Category Archives: Digestion

Pickles, Ice Cream, & Constipation

 

pickles_ice_cream

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Hey Monica,

I’m predominantly vata and have had a history of constipation which I managed by eating soupy food, drinking warm water, having more ghee etc. Recently I found out I’m pregnant (yay!) and the constipation monster has returned! Because of morning sickness I can’t stand drinking hot water and I’m struggling to stick a healthy diet. The only thing I seem to tolerate is sour foods. Can you please help me with how I can tackle constipation while pregnant? I’m also a vegetarian. Do you have any tips on what a pregnancy diet should be according to Ayurveda?

First of all, congratulations! Ah yes, constipation during pregnancy is not uncommon and I’ll tell you why. One of the sub doshas of vata dosha is called apana vayu. If I just confused you with that sentence, think about it this way: Vata has 5 different way it moves and one of the ways it moves is  apana vayu. Apana vayu is located “down there” ruling the energy that holds things until they are ready to move down and out. This includes reproductive fluids, menstruation, poop, pee, and…babies! Apana vayu essentially holds whatever it is holding, until it is time for it to go out. When a woman is pregnant, apana vayu “holds” the baby during pregnancy and then moves that baby “down and out” when it’s labor time. Same with poop, apana vayu “holds” the poop and then (hopefully daily) moves the poop “down and out.”

Long story short, your body is doing a lot of “holding” right now. So if you had constipation before, your apana vayu likely needs a little coaching in the poop department to move the poo down and out.

Tips for constipation while pregnant:
• For breakfast have, The World’s Best Oatmeal
• Or, have 3-4 prunes that have been soaked in water over night (baby will LOVE that!!), first thing in the morning. Drink plenty of water and don’t eat again until you are hungry or poop (whichever comes first).
Ghee! Ghee ghee ghee. Did I mention, ghee? You can have some with each meal as a butter/oil/fat.
Water! Drink plenty of water.
• CCF Tea. Boil seeds (1 tsp ea) of cumin, coriander and fennel for 15 minutes. Strain, sip room temp or warm.
• If you want to keep it simple, prunes, ghee and plenty of water daily will absolutely help you!

Tips for a pregnancy diet
Honestly, my wisest advice is to eat what you crave (no junk foods!!). Baby is ruling the process and is causing you to crave (or not) certain things. The reason why you are craving sour foods is because the sour taste ignites agni, which is what vata needs! Also, agni tends to slow during pregnancy so it can “hold” enough nutrients for baby. Makes good sense, right?! It’s all related. Bottom line, if you crave pickles (I did) because they are helpful for digestion, then have pickles. If you crave ice cream (I did) because you are hot and want something cool and soothing, then have ice cream. But do so in smart moderation because they do not contain nutritional value. Choose foods wisely because, remember, you are already feeding your baby.

Upset pregnancy tummy
Have you tried dried ginger pieces? Not sure where you live, but if you can find some dried ginger pieces, that will help! At Trader Joe’s (U.S.) they have crystalized ginger in the dried fruit section and it works like a charm on an upset stomach! Also, you might be getting sick if you are not eating enough so be sure to eat when you feel light-heated or getting sick to your tummy – it might help you!

Phew! I suppose a whole book could be written about Ayurveda and pregnancy, but hopefully these tips help! Thanks for asking and does anyone have any tips to add? Would love to hear! XO!

Ayurvedic Fasting

fasting

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Julia, 23 vata-kapha from Brazil asked a question about ayurvedic fasting. Goodie! Thank you, Julia! xo!

Hey Monica! I’m from Brazil, I’m 23 and I’ve been practicing ayurveda for 3 months now. Could you please speak a little more about Ayurvedic fasting, and the different ways of fasting? As I said, I’m a kapha-vata and my kapha is a bit out of control, so I put some weight during the last year and my agni is veeeery low. I tried fasting (with ginger tea, and other types of tea) but I couldn’t manage to do it – I felt anxious, tense and hungry (maybe emotional). Is that because of my vata constitution? Only “pure” kaphas can fast? Being a kapha-vata makes me mad sometimes! Hahaha. Thank you sooo much! And good luck with you time/energy managing! I’m sending you good vibes from Brazil!

Ah yes! Fasting in our modern world might sound a little torturous (is that a word?) but it’s really one of the best things we can do for our digestion. And! In Ayurveda, optimal digestion is crucial because it affects evvvvverything else! The reason why fasting is good is because it gives our digestive fire (agni!) a chance to digest any extra food we have hanging out in our insides. Think of it as cleaning out your closet. If you ignore it, you will collect stuff you don’t want, don’t need anymore, AND you won’t have room for good new stuff. Same with food and our digestion.

Depending on your dosha, you will have to fast in different ways. Let me briefly outline for you.

Vata Fast: three square meals
Pitta Fast: fruit/veggie-fruit juice fast
Kapha Fast: at least once a week (think: skip dinner one evening and breakfast the next day)

As a vata-kapha combo, Julia is torn between the vata fast and the kapha fast because they are opposite! She is getting light headed without food because vata can’t handle that, however her kapha really needs a break and her agni a boost. So my advice, Julia, is to do a kitchari cleanse :) Kitchari is the BEST EVER cleanse in Ayurveda. It completely cleans out residue oldy moldy food stuffs, stokes agni, and you’ll be eating so you won’t feel hungry. I suggest doing this cleanse for 3-5 days and you can repeat as often as you need. Hope this helps, Julia!

