Detox. Seriously?

These days the media waves are cluttered with diets and products that claim to aide in detoxification.  Modern medicine is contemptuous of these claims and is quick to point out that there is very little science to support claims about detoxification.  Yet detoxification is an age-old treatment and has been used by traditional medicine systems the world over.  In Ayurvedic medicine, detox is a premier treatment, the pinnacle of which is Pancha Karma (PK).  PK involves an intensive regimen that includes simplified diet, herbs and therapeutic practices that help the body recover from the lingering results of improper diet, poor digestion and environmental toxins, the effects of which accumulate over time. In short: detoxification.  In India, many undergo these treatments in hospitals where the process is supervised by medical professionals.  More and more westerners, including myself, have also undergone these treatments.  In my case, I underwent PK to address troublesome symptoms of peri-menopause and can say unequivocally that after my Pancha Karma, I no longer experience my symptoms, the most troublesome of which were daily hot flashes.  As a side benefit, I lost ten pounds.

Methodical detoxification has a long track record in traditional medical systems other than Ayurveda, as well.  Continue reading “Detox. Seriously?”

Gut Check: Biodiveristy in Your Own Belly

At your core, deep inside your gut, you have a garden…a plethora of bacteria creating your very own bio-network.  The health and happiness of this intimate ecology influences your health, your likelihood of being obese and a myriad of other health concerns.  All of us live in a grand symbiosis where we play host to a trillion little one-celled creatures—they outnumber the cells that make up our tissues by ten to one.  We provide the little guys with a place to live and regular access to food, and they help us with digestion and influence how our metabolism and immune system works.  But you are not just a passive host—the choices you make about food are your contribution to this system that, in turn, supports your health. Continue reading “Gut Check: Biodiveristy in Your Own Belly”

It’s Spring, Time to Lighten Up!

It’s greening up outside and flowers are starting to blossom.   In Ayurvedic medicine, spring is the time to lighten up.  Diet, daily routine and exercise can help us enliven and blossom forth, shedding the heaviness accumulated during the winter. 

Spring is all about the elements water and earth, i.e., Kapha dosha.  Lighter, drier foods, getting up a bit earlier and livelier exercise all help to balance Kapha.  Tastes that balance Kapha are pungent, bitter and astringent—these tastes feature prominently in spicier dishes, dark leafy green vegetables and beans. Continue reading “It’s Spring, Time to Lighten Up!”

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….”

Ayurdooda!?!

Yes, it’s true, when I tell people that I am an Ayurvedic practitioner, the most common response is, “A what?  What is that?”  So I thought I’d tell you a little bit about one of the world’s oldest medical systems—Ayurveda.

The science of Ayurveda was born in India, a few millennia ago—long before modern medicine developed–and is informed by a robust reliance on observational science.  It consists of a sophisticated and complete body of knowledge focused on eight clinical specialties:  internal medicine (Kayachikitsa), surgery (Salya Tantra), diseases of eye, ear, nose, and throat (Salakya), pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology (Kaumarabhtrya), psychiatry (Bhutavidya), toxicology (Agada Tantra), nutrition, rejuvenation and geriatrics (Rasayana Tantra) and sexology (Vajikarana).  This body of knowledge is largely contained in medical encyclopedias—the earliest existing text, written around 600 BCE, the Caraka Samhita, is said to be a revised edition of an encyclopedia compiled by Agnivesa, implying that at the time of its writing, the Caraka Samhita was based on an already fully developed medical system.  This system was developed over the centuries using the principles of observational science:   direct perception (Pratyaksa), logical inference (Anumana), testimony (Aptopadesa) and experimental evidence (Yukti). Continue reading “Ayurdooda!?!”

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”

Nature’s Greatest Nourishment

Eat better, exercise, reduce stress… We’ve heard it all before and most of us, at some point, plan to do better on all of these fronts.  And yet, there is one more basic thing we can do to better nourish ourselves: get regular sleep.  Your mom probably told you this at some point, and it turns out she was right.  Regular sleep is one of the best nourishments you can provide to yourself—so important that your physical, mental and emotional health depend on it. Continue reading “Nature’s Greatest Nourishment”