Written by John Immel,
November brings our hearts back home. The smell of turkey, the comfort of warm mashed potatoes with gravy, and gratitude for the harvest celebrated on Thanksgiving make food the centerpiece of November. Breaking bread, food, and togetherness are venerated in November more than any other time of year.
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Do you live in the Southern Hemisphere? You may need the Ayurvedic Diet for May instead.
The timing of the feast is perfect, as your appetite naturally peaks in November. Your body uses the extra calories from holiday celebrations to store fat. This fat will be used to insulate your skin during cold winter months. As you give thanks for the sustenance that food and community provide outwardly, inwardly your body will thank you for warmth all winter long provided by a rich November diet.
You'll know it's November when the first crisp cold snap infuses you with a wintry and refreshing vitality. The smell of smoke from a nearby house evokes a warm evening by the fire. Maybe you're lucky enough to live where snow graces the earth with its pure, clean beauty. This kind of cold is endearing and nostalgic, inviting winter romance and fun.
PsychologyShorter days leave you longing for cozy evenings with loved ones, a quiet night with a book, or catching up with old friends and all things familiar. A November heart enjoys the satisfaction of pumpkin or apple pie, made just the same way as Grandma used to.
Attention naturally shifts homebound and inward as the days grow chilly and nights come early. You may feel more reclusive and seek more private, intimate social gatherings. Potlucks and craft nights provide more wholesome entertainment than the bombastic extravagances of summer. Grounding smells of homemade soup fill the air, reminding you of all the comforts home bestows. You find yourself feeling sleepy earlier due to the ever shortening days and heavier food choices like mashed potatoes, chicken roasts, or after a nightcap of warm milk and honey. Even pumpkin is known to have a sedative effect, lulling you into winter hibernation.
Daylight savings time ends, bringing nighttime even more quickly and disrupting your biorhythms for a week or two. The effect is similar to jet lag. Give yourself a full week to recover from the time change by planning a quiet weekend and less social activities at night. You may start to feel a bit of cabin fever as the cold and darkness leave you with little outdoor playtime. It may take effort and planning to get your daily dose of sunshine, which will lift spirits. But don't worry, the holidays are just around the corner! You'll be busy as a bee by late November, preparing and possibly traveling for Thanksgiving. This is followed by December's harried holiday season. Early November marks the calm before the holiday storm - enjoy it while you can.
ClimateThe weather will soon be consistently cold. Damp, rainy days may bring a deep chill that's hard to shake. The earth becomes austere in its barren exposure. Windows will be tightly closed while the heat cranks. This means your home will be filled with dry, recirculated air. You may need to break out a humidifier to keep your respiratory system moist. Otherwise, you're at risk for developing a dry cough or even a nosebleed from dry, irritated nasal passages.
A humidifier can be a comforting way to counteract dry indoor heat. You can also use the support of an essential oil diffuser. Essential oils like lemon, thyme, lavender, and Thieves Oil coupled with a seasonally appropriate diet can serve to support your respiratory health.
November in Your BodyFrigid temperatures are more consistent, causing constriction of blood vessels in the extremities and surface of the skin. This time of year is when the sap stops running in the trees, exactly the opposite of the spring season when maple syrup is harvested. The blood, like the sap of trees, becomes pushed into the core. This translates into a loss of blood flow to the skin and muscles, making muscles tense, skin dry, and hands and feet cold. On the other hand, more blood in the core means increased blood flow to the stomach, leading to a stronger appetite.
November is a time of year when your body is anxious to continue building up an insulating layer of warming fat tissue under your skin. For many, dieting during this time of year could create serious immune deficiency, causing you to catch a cold. Instead, enjoy the satisfaction and strength of a few extra pounds. This buffer will protect your body from the onslaught of winter. Your body's need for fat increases your appetite for fat and lessens your desire for vigorous exercise.
Vata IndividualsYou may be especially vulnerable to illness this time of year as the body isn't prepared for the drop in temperature. A sudden chill creates an ideal environment for respiratory viruses to thrive. The hustle and bustle of the system leaves Vata individuals exhausted, with little reserves to keep immunity strong. Common colds proliferate due to fall deficiency, beginning with symptoms of dry skin, constipation, a tight neck, dry mucus, and a dry cough. Heed these as a warning and begin bundling up with warm clothing.
Be sure to drink plenty of hot water throughout the day to stay hydrated and keep your skin supple via regular self massage with nourishing Vata Oil. A nighttime chill can wake you up to pee, disrupting your sleep. The cold weather has a diuretic effect, causing you to pee more often and making hydration extra important in the fall. The wild winds outside your window can invite insomnia and feelings of ungroundedness and anxiety.
Vata types should especially be sure to avoid skipping meals. Hearty yet easy to digest soups and stews rich with good quality oils and animal protein feed Vata types' need for an insulating layer of winter fat.