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE KITCHARI CLEANSE.

 

 

 

 

Why I Got Sick.

Hi. I was in Boston last week. Boston. You know, that place where they declared a health emergency because of the flu outbreak. I was there for a work conference and everything was held in our hotel. I wasn’t sure if I should breathe on my coworkers (since most were not from Boston either) or if I should get outside and breathe. And then I remembered germs don’t really exist in Ayurveda, so what was I worried about? I was an Ayurvedic champ! Invincible. Totally gonna skirt this flu – watch me! Then on Friday, I got sick. It’s not terrible by any means but my throat burns, my nose is running, and my skin hurts when water touches it. And my knuckles ache.

I don’t know if it really is the flu or not, but what I do know is why I got sick. If any of the below sounds familiar and you have these as frequent habits, you will want to adjust your schedule immediately. The following habits deplete our best friend, ojas. Ojas is our life vitality, immunity, and strength in fighting off disease.

Why I got sick:

Two long flights. Air travel very vata increasing which dries us up, makes us cold and shrivels warm, gooey ojas. People get sick on flight not just from germs but because our immunity goes way down on the flights and we can easily catch what people are sneezing. Gross.
A packed schedule. Days went from 8am-10pm, nonstop. Well, there were pauses, but I didn’t want to miss out on anything so I just kept going and talking.
Limited fruits and veggies, and too many muffins, croissants, rolls, and potatoes. Not enough vitamins, digestive spices, or healthy fats in the food.
Coffee, daily because I wasn’t sleeping. Coffee is very dehydrating and gives a false sense of energy.
Wine, nightly. If there’s a way to instantly deplete ojas, combine wine + flying + packed schedule + not sleeping. Hello, sick.
Insomnia, only getting about 5 hours of sleep each night. I was so amped when I hit the pillow! Insomnia was a result of high vata from travel, busy activities, and dehydration.

Some of you might be thinking, “You wuss, MonicaB! You can’t even handle 4 days of a busy conference!?” To that I will say, “No, no I can’t. Not me. I have high vata to begin with and this sh*t wears me out.” Because I know myself, I could see that I was in trouble with this schedule. So, now I encourage you to do the same. Does your schedule include any one (or more) of these on the list? If so, do you get sick often? It’s a fun puzzle once you understand what influences (besides germs) can make you sick and so many of it is within our control.

Next up is part 2 and I’ll tell you how I made it through the sickness. :)

Ayurvedic Thanksgiving

I thought you might enjoy 10 tips for an Ayurvedic Thanksgiving! Not to worry, these tips are easy to incorporate and don’t require any special preparation. More than anything, it’s a reminder to incorporate our Ayurvedic rules even (and especially) on a day like Thanksgiving. Give  them a try! And let me know if you notice a difference between this and your non-Ayurvedic Thanksgiving. XOXO!

1. Open your eyes and write a list of 25 things you are grateful for (it’s ok to write the list while cozy in your bed).
2. After drinking a glass of water, go for a brisk 30 minute walk in the crispy fall air.
3. If you have breakfast, make sure it’s very small and warm. Otherwise skip breakfast and drink ginger tea with honey.
4. Have 1/4-1/2 tsp Indian appetizer 30 minutes before dinner to stoke agni.
5. Avoid walking around and eating, stay mindful of what goes in!
6. At dinner, serve others before you serve yourself.
7. Bless your food!
8. Pick only your favorite foods and build your plate according to your dosha.
Instead of eating until you are full, eat until you feel satisfied.
9. Go for a leisurely walk after the meal to aid digestion.
10. Drink ginger tea and fast Friday morning to let your agni digest all the food from the day/evening before. Don’t eat again until you are hungry.

Chews Wisely

What’s Ayurveda’s view on chewing gum? I’m a vata dominant and I chew gum after every meal (sugar free wriggles ones that are meant to be good for your teeth) Is this ok? Thank you!

This is an awesome question! Chews Wisely! Chewing gum is something we may overlook because, well, gum is tiny. And we don’t swallow it. It’s kind of like nothing. So why would we consider chewing gum as any sort of influential factor in staying balanced? And I’m going to say, “Because in Ayurveda, everything counts!” :)

The answer is that chewing gum is vata increasing. Sorry for the news. But if you think about it, it’s kind of like fidgeting (also vata) except with our mouth. It’s constant motion, constant action, and it’s rather subconscious because we do it without really paying attention. It’s mindless action (especially for those gum snappers!) which is a quick way to increase vata because vata IS action/motion. On top of it, digestion starts in the mouth with salivation, so you are jump starting that process over and over as well as swallowing lots of air. This can cause gas and bloating (yes that tiny piece o’ gum) and also create a sense of anxiousness in the mind. Vata is the energy of movement…so the more movement you have (albeit a wee tiny piece of gum), the more that energy will increase.

What About Sprouts?

