Archive for February, 2015

Ayurveda Day 54: Nutrition pt. 5 – What’s Most Important?

The past two weeks we have delved into the subject of nutrition. We’ve talked about taste, post digestive effects, potency, seasonal eating…the subject actually continues on from here and goes deeper and deeper.

Since the subject of what to eat is so complicated, it can be extremely difficult to stick to a healthy diet. Everyone is unique. All food is unique. There is so much to consider, even when simplified.

But what is most important when it comes to eating? What should I prioritize above all else?

As should be no shock to you by now, I’ve said it before:

It’s more important how you eat than what you eat.

Basically, in this order:

– Eating properly and in accordance with the healthy eating guidelines.
– Choosing the right foods.

When those two things are done correctly, 90% of all digestive issues you have will be cured. It’s all the other complicated stuff that makes up that 10%.

But if all one has to do is pick some relatively fresh and authentic foods and prepare and eat them with mindfulness, then why is it so hard for everyone?

The truth is, there are inhibiting factors when it comes to patient compliance.

When we have a person come to our practice and ask us for help with an issue, the vast majority will want a solution that involves little participation on their part, and is line with what they are used to.

So if I tell them to sit down at a meal, say grace, prepare the body for digestion, avoid distractions, chew the food slowly until it is a paste, and then swallow…most people will not have the time, faith, or courage to do so.

So they will then ask for some meal plan they can have. But then there will be many items on that plan that they are reluctant to give up or try.

So then we will have to go to teas or herbs. Even then, still some people will not be willing to change.

Without your compliance as the patient, there is little Ayurveda can do for you. This is the most important part of nutrition: Your willingness to be healthy.

We have this idea in our heads as a society that we are somehow separate from nature. That we are not subject to the same rules as the plants and animals and environment. But if we just change our lifestyle to be more in accordance with the laws of nature, then we won’t experience disease. But we want to believe that we are special and different from all of existence.

Tired? I don’t need sleep! I’ll just have caffeine.
Feeling weak? I don’t need more nutrition! I just need supplements.
Sick? I don’t need to change my habits, just give me a pill!

But regardless of whether or not we create it or nature creates it, we are a part of that nature. So anything we create is natural. It just may not be naturally occurring. And where mother nature has had millions of years to evolve conditions for life, we tinker for a few decades and believe we can do better, without causing harm or side effects.

We may even be successful from time to time, curing diseases and saving lives! But our priorities are all skewed. The vast majority of the nature we manipulate is not to make existence more healthy for us. We manipulate it to make it more profitable. To lengthen it’s life but not the quality of life. To shave as many hours as we can off of the things we need to do to survive (eating and sleeping) in order to be more productive in society.

We continually sacrifice our health in order to create things that can then rectify that health.

It seems a bit backwards.

This is why Ayurveda is a science of personal responsibility. In order for it to work, you have to put in the work. Ayurveda has outlined the causes of disease. We know that by knowing your nature, the nature of the disease, and the nature of the medicine, we can help you. Ayurveda has categorized things into Doshas and Gunas, to make it easier to understand. It offers a model to view the world and based on that model, we can find the most harmonious ways to live.

But you always have a choice.
If you don’t have time because you are too busy – then you have to reevaluate your priorities and make time for yourself to practice healthier habits.
If you are afraid of being present, being still, being mindful – then you have to have faith that it will all be okay, and trust that it is the right path.
If you are afraid of what others will think – you need to let go of that desire to be socially acceptable, and hope your example will help them to be healthier too.
Finally, if you afraid of being healthy – Talk to a CAS. Everyone feels this way. You are not alone in this. We all must find courage, but you don’t have to start by doing it alone.

If you come to a CAS with an open heart and mind, and are willing to change your diet and your lifestyle, you can find a level of health that few in today’s society have. But if you come in with reluctance, then I challenge you to practice being more open.

Ayurveda will only ever take you as far as you are willing to take yourself.

With gratitude,

S

Ayurveda Day 53: Nutrition pt. 4 – Seasonal Diet

The past few blogs we have been discussing the topic of nutrition. It is a wide subject full of depth.

From eating in accordance with the taste of food, the potency (warming or cooling), to the post digestive effect, there is a lot to consider when selecting a meal.

Throw the doshas into the mix and things can drive you crazy.

I have a ______ (insert dosha) imbalance, what foods can I eat? What tastes? Should they be warming or cooling? What is their effect on my body? How do they combine with other foods? What if I don’t have those available? I don’t want to give up _______ food! Does this mean I can’t eat ______ anymore??????

It’s enough to make anyone neurotic! So where can someone start?

Well for starters, we must always consider the following:

The fresher, less processed, organic, ethically harvested, and non-gmo foods are always going to be more beneficial to our bodies than anything else.

So you may read something like:

Pitta’s shouldn’t eat tomatoes.

There is a danger in this kind of thinking. Yes, they can increase pitta, but there is a difference between pouring a tomato sauce on your pasta that is full of sulfites that has been collectively reduced from dozens of tomatoes and picking a fresh tomato from a garden, slicing it, and placing it in your meal.

It doesn’t matter if you are Vata, Pitta, or Kapha, the origins of the food are more important.

If you reach in your fridge or pantry right now, pick one item that you eat regularly that isn’t all that healthy (processed, gmo, not organic, etc…). Now see if you can replace that one item with something that is a healthy alternative. Instead of that tomato sauce from a can, maybe you make your own. Then even from there maybe you can work your way off from tomato sauce entirely. But start small.

