Food for Self Healing; Natural Balance pt. III.
Using knowledge of your Digestion and Food for self healing that match your constitution for graceful (stress and dis-ease free) living at any age by Jim Montrose, Ayurvedic Health Consultant, May 2018.
True to your Dosha is the key to harmony, longevity, and health. In this third part of our three part article on your body type we look at how our unique body type or dosha guides us to health , part one, and how to achieve harmonious balance through herbs and lifestyle choices, part two, and finally by wisely choosing our food for self healing which we will now examine. In this article we examine the vital link between Agni (digestive power), food/sensory choices and spices to produce health and wellness.
Practices that Balance the dosha
In part II we covered the signs of balance and imbalance and gave many practical options for restoring balance. In this part III we look at specific aspects that restore balance by focusing on the nourishment (both mental and hopefully foods for self healing) one takes into the body. Ayurveda has a broad definition of nourishment and includes any sensory experience whether food and spices that affects taste , touch, sight, sound, smell or mental experiences that produce emotions and feelings. Dr. Chopra relates that the Ayurvedic sages who discovered the principles of balance and longevity ascribe aging and imbalance to a “mistake of the intellect,” identifying oneself solely with the physical body instead of the quantum “ageless” principles that naturally guide us to wellness and proper nourishment. When we start to restore balance (shifting away from habitual habits of turning to stimulants to make it through the day or violent entertainment to keep excited and awake) the body will naturally direct us to the proper nourishment, sensation and increased wellness. This is the Ayurvedic path to self-knowledge and is about achieving your unique balance which will help you naturally choose food for self healing that ensure health, longevity, and happiness.
Let us review the big picture of what creates balance for each dosha. Please be aware that no matter what your primary dosha is we are all influenced by Vata whenever we go off-balance or become sick and may be influenced by the other doshas especially during the season where that dosha is most prominent (i.e. Vata in Fall, Kapha in late Winter, Pitta in Summer).
Vata Balance: Regular habits, Warmth, Rest, Quiet, Regular Nourishment, Hydration, Reduce Stress, Nervousness and Anxiety, Calming environment and practices (abhyanga-sesame oil)
Vata is king of doshas and directs all other doshas so it is important for all constitutions.
Vata thrives on variety but can easily become stimulated and with too much change the excitement turns to exhaustion (why many Vata’s are frazzled and nervous). The body’s natural rhythms are disturbed and the Vata grab food when they can (ignoring body signals), skip meals, irregularly exercise and go to bed at odd times. This is bad for all dosha’s but especially bad for Vata’s. The out of balance Vata become habituated to this mismatched rhythm mistaking it for a stimulating life. Solution create a regular routine of balanced habits. Emphasize plenty of rest (feel tired or push stop and rest five minutes), meditate (clams and reduces need for external stimulation), stay warm, eat vata pacifying diet, drink warm fluids (avoid all cold drinks and foods), avoid mental strain and overstimulation, avoid alcohol while balancing Vata (any stimulant is aggravating to Vata and best given up), keep nostril lubricated (oil) in winter and dry times. Vata’s do best with a diet full of Vata pacifying food for self healing.
Pita Balance: Moderation, Coolness, Relax with natural beauty, reduce stimulants, alternate rest and activity and include leisure (fun) daily.
Pitta’s tend to drive themselves and must learn moderation. If you drive yourself too hard you will burn yourself up (many out of balance Pitta’s are workaholics with tones of anger and compulsiveness). When you lose your sweetness and moderation in appetite it is the sign to exercise moderation, rest, increase leisure and fun. Wind down from activities and follow with rest. Find an inner calm at the end of work and go inside, meditation is good for all types and especially important to alleviate the drive of Pitta learning their greatest personal power comes without aggression (to others or most important to yourself). Keep yourself cool at work, sleeping and in summer. Eat a Pitta pacifying diet and avoid overeating. Like Vata’s stick to a regular meal time and eat moderately (bitter foods can help curb excessive appetite). Avoid stimulants and alcohol they are like pouring gasoline on the fire and feed Pitta’s aggression and edginess. Put yourself in nature’s beauty often to wind down and calm yourself while avoiding controversy and violence to bring out more uplifting, humorous and entertaining qualities to balance your intensity. Pitta’s do best with a diet full of Pitta pacifying food for self healing.
