Wednesday, December 14, 2011

5 Ayurvedic tips for staying healthy in the winter

It's a little harder to stay balanced during the wintertime with colder weather, shorter days, less sunlight, more viruses prevalent, etc. Luckily Ayurveda has some helpful tips to keep us healthy:

1. Use heating spices to help balance Kapha, the cold dosha that can get imbalanced in winter.
These spices also stimulate Agni, the digestive fire which can get weak in the wintertime. Use Ginger, black pepper, cayenne, cloves, cardamom and turmeric liberally in cooking. If you have high Pitta, incorporate cumin, coriander and fennel which are more cooling spices.

2. Apply sesame oil to the body, especially the soles of the feet. The cold weather in winter can promote excessive dryness of the skin and the internal system. Sesame oil is a warming oil that's especially good at grounding and balancing the vata dosha, which will help you stay warm in the winter time. If you can apply sesame oil to your whole body before a bath at least once a week, that would be ideal.

3. Try to get at least 30 min. of sunlight every day. If you can incorporate this into a walk outside every day. Ayurveda recommends one hour of sunbathing every day. I suspect they knew about the importance of vitamin D that the body makes from sunlight. If you're unable to get sunlight take a vitamin D3 supplement daily (at least 400 international units).

4. Have a cup of hot tea every morning. You can have Chai, green tea, herbal tea or another hot beverage. The hot temperature in addition to the heating quality of tea will stimulate your Agni and also stimulate Kapha to prevent it from getting imbalanced. In addition you'll be getting all the antioxidants and polyphenols from the tea.

5. Visit a sauna/steam room for at least 30 min. per week. If you have high Pitta you may want to reduce your time exposure in the sauna to 10-20 min.. The heat helps provide some warmth to your inner system. In addition, sweating helps you detoxify through your skin, the largest organ. To avoid overheating try to stay on the lower level benches in the sauna and lie down if comfortable.

Although winter can be a challenging time these are a few simple tips that Ayurveda offers to help you stay healthy.

To your health and wellness,

Dr. Akil Palanisamy

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Raw Food and Weight Loss

Some people swear by a 100% raw food diet, but is it for everyone? In Ayurvedic medicine, all things are individualized-- so the answer is that it is not good for everyone.

The general recommendation is that less processed food is better, but that each person's ability to eat raw food varies depending on their body type. For example, a vata person with weaker digestion may not do well at all on a raw food diet. Such a person may get digestive disturbances or other imbalances from eating only raw food. In contrast, the pitta person with a stronger digestion will be able to handle and thrive on raw food.

There is a connection between raw food and weight loss. The more raw fruits, vegetables, and nuts that one can eat, the more prana one will be getting daily from food. This will minimize hunger and should lead to overall fewer calories consumed per day if the person is in touch with their body.

Prana in food is an important element that sustains us. Raw food is high in prana. So the more raw food one can eat, the more life-sustaining energy one obtains, which will lead to reduced hunger and appetite.

But be sure not to eat more raw foods then your constitutional body type can handle. Vata people should eat some raw food in an overall diet of mostly cooked foods. Kapha people could do quite well on a fully raw food diet. Pitta people can eat raw food but, just like in other areas of their life, they should practice moderation. So eat raw -- but only what you can handle and digest!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Overcoming Sugar Cravings with Herbs

Continuing with the topic of losing weight, one of the primary changes that would be helpful for most people in my experience is eating fewer carbohydrates. In general eating whole grains and less processed complex carbohydrates is better than eating refined carbohydrates.

Of course, eating fewer desserts and sweets is very helpful as well. If one has a sweet tooth, there is an interesting Ayurvedic herb that can help with this.

It is called Gymnema Sylvestre or gurmar (which means "sugar destroyer") in Ayurvedic medicine. When taken as a liquid extract, this herb has the property of anesthetizing the tastebuds responsible for detecting the sweet taste. After swishing it around the mouth for about 30 seconds, one is actually not able to really experienced the "sweet" taste temporarily -- any chocolate candies such as Hershey's kisses or Kit Kat would actually not be sweet. You don't even have to swallow the extract, you can just spit it out.

If you feel like you really have a bad sweet tooth, keep a liquid extract of Gymnema around. When you have a craving for dessert, just swish and spit this extract and then have the dessert -- you'll find that it probably won't taste very good, and over time perhaps your cravings will decrease. I know it's hard to believe but it actually works!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Ayurvedic weight loss tips

Thinking about losing weight?!

One of the most common New Year's resolutions each year is to lose weight. In the next several posts we will discuss various tips for weight loss from Ayurvedic medicine. We will discuss issues of diet, how to eat, lifestyle, stress, and other areas, because all of these actually impact one's weight.

To begin with, let's start with the subject of water. To maintain a healthy weight each person needs to maintain a healthy Agni, or digestive fire. There are different types of Agni but the most important one is centered in the stomach, and responsible for digesting our food and controlling the pace of metabolism.

How does this relate to water? The first way is actually related to water temperature. Ayurveda always recommends having warm water, and suggests avoiding ice or chilled water. The reason is that cold water dampens and weakens the Agni while warm water supports it.

When one is trying to lose weight, the Agni should be strengthened and supported in order to boost metabolism and improve digestion of food. In fact some Ayurvedic practitioners start with just having warm water as part of a weight-loss program for new patients.

The water does not necessarily have to be boiled, just heated until it's warm. If the water is heated and then cooled it is still better to drink from the Agni perspective than water that is cold or has never been heated.

We'll continue our exploration in the next post...