Ayurveda is a 5000 year old healing methodology which incorporates the use of food and herbs to resolve health related issues. This modality is based on ancient traditions that are being widely accepted today due to the powerful impacts a balanced diet and lifestyle can have on our health and vitality.
In Ayurveda, there are two main foundational terms to know: ama and agni. Ama is unprocessed food and/or emotions and agni (in it’s simplest understanding) is our digestive fire. Build up of ama and low agni lead to disease and illness.
The signs of insufficient agni are much more common than those of excess. Gas, burping, belching, sluggish digestion, difficulty waking, scanty or no sweating, and constipation can all be indicators of deficient agni. Overeating is a common way that people inhibit their agni. It can also progressively overtime repress the creation of our digestive fire. Different constitutions are more prone to insufficient agni, with Vata being the most prominent.
Excessive agni can also result in belching, burping, or indigestion. A burning sensation in the digestive tract is a noticeable sign, especially in the stomach or duodenum. Irritability, diarrhea, hyperexcitability, and excessive talking can also occur when agni is increased. Other symptoms include: excessive perspiration, thirst, and other digestive issues. This can happen from too many heating foods and going too long without eating.
Tips to Rebuild Your Agni
Eating smaller, simpler meals is a good way to rekindle your agni.
Fresh lemon or lime in water is a gentle and cleansing stimulant to agni.
Mild ginger tea is a stimulant for slow agniand can help reduce gas and bloating.
Combine cumin, coriander, and fennel is a great way to stimulate and tonify agni.
Listen to your body and its needs! This seems to good to be true. Tap into what your feeling and thinking and choose accordingly!
For a more radical balancing of the digestive system, a consultation with an Ayurvedic Practitioner will help the most. Ayurvedic preparations, such as triphala, amalaki, bibhitaki, haritaki, and pippali can all be excellent tools when used with the guide of a certified professional.
Are dairy products good for you? This is an interesting question with many sides to the equation! In Ayurveda, dairy products such as milk, eggs, yogurt, are building in nature. They take more energy to digest than other foods and some people can digest them easier than others. This article will go over some of the digestive issues and benefits of some dairy products. (The discussion of veganism and ahimsa will be left to another article!)
How we digest dairy and, in particular, cheese depends on our genetic heritage and if they ate hard cheeses for centuries before you. Cheese can be hard to digest, unless it I balanced with warming spices like black pepper, fresh basil leaves, or chili. If you have an ancestry that has been eating cheese for centuries, you may be able to digest cheeses better. Hard cheeses aren’t often used in Indian cuisine. Hard cheeses are salty and oily for Pitta and Kapha people. Their heaviness can also be hard for Vata individuals. These types of cheeses can be best for active teenagers, Vatas in need of more grounding, and hungry kids.
Ghee, clarified butter, is highly valued in Ayurveda for its healing and rejuvenative qualities. It is particularly restorative to Vata and Pitta individuals. It is sweet, light, cool, and oily. Kaphas can use it in small amounts for good health. It is easier to digest than other forms of dairy and aids in the absorption of other nutrients in a way that normal butter cannot. Ayurveda uses ghee as one of the most effective ways to absorb a wide variety of Ayurvedic herbs.
Ice cream is not good for Kaphas as it has heavy and wet qualities. Ice cream isn’t terrible for Pittas, but can be too cold and chilling for Vatas. We would suggest to try frozen yogurt if you need to have something that hits that sweet spot. It has the same cool, moist, and sweet qualities as ice cream, but with less fat and more protein. An easy recipe is to freeze unsweetened Greek yogurt and top with some cinnamon, honey, cardamom, and maybe some ginger. This will help balance out the cooling properties of the yogurt.
Regular use of evaporated milk is not recommend in Ayurveda, as it is not made by nature. Milk is fine for some constitutions. It is preferable to get local, non-homogenized milk from a farmer’s market where the animals are treated better! It is best to make it into a chai or add warming qualities with spices such as ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon!
Yogurt can be a useful food and it can be calming to the digestive system. It can help a constipated digestive system and a mild case of diarrhea. If ginger, black pepper, and other warming spices are added it is great for the digestive system and can reduce bloating.
When eating diary products, your constitution and the season should be taken into consideration! Some diary products such as ghee have amazing benefits! Others are very cooling and heavy for the digestive system. Dairy products require a high Agni (digestive fire). If you know your Agni is low, maybe skip the dairy products! Choose wisely and go with your gut! (Literally!)