Kapha Balance: Stimulation, Variety, Regular strenuous exercise, weight control, reduce sweets, stay warm and dry.
Kapha’s by nature tend to be steady and slow (leading to dependability and strength) but need stimulation, sights and sounds, varied diet, and physical activity to avoid lethargy, slow digestion and weight gain. Seek variety in life with new experiences to avoid stagnation and often depression. Meditation is great to discover the alertness in your nature which is inside you. Watch the parade of life go by and through the spark of alertness decide what you really want to join in. Let go of possessiveness and accumulation to discover your personal evolution and step into the field of loving and being loved. Eat a Kapha pacifying diet limiting sweet foods (such as ice cream, milk, sugary desserts, wheat bread, butter). Stay warm and dry. Perform a dry massage to stimulate circulation. Drink warm fluids in moderation. Daily exercise is recommended to avoid a sedentary lifestyle, stagnation and toxin build-up. Use a salt nasya to clear the nostril of mucuous and avoid head congestion a common Kapha problem. Kapha’s do best with a diet full of Kapha pacifying food for self healing.
Food for Self Healing; Nourishment for Balance
Food talks to the doshas reminding us of our primal connection to the five elements primarily through the rasa (taste) and secondarily through the gunas (quality):
Taste (rasas): sweet (sugars and starches; earth and water: sugar, grains, milk), salty (water and fire:salt) , sour (fermented food or sour fruits; earth and fire: lemons, tomatoes), bitter ( bitter herbs like gentian; air and space: bitter greens, spinach) astringent (herbs containing tannins like alum; air and earth: lentils, broccoli, apples) and pungent (hot spices like ginger; air and fire: chilli, garlic, radish). Note that the sweet taste is the most prominent taste in nature and is in most foods we eat. Sweet and salty tastes are considered antagonistic in Ayurveda causing side effects due to their opposite hot and cold effects and aggravate each other.
Qualities (gunas): heavy (wheat, cheese) or light (barley, skim milk); dry (honey, lentils, cabbage) or oily (milk, soybean, coconut); and hot (pepper, honey, eggs) or cold (mint, sugar, milk, ice cream); Some Ayurvedic sources add in the qualities of Liguid and Solid. This gunas appears in the old wisdom of feeding soup to someone who has a cold or is weak so they don’t have to chew and use excess energy. (note: these qualities are how the food affects the body, for example: it makes you hot eating chilli peppers.)
Although we have listed a single taste with a sample food that offers a particular taste most foods have a prominent taste and lesser amounts of the other tastes, some example tastes of food: lettuce (bitter, astringent), arugula (bitter, astringent and pungent), red chilli peppers (pungent, salty), crookneck squash (sweet, astringent), coconut (sweet), and green bell pepper (pungent, salty). In westernized cultures we generally have too little bitter, then too little pungent and astringent. An easy way to ensure you get all six tastes and increase the food for self healing effects at each meal is to sprinkle a little dosha specific churna, a herbal combination crafted for your constitution, that matches your dominant dosha onto your food at each meal (available from Jim (email “churna”)).
|Satisfying the Doshas|
|Balance (use as staple year-round)||Vata||Pitta||Kapha|
|taste||Sweet, Sour, Salty||Sweet, Bitter, Astringent||Pungent, Bitter, Astringent|
|quality||Heavy, Oily, Hot,
|Cold, Heavy, Dry, (solid)||Light, Dry, hot, (solid)|
|Aggravate (use only occasionally – avoid in dosha’s season1)||Vata (limit/avoid in fall and winter)||Pitta (limit/avoid in summer)||Kapha (limit/avoid in late winter/spring)|
|taste||Pungent, Bitter, Astringent||Pungent, Sour, Salty||Sweet, Sour, Salty|
|quality||Light, Dry, Cold||Hot, Light, Oily||Heavy, Oily, Cold|
(1) No matter what your dosha it is advisable to respect and consider limiting the tastes and qualities that aggravate during the Vata, Pitta and Kapha seasons.
