Ayurveda [the ancient Hindu art of medicine and prolonging life] has many practical applications for our daily lives, especially when it comes to eating in accordance with the seasons. In addition to the categorizing of body types by constitution [vata - winter; kapha - spring; pitta - summer] and how our bodies react to emotional, nutritional, and environmental factors, Ayurvedic medicine includes much focus on the lymphatic system: that is, how the 'drains' in our bodies function. Lymph health starts with taking our cue from nature. We can support digestive health and proper 'drainage' when we eat with a mindful ear tuned to what the seasons are telling us.
Consider that the planet wakes up in spring: it dusts itself off and gets things up-and-running after months of rest. Like the planet, our bodies need awakening at this time of year. A little spring-cleaning goes a long way in preventing illness throughout the rest of the year. Here are five tips from Ayurveda that will help reactive the system post-winter: try incorporating some of these into your life and see the effect they can have on digestion, energy, and allergies!
Five Easy Ayurvedic Ideas to Try for Spring
1. Eat surface roots. Chard, spinach, and beet-tops start popping up at farmers' markets in spring, and with good reason: they naturally break down the mucus built up on the digestive tract from a heavier winter diet, opening our systems up to smooth functioning. In fact, many people with seasonal allergies find their symptoms decrease when their systems are supported with foods that cleanse and nourish. When we encourage the release of toxins, it decrease the stress on the immune system. This way, it can deal with external allergens (pollen, ragweed, etc) more calmly and decrease the histamine reactions that make allergy sufferers so miserable. Try working these into stir-fries or salads, or simply steam or sauté. (I like mine with a little coconut oil!)
2. Sprout! Sprouts - 400x more nutritionally dense than the adult plant! - support intestinal flora, which are the basis for a healthy GI tract and immune system (70% of our immune-defenses live in the gut!). When our lymphatic system is working early-on in the year, we bolster our immune defenses for later in the year. Want to avoid a cold next winter? Support your immune health now by giving the happy bacteria some nutritionally-dense sprouts to keep them working hard for you. Alfalfa, chickpea, and mung bean sprouts are available this time of year and work easily into salads.
3. Alkalize, alkalize, alkalize: like I mentioned in yesterday's post, acidic blood = sickness, so we want to aim to move our blood pH towards neutral. Incorporating alkalizing foods helps to eliminate the excess acid in our bodies. Look at what's in season (either newly grown or still available from the winter harvest): there are tons of great alkalizing options! Aim to include more celery, chard, cucumber, lettuce, beet greens, cabbage, and cauliflower.
4. Three words: cooling, energizing, light foods. There's no secret that this type of diet is one of the top 3 in the weight-loss mainstream right now. When we eat light foods that support digestive health, and cut out junk, it's can cause a pretty significant full-body overhaul. Cut back on heavy oils, meat, and dairy and incorporate more fresh produce, liquids, and energizing spices. Ayurveda specifically recommends more bitter, spicy, and astringent foods.
5. Be like Goldilocks: not too hot, not too cold. Eat your food warmed to match the temperature of the season. Cold foods in summer and hot foods in winter give us internal-to-external balance, while enjoying our goodies warmed in spring keeps us in line with the temperate climate outside.
For a great resource on foods to incorporate to active the body for spring, check out Dr. Douillard's LifeSpa Spring Shopping List. Not everything will necessarily be grown in your region in spring, but there are many nutritional benefits to eating these things specifically in springtime. Look for an organic source for foods out-of-season in your area. Seasonal AND local is always best, but be flexible with yourself. It's all about balance!
Next on the spring cleaning to-do list: experiment with Macrobiotics! Coming soon.
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