Recently I got a question from one of you pittas about sprouts and sprouted bread. Sprouts in general are in pitta phase of life so they increase pitta. They are not a seed (kapha), nor are they yet a plant (vata). So sprouts or sprouted seeds of any kind are stuck in puberty! They can create digestive problems (bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, cramps) and skin problems too! You would be better off having a nice healthy grained bread or any grains (all good for pitta) without the sprouts. :)

Mind, Body and Spirits

Alright, you guys. I’m going to tell you something, but only because I think you can handle it.  And I would rather you hear it from me, than hear it from one of your friends who doesn’t have the correct information. I will tell you on one condition and that is,  you have to promise not to abuse it. If I give you an inch, don’t take a mile. Don’t get all willy nilly excited and tell thousands of your friends, “MonicaB said *hiccup* I could!”

Do you promise? Pinkie swear? Ok then, here we go. In today’s Ayurvedic lesson, we need to talk about, alcohol. Mind, body and spirits!

In Ayurveda, there is something called draksha. Draksha is medicated wine used for a variety of remedies including blood, liver, skin, and digestion problems to name a few. As we know, alcohol is absorbed very quickly into the blood stream. So, doesn’t it make wonderful sense that Ayurveda would put herbs into the wine, which are then carried directly to the blood and dispersed where the herbs are most needed? How smart is that! The wine serves as a vehicle to carry (called anupana) the herbs where they get administered quickly into the body and can then begin to work at correcting the imbalance.

Now, I’m not going to tell you how to make medicated wines and I’m not even going to advise them for you because like anything else, this in Ayurveda, this will depend on the person you are and the problem you have. But I bring this up because like all food and drink, it can be nectar or it can be poison depending on who’s taking it. Like everything else in the big, giant universe, alcohol too is made of just 5 things (you know them: space, air, fire, water, earth) and depending on who you are, it will have different effects on you.

Overall alcohol is something to be avoided in a vedic and yogic lifestyle because it clouds the mind and judgements, it can put us on an emotional rollercoaster, and increase digestive fire too much therefore giving us a false sense of hunger (college 15, anyone?). It also is very dehydrating, causing constipation or diarrhea, can cause poor sleep or interrupted sleep, heartburn, and severe anger or irritability (pittas). But here’s what. Many many people enjoy alcoholic beverages, so I might as well give you some guidelines about consuming it. Cause yer gonna do it anyway. I know you.

WINE: Wine can be used for increasing digestive fire! Yay! Best news you’ve heard all day? So, kapha types especially in spring, will benefit from a glass of dry red or white wine before a meal to strengthen agni (digestive fire) or after a meal to enhance digestion. But any dosha could benefit from this as well. We will likely crave full-bodied red wines in the fall and winter when vata could use some heaviness and heat. Cool, crispy white wines we can enjoy when it’s hot, which increases fire too but without over heating us.

BEER: A cool beer in summer or when its warm outside is beneficial for increasing agni without overheating us because it has low alcohol content and lots of water in it. Notice I said “A cool beer” not, “A six pack of beer.”

THE HARD STUFF: I would just advise against booze altogether. I mean, life is to be celebrated and it won’t hurt you once in a great while but, overall vatas can’t handle it, pittas get angry, and kaphas will get over-hungry and dull minded. Definitely avoid hard alcohol in summer because it’s the most concentrated and most heating. You’re sure to get heartburn if you have that margarita on the rocks with salt, when it’s hot out.

Um, any questions?!

 

Light on Carbs, Heavy in Body

I got this awesome question and wanted to share it with all of you. Guys, what is the foundation of Ayurveda? One size does not fit all. Yepper. Here is an example of someone who is trying to lose weight by reducing/eliminating carbs. Rather than feeling uplifted, they feel heavy and dragged down. They are not abnormal or doing anything wrong…they just have a unique make up that doesn’t fit the South Beach diet mold :)

Test shows I’m a Pitta (Pitta/Kapha), but my body feels like Kapha. I have been on a low carb diet (south beach) and my belly size has been reduced, I am not feeling bloated as I normally do. The problem is that my body feels so heavy. My movements feels slow and I lack vital energy. What should I eat to reduce the Kapha feeling? I need lots of sleep and I rarely sweat , I prefer warm climate and all these things matches Kapha. But in my mind I feel like Pitta, being competitive, like to be in control, sharp, direct. So there is a mismatch with what my mind would like to do and what my body wants.

It might be that your agni (digestive fire) is low. Carbs are the easiest thing for the body to digest so too many proteins and raw veggies, etc., requires a very very strong agni in order to digest properly. You might have kapha digestion but are eating like a pitta, which will make you feel heavy. Kapha digestion has a tendency to be slow/weak so my guess is that the foods haven’t been digested all the way and the old food is hanging around inside clogging channels and weighing you down. Try checking your tongue. If it’s got a white coating on it, you have some ama (toxins) and need to rid that first. Once your tongue is pink, you should start feeling lighter and more clear-headed again.

Also, it sounds like you have a kapha body/digestion and a pitta mind/emotions. Totally normal to have a combination like that! Many of us have two dominant doshas. So in your case, you would eat a kapha-balancing diet, keeping foods warm, light and nicely spiced so you are satisfied with less quantity. Kaphas don’t need a lot of carbs, so you are not wrong in your approach. However, favor steamed/warm veggies and light carbs (like rice noodles, basmati rice, quinoa, couscous) as opposed to lots of meat and raw veggies. Remember, vegetarian diet or one with very little meat is considered best for kapha. Having lentils and legumes for proteins is best because they are light and much easier to digest.