Do you want to learn how to get rid of your health issues and prevent future illness? Ayurveda, an ancient medicinal practice, can help bring you into balance! Join us on August 3rd for an Introduction to Ayurveda and Ayurvedic Cooking. An organic, vegan, gluten free, Ayurvedic meal will be prepared!
This workshop will be very educational for those who are new to Ayurveda and want to learn its approach to health and healing. We will learn and go over your Dosha. Your Dosha is a sanskrit term meaning your body and mind’s constitution. When you know your constitution it can be the easiest way to understand and implement Ayurveda! Your dosha is critical in understanding one’s daily routine to live a Satvic (pure) life!
Our constitution is determined by the three doshas. We are made up of all three, but have dominant one’s we need to balance.
Vata “the energy of movement”
Pitta “the energy of digestion or metabolism”
Kapha “the energy of lubrication and structure”
In this workshop we will talk about each individual constitution and how it relates to you and your environment. By end of class you will have an understanding of the principle of three doshas and how to choose right diet, lifestyle, and herbs to maintain optimal health. We will also go over the best foods for you based on your dosha, how to align with the seasons, prinicples of our tissues, and how to cook Ayurvedically.
Please let us know if you have any quesitons! You can email us at email@example.com or give us a call ar (831) 295-6279.
Beans are served around the world as a food staple! Often beans will be paired with grains for many main dishes. They are used for both building and cleansing purposes in Ayurveda. Beans are low in fat and high in fiber. They also are a great protein source and are filled with iron, B vitamins, and other minerals.
Digesting Beans and Legumes
For some people beans can be hard to digest. If you are just starting to add beans into your diet more, it is smart to try them no more than once or twice a few for the first few weeks. The average person can usually tolerate legumes three to four times per week with acculturation, a balanced Agni (digestive fire), and with good preparation. If you didn’t grow up eating beans or legumes often, expecting to eat beans more than this in your week can cause bloating and gas. A key is to discover which beans are the best for you! It is also important to learn how to best prepare your beans and legumes to minimize their gas–producing qualities. A trick is to add in some asafoetida (also known as Hing) when you are cooking beans or legumes to help reduce this quality! Another tip is to always soak your beans and grains to get off unwanted build up and toxins off of them and to help prepare them to be easier to digest.
Split Mung Beans
Split mung beans are one of the most popular staples in India and are highly regarded in Ayurveda. They are lighter and easier to digest than most other beans and are widely known for their healing properties. They are great in restorative and cleansing Indian and Ayurvedic meals like kitchari and dahl. They tend to be slightly cooling in their effect on the body. Vata and Kapha people seeking to offset this can add ginger and other heating spices, such as black pepper, cumin, and mustard seeds. They are also great for Pitta people with coriander in it! In the US it can be semi-difficult to split mung beans or mung dahl, unless your have a health store or Indian market that sells them. It can also be sold as “yellow dahl.” Whole mung beans are more accessible to find, but can be harder to digest. It is suggested to soak the beans overnight rinsing frequently.
Split red lentils are also great in kitchari and are also high in protein!
Beans and Farming
Beans are also great for farming. As a food crop, they nourish the soil rather than taking up all the nutrients. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria in beans can pull in over a hundred pounds of nitrogen from the atmosphere per year per acre and give it as a usable form of nitrogen to the soil. Beans are a valuable alternative to synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. While the synthetic fertilizers often can have harsh side effects on the earth, beans are a natural and great source for this!
Overall, beans are an amazing source of nutrients and protein! They are a great fuel source, especially for vegans and vegetarians! The best way to prepare is by soaking beans overnight or if they are canned beans (as we know people can be pressed for time), making sure to rinse them really well. When cooking them, add your spices like asafoetida, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, black pepper, or ginger to make them taste good and boost their digestive properties! What’s your favorite way to eat beans and/or legumes?
In your body, the role of protein spans well beyond building strong muscles. In Ayurveda, there’s not a great amount of literature about macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs). Yet, Ayurvedic food and cooking emphasizes having balanced meals including whole foods with macro and micronutrients. Protein, fats, and carbs together can keep you fueled for longer and can help you go into this world and fulfill your Dharma!
