It couldn't wait until February!
It is with great urgency and passion that I write this current article to help prevent any further health distress this time of year. Since my last article and since right after the holiday's, I've seen many people and treated many patients with colds, virus', digestive issues such as gas and constipation, and other upper respiratory ailments. These are all conditions that can be prevented if we know where and how to catch it from starting. Frankly, it's quite simple! The main culprit is dryness. Dry membranes and orifices; ranging from dry eyes, dry ears, dry noses, dry mouths, dry skin, dryness of the vagina and dryness of the rectal opening. According to Ayurveda, when dryness is experienced in these areas it is a result of the air element imbalance, otherwise known as Vata Dosha vitiation.
Vata season starts in late fall and goes until early winter. As we transition from this season to Kapha season, which is late winter and beginning of spring, the common quality is cold. Coldness has an astringent quality. The astringent quality possesses inherent elements of the air and earth. In that, this air can have a drying quality. Cold and dry qualities can cause water to be pulled out of the atmosphere. Cold and moist, which are common qualities of Kapha season and the aspect of coldness in the later winter months, causes the air molecules to be trapped and grounded until heat enters into the atmosphere to release us from cold and heaviness through the moisture. It is with the cold qualities that we have to really pay attention to and how it affects the mucous membranes of the above-mentioned locations.
In the Accumulation and Aggravation phase of pathology, which is the first and second phase of the Six Stages of Disease Pathology, when Vata is vitiated we will generally complain of dry/hard stools and/or even constipation, along with gas/flatulence. As it enters into the stage of Overflow, the third phase of pathology involving the circulatory system, a generalized systemic dryness occurs. Vata has first entered into the digestive system and made its way into the circulatory system. Dryness continues and essentially and inevitably, the membranes of the body and cells experience dryness. Ayurveda tells us that when we are facing cold and dry qualities, that the antidote is warm and moist. Ayurveda also tells us that though we must be protective of our mucous membranes that are exposed to the outside, such as in the nose, mouth, eyes, ears and skin, we must also understand that the digestive system is where we have to maintain the proper moisture. Therefore, Demulcents and Carminatives (digestive stimulants also called Dipanas in Ayurveda) are categories of herbs that help to reinstate the homeostasis of the mucous membranes. Ayurveda states that when we catch the qualities of Vata, which are dry, cold, light, subtle and mobile, in the first and second phase of pathology, we can reverse the development of related conditions through remedies simply targeting diet and lifestyle. It's not until the pathology has entered into the third, fourth, fifth and sixth stages that we will require specific herbs and other therapies. Therefore, catching an imbalance in the first and second phases is key to reversing it before it spirals deeper.
Here are some quick and immediate considerations as far as diet and lifestyle:
1) STAY AWAY from anything cold, raw and frozen! (In general, but especially this time of year.)
2) STAY AWAY from ICE! Coincidentally, as an Ayurvedic Practitioner, it is my "job" to observe my surroundings and I'm constantly observing people in their actions and witnessing cause and effect. For example, recently a friend of mine on Facebook posted that he was at Dunkin Donuts waiting for his Iced Coffee and it was freezing outside but that he was freezing. I asked him if he was going to feel warmer by drinking an iced coffee on a cold/icy day. He didn't respond. People..it's a no brainer! If it's cold outside, don't put any cold into the body! Period! Click here for the article on ICE.
3) Foods that are warming, generally through a spicy (pungent) nature and not too heavy, this time of year is ideal. Soups are amazing and even better for dinner for many reasons. Spices such as cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, fresh or dry ginger, basil, fenugreek, turmeric, black pepper, chili flakes/powder and cayenne. Remember that spices such as these can increase warmth but it is important to have demulcents and oils in the diet to maintain the heat in the body more effectively, otherwise the nature of pungent spices can also invite dryness because the pungent tastes consists of air and fire elements. Sweet and Savory (combination of sweet and salty), in moderation, helps to moisten the tissues and that is because the sweet tastes consists of earth and water elements, and the taste of salt, consists of water and fire. This is why some salt should be added to all foods because it is the salty taste that interacts with the tongue by stimulating particular taste buds and that it helps the tongue to recognize the other flavors in any particular food. Sweet is also evidently highly noticeable.
4) Lubricate the eyes, ears, mouth, nose and skin. Ayurveda has numerous practices that are highly effective in addressing this. A simple drop of oil, like ghee, here and there goes a long way. Add a drop of ghee in the eyes. Sesame, a drop or two, in the ears. Sesame oil for oil pulling/gargling. A drop of ghee or sesame for the each nostril. As for the overall skin of the body, see #6 below. Making sure that the nose, eyes and mouth are at least moist before bed is very important. Throughout the day, I have some of my patients bringing with them a small bottle of oil to moisten the nose.
5) Hydrate with teas like licorice and Tulsi, or Cinnamon and Turmeric with a few drops of coconut oil or ghee. Remember, demulcents! Demulcents such as licorice, slippery elm, marshmallow, gokshura, shatavari, cinnamon and flaxseed. You can throw in chia seeds too! Additionally, small amounts of room temperature juice or "natural gatorades", for the purposes of replenishing and maintaining the balance of electrolytes, helps to strengthen and moisten the plasma (Rasa Dhatu) cells of the body when then contributes towards the health of mucous membranes throughout the body.
6) OIL and FOMENTATION: Warm oil massages are an essential key to healthcare and immunity boosting, in Ayurveda. Kapha predominant types only require a very light coat of oil, Pitta a medium coat and Vata can benefit from more oil; always warm though (never cold or room temperature oils). Then, fomentation is imperative. Dry heat is better for Kapha and moist heat is better for Vata. Pitta predominant individuals only need to be exposed to heat for a few minutes. Vata's shouldn't over sweat because this can further dry them out. Excess heat can also effect Pitta predominant individuals in this way. Additionally, ensure that your daily diet has healthy oils including ghee and coconut oil. As food is cooked, this is the heat element that guides the oils into the body and helps to lubricate not only the digestive tract but also the joints and tissues in the brain known as the CSP (CerebroSpinalFluid.)
7) Cover your head, ears and neck; the neck especially when traveling about. According to both Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, there are two specific points in the back of the head where the wind can enter very easily. When this happens, the wind enters into the nervous system and begins its process to wreak havoc throughout the nervous system.
8) Proper rest! Meaning, get to bed no later than 11 and up earlier, not long after sunrise, ensures that the digestive system is working more optimally. Proper rest also supports immunity. Immunity primarily depends on the digestive system. Staying up late is a type of stress recognized by Ayurvedic medicine that creates imbalances in the digestive system, immune system and nervous system which are interdependent; with the primary focus being the digestive system. According to Ayurveda, many diseases have their roots in the digestive system and Ayurveda says that all diseases can be addressed through the digestive system. Optimal sleep happens at night, not the day time. The qualities of day sleep aren't as rejuvenative as it they are at night time. Sleep helps the nervous system, during a parasympathetic process, of lubricating the entire body, starting with the digestive system and then nervous system.
9) For other recommendations around supporting physical and mental health this time of year, check out the recent articles since September through this link.
Remember, once dryness gets in, it's tricky to get out, so Ayurveda says prevent it from coming in and from going deeper which can cause problems in other parts of the body and mind, and affect overall health.
If you'd like further assistance with improving your quality of health, feel free to contact VISHNU for an appointment.
DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.