Change is in the air, the nights are already
quite chilly, and the air feels cool and dry. Now is the perfect
time to prepare for the colder season. In Ayurveda fall and
early winter are equated with the Vata dosha, so not only
the outside world but also the body reflect those changes,
and the physiology and psychology can be easily thrown out
of balance. This can manifest in dry skin, hair, brittle nails,
constipation, stress, and fatigue.
The onset of dry and cold days needs therefore
be balanced by a diet and lifestyle that is warming, calming
This is a good time to do an Ayurvedic cleanse, such as panchakarma.
During the panchakarma cleanse all the doshas are brought
back into synch and the warming foods, ghee preparations and
warm oil massages during the cleanse are perfect for gently
eliminating ama or toxins from the body, while simultaneously
lubricating the body inside and out. As a result the skin
is soft and glowing, the immune system gets strengthened and
body and mind are brought into perfect condition to withstand
the stress, and rich foods and treats of the festive season.
Anything you do to nurture your skin during this season is
going to pay off. Because Vata is drying, skin neglected in
this season tends to wrinkle and age faster.
Before going to bed massage your body with
warm moisturizing and rich body oils such as almond or sesame
oil for ten minutes. Follow your massage by taking a nice
hot bath infused with lavender essential oil. If you don’t
have time for a full massage, rub your feet with sesame oil
and you will sleep like a baby.
Now is a good time to come to our Prana Center for a Bliss
Therapy. This is a 2 hour treatment that includes a warm herbalized
oil massage, a steam sauna and shirodara (warm oil poured
over the forehead).
As the cold weather starts to move in we naturally want to
increase blood flow and circulation to help us stay warm and
flexible. Practicing yoga is a wonderful way to help improve
overall circulation of the blood and lymphatic systems. Moderate
outdoor exercise during this time of year, such as hiking,
light jogging and biking or walking are also good.
In Ayurveda, fat is called sneha, which is a synonym for love.
This is why in Ayurveda oils are so important, either as part
of the diet or applied topically during the warm herbalized
oil massages. Our diet now needs to consist of lots of warming,
unctuous foods-- healthy oils, such as ghee, olive oil, walnut
oil, sesame or flax seed oil, raw butter, coconut oil, and
fat from pasture-fed animals or wild-caught fish. Important
supplemental fat includes fish or krill oil.
Especially if you already have a Vata imbalance,
then this is the season for you to avoid drying foods like
crackers, popcorn and salads without a trace of fat.
Make sure you get lots of warm, freshly cooked food. Eating
leftovers, raw foods, microwaved, processed and canned foods
will disturb Vata. Staring at the computer screen all day,
having the cell-phone glued to your ear, and being exposed
to radiation from wireless devices will have the same effect.
Remind yourself that the cold and dry properties of Vata are
already plentiful in your system right now. So you really
need to stay away from cold, raw foods. Fall foods should
include hot soups, good protein such as wild caught fish or
freshly made paneer cheese, or mildly spiced dahl for lunch,
warm stewed apples and oatmeal in the morning and only a light
dinner at night. If you eat out a lot stay away from sandwiches
and salads and eat more soups and cooked vegetables. Roasted
vegetables with walnut oil or olive oil and fresh herbs like
basil, rosemary or sage are divine! Flavorful lentil or bean
casseroles, hearty squash soups and roasted root vegetables,
…for dessert Kheer (rice pudding with saffron, cardamon
and milk) or baked pears or apples. You get the idea! You
can bring your personal spice mix along and sprinkle it on
the restaurant food. For those who eat meat of fish, wild
salmon or free-range chicken (with skin!) is especially good
now. And before you go to bed, have a cup of warm organic
milk with a bit of ginger or nutmeg and a touch of honey or
warm chai with milk and honey.
Another good idea would be to stock up on Chyavanprash:
Chyavanprash - is a multi-mineral, multi-vitamin herbal supplement
that both rejuvenates and stimulates the body's immune system.
It is primarily made from a fruit called amalaki, which is
known as the most potent form of natural vitamin C in the
world. Amalaki is combined with 30 Ayurvedic herbs. Traditionally
this combination is used as an anti-aging, anti-stress medicine,
but it is an incredibly effective daily preventive for colds,
stress, and exhaustion. It stimulates the lymphatic system
to drain, while providing powerful antioxidant properties
that work very well in preventing a cold. Chyawanprash is
considered more of a food supplement than a medicine, although
its medicinal properties are phenomenal. It is traditionally
stirred into warm milk or eaten straight from the jar.
Use 1 tsp. 2-3 times a day as a preventive. At the first sign
of a cold you can take 3 tsp. every 3 hours with copious amounts
of warm water.
Vata disturbance in fall can cause restlessness,
anxiety and day-to-day mental stress to increase, which will
greatly be improved by the above diet tips. In addition if
one makes time to do yoga exercises and meditation, drinks
warm beverages, and maybe even enjoys some of the nurturing
Ayurvedic massages and therapies the body/mind will be healthy,
balanced and relaxed.