When we talk about protein intake, it often seems to be about building muscle or dieting. Protein has so many benefits for you beyond just how you look. You may be surprised to learn that protein is involved in almost every body function, including protecting the body from foreign particles (such as bacteria), orchestrating chemical reactions in cells, coordinating processes between cells, providing structure to cells, and transporting important molecules throughout the body. In short, protein is essential to your health, and it’s important to make sure you’re consuming the right amount.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
For individuals who are mostly sedentary, the recommended daily allowance for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The more active you are, the more your protein needs to increase. The recommended range of protein intake for adults is between 10 and 35 percent of total daily calories. You can calculate your individual protein (and other nutrient) needs through the National Agricultural Library’s Dietary Reference Intakes.
Whenever possible, it’s best to choose whole foods over supplements to meet your protein requirements.
Great protein sources (vegan and non- vegan): beans (black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, etc.), lentils (i.e. kitchari!), spirulina, cheese, quinoa, nutritional yeast, almonds, steel-cut oats, cottage cheese, pumpkin seeds, meat, chia seeds, and fish just to name a few!
What’s the Deal with Protein Supplements?
If you want to try a protein supplement, perhaps to support intense athletic training, take the following into consideration:
o Read the ingredients—a lot of supplements include additives, such as artificial sweeteners. Try to go for one without many of these.
o If it’s from an animal product such as cow or goat whey, make sure it is grass-fed and is given no hormones or antibiotics.
o Avoid substances like creatine or androstenedione, which can be found in some protein supplements to help increase muscle size, but can cause negative side effects. Unless you’ve done your research and want these supplements.
Are there Health Risks From Consuming Too Much or Too Little Protein?
Your health can be negatively impacted if protein intake is too low or too high. Protein deficiency can contribute to a variety of health concerns, including:
Protein is one macronutrient that your body needs to keep you going strong! If you want to be certain that you are consuming the right amount of protein for your body, you can work with your physician to determine your recommended dose! Your body is your lab, so play around if you think you’re eating too little protein with increasing your protein levels!
Ayurveda is a preventative medicine. It works to keep a healthy person heathy and absent of disease. Ayurvedic medicine does not wait until symptoms arise before treating the patient. Rather, it teaches one to pay attention to simple and seemingly insignificant disturbances within the body. By recognizing and reversing early signs of imbalance and accumulation, diseases can be prevented. Ayurvedic medicine views disease as a build up of imbalance that systematically moves through stages of accumulation. Thus, Ayurveda has categorized stages of disease to identify where we can pay more attention.
Accumulation: In the first stage of the disease, one or more of the five elements begins to accumulate within the body or mind.
Aggravation: When the imbalanced element moves outside of its normal boundaries, it is believed to have entered the second stage of the disease.
Dissemination: The wandering elements move throughout the body, in essence, looking for weak points in which to settle.
Localization: The wandering elements settle in a different part of the body.
Manifestation: Recognizable symptoms manifest. This is often where Western medicine begins to treat symptoms. By this stage it can be hard to treat the root of the issues.
Disruption: A chronic disease condition arises.
To demonstrate the way in which the stages of disease operate, imagine a pot of water on a stove burner. As the water sits on the burner, it begins to boil (accumulation). If the heat is not turned down, the water may boil over (aggravation). As the water flows over the edge of the pot, it spreads all over the stove (dissemination). The water finds the lowest point on the stove and begins to collect there (localization). If left standing for a long period, the water will begin to rust and erode the stovetop (manifestation). Over time the water may actually render the stovetop inoperable (disruption).
This same process can take place in the human body. Build up in the body left untreated may, in time, wreak havoc. For example, gurgling in stomach after eating (accumulation) may turn into bloating (aggravation). Constipation could then ensue (dissemination) followed by intestinal permeability (localization). If left untreated, undigested food particles may leak through the permeable intestines and flood the bloodstream, creating chronic inflammation,perhaps in the form of arthritis (manifestation). The untreated inflammation could cause the body to attack itself and create an autoimmune disease (disruption). This is one way disease could build up in the body as an example.
This is why Ayurveda focuses on fixing the root of diseases not just the end symptoms or disease. Through diet, lifestyle, and herbs we can stop disease when they begin at accumulation and aggravation.
Ayurveda uses food and herbs as medicine! One of the most well-known and commonly used Ayurvedic herbs is triphala. Triphala is a combination of the fruits of three plants. The three plants are dried, ground into powder, and blended to precise amounts. The three herbs are: amalaki, haritaki, and bibhitaki.