Aside from eating the healthiest foods possible, eating in accordance with the seasons is paramount. As a general rule of thumb, if it grows easily in that season, it’s probably pacifying the doshas that get aggravated in that season!

Fall/Winter
In the fall and winter, Vata dosha becomes more easily disturbed. Therefore, eating sweet/sour/salty foods that are warming will pacify it. These types are foods are nutrient dense: grains, dals, beans, greens, cultured vegetables, reconstituted dried fruits, winter squashes…essentially foods that are not glucose rich and foods that store easily during this season.

Spring
In the spring, Kapha dosha becomes more easily disturbed. Eating pungent/bitter/astringent foods that are warming will pacify it. Cleansing and reducing foods such as lighter grains, dals, and greens are best. I can not stress this enough: Look around in spring, and what do you see? Growth! Spring is in bloom! Therefore, eat plenty of greens, greens, greens! Veg out!

Summer
In the summer, Pitta dosha becomes more easily disturbed. Eating sweet/bitter/astringent foods that are cooling is best. So many foods become available in the summer that we can have: Fruits, vegetables, greens, grains, dals…Summer is a great time of year to be eating, and preparing for the season ahead.

In order to truly craft a dietary plan for yourself, there is no list you can print off the internet. You really do need a CAS to help you get started on the path. This is why diets typically don’t work or last. People tend to feel good following a diet for a while, but after some time they don’t realize too much of one thing doesn’t work in every season for every dosha. Nature tells us exactly what we need, but it’s hard for us to change our habits. Ayurveda can help you slowly have a healthier diet.

With gratitude,

S

Ayurveda Day 52: Nutrition pt. 3 – Gluten Free?

It seems these days gluten free diets are all the rage. There are many who are touting the benefits of eliminating gluten from our diet, claiming it is difficult for the body to digest.

Let’s first talk about gluten in general. Gluten is a protein found in many grains, but not all. Most commonly here in the west, gluten is found in wheat products. So what’s inherently wrong with that?

There are some people who genuinely have an inability to digest gluten. These people have celiac disease. However, the rest of us find over time we may have developed an intolerance to gluten. Thus, many people go on a gluten free diet – and they probably feel great too. But trying to eliminate gluten can be extremely difficult.

Think about a typical day:

Breakfast: Cereal, bagel, croissant, toast, etc. – all have gluten.
Lunch: Sandwhich, burger, etc. – gluten.
Dinner: Pasta of some kind – gluten.

We are over saturated with the stuff. It’s already difficult for the body to breakdown, so our body has to work extra hard to digest it. Couple that with the fact that we don’t eat mindfully and further contribute to poor digestion with how we eat, and our body winds up depleting itself in order to convert this food into the tissues of our body.

Furthermore, these tissues are not made up of high quality, nutritious foods. This brings me to this perspective:

What we call being gluten free in reality is merely being processed food free.

When we process foods, it will be with one of two ultimate goals in mind:

– to increase the nutritional value
– to increase the shelf life

Both are mutually exclusive. All those gluten rich foods we have are modified in order to preserve their shelf life. Their nutritional value tanks. Then we expect our body to make tissues out of that poor quality food. Remember, we quite literally are what we eat. When we eat these types of foods, our body sends Pitta to help metabolize and digest the food, then in order to put out the fire of pitta has to send Kapha. We wind up depleting ourselves.

In order to really benefit from a gluten free diet, what you have to realize is that you are not going gluten free – you are changing your diet to being more organic, non-gmo, non-processed, and more nutritious.

Of course you’ll feel better!

But we start seeing GF labels on everything nowadays to draw people in. Maybe there is a hot dog mustard out there that is gluten free, but then again, so is fresh fruits and vegetables. We think merely by picking gluten free foods we are being healthy, but this is where we can be taken advantage of by companies.

It is difficult to eat healthy in today’s society. Everything seems stacked against us. But even (evil) companies like Nestle are switching to sugar from high-fructose corn syrup and all natural dyes because consumers are voting with their dollar.

Unless you are celiac, there is no real reason why you can’t have gluten. There is a difference between eating a fresh, organic, non-gmo, non-processed item with gluten in it and a Tim Horton’s Donut.

But as we spend years of our lives eating three meals a day layered with difficult to digest foods, we wind up building an intolerance to them. In order to truly benefit from a gluten free diet, you have to commit to at least 6 months without the stuff. Then, slowly, try bringing back in those healthier options that may have gluten. With proper portion sizes and knowing your doshas, it shouldn’t be an issue any longer.

In the meantime, if you are struggling with giving up gluten, know that there are so many other options for grains. Wheat is not the end all be all of all grains!

Vata can have:
Rice, oats, quinoa, amaranth in high quantities (1/2 cup)
Pitta can have:
Rice, oats, quinoa, barley, amaranth in high quantities (1/2 cup)
Kapha can have:
Corn, buckwheat, barley, quinoa, amaranth in low quantities (1/4 cup)

In fact, quinoa, amaranth, and basmati rice are all considered tridoshic, meaning good for all three!

So you have lots of options. You may be giving up modified wheat, but it’s not like you’re giving up eating!

So in the end, going gluten free can be an amazing choice. But understand that going non-processed, non-gmo, organic, and fresh – that’s the really amazing choice.

With gratitude,

S



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