Ayurvedic Diet & Digestion Made Easy
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When August arrives you may find yourself a little surprised, wondering "where did July go?" Time truly flies when you're having fun. With the first crisp cool morning of August you sense that change is afoot as the days creep shorter and shorter. Meanwhile, the bright yellows of early summer daffodils and dandelions have given way to the sunset yellows of late summer as goldenrod blooms alongside fields and highways.
Serious matters are on the horizon as many prepare to return to work and school after the long summer recess. No matter, the change is welcome. With the change in temperature, you may suddenly feel ready for both the intimacy and industry of fall. The clarity and cooler temperatures of August are truly energizing. After the long, languid hot summer days of July, the break from the heat enlivens and wakes up your mind. As the excitement of fall builds, the children return to school and you feel eager to embark on new projects as well. Fall is surely on the way. Be sure to make the most of summer's last hurrah with these tips.
In August, even your blood dries up. Your body recognizes that fall is coming and slurps every last drop of fat from your blood to insulate the skin for cooler times ahead. This thins the blood making it harder for your blood to hold onto moisture. Altogether, dry air and these internal factors cause your body to shrivel up like a prune in August, just like the environment.
This dryness inaugurates the beginning of Vata season. Vata season begins with the first cool morning of August - and is the essential month to ensure your Vata is under control. If a Vata person is careful to counteract dryness in August, the entire fall will be a breeze. By strengthening your body in August, you'll enjoy strong immunity when the temperature plummets in late October. Instead of catching colds and flus, you'll be prepared.
Signs of imbalanced dryness include constipation, gas and bloating, insomnia, anxiety, and a scattered mind. Stools seem to harden up this time of year, just in time for the first cool August morning. A buildup of toxins (ama), from constipation or dryness, may aggravate fall hay fever, allergies, and cause urinary tract infections. To keep these Vata symptoms in check, maintain a Vata-pacifying diet and routine.
Dryness may aggravate irritation and inflammation for Pitta Vata individuals (Vata pushing Pitta), who may get rashes or itchy skin this time of year. The heat & fire of Pitta that was aggravated in June comes to the surface in August and September, once all the moisture in the body dries up.
Meanwhile, by August, Kapha is in heaven. After suffering through the humidity of summer, Kapha is revitalized with the dry heat of August, both of which pacify Kapha's cool and damp tendencies. August is an ideal time of year for Kapha to enjoy mental clarity and focus. Kapha should take advantage of this season to accomplish their goals.
Mornings and evening are cooler, and great times to enjoy a hike in the woods or a stroll through the neighborhood. Keep an extra blanket at your bedside just in case the temperature drops in the middle of the night. Begin winding down earlier, as the fall is a sleepier season. The extra sleep will keep your body strong into fall, so to be sure to get to bed by 10pm.
The bright sun, however, continues to make afternoons blazingly hot. As an adaptive strategy, your body sedates both muscle and mental activity in scorching weather, making you feel heavy at high noon, like a lizard on a rock. This is because both muscle and mental activity generate heat. An afternoon siesta may be in order when possible.
Tomatoes seem to thrive in the August heat and dryness and proliferate in the garden. Tomatoes are sour and juicy, quenching a dry palate in late August. Like peaches, the sourness of tomato is ideal to soften stools for easy elimination. Tomatoes, as they are a nightshade, may strain an already taxed liver and should be avoided by Pitta or Vata individuals. Kapha however can enjoy raw tomatoes this time of year.
In the summer some individuals feel an utter lack of energy, as though the sun has sucked every last drop of your vitality, leaving you exhausted and unable to digest a heavy meal. Grapes are a perfect remedy that arrive just in time. By the end of August, grapes are ripe and heavy on the vine. Considered to be the ideal fruit, grapes nourish blood plasma (rasa dhatu), helping to rebuild fluids and restore sapped energy. Grapes also cleanse and tonify the blood as well as benefit the liver.. The sourness of a midday snack on grapes can also help purge residual heat from summer.
Yellow squashes, juicy cucumbers, and jicama are still on the menu. Their light, cool fare is welcome during lunch when the weather is hot. Fresh carrots may be appealing for their rich beta carotene content and sweet taste. This makes carrots a perfect root vegetable to support your liver and ground your Vata this time of year. Light grain salads with quinoa served at room temperature are nourishing, fresh, and easy to digest come lunchtime.
Pear season begins in late summer. They arrive on the scene to cool Pitta. The thickness of pear juice is due to its natural demulcent quality, which soothes inflamed tissues. The cold, demulcent, and expectorant qualities of pears are used in Chinese medicine when heat conditions dry up fluids in the lungs. Pear juice is a great way to moisten your tissues. Chia and flax seeds are also demulcent. They are a great addition to smoothies or cereals in August.
