If you suffer from seasonal allergies, a simple shift in your diet can make a huge difference in your symptoms. According to Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, excess mucus production is treated by eating foods that are of the opposite qualities of phlegm, i.e. foods that are light, drying, and warming.
After a winter of eating heavy, rich foods, it's best in springtime to switch to lighter, fresh foods that help relieve sinus congestion and inflammation. These include leafy green vegetables, most fruits, amaranth, quinoa, rye, barley, buckwheat, and spices. Foods that increase mucus and allergy symptoms are cold, frozen, and greasy foods, dairy products, wheat, avocado, banana, dark meat, seafood, sugar, and salt. Give this ancient prescription a try this allergy season and you'll be amazed how much lighter and clearer you feel.
Summer is upon us, and thanks to climate change it feels hotter than ever in Santa Fe. I wish I could tell you that the ancient medical science of Ayurveda holds the key to controlling the weather. But the truth is that it does contain the secrets to staying cool when the temperature is reaching record highs. Summer is fire season, and when you learn what to eat and how to act to balance this element, you will feel cooler and more comfortable all season long.
Ayurveda describes summer as Pitta season. Pitta is made of fire and water, and its qualities are hot, sharp, oily, and light. During summer season you can reduce Pitta heat within your own body by eating a diet of cooling foods.
Most people regardless of their Ayurvedic constitution will feel more comfortable during the summertime by following a Pitta reducing diet. The best foods to keep you cool during summer are watermelon, cucumber, mint, coconut, summer squash, fennel, cilantro, and aloe vera. It's best to avoid spicy, acidic and greasy foods during summer as they will increase the heat in your body and make you feel hotter. For a complete list of Pitta reducing foods, open the food guidelines PDF here.
It's important during every season to exercise regularly, but the type of exercise you do should be in balance with the time of year. During the heat of summer, it's best to swim and do gentle yoga. If you prefer biking and running, try to save it for the early morning and evening when the temperature is slightly cooler.
A lot of people who do yoga love Bikram's hot yoga, but I would encourage switching to a cooler type during the heat of summer. Specific yoga postures and breathing exercises are more cooling than others. Moon Salutation is more appropriate during summer than Sun salutation for example. For instructions on how to do Moon Salutation, click here.
Here's a video demonstrating a Pitta reducing yoga practice that is really helpful for cooling your whole system during the heat of summer.
Ayurveda is big on oil, both internally and externally. I've written before about the calming effects of massaging warm oil into your body before bathing, but in summer it's important to use a cooling oil made with cooling herbs. Especially if you have trouble sleeping because of the heat at night, you'll love rubbing Brahmi Oil made from coconut oil and brahmi (gotu kola) into the soles of your feet and the scalp to calm the mind and promote restful sleep. You can use it on your whole body as well to counteract summer dryness and dehydration.
Keeping It Cool
I hope you try some of these suggestions from Ayurveda for staying cool this summer. Of course, if you tend to be cold no matter what or you live in the Arctic, then you should follow a plan appropriate to your particular situation. Most people, however, will notice a real difference in their experience of summer heat when they take action to keep their internal cooling system working at its best.
These days just about everyone I know in Santa Fe is either suffering or just recovering from a nasty stomach flu. It seems these little buggers have become stronger and more obnoxious because hardly any adult or child seems to be immune to it. When this type of virus strikes, what can you do to shorten its duration? Here's some natural health tips from various traditions to ease the suffering and an excellent Ayurvedic recipe for your first meal when you're ready to start thinking about food.
Probiotics To The Rescue
One of the most important things you need to do when you come down with a stomach virus is to take a high quality probiotic supplement. We are exposed to harmful bacteria and viruses all the time, but they only "win" when either they are super-strength bugs, or when our own intestinal immunity is low.
Have you ever had a stubborn cough after a cold that just won't go away? You've probably tried every herbal cough remedy, and maybe even resorted to Robitussin, in an attempt to get some relief. I feel like I have A LOT of natural tricks up my sleeve that should treat a cough, but sometimes the darn thing won't go away. I hear this story a lot, and my own children experience this from time to time. Thank goodness there are onions, because they are the magical natural cough remedy you've been looking for. Both Ayurveda and herbal folk wisdom have suggested this onion solution for centuries. Here's a video of how to prepare the onion poultice for deep-seated coughs.
This is a super easy remedy to put together. And I'm not kidding when I say I've had 100% success with this for stubborn coughs!
Simply chop an onion (or 2 or 3, depending on your size). For increased antibiotic effect, you can throw in a few chopped garlic cloves.
Steam the onion (and garlic) for about 5 minutes.
Mix hot onions (and garlic) in a bowl with a few tablespoons of corn starch and one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Let cool for just a minute.
Place whole mixture in a natural fiber cloth and fold several times to form the poultice.
Place cloth on your chest with a heating pad or hot water bottle on top of the poultice. Keep it on for 30 minutes.
If desired, you may then repeat with the poultice on your mid to upper back for another 30 minutes.
Effective and Safe
This natural remedy is safe for everyone, including little kids and even babies. Just be careful that the onions are not so hot that they might burn the skin! Sometimes if the cough is just a dry one, the onion poultice is not the best choice. It is better for the phlegmy, wet cough that doesn't respond to any other treatment. You can repeat the treatment several days in a row, if necessary, but I've never needed to do it more than twice!
Leave a comment below to share your story with the onion poultice for deep-seated coughs!
Rheumatoid arthritis is an extremely painful and debilitating condition that in the U.S. affects over one milllion adults and 1 in every 250 children. Ayurveda classifies rheumatoid arthritis as Ama type of joint pain. I'm excited to discuss this last segment in the series because this Ama type can be so difficult to treat in conventional medicine. I'll also present the Kapha type of joint pain as we finish this series on keeping your joints healthy with Ayurveda.
Kapha Type of Joint Pain
People of Kapha (earth + water) constitution or imbalance tend to experience this type of joint pain where there is stiffness and dull achiness in the joints. There is likely to be swelling due to edema, or water retention. The affected area, or even the whole body, may feel heavy and cold. This type of pain is more pronounced in damp, cold weather as the attributes of Kapha are cold, dense, heavy, and slow.
Part One of this series on keeping your joints healthy with Ayurveda focused on Vata type of joint pain. Moving on to Pitta type, I'm sure many of you will identify with this category because almost every joint or muscle injury results in the Pitta type of pain. The pain may or may not become chronic, but certainly in the initial stage following an injury, Pitta rules and causes swelling and inflammation. Let's discuss how to diagnose this type and then how to treat it.
Whether you're a yogi, an athlete or a couch potato, it's likely that you occasionally suffer from some type of joint pain. Joint pain is so common that sales of the best-selling natural remedy for joint pain, glucosamine/chondroitin, are estimated at $2 billion! I'm happy that helps some people, but I find the traditional Ayurvedic herbal formulas and oils for joint health to be more effective and more healing of the root condition. Here's Part 1 of the Ayurvedic breakdown of the different types of joint pain so you can determine which one you have and what you can do to keep your joints in optimal condition. Part 1 will cover Vata type, while Parts 2 and 3 will cover Pitta and Kapha types.