Winter Wellness

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Ayurveda Winter Wisdom, 2014

In the Pacific Northwest, we have a unique weather system that has vata and kapha in a dance from winter solstice to spring equinox. For the next month at least, we will be more in the vata season, although kapha will be starting to take its hold. When I’m unclear about which dosha to address, I go back to the basics. Like increases like, opposites balance. 

To balance Vata, make choices that bring warmth, stability, and consistency to your life.  To balance kapha, make choices that bring lightness to the heart and invigorate the body.  Try to get to bed before 10pm, awaken by 7am, and eat your meals at regular times.

Fresh ginger root is beneficial and can be used frequently. During the cool weather, sip ginger tea throughout the day.

  • Be certain that your bowels move on a daily basis. Refer to the post : A dilemma to digest.
  • All sweeteners pacify Vata and may be taken in moderation. Kapha is best to avoid sweeteners.
  • Fats and oils are beneficial in the digestive system and help reduce Vata. Use up to 3 teaspoons daily of ghee or extra virgin olive oil. If Kapha is high, use less.
  • If your digestion is strong, all low-fat dairy products are recommended. Milk is easier to digest when warm or heated.
  • If Kapha is high or digestion is sluggish, build digestion with agni appetizers. Fifteen minute prior to meals, take trikitu or ginger slivers with a pinch of rock salt and a squeeze of fresh lime
  • Rice and wheat are the best grains for balancing Vata but can increase kapha.
  • To reduce kapha increase the amount of quionoa, barley, corn, millet, buckwheat, and rye.
  • To reduce kapha, fast one day a week from after dinner the first day to before dinner the second day.
  • To balance all three doshas, eat kichadi one day a week.
  • To balance vata favor sweet, heavy fruits such as: bananas, avocados, mangoes, apricots, plums, berries, coconut, figs, grapefruit, orange, lemon, melons, papaya, peaches, pineapples, rhubarb, kiwi, dates, nectarines and dried fruits.
  • If Kapha is high, eat dry or light fruits such as apples, cranberries, pears, and pomegranates. To ease digestion, fruits are best eaten lightly cooked, sautéed or eaten alone.
  • Cooked vegetables are best. Raw vegetables should be minimized.
  • Sprouts and cabbage tend to produce gas and should be minimized.
  • For non-vegetarians, use fresh, organic chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs.

Favouring heavy foods such as sweets, oils, and richer foods may contribute to weight gain. Focus on natural grains, and moist fruits and vegetables. Keep your sweets to a minimum and use low-fat milk products.

Cook your food for easy digestion. Lightly steaming vegetables greatly reduces digestion time and increases nutritional uptake in most people by facilitating the breakdown of the fiberous outer cell wall which are an undigestable cellulose.

Don’t wait for a sunny day to go out and breath the fresh air. If you can get into the coastal rainforest right now, the kapha micro world of mosses, mushrooms and fungi is in full bloom.

A dilemma to digest!

Did you poo today???

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The ayurveda approach to optimal health is maintaining a healthy digestive system, which includes a daily bowel movement. One is said to be constipated if a bowel movement does not occur within 36 hours. The natural process of elimination is necessary to move toxins and waste materials out of the body and is a “TIME RELATED” ISSUE.

Time runs out when constipation sets in, allowing toxins to take up residence within our body/mind, causing stress to the systems and an increased vulnerability to dis-ease. And it will manifest where our weakness lies, in mental, emotional or physical areas of our Being. The message here is to not ignore these weaknesses but listen and learn from them.  By intimately knowing and understanding our weaknesses, we begin to recognize the first signals of imbalance and can make the appropriate changes to reinstate that balance. In this way, the weakness becomes an open doorway to a more harmonious, productive and pain free life.

Poor digestion and constipation are weaknesses that raise bright red flags in ayurveda. The longer poorly digested foods,  waste materials and toxins sit in the colon, naturally more water is pulled out and constipation will intensify. The effect will back up into the small intestine, disturbing digestion and absorption, causing any number of digestive issues. If digestion is stalled nutrient uptake is stalled, which compromises cell production. Healthy cells are the building blocks for optimal cell division and function. Starved cells make for weakened building blocks and the structure quickly becomes wobbly and susceptible to a myriad of imbalances.

Some of the wobble affects can be seen over night, some within a few years and some not until the aging process moves us out of the high functioning, metabolic (pitta) state of our middle years to a more sedentary, catabolic state in our elder years.  For women, symptoms will worsen around the menopausal time. For men, although there is not quite so pronounced a life change, the timing is the same due to a increase in vata (air and ether).  With aging, there is a natural shift to more dryness and constipation. Aging also increases the rate of apoptosis in the body, resulting in an elevated die off rate of cells. The replacement cells must acquire all the necessary nutrition to replicate efficiently and thus build a strong, alert, vibrant form.

The bottom line:  We do not want to build an abundance of toxic, starved or mutated cells as the result of constipation.

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Digestion is most certainly a Canadian cultural issue.
The Canadian Digestive Health Foundation (CDHF) launched a scientific project to define the incidence, prevalence, mortality and economic impact of digestive disorders across Canada. Detailed information on 19 digestive disorders was compiled through systematic reviews, government documents and Internet sites. This information was published as ‘Establishing Digestive Health as a Priority for Canadians, The Canadian Digestive Health Foundation National Digestive Disorders Prevalence and Impact Study Report’, and released to the press and government in late 2009 (www.CDHF.ca). The CDHF Public Impact Series presents a full compilation of the available statistics for the impact of digestive disorders in Canada and they are astounding.

The list of clinically proven digestive issues coined by the medical system is getting longer as time passes.  Crohns, IBS, GERD, acid indigestion, acid reflux, heartburn, malabsorption, ulcers. These are real issues for real people and can be very debilitating to quality of life. So many suffer from one or more of these issues as a chronic state that it taxes our medical system and makes our drugstores and health food stores very wealthy.

If you have a longstanding digestive issue and have yet to find satisfactory solutions, see a well practiced ayurveda practitioner, as digestion is the root of all dis-ease according to this system. The education you will receive will be the starting point of a path to greater self knowledge and amazingly inspired health and wellness.

This practitioner will educate you on your natural, holistic options such as best lifestyle practices, a personal seasonal diet, perhaps a yoga program or spiritual practice. They may recommend specific herbs or traditional treatments. All this without harm from unnatural substances or activities.

This time tested system is more than 4000 years old and still entirely relevant in its scope and practice of sustaining optimal health, as it is based in the laws of nature as observed by science and nature has not changed much over the past 4000 years, although science certainly has.

 

Wishing  you vibrant wellness.
savita