Ayurvedic Diet & Digestion Made Easy
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New leaves unfurl across the landscape, which suddenly seems green and lush. And with them, fresh greens from the garden abound. The season of salads has arrived! Farmer's markets come to life along with fresh strawberries in your garden.
May beckons us back outdoors to enjoy the longer days. It's a time to play and soak up the long awaited sunshine! A special, beautiful time of year on the border of spring and summer, May is also a unique month in your Ayurvedic diet.
Enjoy these enlivening diet ideas to keep your body balanced through May. Our May cleansing tips will also help you purge the last bits of winter. When the hot humid days return, keeping hydrated and well fueled with the right food will be essential for maximizing springtime fun.
Seasonal affected disorder, which characterized the solemn dark days of winter, has ended. Instead, days are longer, brighter, and joyful. There's time to soak up some rays of the sun after work, or show the kids how to plant garden vegetables. But with the long days come shorter nights, and less time sleeping. With the heat, you may find yourself tossing and turning, kicking off blankets.
Although May is generally a pleasant month, your body is still struggling to manage the increased heat and humidity.
May's enthusiasm is catching. The days of school are numbered. Children's laughter fills the air as the kids run outside to play. Vacation is on the horizon. Hearts are light and friends are excited to reconnect after the long winter. Summer's almost here! You may notice your social calendar is filling up as summer activities increase.
On hot days, or for individuals who are out of balance, you may overheat between April and June and experience frustration and aggression. Spring fever may push Pitta individuals into hyperdrive and Vata into excessive enthusiasm. Meanwhile, Kapha individuals may feel psychologically overwhelmed on days when the heat leads to congestive imbalances. Altogether, patience runs thin on hot days.
Both physical activity and the hot sun together can overheat you as move, dig, plant, play and sweat. Moderate your activities if necessary, or find a cool spot in the shade. This is Pitta Kapha season and the last month for purgation and pancha karma cleansing. Soon your body will be too hot and light for cleansing.
With the heat, your heart rate increases. All of your pores open to release heat as moisture and color returns to your skin. Your skin seems radiant and beautiful with the rise in temperature, giving a youthful and rosy-cheeked appearance.
Blood flow increases naturally throughout your body this time of year, which may exhaust and overheat your liver. If your eyes are blurry on a hot day, or if you feel irritable, angry or excessively determined, you may need liver support. There are several factors that contribute to this increase in blood flow, including physical activity, the hot sun, and your naturally thinner blood this time of year.
In May, the heat of the season increases sweating and electrolyte loss. While Kapha individuals experience puffiness on hot humid days, Vata individuals may suffer from dehydration. If your muscles feel weak, if you feel mentally foggy, or your mouth is drier than normal, it's time to buck up your water intake to replenish your body's stores. After a cold and sedentary winter, most people are used to drinking less water. Take some time to replace those winter hydration habits with summer ones. You should be drinking 5-10 glasses of liquids per day.
Water on its own lacks electrolytes. Don't forget to add a pinch of salt to your water if you have a Vata body type (which tends towards deficiency). Vata individuals can also add a little more salt to their food. Finally, add lemon or lime in your water. Their sourness will stimulate secretions and get your juices flowing. Sour taste also keeps you cool on a hot day by dilating blood vessels.
Get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer. Hiking, biking and strolls around the neighborhood all make great choices to feel vibrant this May. It's warm enough to take the family on a camping trip.
On outdoor excursions, soak up the extra sunlight to replenish vitamin D levels that may be deficient after the long winter. Breaking a light sweat daily gently cleanses your lymphatic system, leaving your skin looking bright and fresh. If you tend to overheat, nighttime walks are a cool and refreshing alternative. Walks by moonlight are an equally romantic way to enjoy the season.
It's time to pack up the winter blankets, flannel sheets, and heavy winter clothing. Instead break out fresh and light spring linens, summer shorts, and light and breezy shirts. Take steps to prevent flies and insects from invading your home by investing in a screen door. Clean the grill in time for Memorial Day.
Be sure you are getting adequate sleep. It may seem harder and harder to get to bed early as the days lengthen. Instead, the jovial atmosphere makes you want to stay up late and talk with friends. If the heat makes it hard to sleep, crack open a window.