Triphala is traditionally used as a bowel tonic. It is often prescribed as a mild laxative. Though it also has many noteworthy qualities! Triphala acts as a rejuvenative herb. It helps to maintain a state of good health in the mind and body. Triphala is traditionally taken with honey and ghee (triphala rasayana). According to the classical Ayurvedic text the Charaka Samhita, taking this daily can “make a person live for one hundred years devoid of old age and diseases.”
Triphala’s qualities are light and dry, adding lightness to the mind and body. It cleanses all the channels in the body, especially the channels of elimination, thus aiding in detoxification. The biggest impact is perhaps the health benefits as they relate to digestion. This mixture encourages balanced, full elimination, by pulling stagnated Ama or toxic residue from the digestive tract and increasing the colon’s absorption functions.
In Ayurveda, the colon is the seat of Vata. Medicine, like Triphala, that helps the function of the colon is beneficial to general Vata disorders. Several bowel diseases start out as Vata imbalances, even if later fueled by Pitta or Kapha issues. Triphala’s balancing effect on the “wind” of your digestive tract can not only get things moving but also help your bowels find the appropriate pace for optimal absorption.
Triphala promotes digestive regularity. The importance of this cannot be understated, especially for those who suffer from irregular elimination and other forms of bowel disease. To learn more if you should be taking triphala contact your Ayurvedic Practitioner!
We often get asked whether raw foods or cooked foods are better for your health. There is a lot of information out there that can make it confusing. It depends on what factors we weigh in order for the individual to choose what works for them. Ayurveda takes a holistic approach on this topic and doesn’t just consider vitamins. Raw foodists claim that keeping food raw, or uncooked, preserves more of the nutrients in the food. This can be true. When we boil or cook vegetables they can lose their nutrients, especially if overcooked. What isn’t as considered in this topic is how we digest the food.
In Ayurveda, we take into account that it is not only what you eat that is important, but what you can digest, absorb and assimilate. Even though you may be taking in nutrients, if you can’t utilize them then there is no benefit. While the raw food movement is a more recent fad, we are compelled to stand behind Ayurvedic knowledge that has been tested over thousands of years. In general, cooked foods are easier to digest.
Ayurveda doesn’t completely rule out eating raw foods. They are okay in moderation as well as certain seasons like summer or climates where outside temperatures are higher. Also, for those with a strong pitta constitution, digestion will naturally be strong so these people can eat and digest more raw foods better than a kapha or vata person would be able to. There are also specific cases when someone may benefit from switching to a more raw diet, yet this may not be for everyone or sustainable for health over the long term.
Why are cooked foods easier to digest, absorb and assimilate?
Our digestive fire (Agni) is usually not strong enough to consistently be digesting raw foods, as they take more energy to break down. They have a lot of prana (life-force). When we cook food it helps to soften and almost pre-digest the food we are about to take in. This way meals are not taxing on our digestion and the focus can be on assimilation and absorption. When digestive fire is low, a whole plethora of issues come along with it, so keeping the digestive fire balanced and strong is important for health. When there is undigested food in the gut, it has the potential to clog channels and create toxins (Ama). We want to be sure that everything we take in can be fully digested and processed through the body.
However, on the opposite side overcooked foods, frozen foods, or leftovers (over a few days) are lacking in life-force energy and can also affect our digestive system in Ayurveda.
Cutting down on raw foods doesn’t mean you have to rule out salads and your micronutrient intake! There are many ways to lightly cook and add spices to make food easier for the digestive system to handle. For winter try to stick with lightly sautéed or steamed vegetables. In summertime, depending on your constitution and state of Agni, you can have more raw foods.
Ghee is an important part of Ayurvedic Medicine and Indian cooking. Ghee is “clarified butter”. The process takes unsalted butter and boils it to remove the milk solids. Through this process, it leaves behind its golden oil. There are truly some amazing benefits of consuming ghee. Ghee has one of the highest burning temperatures of most oils. It has a flash point of 485 degrees F., which makes it a great oil to use when cooking.
In Ayurveda, ghee is often used as a carrier for herbs and to lubricate the gastro-intestinal tract and all the tissues in the body. Oleation with ghee helps pull fat-soluble toxins out of cells and triggers fat metabolism (where the body begins to burn its own fat as fuel).
What Makes Ghee so Special?
Ghee is made from butter. The primary fatty acid in butter is butyric acid. Butyricacid, or butyrate, is a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) that the intestinal tract thrives on. It helps to protect the integrity of the gut wall lining.