I have been studying nutrition since I was
13 years old. Growing up on a rich Austrian-Bavarian diet
with lots of homemade cakes and pastries, I simply had to.
So I have seen many fad diets come and go. For a while low
fat diets such as the Pritikin Diet were popular. In Ayurveda
fat is “sneha” which is a synonym for “love”.
So there were a lot of love-deprived people running around!
Today we know that (healthy) fats are an essential part of
the diet, and low fat diets can actually increase the risk
During the current low-carb/pro-protein
diet craze, carbohydrates including grains and starchy vegetables
have been demonized -- accused of causing weight gain, sugar
cravings, diabetes, and blamed as the reason people can't
People do lose weight on high-protein, low-carbohydrate
diets, though the weight loss is due to water loss and reduced
calories, not to lower insulin levels as advocates claim.
First, the weight loss is difficult to maintain over the long
term. Second, there is some evidence that these diets may
increase the risk of coronary heart disease and kidney damage
and since a high protein diet is often recommended for people
with diabetes, who are already at high risk for heart or kidney
problems, it might aggravate their condition in the long run.
And a diet high in animal protein can increase the risk for
inflammation in the body and certain cancers.
Scientists have found that when you stop
eating carbohydrates, your brain stops regulating serotonin,
a chemical that elevates mood and suppresses appetite. And
only carbohydrate consumption naturally stimulates production
Serotonin is essential not only to control
your appetite and stop you from overeating; it's essential
to keep your moods regulated.
Antidepressants are intended to activate
serotonin in the brain in order to regulate moods. Carbohydrates
raise serotonin levels naturally and act like a natural tranquilizer.
Scientists discovered that the brain makes
serotonin only after a person consumes carbohydrates. But
these carbohydrates must be eaten in combination with very
little or no protein!
So a meal like rice and vegetables or a
snack like a whole grain muffin will allow the brain to make
serotonin, but eating chicken and potatoes or snacking on
string cheese will actually prevent serotonin from being made.
Especially women have much less serotonin
in their brains than men, so a serotonin-depleting diet will
make women feel irritable and prone to over-eating.
Some people need to eat a certain amount
of carbohydrates to keep their moods steady. They experience
a change in their mood, usually in the late afternoon or mid-evening.
And with this mood change comes a yearning to eat something
sweet or starchy.
This is not a question of will power, the
brain is sending out signals to eat carbohydrates. If the
carbohydrate craver eats protein instead, he or she will become
grumpy, irritable or restless. Furthermore, filling up on
fatty foods like cheese makes you tired and lethargic. Not
to mention the dubious quality of fish, meat and most cheeses
these days. Will eating a lot of fat and protein, while staying
away from carbohydrates turn you into an emotional zombie?
I have been thinking about how this translates
into Ayurveda. I like to compare different health systems.
According to Ayurveda a high protein diet without grains will
create a doshic imbalance and increase Pitta. A Pitta
imbalance will manifest in irritablilty, grumpiness, impatience
and anger. I am not saying that protein isn’t important,
especially in the cold season. Dr. Mishra claims that we all
need some kind of animal protein in our diet, otherwise we
lose our self-confidence. An interesting thought! But we don’t
need a huge steak or protein with every meal, as the high
protein/low carb advocates claim. We need to include more
grains into our diet.
Grains in Ayurveda, have a grounding, nourishing
and calming effect, which corresponds to the serotonin theory
Of course I am not talking about carbohydrates
in the form of sugar, white flour or fruit juices. I am talking
about complex carbohydrates in the form of grains such as
rye, millet, quinoa and amaranth. And of course also starchy
vegetables like potatoes, beets, yams, parsnips etc.. Basmati
rice is consumed a lot in Ayurvedic cooking, and the reason
behind it is that it is easy on the digestion, so even though
the outer hull of the grain is removed, the body is able to
pull out more nutrients because it does not have to work as
I have traveled the world and in most cultures
whole grains and vegetables are consumed in great amounts
with only a little bit of meat or fish. Just think of the
Asian diet or the Mediterranean diet. And you don’t
see any obese people there. America is the country with the
highest cost of health care and yet the worst health compared
to other countries due to the rise in the so-called civilization
diseases. I believe the high protein-low carb craze is just
a fad that will soon be replaced by yet another one. So go
ahead you protein fanatics and have your mid-afternoon string
cheese snack, or beef jerky, I for my part, will jumpstart
my serotonin levels with a homemade oatmeal cookie and a nice
cup of chai!!!
Ward, L.Ac, Dipl. C.H., CAS
a Licensed Acupuncturist
and Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist in Santa Barbara,
She specializes in nutrition based on the principles
of Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine and Western medical
research. Her treatments focus on Ayurvedic
women's health, and chronic
combines acupuncture, therapeutic massage, cupping,
essential oils, and herbal recommendations in her