Ayurveda recommends all six tastes at every meal for a balanced meal (filled with dosha compatible food for self healing). By giving all six tastes at each meal the body can respond appropriately and achieve a natural balance. The tastes just need to be available in a subtle hint to do their job (a dosha specific churna is a herbal mixture that can be sprinkled onto your food to assure you get all six tastes, available from Jim (email “churna”)). In this way we can allow the body to restore balance and be guided naturally by our own instincts to eat a balanced diet. To return to balance we recommend following a pacifying diet based on your predominant dosha by paying attention to the charts for a few months until you restore your natural instincts (that automatically direct you to the foods on the charts) and balance. Dr. Chopra says as we start living in tune with nature (restoring balance) the body will naturally start to make the right choices and will help you make the choices instinctively that the pacifying diet charts try to assist you with.
How to Eat (as important as what we eat)
Ayurveda offers guidelines to create harmony and balance to promote love and bliss in life and particularly around the table. Maya Tiwari in “A Life of Balance” gives an amusing anecdote about being seated at a banquet next to the top chewing guru in America. This man took control of the table and instructed everyone on the importance of utmost silence at the table, focus on each mouthful of food and to chew it diligently 100 times before swallowing. He harangued anyone who swallowed too quickly, wasn’t focused or made noise. Maya gently excused herself and went to a nearby table that seemed to be enjoying the meal and had a lovely and harmonious lunch. Ayurveda suggest guidelines to encourage balance and would discourages anything that is a blindly enforced rule for others or yourself that is especially upsetting – remember the intent behind the guideline for chewing is to peacefully experience the taste and start digestion by mixing saliva with the fully chewed food (chewing 10-30 times may be adequate). An atmosphere of prayerful appreciation for your food and enjoyment will help you fully assimilate the nutrients. Eating is a meditation best done joyfully with full consciousness (awareness).
In Ayurveda eating food for self healing that tastes good is important and the other senses (sight, hearing, touch and smell) should be satisfied also to nourish the dosha properly and provide all the tissues with the best nutrition and highest energetic value. Your digestive system has an intelligence that knows whenever the senses take in un-digestible sights, sounds, emotions, etc. When eating becomes worship and appreciation the body bubbles with joy and bliss.
Suggestions for Eating that produce the experience of food for self healing:
-Eat sitting and calmly in a settled environment. Take a moment before leaving the table after you have finished.
-Do not eat if you are upset.
-Avoid ice cold food and drink. Eat only freshly prepared meals when possible (leftovers lack prana or life force). Cooked foods are easier to digest (don’t eat too much raw food).
-Chew each mouthful well, be aware of the tastes of the food. Chew with love and compassion.
-Provide a visually pleasant table, plate and environment
-Keep conversation uplifting, light or enjoy silence. Avoid distractions like TV, reading or heavy conversation.
-Eat only when hungry, drink only when thirsty. Wait until one meal is digested before eating next (4 hours for light meals and 6 for heavy).
-Eat moderately and not too much. Ayurveda recommends that the stomach be 1/3 full of food, 1/3 liquid and 1/3 empty to promote digestion. 2 handfuls of food is the proper amount (if you overeat the food creates extra toxins and stomach expands and demands extra food).
-Water is best derived from juices which should be drunk on their own. Water (warm or room temperature) can be sipped along with a meal (especially if the food is dry).
-Avoid bad combinations: fruit by itself, milk alone or with sweet foods, do not cook honey.