Stick with it and keep learning about yourself. You will discover so much along the way and as long as you are receptive and open to tweaking your habits, you will find what works for you! Namasté!!

Simply Satisfied

Hey! Did you know our stomachs are stretchy? Of course you did. And did you know that when we eat, we shouldn’t eat to the point of feeling full? Indeed it’s true! Know why? Cause when you eat until you feel full, that means that your stomach is stretching. And when your stomach stretches out, it will require more food to fill the space. If we keep eating this way {getting full, stretching stomach, getting full, stretching stomach} it’s easy to see how we can gain weight and end up with low energy and a cloudy mind. All the food stuffs have not only stretched the stomach, but agni will have a tough time digesting all of it and that’s a good way to get ama.

So rather than eating to maximum fullness, it’s important to eat to the point of satisfaction instead. An example is a really good piece of chocolate (pittas and kaphas represent! I know you love your chocolates!) you might buy from a special candy counter. Just one piece of that chocolate is all you need and you are satisfied. On the flip side, you could eat a bag of M&Ms and still might not feel like you had your chocolate fix. Catch my drift? Make sure your food well spiced, and balancing for your dosha(s) and the seasons and you’ll feel satisfied without being overfull.

If you do eat to the point of being overfull, simply take the next day to eat light and/or fast. Always bring your mind’s attention to your fullness so that you can begin to learn how much food makes you feel best. So! What are some of your favorite foods that leave you simply satisfied? I’ll go first – dates! Dates satisfy my sweet tooth and I only need about 2 of them. Your turn! xo.

Ayurveda and Cheese!

I have a question about combining dairy… you mention milk should be had alone. And yogurt is not ayurvedic at all. What about Ayurveda and cheese? Please don’t tell me it shouldn’t be combined with anything either. As a vegetarian, cheese is a major component of finding food at restaurants. Pasta, quesadillas, on sandwiches…

Great question and thanks for bringing this up! I know there are lots of you who are vegetarians eating cheese as a main staple of their diet, so let’s talk more about this. In Ayurveda, cheese is considered a “sour” food. Remember, Ayurveda’s six tastes? The sour taste balances vata while increasing pitta and kapha. In addition to having a sour taste, the qualities of cheese are heavy, dense, and wet, so vatas can have it without any issue. That said, there are lots of different kinds of cheeses and some are more sour than others. The following information is from Dr. Lad’s Ayurvedic Cooking for Self Healing book. Here is the scoop on cheese for the doshas:

Vatas: Yes for cheese! Hard cheese in moderation.
Pittas: Yes for soft cheeses, cottage cheese, goat’s cheese. No’s on hard cheese or very aged cheeses (cause the older they are the more sour they get)
Kaphas: Yes for goat’s and cottage cheese. No’s on hard and soft cheese.

Now, kaphas and pittas, don’t be sad. Just have less cheese if you are eating a lot of it now and honestly, nobody should be having gobs of cheese everyday. It’s heavy, building (puts on weight), wet, and dense so too much of it is not going to keep our warm bodies flowing. And no matter what, it is most important to eat food in moderation. Moderation! It’s so simple that it’s worth emphasizing. Moderation! Eating incompatible foods sometimes is not going to kill you (that little sentence does not give you license to toss this cheese advice out the window). Neither is a Cadbury Egg. But if you frequently eat foods that do not jive, your digestion will not be happy. If your agni is nice and strong, you will have an easier time digesting many foods, even incompatible ones.

Now that I’ve gone off on the completely wrong tangent, to answer this sweet question, “Does the cheese really need to stand alone?” No. Yay! You can have cheese with lots of other foods like veggie sandwiches, quesadillas, and pastas. Just don’t mix cheese with eggs (sorry little omelette, just add veggies instead), fish, berries, hot drinks, or yogurt (which you’re not having anyway. ha!). So tell us, if you are a lover of cheese and vegetarian, how do you balance your meals without over-cheesing?

 

 

Agni-Stoking Foods

Heya! Following up on that non-ayurvedic breakfast, I thought you might find it useful if I shared some agni-stoking foods. These are important to keep in your daily Ayurvedic bag of tricks and incorporate into your meals each day. Ayurveda goes pretty nuts with the agni-promoting therapies, foods, spices, herbs, etc., and the reason is, if agni doesn’t function properly, neither do we. I’ll say it again: malfunctioning agni is the root cause of most disease!

*clunk* *clunk* *clunk* <—That was me. Pounding the agni information into your head (note: not an Ayurvedic therapy).

Put your Ayurvedic thinking cap on when cooking and sneak these foods and spices into your meals to make sure you give agni a nice boost. Do it daily! Don’t just eat cheese sammiches. And without further adieu, AGNI-STOKING FOODS:

ghee. And no, ghee does not make you fat
– garlic
– black pepper
– ginger: tea, indian lemonade,
– cinnamon
– nutmeg
– a piece of fruit on an empty stomach, 1 hour before a meal (not banana)
– grapefruit, lemon, lime
– cumin
– red pepper flakes
pickles
salt: also retains water, good for vata. Not good for pitta and kapha
lassi

How you could incorporate these agni-stoking foods and spices into the meals you make at home? Don’t be shy–I’ll start it off. PICKLE ON A STICK! Ok that was too easy. I’ll say, sprinkling cinnamon into your morning tea or coffee. Your turn!