Stick with cooling, lighter meats and proteins like yogurt, beans, nuts, fish, and poultry. Whole grains such as quinoa are also high in protein. These foods are easy to digest, especially eaten at lunch when the sun is hot. These proteins will keep your blood sugar and emotions steady. Seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, and hemp are grounding. Sprinkle these on top of grain salads or vegetable sautees.
Be sure to add a pinch of salt and a wedge of lime to your water if you have a tendency toward Vata dryness. The salt will help your body hold onto moisture while the lime keeps your digestion juicy. August is a time of year when Vata individuals can add extra salt to their plate. Due to the dry heat, you'll want to avoid diuretics like parsley, celery, asparagus, and popcorn. Astringent taste is also off the menu. Steer clear of walnuts, millet, barley, pomegranate, and dried fruit.
You may feel ready to serve your first mashed potatoes of the fall. Slightly heavier carbs and increased fats will keep a Vata person's blood rich and counteract dryness. Potatoes and sweet potatoes start making an appearance in your garden or the farmer's market. Root veggies like potato and sweet potato can keep you grounded while fueling your last days of play. Try whole grain cereals with coconut milk and a touch of cinnamon for breakfast.
You might get a craving to cook your first batch of cookies in August. This tendency reflects the seasonal craving for heavier foods. If you're going to indulge in ice cream, this is the prime time to do it! Speaking of dessert, my favorite August treat is Banana Ice Cream with Almonds, a perfect late August dessert to rebuild electrolytes and good fats.
Oils are back on the menu! These are needed to help you build an insulating layer of fat for fall. Ghee, coconut oil, and olive oil all make great choices. Cooling avocado also makes a great topping to your meals as the body craves good fats.
Because the days are both hot and dry, pungent taste can be especially aggravating. Limit spices and other heating foods like tomato, eggplant, and red meat. Stimulants like coffee are hot and diuretic, and therefore, a recipe for disaster in August.
If you tend towards weakness, low immunity, or scattered emotions in the fall, earthy ashwagandha, ashwagandha ghee and delightful chyavanprash can strengthen your body and mind in preparation for a challenging season. Chyavanprash is Ayurveda's number one tonic for children, given lovingly by parents for generations every autumn.
Sweet, affectionate herbs such as Shatavari are vidari are ideal ojas building herbs to nurturing your body at the start of fall. Liver nourish and support nourishes your liver, which may be dry, weak and deficient from several months of summer heat.
Moistening herbs such as Licorice prevent you from shriveling up like a prune. Sour herbs like Amalaki hydrates your digestive tract and other important glands throughout your body, such as salivary glands, and your gall bladder. Amalaki is also ideal for a hot summer liver, as it cools Pitta. Marshmallow root can provide a soothing coat over dry, hot and inflamed intestines.
Many individuals also experience constipation, gas & bloating come fall. Digestives such as digestive comfort and support tea and soothe inflamed intestines tea prevent the common fall symptoms of gas and bloating, depending on whether you are Vata or Pitta predominant. Gentle laxative tea is a specially formulated for all body type struggling with constipation, a Joyful Belly original! For Vata types haritaki and dashamoola are traditionally used to alleviate dry, rabbit pellet type constipation. Pitta and Kapha types will like benefit from Ayurveda's favorite colon cleanser, triphala.
Nerves and muscles often become tense and delicate in August as the dryness of fall approaches. It's essential to protect your body from stress & anxiety this time of year. Ashwagandha can restore steady supply of energy as its adaptogenic qualities make stress a breeze. Shankhapushpi is a powerful rejuvenative for the mind. It calms autumn anxiety while improving memory, mental function and emotional stability. Vata massage oil also contains herbs specifically formulated to induce calm. Coat your skin with it and experience the serenity it offers. If you have trouble sleeping, rub bhringaraj oil on your head and feet at bedtime.
August is a pivotal month. Use these guidelines to set yourself up for a bountiful fall. As summer begins to evaporate, be sure to delight in the pleasure of these last days of respite while giving your body the tender loving care it craves.
About the AuthorJohn Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda. His approach to Ayurveda exudes a certain ease, which many find enjoyable and insightful. His online course Balance Your Ayurvedic Diet in a Week provides tools for gracefully healing with Ayurveda to thousands. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda , which specializes in digestive tract pathology & Ayurvedic nutrition. John and his wife Natalie recently published Explore Your Hunger: A Guide to Hunger, Appetite & Food.
John's interest in Ayurveda and digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, including his public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well.
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