Tips to stay healthy as the weather turns cold


books-cup-fireplace-slippers-tea-Favim.com-309150As summer turns into fall and then winter, the climate becomes colder, drier and windier. This changing of the seasons is especially destabilizing for vata dosha. It is the time of year that people get head colds and the flu, have digestive problems, have issues with dry skin and hair, and feel more anxious and scattered than usual.

Thankfully, there are easy ways to counteract the effects of vata weather on your body. Vata is cool, dry, rough, light, subtle and mobile. Therefore, the things that will pacify vata are warm, moist, smooth, sweet, grounding, stable and calming. These are the qualities we are naturally and intuitively drawn to when the weather gets cooler. Think curling up in front of the fireplace with a mug of hot tea, a soft fleece blanket and a good book. Vata season is all about feeling cosy and nurtured.

Here are some nutritional and lifestyle guidelines to follow to stay healthy and happy as you head into the colder season:

 

Nutrition

  • Prefer warm drinks like tea and warm milk, and avoid iced drinks at all costs.
  • Eat warm, moist foods that are easy to digest, like kitchari (rice and mung dal cooked together), soups, stews. Eat your vegetables cooked, not raw (no salads!). Boil, steam or sauté your food to keep it moist, instead of baking or roasting which will make it dry. Avoid foods that are cold (ice-cream) or dry (crackers, rice cakes).
  • Favor fruits and vegetables that are in season, like root vegetables or pretty much anything that you would find in a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
  • Eat food that is freshly cooked; leftovers and processed foods, besides being energyamsetically “dead”, will aggravate vata.
  • Dairy (if you are not intolerant) is good for grounding and to counteract the dryness of vata. Some people swear by a glass of warm milk with a dash of turmeric before bed.
  • Make sure you are consuming enough oil with your meals. Healthy oils like organic ghee (clarified butter), sesame oil or olive oil will help stabilize your energy levels and keep your digestive system functioning smoothly. Nuts are also a good source of oil.
  • Ayurvedic herbs like Ashwagandha, Shatavari, and Triphala can help reduce excess vata in the body. Consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner for a customized prescription.
  • The change of seasons is a good time to do a cleanse, but avoid fasting or doing a juice or raw food cleanse, as this will aggravate vata. A monodiet like eating only kitchari for a few days (or as many as 40 days) is a great way to clean out your system.

 

Environment and Lifestyle

  • Stay warm. Bundle up when you go outside, and make sure your upper chest, neck and head (where vata dosha resides) are protected. Avoid breathing in cold air. Keep your home pleasantly warm, including at night, and exercise indoors instead of outdoors.
  • Take hot baths and showers, and spend time in a steam room. Steam has many benefits: it improves blood circulation, helps the respiratory system stay healthy, relaxes the body, decreases muscle soreness and joint pain (which often flares up in vata season), and helps the body detox.massage10
  • Gently and lovingly massage your body with a warming oil like sesame or almond oil, every morning before you shower.
  • Allow yourself to be massaged, hugged or simply touched, and do the same to others. Get close to other bodies; the warmth of human connection is a great antidote to the chilliness of the weather. Touch is grounding, nurturing and feels good.
  • Favor exercise that is slow, steady, soothing, meditative. Yoga, Qi Gong, walking/hiking and swimming are good options. When you link movement with breath, exercise becomes nourishing and soothing to the body instead of over-stimulating and depleting.
  • Find stability and calm in your days. Avoid overscheduling yourself, multi-tasking or anything that makes you feel frazzled and ungrounded. Instead, stick to a routine, eating and sleeping at the same times every day, and maintaining a consistent exercise, yoga and meditation practice. Spend more time at home, listen to soothing music, relax.

Keeping Kapha and Vata in balance as we transition into Winter


Seasons play an important role in the Ayurvedic lifestyle. We must gently adapt with the changes going on outside to remain balanced on the inside.

According to Ayurveda, fall and winter are the strength-building seasons. We often think that the winter season is more conducive to catching a cold, but this isn’t true. You may catch a cold at the onset of colder weather because of the seasonal shift, but in the midst of winter season, the body’s immunity can actually be at its best.

It is also during the winter months, when the nights are longer than the days, that the moon’s influence on us is the most powerful. The cooling rays of the moon produce “soma” or nectar which nourishes our spiritual energies. Winter is a time to go inwards, to replenish, to nurture ourselves.

There are two transitional periods into winter: the transition from summer to fall, and the transition from fall into winter.

 

autumnFrom Summer to Fall

The transition from summer into fall is a difficult time for all the doshas, both on a mental and physical level. Thus, we should carefully monitor our doshas during this time.

The shift of seasons is a shift of energy– in Chinese medicine we would say we are shifting from yang (warmer months) to yin (colder months). This is contradicting and confusing to the body. In the fall, the weather can quickly shift from rainy and cold to sunny and warm, which can aggravate pitta. So during this time, it is best to avoid heavy meals, sour foods, and oily and fatty foods. However, the cold and rainy climate also aggravates vata dosha; to pacify vata, choose sour, salty and fatty foods. Consider also that the digestive fire, or agni, is weakened during the dry weather of the summer, and further abated by the rainy season. And when it’s cold, rainy, and snowy outside, all three doshas are aggravated.