 

Weight Loss with Ayurveda on Dr. Oz

Hey hey!  This Friday on The Dr. Oz show, “Ancient Ayurvedic Secrets to Lose Weight.

YAY! Word is getting out about Ayurveda’s benefits – woo! Let’s hope this is authentic Ayurveda…

Wrong Food Combinations

Graphic for Wrong Food CombinationsAs you’ve been learning about Ayurveda, you know how we stress the importance of digestion. Instead of, “You are what you eat” Ayurveda says, “You are what you digest.” That little saying really reminds us that the focus is not only in what we eat, but how we eat it, at what time, and which foods are best for us based on our individual make-up.

Food provides the basic building blocks for our entire physical and mental bodies. That’s it! Just food. You know that you feel better or worse depending on the quality of foods you’ve been eating. And because we are no dummies, we know that fresh veggies and fruits are better nourishment for us than a Cadbury Egg or bag of Doritos. We know that. It’s pretty much elementary nutrition and something we’ve known since we were kids. (I’m not here to take away your fun: Once a year, a Cabury Egg is not going to imbalance you. In moderation, sweeties are to be enjoyed and savored. But if you eat a dozen…yeah, that’s not good.)

So! Whatever we put in our mouths is proper nourishment…or not. And! We usually know the difference between the two.

But here’s something you probably don’t know. In Ayurveda, there are certain food combinations that should be avoided. While an annual Cadbury Egg won’t hurt you, the consistent practice of incompatible foods probably will imbalance your digestion (gas, bloating, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, etc.,) whether instantly or over time. So many people complain of digestion issues—it’s probably the number one complaint from my clients! I’m giving you the information not to be a huge downer, but to give you proper tools to help your tum-tum feel better and to healthify you!!

Wrong Food Combinations:
Dairy & Fruit. Fruit sours and curdles the milk in our stomachs. (my 9 month-old has been coming home after daycare spitting up because they are giving her banana or mango as a snack and then immediately milk. No bueno!)
Dairy & Fish. No cheese on that Filet O’Fish! (*wink* I know you’re not eatin’ Filet O’Fishes) Salmon with lemon, salt and pepper, little rice, little veggies is a good choice. Mm!
Dairy & Meat. Too heavy, murky, and way hard on digestion! Have meat with veggies
Eggs & Milk.
Milk should basically be consumed by itself.
You could have it as a snack in between meals or in place of a dinner if you’re not very hungry. You can have it with non yeasty grains, like cereal. No banana or strawberries on the cereal.
Fruit and fruit juice should be consumed by itself. Again, think of it as a snack.
No yogurt unless you turn it into a lassi. Mango lassi is not Ayurvedic!

As we approach warmer weather, we might be tempted by “smoothie” concoctions of fruit and milk/yogurt and maybe even of frozen yogurt shops with fruits. Unfortunately these don’t go together. And yes, that means Pinkberry. I’m sorry. Have caramel sauce instead. :p

If you look at the list, it’s not all that complicated and it’s already pretty intuitive. I mean, drinking milk with fish just sounds nast. If you really think about berries and milk or pineapple and milk, those combos seem a little strange too, right? For us Americans, the biggest challenge will be not to combine fruit and diary because that combo is everywhere! But if you remain conscious of that and just remember that fruits are eaten alone, I think you will find it simple. What do you think? Does this sound impossible living the way we do now? Or, have you noticed certain combinations irritate your tummy – if so, what are they? Would love your thoughts! xoxo!

Does Ghee Make Me Fat

Hey Monica! I KNOW that ghee is one of your first recommendations to cure the sad balls (esp. for vatas) but I am AFRAID to eat ghee. I know it is clarified butter and that just says cholesterol and weight-gain for me. You said above that you won’t gain weight from ghee, etc. Why is that since it is butter? What about cholesterol? This post might be a bit late, like a vata in distress, I also just sent out my Christmas cards last week! (fyi, she wrote this on January 13th. Ha ha!)

GREAT question and thank you for bringing this up. Certainly you are not the only person who wants to know, “Does ghee make me fat?” Raise your hands if it has crossed your mind that eating ghee will make you gain weight. Ohhh…that’s what I THOUGHT! Look around the room, see? You’re not alone. Leave your hands up if you are a vata. Ah-HAH, just as I thought. See, vatas always ask the “Will it make me fat?!” question and the irony is that vatas are the dosha least likely to gain weight no matter what they eat. In fact, vatas need extra fats yet they are most paranoid about eating them.

Now, let me get to the answer of this question because I know you all have little vata ants in your pants. DOES GHEE MAKE YOU FAT? NO! GHEE DOES NOT MAKE YOU FAT. Feel better? ;) Let me explain.

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GHEE FACTS:

Ghee is balancing for vata and pitta. Kaphas can have ghee in moderation. Vatas need the oil and agni stoke from ghee. Pittas need the agni stoke and the cooling effect ghee has. Kaphas need just a little ghee because they are already oily and cool.

Ghee is the only fat that actually increases agni (digestive fire/metabolism)! So imagine eating a super tasty fat that increases your ability to digest and assimilate foods as well as give a little boost in the metabolism department. Yum, magic!