Pitta and KaphaPitta and Kapha individuals have it much easier come November. Pitta types welcome the cool, dry air, but will need heavier foods to satiate their voracious appetites and keep grounded.
Kapha types will appreciate the light, dry and mobile nature of November but will struggle with the cold. They should be sure to enjoy their food and drinks warm and to dress in layers. Seasonal affective disorder hits some Kaphas hard in November - in that case get out and enjoy the sun midday. Like a bear ready for hibernations, the long nights will enhance Kapha's tendency to oversleep. They should limit themselves to 6-8 hours per night.
Ayurvedic Routine for NovemberAs daylight savings ends, sunshine becomes a scarce resource. Plan a short walk outside during your lunch break to soak up the sun during the warmest part of the day. A phone call can be a great excuse for a quick walk outside. Bring a pad and paper with you if you need to take notes during your call.
The torrent of holiday busy-ness can challenge your daily routine. You may benefit from keeping extra space in your routine so you don't get behind when the unexpected happens.
Vata and Pitta types should avoid strenuous exercise, opting instead for something more gentle and nurturing. Carve out at least 15 minutes in the morning to devote to gentle stretching, breathing exercises, and your spiritual practice. Keep it short and sweet if necessary. Go to bed by 10:00 pm and allow for extra rest. Vata and Pitta individuals will benefit from a daytime nap.
We can't emphasize this enough - keep up with regular self-oil massage! If it can't be every day, aim for three times per week. A massage with oils (called abhyanga) will help keep your skin warm, boost your immunity and aid your body in building an insulating layer of fat. It's a nice practice for the evening and a good replacement for television or the computer. Choose oils appropriate for your dosha, including Vata Oil, Pitta Oil, or Kapha Oil. These oils will help you relax and are supportive against the cold. Keep lip balm handy to prevent chapped lips.
Diet for NovemberDue to the sharp drop in temperatures, November is the climax of the fall diet pattern, the time of year when one's appetite for healthy fats is greatest. In autumn, Vata and Pitta people can enjoy a heavier diet rich in fats. By the time November rolls around, you will probably be craving dietary fats like butter, ghee, olive oil, and nuts.
The heartiness of wheat and dairy is also welcome in the fall. November is the time to indulge in soft cheeses like feta, goat cheese, yogurt, and spiced milks. Heavy, nourishing, and sweet foods help your body stay healthy during the cold.
Kapha types might overshoot their need to build protective layers of fat, creating ripe conditions for thick mucus by early December. The rule of thumb for Kaphas is moderation. They too can enjoy heavier foods but need to be mindful of portion size. The will still need bitters and pungent spices to keep their blood flow vigorous, and to lift spirits as the days get shorter.
If you become dry, cold, and dehydrated in the fall, your body will compensate by craving sweets instead of healthy fats. Sugar cravings are your body's cry for heavy, oily foods that will nourish and insulate your body from the cold. Unfortunately, the sugar craving is a way to overcompensate. Too much refined sugar can cause inflammation of your GI tract and weight gain. Instead, when you experience sweet cravings on a cold day, choose foods that are naturally rich in fats and hearty, complex carbohydrates.
A few years ago I was living in Morocco, in the ancient city of Fes, for the fall. They don't have indoor heat in Fes. In November, a consistent temperature of 50 degrees over several weeks chilled me to the bone. I noticed restaurants starting to serve plates of beef fat with a tiny piece of beef on top. I had never eaten a whole plate of fat, but I had to admit that it hit the spot. I felt great and warm for the first time in weeks.
One of the best fats to nourish your body in autumn is ghee. Although ghee is made from butter, it is lactose-free. Even those who are lactose intolerant can use ghee and benefit from this nourishing oil. Use ghee as your main cooking oil, spread it on toast, drop a teaspoon into oatmeal and soups. While we don't recommend eating a whole plate of it as they did in Fes, you can simply eat a spoonful!
Coconut oil and coconut butter are helpful for maintaining regular bowel movements, pain-free joints, and nourished skin. Work one teaspoon of coconut oil per day into your diet in the same way as ghee. Mix coconut butter with honey to experience the most nurturing dessert you may have ever had!
November is the height of baking season. Homemade pies are an excellent way to enjoy the sweet, fatty, fiber-rich foods that are supportive in November. Vegetable based pies, such as pumpkin pie, are a better food combination than fruit pies, and often heartier as well. Pies are a whole food, especially if you choose a rustic whole spelt crust. Make these pies with ghee and halve the amount of sugar used in traditional recipe books. Garnish with plenty of nuts or bake nuts into the pie for a well-balanced and nutritional November option that includes protein.