Digestion, Agni, Ama and Diet
The digestive fire (Agni) is a very important part of being able to extract the nutrients from our food for self healing and staying healthy. When the digestion is low we cannot digest the food properly and obtain the nutrients we need. It also leads to partial digestion and the left over undigested food creates a sticky toxin (Ama) which Ayurveda considers the root of all disease stemming from improper food, diet, and lifestyle choices for your nature (dosha). When the digestive fire is too high, it burns up the food and leaves you feverish and weak. Balancing the digestive fires becomes an important aspect of health and proper eating. Following the eating guidelines, particularly avoiding extinguishing the fire with cold foods and raw foods and giving adequate time between meals for digestion, and a dosha pacifying diet are designed to keep you in balance. Proper levels of Agni produce a natural rhythm of eating (and are maintained following the same schedule) that will naturally have you eating a light breakfast, a substantial lunch (digestive power strongest at lunch) and a light supper all at the same time every day.
Vata tends to be delicate and variable so a Vata must remain even more vigilant. Pitta has a strong digestion and can often get by with eating a lot. Kapha tends to have a slow, heavy digestion and must recognize proper time between meals. When your digestion gets thrown off you may experience symptoms of stomach acid or heartburn, loss of appetite, constipation or diarrhea, nervous digestion, aching joints, cloudy urine, bad breath, weight fluctuations, or serious digestive disorders. Fasting for a day can often help to restore balance if you are not too far off-balance. Ginger with a little salt prior to the meal and as a tea after the meal can help digestion. Consult your Ayurvedic consultant for an Agni reset program( in Perfect Health). Good Agni levels result in the signals of a glowing complexion, bright eyes, strong digestion (no constipation or diarrhea),the ability to eat all foods, clear urine, and normal feces without a strong smell.
Pacifying Diets of food for self healing
|Fruits primarily sweet and astringent; citrus adds in sour|
|Primarily||Sweet fruits, apricots, avocado, bananas, berries, cherries, coconut, dates, fresh figs, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, limes, mango, sweet melons, oranges, papaya, peaches, pineapples, plums||Sweet fruits, apples, avocado, coconut, dates, figs, dark grapes, mango, melons, sweet oranges, pears, sweet pineapples, sweet plums, persimmons, pomegranate, prunes, raisins||Dry fruits, Apples, apricots, berries, cherries, cranberries, dry figs, mango, peaches, pears, persimmon, pomegranate, prunes, raisins|
|Limit/avoid||Dried fruits, apples (raw), cranberries, pears, persimmon, pomegranate, watermelon||Sour fruit, apricots, berries, bananas, cherries, cranberries, grapefruit, green grapes, lemons, limes, sour oranges, papaya, peaches, sour pineapples, persimmon, sour plums, strawberries||Sweet and sour fruits, avocado, bananas, coconut, dates, fresh figs, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, melons, oranges, papaya, pineapples, plums, raspberry, strawberry|
|Vegetables primarily sweet and astringent; leafy greens add in bitter|
|Primarily||Cooked vegetables, asparagus, beets, carrots, cucumber, garlic, green beans, cooked okra, cooked onion, mustard greens, sweet potato, radishes, baby marrow (zuchinni); leafy greens, okra, winter squash, spinach, sprouts, yams,
and parsley in moderation (with oil dressing)
|Sweet and bitter vegetables, asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cilantro, celery, cucumber, green beans, leafy greens, lettuce, mushroom, okra, peas, parsley, green peppers, white potatoes, squash, sprouts, turnips, baby marrow (zuchinni)||Pungent and bitter vegetables, alfalfa sprouts, asparagus, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chillies, cilantro, eggplant, garlic, leafy greens, lettuce, mushrooms, mustard greens, okra, onions, parsley, peas, peppers, white potatoes, radishes, spinach, sprouts|
|limit/avoid||Raw vegetables, artichokes, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, leafy greens, lettuce, mushrooms, raw onions, parsley, peas, peppers, white potatoes, squash, spinach, sprouts, tomatoes, turnips||Pungent Vegetables, beets, carrots, eggplant, garlic, onions, hot peppers, pickles, radishes, spinach, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, tomatoes||Sweet and juicy vegetables, cucumber, okra, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini|
|Dairy primarily sweet; yogurt and cheese add in sour and astringent|
|Primarily||All ok in moderation||Unsalted butter, cottage cheese, cream cheese, ghee, milk||Ghee and goats milk, unsalted buttermilk, soy milk preferable.|
|Limit/avoid||–||Buttermilk, cheese, sour cream, yogurt||–|