Different than butter, ghee does not cling to our insides to make a cloggy mess. In fact, it very mildly pulls toxins out it goes through our bod.

Ghee “butters” the insides and helps us maintain regular digestion (per the question above).

Ghee melts when you touch it, even at room temperature and it seeps deep into our tissues to keep our bodies supple. Butter does not. You can even put ghee on a mild burn (cooling, remember) and you cannot with butter.

Ghee has a high smoke point and won’t burn in the pan, so you can sautee veggies or spices in it and add to your favorite dishes.

Ghee is a sattvic food;  foods that promote total harmony in the body-mind. Our minds get easy so instead of worrying if ghee makes us fat, we can simply enjoy it. On a larger scale, our focus in life turns to enjoyment rather than worry.

In Ayurveda, using ghee is said to lower cholesterol!

Butter does NONE of these things! They are different foods. Butter and ghee are not the same thing.

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But you might not still believe me. Well, let’s flashback to the 90’s. Remember when you were eating SnackWell’s cookies by the box because we were told we could eat any foods as long as we didn’t eat fat? And, remember how you didn’t lose any weight by not eating fat? Our bodies need fat—it’s essential to our vitality, intelligence, digestion, happiness (fat keeps us happy!), and strength. When we eat good amounts of fat, it tastes good going down, therefore we are satiated, and therefore, we eat less. We don’t need to gobble SnackWell’s by the boxfull because one baked apple with a touch of melted ghee, brown sugar, cinnamon and cardamom will leave our tummies and minds satisfied for hours.

Now, I’m not saying eat gobs o’ ghee, simply just substitute ghee for your butter or oil. Really! Just use it as you would any other fat, about 3-4 tblsp per day. Spread it on toast, drizzle on rice or pasta, bake it with apples or pears, use on your grilled cheese instead of butter, or put a tsp in your oatmeal to help you “go” in the morning.

Give it a try for a week and see if your sad little balls are remedied. You will not gain weight in a week, that I promise. In addition, be sure to stay hydrated too. Ghee + water are a vata girl’s best friend. Become friends with ghee, your body will thank you! Let me know if this helps! xo.

Want even MORE info? Dude, I wrote a book and it’s awesome. Check out In Your Elements, A Blooming Ayurvedic Guide to Creating Your Best Life.

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Sad Little Balls


Cheerio! It’s vata season and over the past week, I’ve received several requests for me to talk about constipation and other vata digestion issues. I’ve always been pretty candid (pitta) and there’s no turning back now, so I’ll just keep going. Here’s what. My dear friend had a question for me this week about her poo. She said she was only pooping sad little balls. That made me sad, so I put together some ideas so that her poo gets back on track. Please see below and excuse (or enjoy?) the candor of the emails below. Here’s to happy pooping!

I’m not sure you want to hear about this, but my poop has been coming out in little balls lately.  From what I research, it’s a lack of hydration in the colon, but I drink freakin water all day long!!  It could also be sugar, processed food and alcohol (just wine in my case).  I love my wine, but I’ve cut back a lot.  I’ve never been a big processed food eater, but it could be the sugar.  The halloween candy has been a-flown into my mouth as of late.  I think I need to do a little detox. Also, from your article I gleaned that it’s a vata thing and I need to eat more oils/fats.  I’m not really sure how much tho?  I’m already dealing with a hefty 5lb increase because of those damn candies, so I don’t want to increase this too much.

Ah yes, you need oils/fats, Sweetie. Little balls is dehydration but water isn’t heavy or warm or unctuous (oily) enough to pull out the poops. Water is helpful for hydration but you need oleation. I know you may have gained 5lbs on candies, but you you still need oils. Oils for vata does NOT make you fat!! Does not, repeat DOES NOT. What it actually does is helps you feel satisfied so that you are not inclined to eat all the candies – instead, maybe just one or two and you’re done.
Could definitely be the sugar and the wine. AND it’s vata season! The root cure is actually to stop the candies and incorporate oils instead.
The munch munch munchie is typical vata eating, but it’s largely because they are rarely full and never satisfied. The lack of satisfaction is because of lack of proper fats. Good fats settle the nervous system, feed the brain, help the poops, and nourish all tissues so we aren’t walking around like dried out sticks. Dried out sticks break. And dried out sticks have NO immunity so they get sick easy because their ojas (life essence, vitality, immunity) gets depleted. Instead we want to be a flimsy palm tree that can bend and sway with the wind :)
Here is what I recommend for you. Take a little oil in a container (almond or whatever you have in the house – even olive would work) and keep it in the shower. At the end of your shower, put the oil on like lotion with firm strokes toward the heart. Let the water sort of rinse it off but don’t rub it off. This will help your skin and tell your body *ding ding* that it has nice oils.
 And!
• Get in the habit of drizzling your veggies with olive oil. Italians live a hell of a long time and it’s because their bodies are kept youthful by all that olive oil! When we dry out we look and feel older.
• Drizzle a little olive oil on your hummus (that’s the way they eat it!) in a circle (looks pretty) and have with some olives or olive tapenade and pine nuts. Serve with warm naan (not toasted).
• Dust your bread with some olive oil and then toast it – sprinkle w/ salt and pepper
• Foods that are friendly and happy, satisfying fats: avocado, salmon, walnuts, almonds, oils!!
• Grounding foods: rices, mashed potatoes, sweet potato (excellent for vata! superb food), beets (warm), hearty soups, thai, indian, goopy foods with lots of moisture.
• Put some raisins (best to soak over night in water and use the water to make the oatmeal) in your oatmeal. Dates are also great. These increase rasa (plasma) tissue which will increase ojas and elasticity in the tissues. When the tissues are elastic, your poop will be too (wtf. the things I say sometimes).
•  Shoot, even FRIED foods right now would help! French fries – you have my permission.
•  Do you like prunes? Sorry, dried plums? ;) If you do, eat 3-5 of them in the morning on an empty stomach and drink some warm herbal tea or warm water with them. You should go in about 4 hours.
• Normally I’d be pushing the ghee because it’s freakin magical for this kind of thing AND it rev’s metabolism so unless you are super kapha with ama (toxins), it’s highly unlikely to gain weight from ghee. But I respect your non-dairy approach so I’m trying to give other options :)
Ummmmmmmm…this is long. Does this help!?!
Lemme know if this makes sense or if you have more questions. I hope this resonates.
(I might even turn this into a blog post, sans your name of course).
XOXO!!!!