Use a neti pot daily in order to keep your sinuses clear and allergies at bay. Daily dry brushing invigorates you and keeps your lymph moving. Gentle twists in the morning wring out the digestive organs and excess moisture. Simply sit in a chair and gently rotate in each direction. Exhale as you twist toward the back of the chair. After moving dynamically four times in each direction, grab hold of the back of the chair if you can reach it.
Light and refreshing young greens also support late spring cleansing and increase prana (liveliness). Serendipitously, this is the time of year when greens can be the most bitter - just what your body needs most to stay balanced. Arugula, endive, chicory and red leaf lettuce all make perfect additions to your salad.
Get a healthy dose of wild greens by nibbling the chickweed, violets, lamb's quarters, and dandelion cropping up in your yard. Enliven your salads by throwing a small handful in. Wild foods are often more potent, nutritious and prana building due to their hardy and resilient properties. And to continue with the theme of building prana, sprinkle sprouts on everything. Their light and vivacious nature will elate you. Sweet peas, beets and carrots make a vibrant garnish to top salads and sautes, yet still have the lightness needed for May.
Seek a sense of freshness and vitality in your vegetables. Choose what looks most alive from the myriad of options listed here. Savor bitter broccoli, broccoli raab, diuretic cauliflower and tridoshically balancing green beans. Lightly cooked chard, kale and beet greens make nice saute options. Fennel stalk and bitter melon cool and soothe while jicamas crunchiness perks you up.
To beat the heat, freshen up your plate with cooling foods like cucumber, avocado, lime and cilantro. Among these, Cilantro deserves special mention in May. It is unique among digestives because it is cooling, while most digestives (like cayenne) tend to overheat. Cilantro also cleanses the liver, calms down the immune system, softens stool, and clears inflammation the urinary tract. Altogether it is a great herb to reduce an excess of Pitta dosha. There is some dispute whether cilantro is useful for chelation, the removal of heavy metals from the blood stream. Despite its drying effect, cilantro in small quantities does not aggravate Vata or cause constipation.
This time of year, start to increase sweet taste which will help boost your energy and replenish electrolytes lost by sweating. Lighter fruits like blueberries, green mango, green papaya and kiwi keep you cool and bright like the sunshine. Strawberries can help chill aggravated Pitta in the liver, and ripen just in time for May. Berries in general are a great remedy for liver heat because their rich stores of antioxidants help reduce liver stress and the inclination toward hyperdrive. The sugars in fruits sweeten the liver, cooling and soothing it. Strawberries and blueberries are particularly attractive as they couple sweetness with sourness on top of antioxidants. Notice how, after eating these fruits, your eyes feel calm and refreshed, and your temperment restored.
Grains like amaranth, barley and quinoa are ideal picks because all are light and drying. Opt for plantains as a lighter carbohydrate option to heavy potatoes. Root vegetables are generally less nourishing this time of year anyway, as the plants are putting the most energy and vitality into their aerial parts, including the flowers, fruits, and leaves. Eat lighter proteins as well, like tofu and mung beans.
May is the best month to follow a vegetarian diet. As the weather warms up, heavy fats are not needed as much this time of year. Instead, use the fresh ingredients above to encourage lightness.
Take a quick look in your yard and you might start to notice dandelion leaves and flowers poke out from the soil. While a weed to some, dandelion is medicine to many others. This plant is the perfect spring remedy and should be gratefully harvested from your yard rather than targeted for removal. Although they are perhaps annoying to the gardener, dandelions truly are a perfect spring tonic and natural remedy to spring allergies. Dandelion's bitterness clears the liver and calms pesky spring allergies.
Digestive formulas like avipattikar churna and digestive bitters ensure you feel as light and lively as the season. Promote balanced fluid levels in your tissues and optimize your weight with punarnava, Ayurveda's choice for diuresis. Manjistha is an excellent alternative to turmeric this time of year, which may be too hot for your system. Manjistha, like turmeric, purifies the blood but it is cooling, alleviating skin issues and bestowing a healthy glow.
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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