|Primarily||All except below||All except below||No except raw honey|
|Limit/avoid||White sugar||Molasses, jaggary, and honey||All except above|
|Grains and Nuts primarily sweet|
|Primarily||Cooked oats, rice, wheat, all nuts and seeds ok||Barley, cooked oats, basmati rice, white rice, wheat, coconut, sunflower seeds||Barley, corn, millet, dry oats, basmati rice (small amount), buckwheat, dry grains, avoid all nuts except below|
|limit/avoid||Barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, dry oats, rye, corn chips, dry grains||Buckwheat, corn, millet, dry oats, brown rice, rye, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, soaked almonds, other nuts especially roasted and salted||Cooked oats, brown and white rice, wheat, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds|
|Legumes primarily sweet and astringent|
|Primarily||Mung beans, tofu, black and red lentils||All except lentils||All except below|
|limit/avoid||Avoid except above||Lentils||Kidney beans, soy beans, black lentils, mung beans, tofu|
|Oils primarily sweet|
|Primarily||All oils good||Coconut, olive, sunflower, soy, flax, olive oil in moderation, ghee||Almond, corn, soy, safflower, or sunflower in small amounts|
|Limit/avoid||–||Almond, corn, safflower, sesame||Avoid all other oils|
|Herbs and Spices primarily pungent with other tastes secondarily|
|Primarily||All including herbs, salt, pickles and vinegar||Coriander, cumin, fennel, mint, turmeric, soy sauce in moderation, small amount of black pepper||Cayenne, black pepper, garlic and ginger, most others except below|
|Limit/avoid||Salt, vinegar, pickles|
|Meats primarily sweet and astringent (limit or eliminate due to health risks and mental derangement factors)|
|Primarily||Beef, white meat of chicken, white meat of turkey, eggs (fried or scrambled), seafood||White meat of chicken or turkey, wgg whites, rabbit, small amount shrimp, venison||Dark meat of chicken or turkey, eggs (not fried or scrambled), rabbit, shrimp, vension|
|Limit/avoid||Lamb, pork, rabbit, venison||Beef, egg yolk, lamb, pork, seafood||Beef, lamb, pork, seafood|
Incompatible food combinations
Ayurveda suggests a number of good foods for your dosha, yet recognizes that some of these food for self healing when combined can produce toxins. The following list shows the most common and the worst offenders are marked in bold case.
Beans fruit, cheese, eggs, fish, milk, meat, yogurt
Eggs fruit, beans, cheese, fish, kitchari, milk, meat, yogurt
Fruit any other food – eat alone
Grains fruit, tapioca
Honey with equal amounts of ghee and cooked or boiled
Hot drinks mango, cheese, fish, meat, starch, yogurt
Lemon cucumbers, milk, tomatoes, yogurt
Melons everything – eat by themselves
Milk bananas, cherries, melons, sour fruits, bread, fish, kitchiri, meat, yogurt
Nightshades melon, cucumber, dairy products (nightshades – potato, tomato, eggplant)
Radishes bananas, raising, milk
Tapioca fruit, especially bananas and mango, beans, raisins, jaggary
Yogurt fruit, cheese, eggs, fish, hot drinks, meat, milk, nightshades
Don’t Forget Emotions and the Mind
Emotions come in a variety of tastes also and can affect the body in the same way as diet and herbs as food for self healing or not. Positive emotions of joy, bliss and love provide a very important part of food for self healing; while negative fear based emotions can and do produce mental Ama that damages our health. Psychological factors, generally speaking, will outweigh the effect of physical factors and must be attended to on a daily basis according to modern day Ayurvedic sage Dr. Frawley. Our emotional body can become addicted to certain emotional tastes or accustomed to them just as the body does with the taste of food. When they are the same as our food tastes the combination of the emotions and improper food can quickly create an imbalance. The relationship between emotion and taste are as follows:
Sweet love, attachment
Sour envy, resentment
Bitter grief, sorrow
Pungent enmity, hatred
Astringent fear, fright
The emotional affect on your dosha and the body are as follows:
Fear and nervousness dissipate energy and aggravate Vata, excessive talking (often nervousness) dissipates energy and aggravates Vata
Possesiveness, greed, and attachment increase Kapha
Worry weakens the heart
Hate and anger create toxins in the body and aggravate Pitta
Rejuvenation of the mind is the foundation of all forms of rejuvenation (and ultimately healing) as the main cause of disease arises from the mind. Dr. Rivene has always said disease starts with a thought. The mind is only rejuvenated in silence, in complete absence of thought and mental agitation (as well as mass media, sound, visual, touch, taste and smell stimulation). Through meditation we learn to become comfortable as the observer and friendly to silence and the absence of constant stimulation in your body/mind.