A healthy gut makes butyric acid. When we eat healthy fiber our gut microbes convert the ingested fiber into butyric acid. The cells of the colon use butyric acid as one of their main sources of energy and their main way to support the health of the intestinal wall.
Research has shown that patients with unhealthy digestive tracts do not produce butyric acid and have other low levels of fatty acids or related oils. This is why ghee can be an amazing way to heal the gut.
Some benefits of Ghee in the colon:
Helps digestion by maintaining the heal of the gastrointestinal mucosa
In a comprehensive study, butyric acid not only has benefits for the digestive system, but other areas of health.
Reduces hunger levels
Increases insulin sensitivity
Supports healthy cholesterol levels
Increases thermogenesis (metabolic process that burns calories for heat production)
Ingesting ghee whether for culinary purposes or as a carrier oil for nutrients in herbs, serves to lubricate the gastrointestinal tact and all the tissues inside the body.
Eating ghee not only makes your taste buds happy, it keeps you fueled throughout your day and makes beneficial bacteria in your gut, the center for digestion and assimilation, where the production of mood-regulating neurotransmitters and a strong immunity are made.
We believe ghee is the way to go! You can make your own or purchase organic grass-fed ghee!
In Ayurveda, illness and disease tendencies can be in opportunity to understand yourself more fully and get in-touch with what is and what is not benefiting you. Below are our self-accessing steps so you can restore balance to your health!
The first step in staying healthy is noticing what your tendencies for illness or disease are. This can be physically, emotionally, or mentally. Are you prone to anger, acne, rashes, or infections? Are you prone to anxiety, constipation, or spaciness? Are you prone to lethargy, carrying weight, or colds and congestion? We suggest taking 5-10 minutes journaling about your health tendencies. Free write for a few minutes and don’t try to come up with any conclusions or judgments about them.
This could look like:
Low energy after eating
Not feeling motivated
S.A.D. (Seasonal affective disorder)
Sleeping too much or irregularly
Sitting all day- Hunched over spine
No matter what your list looks like, remember these are most likely common experiences.
The second step in staying healthy is growing your awareness of potential causes of disease. Whether you have low energy, digestive issues, gas and flatulence, or acne, they can all show you what your tendencies are and how you can prevent them. However, first we need to look at our habits and tendencies that we know go against our health. Ayurveda believes that we have a deep intelligence to know what is benefiting us or not. The term in Ayurveda is “Prajnaparadha”. It is translated as crime against wisdom in Sanskrit. Ayurveda believes this is root cause of all disease. We suggest taking 5-10 minutes to write down a list of lifestyle and food habits you don’t think are benefiting you.
This could look like:
Eating irregularly- too little and then too much
Going to bed at irregular hours or staying up really late
Stress from job
Eating while driving or on the go
Not exercising or walking much
Again, do this without judgment or shame. We all have aspects on our life that aren’t “healthy” and we don’t need to strive for “perfect health”. The goal of this exercise is just to reflect on areas of your life. Things like “stress from job” can’t necessarily be changed easily, but we can create ways to help support your health when dealing with stress.
The third step is coming up with a few strategies to modify the things you can change in your life. From the list above, pick one or two areas of your life that you could focus on supporting or modifying. Take a few minutes to write down some ideas.
This could look like:
Eating irregularly- Meal prep and pack a lunch.
Eating while driving or busy- Take time for one of your meals to just sit with your food, even if just for five minutes.
Not exercising- Try incorporating walking for 10 -15 minutes.
The fourth step is looking at factors that you can’t avoid or control (like weather) and how you could make action to modify them. Think about or write down a list of things you can’t control in your life and actions to modify the causes. If you know it’s winter and you get sick often, modify this by bundling up in more clothing, focusing on nutrition, or washing your hands more, etc. Another example could be you know your job is very stressful, so for a few minutes a day focus on your breath, meditate in the morning, or don’t check you emails first thing in the morning, etc.
The fifth step is noticing when you become out of balance and how you can restore your health. The main method for doing this is by applying the opposite quality or qualities. If you’re cold, have some warm soup, have a warm drink, or take a bath. If you’re upset or spun-out, sit and meditate for a few minutes to calm your mind. If you sit all day, do some yoga to bring your spine back to neutral and maybe try a few back-bending yoga poses.
This principle seems so simple that people often overlook it. With any of your tendencies, doing the opposite quality can be a very powerful and effective way to stay healthy. If you apply it, you can restore balance to your health.