As with all the Vedic sciences, the science of medicine relies on awareness, precision, and clarity. It is a path of developing the discrimination to determine what is self-healing and what is self-destructive. To this end, Ayurveda developed a system of understanding and categorizing the effects of specific foods. Although the taste of an apple may vary slightly depending on where and when it was picked, the energetics of food are mostly stable and consistent.
Let’s look at the categorization of animals as a metaphor for categorizing foods. Animals have characteristics that are common to all species within a genus. For example, in general rodents tend to have a sensitive nervous system that allows them to avoid being eaten by larger animals. They are fast moving, anxious, and quick to act. Naturally there is variation among rodents as squirrels are different from hamsters. There is even variation among squirrels; one squirrel might be assertive while another is shy. In general, however, the tendencies of an animal can be understood based on what general category of animals to which it belongs. Read More
To eat or not to eat, that is the question
Meat consumption can be seen in one form or another in early cultures around the globe. As times have changed the utility of meat consumption has also changed. Consistently traditional medical systems maintain that meat nourishes deficiency. In a culture where busyness is revered it is no wonder that so many people crave and find benefit is the most anabolic of all foods, meat. Many research studies validate meat consumption as an effective way to control blood sugar and insulin (Klonoff, 2009). There are equally as many studies that show meat as a possible cause of cancer and heart disease (Lanou, 2011). So what do we believe? Not all styles of eating meat are the same. There is a difference between eating fast food hamburgers with fries and eating wild game meats with vegetables. Also the quantity of meat being consumed is very important.
More about the quantity and quality of meat
With most health care professionals recommending a cave man diet or a Paleolithic diet it has become very popular to have meat at every meal. In my clinical practice I have found many constitutional types who do not need to eat meat to be healthy. If they are maintaining a stable digestive fire they can create adequate anabolic activity without meat, but for many in our overstressed culture eating meat can feel like a magic bullet (at least in the beginning). Meat has a very strong effect on your body and mind, perhaps the strongest effect of any food category. This can be appropriate and beneficial if we are in need of heaviness, grounding, and nourishing. Being that meat is such a dense substance it also may not be fully digested by those with compromised digestion. It also has a slower transit time in the bodies of omnivores and it may accumulate in the body in excess (Boback, 2007). In short the primary goal of Ayurveda is to optimize digestion by choosing foods that are constitutionally appropriate and introducing everyone to principles of food preparation that can make food more digestible. If the quantity of meat is too high then the body will accumulate unwanted wastes that can be the breading ground for diseases like cancer, heart disease, and arthritis (McGarr, 2005)
Optimally a diet that is composed of no more than 19-35% animal protein is the most supportive of long term health. Animal protein may be eggs and dairy products for those who have made a conscious choice to be vegetarian. Many meat eaters consume more than that because of a false sense of need or because of the modern stressors that are not being dealt with effectively. On a subtle level meat can enrich our personal desires for possessions, power, sensuality, and emotional stimulus. Thus it is best taken in moderation.
Many of my clients tell me that they need protein to function so let’s look at how we get protein and what our needs are. The RDA of protein for men is 56 grams/day and for women it is 46 grams/day. In your average 4 oz hamburger there are approximately 21 grams of protein. As you can see it does not take a lot of meat to meet the RDA for protein. These protein requirements can be met by vegetarian protein as all the protein needs of humans can be found in complex carbohydrates. For example 4 oz of quinoa has about 14 grams of protein and 4 ounces of rice has 8 grams. Our culture is imbedded with a consciousness that promotes continuous growth and that growth is best sustained by protein. Most of us crave the feeling of being well nourished because our lives may not be providing the sense of satisfaction that we would like. Because of the high concentration of energy and nutrients in meat we get a short term sense of satisfaction and fullness. Unfortunately when meat is over consumed it becomes mucoid plaque in the body. If you do choose to eat animal protein do the following:
As meat is a concentrated form of nutrition it is also a concentrated form of toxicity. Heavy metals, solvents, hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and many other pollutants are found in high concentration in animal tissue (Fraser, 2009). Thus eating a vegetarian diet may prevent cancer depending on the quality of meat that is chosen (Frazer 1999). Vegetables are not immune to these residues so even a vegetarian diet can increase the levels of these toxins. If you are going to eat meat it is best to choose organic, free-range sources. The quality of meat will allow you to receive its benefits and if eaten in moderation it can help keep your body in balance. Remember that eating meat is not necessary for health and if you don’t enjoy it for any reason there are many valid approaches to preventing disease through a vegetarian diet.