Ayurveda has its own practice to transform negative emotions that should be used before dumping the feeling on others or repressing it which produces stressful biochemistry that affects internal organs and systems. Ayurveda suggests we learn and resolve the situation producing the emotions by observing the feeling completely. Take a deep breath feel the emotion, allowing it to fully express itself in your body, looking at it honestly and feeling it. Surrender and be with it, without labelling it or naming it; breathing into it and out fully until the feeling dissolves itself. Having a two way awareness; aware of the external situation creating the feeling and aware of the internal self and the feelings you are going through – you remove the separation between yourself and the feeling. When the awareness goes both ways you understand fully, the observer and the observed become one and as it resolves and fades you are left free and without scars. Transform the negative emotions to produce positive emotions and nourish the mind with its own food for self healing.
Action steps to Balance using Food, lifestyle, and mental practices.
Ensure your eating predominately Food for Self Healing to promote health, longevity and happiness with these action steps. You can be the master of your own health by learning to truly balance your dosha and living harmoniously in balance with food, lifestyle choices, and mental practices to ensure health, longevity and happiness. The major steps are:
1) Know your unique body constitution (dosha), section I.
2) Understand your dosha both in-balance and out of balance, section II.
3) Take action to manage the imbalance, eating mental nourishment and foods for self healing, section III.
4) Adopt a daily meditation routine. Consider our next Meditation Challenge in late June.
The owning of these ageless principles is the journey forward. Explore the above recommendations and general food guidelines to learn your own body’s unique balance and the food for self healing for your unique body. Take notice when a particular food makes you feel bad, sick or mildly irritated. Try it at another time (especially after balance has been re-established) and see if it still does – if it does you may want to exclude it from your diet or have it only rarely. This is the path to self-knowledge about achieving your unique balance which will help you ensure health, longevity, and happiness.
We turn this information into true knowledge and wisdom by experiencing it for ourselves. Learning to recognize the food for self healing, lifestyle choices and practices compatible with your dosha will create balance and you will maintain equilibrium. Continue with the daily routines and add your dosha compatible diet for a month or two to see how you feel. Try the dosha pacifying diet (above), seasonal routines (spring, summer, fall or winter coming in July), the three health regimens and the three pillars of life (pt 2) to understand yourself in greater detail and create your doshic equilibrium. Consider the online course: Balance your diet and life with your Ayurvedic Dosha for a mentored program with on-line coaching support and help line (email Jim (“online balance”) for more info); or take a one-on-one Ayurvedic exam and consultation (schedule with Jim now email or call 071 959 0786) to learn your Prakriti and Vrikriti, Digestive Agni and best path to balance, longevity and joy.
Gracious living at any age is your right and available for you and your loved ones,
071 959 0786
P.S. Make an appointment for your individualized Detox Plan Now or an overall assessment and Ayurvedic balancing with Jim to learn your detailed individual recommendations – email “balancing plan/assesement” to organize an appointment or call 071 959 0786 now).
Copyright May 2018
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