Ayurveda #1 Health Tip: Digestion, Digestion, Digestion!

Once again, I am writing about digestion. The reason this topic comes up over and over again is because, according to Ayurveda, it is vital to maintaining good health. If you aren’t digesting your food properly, 1) you aren’t getting needed nutrients and 2) you are creating toxins, or ama, as a result of partially digested food.

Lets look at these consequences a bit more closely:

1) Remember that even the best diet will not provide proper nutrition if our digestion is not doing its job. Not getting needed nutrients out of your food can result in a lack of strength, fatigue, slower problem solving ability and muscle response time, hypertension and more.

Poor nutrition can also set off a vicious cycle of poor eating habits. When the body is not getting what it needs to function properly, it gets “cravings”. It is easy for the intellect to mistakenly interpret these cravings and turn to a “quick fix”. Feeling lethargic, many opt for caffeine or sugar or carbohydrates (or a combination of all three.) These foods fail to give the body what it really needs, are difficult to digest and lead to more cravings.

2) Ayurveda believes that most disease and disorders stem from blockages to the free flow in intelligence in the body. When impurities build up in the various channels of the body (blood vessels, lymph circulation, cellular pores, etc),

These areas become cut off from biological intelligence and can become weak or diseased.

Improving Digestion with Ayurveda

So let’s get down to basics. How to restart a sluggish digestion?

Breakfast:

Digestion is no as strong early in the morning, so breakfast should be light and according to hunger. Avoid meat or eggs. Favor cooked cereal, fruit and fresh juice.Korean_abalone_porridge-Jeonbokjuk-02

Remember if you are taking milk not to combine it with anything other than sweet tastes (like cereal). Milk should be boiled. If you are eating fruit, do not have milk, even in coffee.

Lunch:

This should be your main meal of the day because digestion is strongest at mid-day.

Lunch should be a warm, cooked meal containing all six tastes. Ideally you should have at least a half hour for lunch, including 10 to 15 minutes to sit quietly after you are finished eating. This will allow the digestive process to get well under way.

 Dinner:

The later dinner is served, the lighter you should eat. Avoid heavy foods like cheese, yogurt, meats, oils and fried foods. If you like these foods, these should be eaten at lunch when digestion is stronger.

 Other General Principles:

Eat according to your hunger levels. Do not eat if you are not hungry.

Eat in a settled environment. Business lunches, eating in front of the TV and eating while walking or driving (or standing up) can disturb our digestive process.

Sip hot water during the meal. This enlivens digestion and helps the food be better digested and absorbed. Never drink cold beverages (or iced foods) either during the meal or right after a meal.

Chew your food well. Digestion starts in the mouth.

Avoid heated honey. Read your labels carefully and only buy unheated honey. Do not use honey in baking or add to beverages that are too hot to sip comfortably.

Eat freshly prepared foods. Avoid packaged foods and leftovers. Cooked food is easier to digest than raw.

Foods that are especially nourishing (and are quickly converted into ojas) include boiled milk, ghee (clarified butter), ripe fruits, freshly made fruit juices, almonds (pre-soaked in water — be sure to throw out the water), and dates.

Visit an Ayurvedic expert and find out what your body needs. Vata, pitta and kapha types may receive different recommendations on creating a healthy and strong digestive fire. They will also take into consideration any imbalances that you have. If you have a pitta imbalance, for example, you might be encouraged to avoid ginger and other heating spices. Remember that, unlike Western medicine, Ayurveda always looks at the whole. Your digestive problems may simply be one symptom of a larger imbalance.

Next week we’ll look at Panchakarma, the ulitmate approach to restarting digestion, getting rid of years of accumulated ama and restoring balance to the body.

For more information on Ayurveda consultations and Panchakarma treatments, go to The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Summer to Fall Transitions: Avoiding Rashes and Hay Fever With Ayurveda

Minnesota_Fall-GoodbyeThe transition from summer to fall reflects huge changes both in climactic and doshic influences, and can have a significant effect on your health. As the fall season begins, Pitta dosha, which has been accumulating over the summer months, gives way to a rise in Vata dosha. It is not uncommon at this time to see an upsurge of Pitta disorders, particularly skin disorders, allergies, eye problems and digestive disturbances. This is because the influence of Vata, which is moving and changeable by nature, is causing underlying accumulated imbalances to rise to the surface.

