Got the Holiday Travel Blues? Ayurveda to the Rescue!

Many of us will be traveling this holiday–by the end of travel, we will likely feel exhausted and out of whack, but then need to jump right into the whirl of holiday festivities.  At some point during or after our visit, we might be bloated, constipated or even sick.

This is because travel specifically disrupts the flow of Vata in our systems.  Vata is responsible for the smooth flow of movement, regulation and elimination.  Travel is especially hard on Vata because it often requires that we sit in one position for a long time, carry heavy suitcases and bags, move quickly and then stop, and stand in long lines—all of which are specific causes for disruption of Vata, especially for its function of eliminating wastes.  Thus, many find their bowel function discombobulated during or after travel.

If we are flying, these causes can be especially pronounced and jetting through the air at high speed is a sure recipe for extreme Vata aggravation.

Then, when we get to our destination we engage in parties and gatherings where it’s easy to overeat and overdo, talk a lot and loudly, and eat a lot of foods that are dry—crackers and chips—and also those that are heavy and rich—desserts, cream sauces, etc.  We stay up late and get up early.  These things aggravate the flow of Vata even more.

So what to do?  Continue reading “Got the Holiday Travel Blues? Ayurveda to the Rescue!”

Fall–The Season of Transition

Fall–changeable and unpredictable, one day is sunny and warm, the other is chilly with maybe even some rain.  It’s a season of harvest and markedly shorter days and longer nights.
In Ayurvedic Medicine, Fall is understood as the season where Pitta is at it’s peak. In India, Fall is the transitional period from the Monsoon season, where Vata is at it’s peak, to Winter where all three doshas are at a lull.  Here, we do not have a monsoon season, just a long period of accumulated heat and dryness that starts sometime in Spring and continues to the first real rains.  This has led many here to say that Vata is at it’s peak in fall.    Classically though, Vata is at it’s peak during the colder, rainy period and so may be at it’s peak in early winter here.
Some recent science investigating seasonal gene variation found similarities in gene expression during monsoon season in equatorial climates and cold winter season in more northern climates.
A colleague and I are doing a study investigating this–we’ll be needing people to volunteer to collect data on what they are feeling in their bodies to match up against what practitioners are observing here and in India.  It’s a pilot study, so we hope that it will lead to further research.  If you’re interested in volunteering to collect data, stay tuned.  We’ll be sending the survey out in a month or two.
For now, it would seem that attention to both Pita and Vata should be the order of the day and individually we should attend to whether we predominantly feel hot, dry, oily and/or cold and act accordingly.

Fava and Spring Onion Rice Salad

You may have heard that salad is not an encouraged item on the Ayurvedic menu…so, I use the term “salad” loosely here.  Yes, it is true that raw foods are not encouraged on a regular basis in Ayurvedic nutritional science, as they are rough, cold and difficult to digest—all qualities that are increasing to Vata.  So, this is a salad of cooked items, dressed in olive oil with spices.  It features spring onions, fava beans and mint or cilantro—all available in spring time farmer’s markets.

Continue reading “Fava and Spring Onion Rice Salad”

Spring Cleaning….

Find yourself feeling achy, throat sore and coming down with something?  It’s early spring here in San Francisco—the first wildflowers are in bloom, plum trees are blossoming and Chinese New Year is right around the corner.  Early spring is a time when the Kapha Dosha is being pushed by Vata Dosha to awaken from its cold and still winter slumber and to get moving.  When Kapha starts to increase we might notice a bit more mucus and heaviness in mind and body.  Digestion may slow down.  If we’re not getting enough rest, not eating well, and are generally run down we can become susceptible to the common cold.

An Ayurvedic approach to this would be to first address the cause.  Adequate sleep and a good diet are the first defense against illness.  But, if you’ve already caught a cold, here’s what to do…. Continue reading “Spring Cleaning….”

Organic? Or not? That’s the Question at Hand

When I arrived in South Carolina this September, one of the first things my aunt told me over a meal was something like, “Well, did you hear the news that organic food is not that healthy after all—it doesn’t make any difference!”  I was surprised and intrigued, especially since she had heard the story on the cable news.  Let me be clear, I’m a big believer in organic foods and have eaten a mostly organic diet for upwards of 25 years.  My aunt, on the other hand, comes from a generation that just doesn’t get why someone would chose to pay double the cost or more for food—especially vegetables.

After my aunt’s announcement, as the days went by, controversy blew about, with folks from both sides arguing their points.  The news coverage I heard implied that the Stanford University study had found no evidence that organic foods were any safer or more nutritious than conventionally grown foods.  I just had to see what this study actually said, so I went on down to the UCSF Medical Library, which if you didn’t already know is a public library where you can get free access to health science papers in their entirety. Continue reading “Organic? Or not? That’s the Question at Hand”