well.

Drink hot, stimulating drinks, such as teas with ginger.

Cut down on refined sugars. Substitute raw, unheated honey instead. Honey is the only sweetener that is also astringent and has the ability to reduce Kapha. Be sure not to heat your honey and only add it to hot drinks when they are at “sipping temperature”.

Favor foods with the following tastes: astringent (such as beans), spicy (chili peppers or curry powder, for example) and bitter (bitter greens and spinach). While you may find yourself tempted to start eating more salads as spring arrives, it is better to avoid cold foods.

Early to bed, early to rise will help maintain health in both Vata and Kapha seasons.  As Kapha season progresses, the sun rises earlier and earlier. If we are constantly waking up after the sun rises, during the Kapha time of the morning from 6:00 am to 10:00 am, we will feel sluggish and tired all day. This habit can result in the build-up of impurities (ama), which can predispose us to allergies and congestion.

Try to exercise in every morning. Getting some good, brisk exercise during the Kapha time of the morning (6:00 – 10:00) will help you maintain a healthy balance during this wet and cold season. Just as sleep is the number-one tool for balancing Vata, and as diet is the number-one tool for balancing Pitta, exercise is the number one tool for balancing Kapha.

Get the Most from Your Food

Digestion tends to be sluggish during Kapha season. Here are some ways to help you perk up your digestive fires:

Try eating a ginger pickle before lunch or dinner. To make a ginger pickle, slice a thin piece of fresh ginger root (peeled). Sprinkle the slice with lemon juice and salt and eat it about 15 minutes before a meal.

Be sure to remain seated for 5 to 10 minutes after you finish eating in order to give your digestion a chance start processing the meal.

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: honey is the only sweetener that decreases Kapha because it has an astringent quality along with sweetness. (Do not cook with honey. Honey can be added to drinks such as tea when the temperature is “sip-friendly”. Heated honey can interfere with digestion and create ama.

Lighter grains such as barley and millet

Eat Less

Heavy, oily and cold foods

Sweet, sour and salty foods

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

Sugar and sugar products

Nuts

Wheat, rice or oats

Tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potato and zuchini

Salt

Sore Throat Relief

If you feel a sore throat coming on, try taking 3/4 teaspoon of raw honey mixed with 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric. The astringent tastes of turmeric and honey help to dry up congestion and prevent a sore throat. Of course, if the symptoms last more than two days, be sure to see your doctor.

Kapha season is also the perfect time to check in with an Ayurveda expert or to schedule Ayurvedic detoxification and purification treatments (Panchakarma). For more information, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa web site:

www.theraj.com