 

Smoothies? Or Roughies?

My question is about green smoothies. As you know, they are all the rage now and the concept is pretty appealing. BUT as vata, with all the “fun” digestive issues that entails, I have wondered if they are something to embrace or avoid.
1. They are cold. 2. They are raw. Got a take on this?
– Karen, South Carolina

Awesome question. Okay, raise your hands if you’ve heard of incorporating green veggie smoothies for good vitamins, good energy, good veggies, and good digestion. Alright, now leave your hands up if you’ve eaten green smoothies as part of your daily meals/snacks. Now, leave your hands up if you are drinking these smoothies during the fall, vata season. Those of you with your hands up will definitely want to read the below.
We already know vata’s qualities are cold, dry, light, mobile and rough. Therefore, vatas need to keep warm, unctuous (oily/moist), heavy, static, and smooth to stay balanced. A reminder that in Ayurveda, like increases like, while opposites balance. The other fact about vata is their digestive fire is variable and during vata season, it tends to be very weak. If digestive fire is weak, they have a hard time digesting their food which can result in constipation, bloating, gas, cramps, diarrhea, even headaches!
In the case of smoothies, raw green veggies and usually a raw apple are blended to create a smooth, liquidy, green drink packed with nutrients. Which is totally true! Nutrients there are. But let’s look at the rest of it. Raw veggies are cold, dry, light and rough. ALL vata! Remember, like increases like? These smoothies are likely going to rough up a vata person’s insides instead of making them flow smoothly. Vatas need a real smoothie, like ghee or oatmeal or something smooth in texture. Raw veggies are actually very rough on the digestive system and Ayurveda does not promote raw foods. Bottom line, if you are a vata, raw veggies and even some raw fruits (apples & pears) are going to hamper your digestion especially during the fall and winter. There is no heat in nature and there is no heat in the food, therefore there is not much agni (fire!) in our bodies or in the nature around us to help digestion. Because our bodies are influenced by nature, this double whammy will leave us puffy-bellied, gassy, and even crampy.
If you have digestive issues definitely avoid smoothies in fall and winter. You can try them again in summer when it’s warm outside and if your digestion can handle the raw veg then, fine. But if not, don’t be sad. It’s not the end of the world. Just throw your smoothie into a pot and call it soup. You’ll still be cool in my eyes. :)

Oil is Thicker Than Water

Friendlies! Vata season is quickly approaching! Here again we find ourselves in ritusandhi or, the joints between seasons. Right now, we are ending summer and quickly moving into fall so it’s important to start incorporating vata habits now so that when the end of September arrives, our body-minds are conditioned for it.

One of the things you can do is start incorporating more oils into your diet. Vata is very dry and so is fall and winter. Since like increases like in Ayurveda, that means we have to balance the dryness with wetness. And not even wetness, but unctuousness (oily!). Don’t get me wrong, drinking lots of water is great, but it doesn’t really “lubricate.” It helps to cleanse and nourish our bodies, but it doesn’t plump anything up or provide elastic cushion like oil does.

Think of it this way, if your skin is dry would you put water on it as a moisturizer? Or, if your wagon has a squeaky wheel, will you put water on it to lubricate it? No way Jose! You would use some sort of oil! (please note: most moisturizers and lotions have water + alcohol as the first ingredients, which just makes the skin drier!).

In Ayurveda, oils are used a lot to keep the outer AND inner bodies supple. Our tissues really like it when they become more lubricated around the joints as well as nice and stretchy so that we can extend into our yoga poses. Oils help aid digestion, pooping, massage, it keeps us mentally grounded, and keeps our skin soft and wrinkle-free. Now, I don’t mean just put oil on the outside and rub-a-dub as a massage. That’s good too but vatas (and during vata season where vata balances rise in all of us) really need to start eating more healthy oils and fats in their diet. **Kaphas don’t need as much oil because they are naturally oily and too much oil will imbalance them.