Hay fever, which is particularly common during the transition of summer to fall, is basically an imbalance in the immune system (a condition called immune hyperactivity.) It is also a natural mechanism through which the body purifies itself of accumulated impurities related to digestive (Pitta) imbalances.

Remember that the external summer heat causes a decrease in our internal digestive fire. This can give rise to an accumulation of impurities if we do not adjust our diet to accommodate our diminished capacity for digestion.

The transition from summer to fall is an ideal time to go through the classical detoxification and purification treatments of Ayurveda, known as Panchakarma. These therapies strengthen the physiology and remove accumulated impurities.

This is also a good time to avoid foods that are difficult to digest, such as cheese, nonvegetarian foods, processed foods and cold drinks and ice cream.

To pacify the rising influence of Vata, go to bed on time, wake with the rising sun, give yourself a daily oil massage, eat at regular times and be regular with your mediation practice.

For more information on Panchakarma treatments at The Raj, visit:
www.theraj.com

 

( Picture of grass and trees. 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.)

DDT and Alzheimer’s — Ayurveda Can Help!

A recent study published in JAMA Neurology found that patients with Alzheimer’s had four times as much blood levels of DDT as healthy people. While the findings are not conclusive, researchers believe the chemical increases the chance of Alzheimer’s and may be involved in the development of amyloid plaques in the brain, which contribute 6a00d83451e0d569e201156e4f87e6970c-800wito the death of brain cells. Even though DDT has been banned in the US since 1972, the average American still ingests small amounts of the toxic chemical every day.

The good news? The ancient science of Ayurveda provides a means to remove this harmful chemical from the body.

Current mainline thinking is that the only way to eliminate DDT from the body is to let nature take its course. DDT’s half-life — the time it takes to naturally fall to half it’s original value — is 2 to 15 years. But a published research study conducted on the traditional Ayurveda detoxification treatments at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center in Fairfield, IA showed that 50% of DDE levels (DDE is the by-product of DDT found to be linked to Alzheimer’s) can be eliminated through a 5-day treatment program. A good investment in one’s future! To read more about the study visit http://theraj.com/rajresults/index.php

(If PK is not in your budget, daily massage with organic sesame oil can be helpful. See more tips at the end of the blog.)

DDT

DDT is harmful to the nervous system and is a known carcinogen. It belongs to a group of chemicals (along with PCBs and dioxins) that are fat-soluble. This means the chemicals adhere to the fat in insects, animals and people. The chemicals remain stored in the fat until their natural dissolution. This can take from 4 to 30 years. Although DDT is no longer made or used in the US, our water, air, soil are so contaminated that the chemical still poses a threat to our health.

Exposure to DDT

DDT and its by-products are persistant, bioaccumulative and can be transported long distances through the atmosphere. They can travel in the water systems and can end up in produce, dairy and meats through irrigation. DDT can build up in sediment in rivers, lakes, and coastal areas, and then accumulate in fish and shellfish. It is still in our soil and can be absorbed by some plants and by the animals or people who eat them. The largest fraction of DDT in a person’s diet comes from fish, meat, poultry, and dairy products. Leafy vegetables generally contain more DDT than other vegetables, possibly because DDT in the air is deposited on the leaves. DDT also comes to us in food from other countries. Infants may be exposed by drinking breast milk.

Removing DDT

The purification treatments of Ayurveda start with a week of “home-prep”, an individually recommended protocol that primes the body to get the most out of the up-coming treatments. One aspect of home prep is a fat-free diet. When the detox treatments begin, pure oils are massaged into the body day after day, penetrating deeper and deeper into the tissues and organs of the body. Because the restrictive diet has reduced the body’s natural fat saturation, the fat-soluble chemicals respond joyously to the pure lipid infusion, detaching from the cells and attaching to the new lipids.  These then get flushed out of the body with daily elimination therapy. To date this is the only proven way to remove fat-soluble toxins from the body.

Avoiding DDT

1. Begin each day with a warm oil massage. Sesame oil is the most penetrating of the oils but those with a more pitta constitution may develop itchy skin or a rash. If you have sensitive skin, try using sweet almond oil, olive oil or coconut oil. Warm the oil slightly before using. Sit for 10 minutes after application and follow with a warm shower.