Ultimately the choice to eat meat comes from your experience. Some people crave protein and enjoy meat. Others have no interest in it. Following your our authentic experience is the best guide. In order to determine if meat is beneficial for you consider an Ayurvedic assessment to determine the amount of accumulated toxicity in your system so you can augment your diet for enhanced health.
Boback SM, Cox CL, Ott BD, Carmody R, Wrangham RW, Secor SM. 2007. Cooking and grinding reduces the cost of meat digestion. Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 148(3):651-6
Clifton PM, Basitaans K, Keogh JB. 2009. High protein diets decrease total and abdominal fat and improve CVD risk profile in overweight and obese men and women with elevated triacylglycerol. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 19(8):548-54
Fraser Aj, Webster TF, McClean MD. 2009. Diet contributes significantly to the body burden of PBDEs in the general U.S. population. Environ Health Perspect. 117(10):1520-5
Frazer, GE (1999) Associations between diet and cancer, ischemic heart disease, and all cause mortality in non-Hispanic whithe California Seventh-day Adventists. American Journal of Clincal Nutrition 70, Suppl., 5325-5385
Klonoff DC. 2009. The beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet of type 2 diabetes and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 3(6):1229-32
Lanou AJ, Svenson B, 2011. Reduced cancer risk in vegetarians: an analysis of recent reports. Cancer Manag Res. 3: 1-8
McGarr, S.E., Ridlon, J.M., and Hylemon, P.B., 2005. “Diet, anaerobic bacterial metabolis, and color cancer. A review.” International Journal of Infectious Diseases 3, 197-202.
Many of us live on the rollercoaster of life and overwhelm our bodies and minds with food and media that they cannot fully digest. In Ayurveda we call the left overs of incomplete digestion “ama.” These leftovers are more likely to ferment or linger just like in your kitchen. The ama that is formed during incomplete digestion is sticky and thick, like glue. This glue like substance starts in the intestines and compromises our ability to absorb energy and nutrition from the food that we eat. If the process is not remedied the ama moves from the intestinal lining into the gut associated lymphatic tissue. At this point it becomes part of the lymphatic system which will spread the ama to the rest of the body. In channels where there is weakness or previous trauma the ama (knows as “toxins” in western nomenclautre) will create blockages and eventually diseases of affluence.
We have come to call ama toxins in the western nomenclature and the diseases of affluence are what come from the blockages in the channels. Channels that regulate fluids in the body are the primary channels necessary for effective function of the body. Biofluid or any biological fluid within the body is both intracellular and extracellular. There are many different kinds of biofluid but in cleansing we are mostly concerned with white blood cells (immune response), neurotransmitters (mind and emotions), hormones (endocrine function), and steroids (pain mitigation). These are the primary reasons people come to cleansing and these are systems that are most easily treated with an Ayurvedic cleanse.Here are two examples. When the fluids of the body are not able to get to a joint that has been injured the inflammatory process continues and the joint begins to degenerate. Similarly, when the neurotransmitters are unable get to the thyroid gland to communicate what is going on in the rest of the body, the thyroid gland continues pumping out unnecessary hormones.
With these examples, it is clear that the fluid system of the body is of prime importance. As we age our fluids dry up and cause us to feel old. There is something we can do. We can adopt daily rituals or seasonal rituals that prevent ama from forming or remove it after it has formed. The fall yoga and ayurveda cleanse does both. There are many ways to purify your body and mind and you can choose a way that works well for you. If you would like to have an individualized cleanse with the support of a group then look for our seasonal cleanse classes. If you are needing a more supportive option contact me. If you are not ready for such an endeavor I have outlined a gentle home cleanse that you can follow to declog your digestive system. This approach can be followed for as long as is needed. You can do it for a day, a week, a month. It is up your choice.
Ayurvedic home cleanse
The Ayurvedic home cleanse has three parts: Diet, Lifestyle, and Awareness practices. The following advice will be focused on dietary decisions that will improve your overall health by decreasing your exposure to toxicity and improving the bodies function.