Be sure to add warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves to these rich treats. Warm spices can help you digest rich foods. Sleepy foods like cooked onion, garlic, turkey, poppy seed, nutmeg, and pumpkin help ease your body deeper into winter hibernation and can help calm a scattered fall mind - especially for Vata types. Gravies can add salt and oils to your vegetable dishes for a more satisfying, soporific effect. Naturally heating nuts like pecans, sesame, and walnuts create a sensation of warmth in the belly that is conducive to a good night's sleep. French onion soup or pumpkin pie, for example, is a perfect Vata-pacifying treat for a sleepy November evening.
November is prime time for poultry. Grandma's chicken soup is moist, warming, easy to digest, and rich with healthy fats - especially if you cook it with the bones. A bone broth is very supportive for fall deficiency and easy to digest.
Favor sweet root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes along with whole grains and demulcent foods like oatmeal. Be sure your greens are well cooked.
Continue to avoid astringent and bitter tastes. This includes raw, cold foods like salad and astringent foods like dried fruit, legumes, popcorn, and chips. Steer clear of diuretics, as your tissues are already prone to drying out. Stimulants are still too depleting and ungrounding. Avoid eating on the go and skipping breakfast. This is a time for stillness and consistent nourishment.
Ayurvedic Herbs for November
Lung TonicsWhen the temperature drops too quickly, or the wind blows too strongly in November, you may catch a chill. Your body is still adapting to the cold, making your respiratory system extra vulnerable to colds and flus. Keep your body strong with Chyavanprash, a tonic for the lungs. The energizing herbs in Chyavanprash bolster the immune system and help maintain health and well-being throughout the year.
Sinus Rinse contains herbs to disinfect and clear mucus from sinus passages. Excellent for sinus congestion, allergies, and seasonal colds.
When indoor heating dries out nasal passages, Nasya Oil moisturizes them. It is useful for neck and shoulder tension, and mental sluggishness. Nasya Oil also supports sinus decongestion, immunity, headache relief, mental clarity and focus. Breathe freely with Ayurveda's classic formula for clearing the sinuses, supporting respiratory health, and invigorating your mind. contains an energizing blend of sesame oil, herbs and essential oils.
Ayurveda recommends washing your sinuses daily in the morning and before bed with a neti pot. This will help remove excess mucus due to congestion and rid nostrils of pollen and other allergens. It cleanses the nasal membranes of dust, smoke, or other airborne contaminants and relieves nasal dryness due to air travel.
Strengthen Your ImmunityYou will continue to benefit from sweet, heavy, grounding herbs like vidari, ashwagandha, and licorice root.
Vidari is heavy and unctuous. It is a rejuvenative anabolic herb that is useful when Vata is high. It helps in alleviating coughs and clearing mucus. In the fall, vidari can be combined with warming spices (like cinnamon) because it is cooling on its own.
For sleepingTagar is an unctuous, warming carminative that empowers digestion. It is grounding and renowned for treating insomnia. Nutmeg is also useful if you find yourself unable to get to sleep. Add two pinches of nutmeg to one cup of warm milk and sip it an hour before bedtime.
Or, massage Bhringaraj oil head and feet before bed to calm the mind and promote sound sleep.
For Travel & AnxietyTraveling can be even more ungrounding than usual in November. I Travel Well was formulated specifically to support the needs of today's modern traveler. Hectic schedules, increased demands on the immune system, changes in time zone, disrupted sleep and meal routines and limited healthy food choices are some of the many challenges faced when traveling. This powerful blend of Ayurvedic herbs has been created to help keep you at your best when you are on the road.
"I Travel Well" supports the body's natural adaptive mechanisms to keep your body and mind functioning optimally throughout your journey. It helps reestablish healthy sleep patterns, as well as, supporting the immune, respiratory and nervous systems. It also works to maintain digestion and eliminate the natural toxins that can accumulate due to an irregular diet and schedule.
Ashwagandha ghee calms and restores a taxed nervous system. Ashwagandha, one of nature's most powerful adaptogens, supports the body in times of stress, providing both a soothing and energizing effect on the nervous system. Ghee acts as a powerful carrier (yogavahi) of the herb, directing it to the nervous system specifically.
Nettles tincture provides a stellar nutritional profile to build stamina. At a time of year when less sleep and poor diet can compromise the immune system, leading to allergies, colds, and flu, adding nettles to your diet offers a delicious way to nourish the body.
Herbs for the HolidaysBears this time of year go into a phase called 'hyperphagia', literally meaning hyper-eating to build up a layer of fat before hibernation. Just like bears, when the cold weather comes strong food cravings arise, and you may find yourself hyper-eating, too. This tea to control fall food cravings can help Kapha individuals stay trim during the hyperphagia time of year.
To help you digest those big holiday meals, try Mint Belly Bliss Tea.
Having a reaction from eating foods that you're allergic at holiday parties or family gatherings? Try Food Allergy Healing Tea.
ConclusionUse these tips in November and you'll be sure to stay healthy for the holiday festivities, commencing with Thanksgiving and ending with New Year's. Prepare your body to weather the holidays by staying grounded, well nourished, and rested.
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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. 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.