2.  Favor organic foods, especially organic foods grown in the U.S. Many countries still use DDT to contain malaria. The run-off from spraying can contaminate the water systems and get onto food through irrigation (even into so-called organic farms).

3. Wash all fresh produce thoroughly in water, especially leafy greens, beans, root vegetables, and fruits and berries, to remove soil and any residues of DDT or DDE on the surface of the food.

4. If you are not a vegetarian, choose lean cuts of meat, poultry and fish. Trim excess fat from meat and poultry.

5. Consider a yearly commitment to Panchakarma treatments. A five-day treatment can accomplish what nature takes 2 to 15 years to do.

To learn more about Ayurveda detox and purification programs, visit The Raj website:

www.theraj.com

(Photo of older man with younger woman. 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.)

Your Sugar or Your Health?

The New Year is approaching and it’s time for that commitment to better life choices: the New Year’s Resolution.  I like the “fresh start” approach to a new year. A while ago I discovered a great recipe for success. I start the year with a week of Ayurveda detoxification treatments, known as Panchakarma, and pick one New Year’s resolution. The treatments remove imbalances that trigger food cravings and the resolution resets my thinking in one manageable area. It is a winning combination. This year my resolution is to cut down on my sugar intake.

Recently a London cardiologist was in the news saying sugar is so addictive it should be considered a danger to society and should be regulated like alcohol.  The biggest surprise in reading the story was the long list of health woes connected with eating too much sugar. I expected to hear about obesity and diabetes. But reading about the link to heart disease, dementia, liver damage and cancer was a shocker. It turns out that a sugary diet messes with a number of important hormone levels, chemicals and processes in the body.  Today I’m just going to look at two studies that inspired my resolution.

Sugar makes you depressed and lethargic

Most of us know that a high sugar intake signals the pancreas to produce large amounts of the hormone insulin, often causing a huge drop in energy after the initial “sugar high”.

But did you know that sugar blocks the action of orexins — neurotransmitters that regulate appetite, energy expenditure and wakefulness? (The most common form of narcolepsy is caused by a lack of orexin in the brain.)  High levels of orexin have been linked with happiness while low levels are linked to sadness and depression. The suppression of orexin cells has been associated with obesity because that chemical has the responsibility of telling the “good fat” in our bodies to burn calories. Blocking orexins can lead to dullness, depression, lethargy and obesity.

(The good news is that amino acids, or protein, “excite” orexin cells.  So by all means reach for almonds instead of a candy bar if you need a late afternoon energy boost.)

Sugar can addle your brain

Eating too much sugar can affect the brain in other ways.  A study released in 2013 looked at 248 brain scans of people aged 60 to 64 over a period of 4 years. All participants had blood sugar levels in the normal range at the start of the program. At the end of the four years it was discovered that those with the highest blood sugar levels had higher levels of shrinkage in the areas of the brain associated with memory and cognitive function. It is already established that type-2 diabetes is linked with dementia.

As I said, there is additional research linking sugar to heart disease, liver damage and cancer, but the information about sugar’s influence on the brain was enough to inspire my New Year’s resolution.

Alternative choices

Does this mean no sugar at all?  According to Ayurveda, sugar helps to balance Vata and Pitta. So my question is, how much sugar is okay and how much is too much?

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons a day for women and 9 a day for men. 1 teaspoon of sugar is 4 grams. There are about 10 teaspoons of sugar in a can of Coke Classic. There are about 5 teaspoons of sugar in a single serving of Cherry Garcia ice cream and almost 7 teaspoons of sugar in a single serving of Haagen-Das raspberry sorbet. If a pie requires 1 cup of sugar, divided by eight that means about 12 teaspoons per slice.  In other words, 6 teaspoons doesn’t get you very far if you are in the habit of snacking on sugary foods.

Thankfully there are a few options for those of us with a sweet tooth. Stevia has zero calories and won’t cause a jump in your blood sugar. I have friends who are great fans of Xylitol, which is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol found in beets, corn and berries. Because it is only partially absorbed by the body, it has a lower glycemic index and only around 9 calories per teaspoon. Honey has a lower glycemic index than white or brown sugar. However, honey should never be used in baking as it ferments when heated and creates a sticky toxin that blocks the body’s channels.