Types of oils
Ghee
– internal and external for vata and pitta. Use it as a cooking oil (has a high smoke point) to fry veggies in, as a spread on bread, melt in oatmeal, melt in soup, be creative! The sky is the limit. And if you’re bored, try some ghee-licious flavors!
Sesame Oil
(cold, expeller pressed) – massage on vata skin
Almond Oil
(cold, expeller pressed) – massage on pitta skin
Safflower Oil
good in case kapha skin gets dry during vata season
Olive Oil
vata and pitta can have plenty! Cook and drizzle with it
Flax Seed Oil – you can’t cook with this stuff but you can drink it or drizzle it on warm foods like a veggie & rice bowl

Also, if you have a problem with constipation and water isn’t helping, try oil! You can take 1 tbsp of ghee and melt it in a small amount of warm water or warm milk. Drink! Do this in the morning on an empty stomach and soon you’ll be pooping happy :D I’ve heard that Italians also do this with olive oil, although I don’t think they use a chaser. You can also try flax seed oil (liquid or gel caps) to lubricate and butter up the insides!

Ama and my dosha

I got this question last week on my radio show when we were talking about ama and how to avoid getting sick. If you missed it, check out episode 9 to catch up! I missed Karen’s question and promised that I would answer in a blog post. Thanks for your question Karen!

Karen D. asked: You may have answered this already, but does the location of ama depend in part on one’s primary dosha?

To recap (although I highly suggest listening to le show), ama is toxins in our body-minds. Karen’s question was brought up because I was talking about when we have ama in our bodies, it seeks out weak tissues and based on who we are (doshas) ama will lodge in those tissues and create disease. I used examples of a vata person might find that ama settles in their bone tissue which might cause dry joints, causing cracking or stiffness. A pitta person might have ama in their blood tissue which may cause acne, rashes or herpes. A kapha person might have ama in their fat tissue which can cause low quality but high quantity fat, causing weight gain.

SO! Now that you’re all caught up, let’s answer Karen’s question. She is correct, it does in part have to do with one’s natural dosha(s) balance AND it may also have to do with a dosha that becomes imbalanced. They key here is to look at the tissues not the doshas. Uh oh, did I just confuse you? Let me simplify. Knowing what type of dosha(s) you are will help HUGELY in preventing ama in the first place, so then you don’t have to worry too much about where your ama goes…cause you shouldn’t have any :D

So yes, based on what your dosha is, you can anticipate where ama might go if you have an issue. I say, leave figuring all that out to your Ayurvedic Practitioner should you get to that point. YOUR job is to a) recognize ama b) clean it out when you know it’s there c) pay attention to what you’re made of (take the test!) and d) Follow the daily routine and lifestyle recommendations for your dosha.

Thanks for the question Karen!! I hope this helps! xoxoxo, MonicaB.

Plated Portions!

Hohkay! Did you know that how you build your plate of food should be based on your dosha(s)? You may have (You win! Again, someday maybe I will give out fabulous prizes. For now, just enjoy that you won). Since Ayurveda focuses on the individual, it only makes sense that the way we serve ourselves should be based on our individual make up.

For example, if we are mostly vata (air and space), we will need more grounding, sticky, and warm foods to ground us. If we are mostly pitta (fire and water), we will naturally have great metabolism and digestion so we have the fire to digest proteins and even raw veggies (although most veggies according to Ayurveda should be cooked). Same as, if we are kapha (water and earth), we will need lighter, spicier, and warm foods to balance the heaviness of kapha.

To make it easy to understand, I’ve made a little graphic below.


**Proteins don’t necessarily mean meat! Protein could be lentils (vatas no lentils, they will gas you up), nuts, cheese, etc. I just drew a fish because…it’s late and I’m tired. oxoxo**

As you can see, the vata plate has more grounding foods (carbs), plenty of healthy fat (ghee), some cooked veggies, a little protein and a little spice to aid their variable digestion. Vatas need warmth and stability so the fats and carbies will help keep their body strong and their mind/emotions stable. Vatas need protein for strength, but it can be tough to digest, therefore the spice will help increase digestive fire.

The pitta plate is pretty even all around, but there is little or no spice used. Pittas tend to be spicy enough as is ;) Pittas need a balance of veggies and carbs because both cool their fire. The protein gives their agni a job to do for a while. Otherwise, their fire will quickly use up the veggies and carbs and they’ll be hungry again in a short time.

The kapha plate is loaded with warm veggies, with a kick of spice. It has a small amount of protein and carbs because kaphas are already heavy and sturdy. The cooked veggies are both light and very easy to digest which will keep kaphas feeling light and energized. The spice will help give their digestion/metabolism a nice boost that it needs. Proteins can be hard to digest so keep them small or stay with vegetarian dishes. Kaphas should limit fat in their diet.

Hopefully this visual helps! It’s all about knowing who you are and what you need, so forget the “food pyramid” and build your plate according to who you are! Your body will THANK you for giving it exactly what it calls for and you will begin to feel amazing! xo!

Tip: Clear Burps

HERE’s a lovely thought: When you have clear/clean burps, it means you have fully digested your last meal and your body is ready to eat! A fine example: It’s 6:00 pm (dinner time) and you are still burping up Indian food you had for lunch (burp talk is just never pretty). That means the food is still in your system and it’s not ready to tackle dinner on top of it. Take note, have some ginger tea and skip dinner. Chances are you’re probably not hungry anyway. Give your digestion a chance to catch up because mal-functioning agni (digestive fire) is the root cause of 90% of all diseases. Tra-laaaa!