Lunch can be the largest meal of your day. It contains the following five components in these proportions:
1. 50% fresh vegetables lightly sautéed or steamed (leafy greens are best, try veggies you don't normally eat)
2. 25% whole grain
3. 25% beans (small legumes such as mung dahl or French lentils are best)
4. Spices to aid digestion
Dinner is the smallest meal of the day and can be eaten before 6pm for the best results
1. 50% fresh vegetables lightly sautéed or steamed (variety is key here)
2. 25% whole grain
3. 25% beans (small legumes such as mung dahl or French lentils are best)
4. Spices to aid digestion
Breakfast is optional if you have hunger go ahead and eat one of the options below
1. Cooked apple or pear with spices
2. Whole grain cereal (steel cut oats or quinoa) with unsweetened nut milk and raisins
A snack can be eaten in the afternoon
1. Organic fruit, no more than two cups
2. Soaked dry fruit
Drink a digestive tea throughout the day:
1. mix 1/4 tsp of cumin, coriander, and fennel seed in 1 qt or spring water and drink warm. Add boiled water to the seed throughout the day and keep drinking the tea until 6pm.
For the best results avoid the following foods
• Fried food
• Dairy except for the lassi
• Bread and gluten
• Cold water (room temperature or hot water is prefered)
• Chili peppers
Follow this approach for seven days and see the benefits.
Wanting more suggestions check out other home cleanses:
Wanting your cleanse to individualized, supervised, and herbalized join our Fall Yoga and Ayurveda Cleanse
As with all the Vedic sciences the science of medicine relies on awareness, precision, and clarity. It is a path of developing the discrimination to determine what is self-healing and what is self-destructive.
To this end Ayurveda has developed a system of categorization and of understanding the effects of foods. Although the taste of an apple may vary slightly depending on where and when it was picked, for the most part the energetics of food are stable and consistent. Animals are similar to food; they have characteristics that are common to all species within a genus.
For example in general rodents tend to have a sensitive nervous system which allows them to avoid being eaten by larger animals. They are fast moving, anxious, and quick to act. Naturally there is variation among rodents. Squirrels are different than hamsters and there are differences between an assertive mouse and a shy one. In general though, the tendencies of an animal can be understood based on what general category of animals they are. Dr. Tillotson has related Vata to rodents, Pitta to carnivores, and Kapha to ungulates. Yes I reiterate here that we are all individuals, but in order to promote self-awareness this systemization of traits and tendencies can lead to self understanding.
Honesty is an extremely important trait in the process of self-healing. If we are unwilling to start where we are then we will often not be able to cultivate the precision and gentleness that is necessary for true awakening. That is the ultimate goal of healing through Ayurveda, healing is a means to self-realization. It is a practice of being able to find gentleness and forgiveness for ourselves so that we don’t continue to commit these acts of subtle aggression through our diet.
A strict diet that does not allow for flexibility and joy is as detrimental as a diet full of sugar and overeating. The true test of eating guidelines is to build a relationship with ones Agni. Agni is the fire of digestion that governs the transformation of food into tissues. It is this process that reminds us of our interconnectedness with all things. When we realize that we truly are what we eat, then it is simple to recognize, even if for only a moment, the underlying unity of all creation. Through practice and consistency in determining how different foods effect an individual, one becomes aware of who they are. As the qualities of food and humans have been determined through the Ayurvedic system an individual’s qualities can be more fully understood through the effect of foods with certain qualities upon the individual.
Eventually the effect of foods can be predicted, and one can predict whether the food they are eating will make them skinny, fat, enthusiastic, lethargic, sad, shy, energized, etc. If you understand that water is wet and dirt is solid and dry and you add the two together you can predict that you will have mud, a combination of the respective qualities. It should always be remembered that along with the precision, the knowledge of the qualities of food and the clarity that comes with understanding their effect on oneself, gentleness and openness must also be cultivated. Otherwise one may fall prey to the subtle aggression and self-destructiveness that can be part of a dietary program that does not include compassion. It is this love of oneself and self understanding that is the primary purpose of the Ayurvedic diet. Self-healing through healthy food creates harmony within the body so that life can be lived with curiosity and unity.