Ultimately the best course of action is simply to get out of the habit of needing sweets. Ayurveda recommends hot milk to counter the urge for sweets. Milk is considered a “sweet taste” but also provides amino acids (exciting the orexin cells!) and classical texts say milk has the ability to nourish all the tissues in the body within 24 hours. Of course always boil your milk first to make it easier to digest.

Later on I will share additional research detailing more ways that an overload of sugar can take a toll on our health. There is certainly a growing pile of evidence out there! In the meantime I look forward to enjoying increasing energy and alertness as I transition into a healthier new year.

Visit The Raj to learn more about Ayurveda

www.theraj.com



An Apple a Day….Seven Dietary Recommendations to Reduce the Risk of Cancer

AppleIt is estimated that 60-70% of cancers can be prevented by the implementation of simple changes in one’s diet and lifestyle. Below are a few recommendations that have been shown to help prevent cancer and also promote overall health and wellbeing.

1. Increase amounts of fruits and vegetables (organic when possible.) Most of the fruits and vegetables you buy at the grocery store are laced with hazardous chemicals. However, fruits and vegetables also contain bioflvinoids, which are known to have anti-oxidant and anti-cancer properties. Because plants create oxygen as a by-product of harnessing the suns’ energy through photosynthesis, they have to develop powerful anti-oxidant defenses to combat the lethal combination of sunlight and oxygen (a recipe for free radicals.) The anti-oxidant substances used by plants to control free radicals work exactly equally in the human body.

2. Enjoy vegetable fats (such as those found in nuts and olive oil) and reduce intake of saturated and trans fats often found in meat and processed foods. Head researchers on a new study on prostate cancer published in JAMA, June 2013, concluded,” If you eat the right kind of fat, you are less likely to die of not only prostate cancer, but really, of any cause.”

3. Avoid excess weight gain. Those who are 40% overweight have a much higher risk of developing cancer.

4. Increase fiber intake. A high fiber diet helps remove toxins from the body. Low fiber and high animal fat diets have been implicated in cancer of the colon. This is another reason to increase the amount of fresh vegetables and fruit in our diet.

5. Favor fresh foods. Avoid processed foods and artificial sweeteners.

6 Add turmeric to your diet. Turmeric has been shown to protect the DNA of the cells and to stimulate detoxifying enzymes. Turmeric also has anti-inflammatory properties and increases the anti-cancer properties of other phyto-chemicals (plant chemicals). This is just a sampling of the many beneficial properties of this wonderful spice.

7. Avoid eating meat (this includes lean meats and chicken.) Every cell in a piece of meat and chicken contains a membrane that controls what goes in and out of the cell. This membrane is made up mostly of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Not only are polyunsaturated fats easily oxidized (creating free radicals), they are also storehouses for fat-soluble carcinogens and chemicals, such as many pesticides and herbicides. When you eat meat, ingesting these chemical-concentrated fats, the chemicals then become stored in your body fat, attaching to the DNA structure.

If you read my blog on a regular basis, you have already heard about the research that Robert Herron, Ph.D. conducted on the Ayurveda purification therapies (panchakarma) offered at Raj, Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center in Fairfield, IA.

The study, published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine in 2002, showed that levels of fat-soluble toxins could be reduced by about 50% through a 5-day treatment program. The reason I keep bringing up this study is that there exists no other proven method of removing these kinds of fat-soluble chemicals from the body.  Western medicine offers no solution beyond letting nature take its course.  These toxins are know to have a half-life of anywhere from 7 to 30 years. This means it takes 7 to 30 years for the quantity to fall to half its value — to achieve a 50% reduction. The results of this study came after only five days of treatment.

There are a wide variety of detox programs available today that can remove water-soluble toxins and even heavy metals. Panchakarma, however, is the only proven means of removing fat-soluble toxins.

Whatever foods you may have eaten in the past, it is reassuring to know that you can undo many of the negative effects of those foods and start fresh on a new path of good health.

To learn more about Panchakarma visit

www.theraj.com

 

(Photo of Fruits and Vegetables Basket. Source: National Cancer Insitute, an agency part of the National Institutes of Health via Wikimedia Commons. The image is used under the terms of Wikimedia Commons rules: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Licensing. This photograph and credit do not constitute an endorsement of this blog or products mentioned.)