Confusing? Yes. It’s a juggling act, and it takes careful attention to one’s body to know what to do to come back into balance.

 

From fall to winter

Early winter is vata season. To stay in balance, we need to avoid anything that increases vata, such as cold temperatures (in other words– dress warmly), cold drinks, light and dry foods. Instead, opt for warm, sweet and oil-rich foods. Choose foods that will sustain your body: lentils, dhal, vegetable porridges, rice, homemade bread. Get natural oils, vitamins and warmth from nuts such as cashews and almonds. You can also invigorate and heat your body with spices like pepper, ginger, cumin and coriander.

It’s always best to prepare your food shortly before you eat, in order to get the full pranic and sattwic benefits. Eating leftovers aggravates vata.

Finally, eat whatever vegetables naturally grow in the winter time. This is a great season for onions, carrots, potatoes, leeks, squash, sweet potato, broccoli, etc. Think of the kinds of foods that you would traditionally serve for Thanksgiving.

 

winterBalance kapha in winter

Once the transition is complete and we have settled into winter, it is prime kapha season. Avoid eating dairy and cold foods, and instead opt for warm and spicy meals.

Despite the fact that excess kapha typically means a low digestive fire, or agni, in winter time agni is at its strongest, allowing the body to digest heavier foods more easily than usual. But don’t let that be a reason to indulge in junk foods, as many of us tend to do in wintertime; processed foods will aggravate vata and weaken the immune system. Instead, choose seasonal, healthy meals that truly nourish the body. Favor sour and salty tastes.

You can also boost your health by drinking warm milk, which strengthens the immune system (if you do not have an intolerance to dairy, of course); flushing toxins out of the body with hot water; and eating raw honey to build the body’s strength. Spend some time in steam rooms and saunas and get oil massages (or self-massage) to improve circulation. The further we get into winter, the more beneficial it will be to follow these suggestions.

Ref: Ayurveda Encyclopedia –

10 Ayurvedic Healing Herbs


Amazing top 10 healing herbs below

rosemaryCoughing?
Add Rosemary
The eucalyptol in this aromatic herb is study proven to loosen chest congestion, making phlegm easier to expel. Plus, rosemary is rich in anti-inflammatory tannins, which soothe a sore throat. Pairs well with: white beans, chicken, Brie cheese, roasted meats and poultry, potatoes, polenta and apples.

 

oreganoMenstrual cramps?
Add Oregano
Enjoying 2 tsp. of fresh oregano daily during menstruation reduces or eliminates cramps, according to a Greek study. That’s because this herb’s thymol and carvacrol relax uterine muscles to prevent painful contractions. Pairs well with: mushrooms, tomato sauce, olives, summer squash and fish.

 

DillUpset GI tract?
Add Dill
Indian scientists found that dill’s limonene works as well as prescription antibiotics at killing harmful intestinal bacteria such as E. coli. Pairs well with: salmon, eggs, cucumbers, chicken, Cheddar cheese, mixed greens, clear soups, cream cheese, beets and carrots.

 

 

Cayenne SpiceCongested?
Add Cayenne
The fiery capsaicin in cayenne deactivates substance P, a neurotransmitter linked to inflammation. The result: less sinus congestion and pressure. Pairs well with: root vegetables, roasted poultry, rice, chocolate, leafy greens, shrimp, eggs, popcorn, grilled-cheese sandwiches, beans and creamy soups.

 

 

CilantroAlways tired?
Add Cilantro
The carboxylic acid in cilantro binds to heavy metals such as mercury in the blood and carries them out of the body. Their removal reverses the toxin buildup that causes chronic fatigue, joint pain and depression. Pairs well with: avocados, seafood, corn, black beans and steak.

 

 

mintCrampy tummy?
Add Mint
Peppermint contains menthol, a natural plant compound that relaxes pain-inducing intestinal spasms. This reduces belly discomfort by 40 percent, according to German researchers. Pairs well with: eggplant, tomatoes, lamb, green peas, melon, couscous and hot and cold beverages.

 

 

curry

 

Achy joints?
Add Curry powder
The curcumin in curry inhibits the ody’s production of prostaglandin E 2, an inflammatory compund that over-sensitizes nerves. This blunts joint and muscle pain as effectively as prescription medications. Pairs well with: lentils, mangoes, rice, cauliflower and spinach.

 

Parsley

Bloated?
Add Parsley
Thanks to its stores of apiol and myristicin, parsley is a natural diuretic that relieves bloat-inducing water retention by preventing salt from being reabsorbed into bodily tissues. Pairs well with: grains, onions, Parmesan cheese, pasta, salads, seafood and tomatoes.

 

 

BasilFeeling down?
Add basil
The eugenol and rosmarinic acid in basil boost the brain’s production of dopamine and serontonin. According to Indian researchers, this could lead to sunnier moods in as little as three days. Pairs well with: tomoatoes, olives strawberries, melon, fresh mozzarella, pizza, pasta, white fish and feta cheese.

 

 

gingerNauseous
Add Ginger
Ginger’s gingerol and shogaol calm digestive-tract spasms to reduce nausea better than motion-sickness drugs, according to a study at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Pairs well with: citrus fruits, tea, sweet potatoes, pork, coconut, miso soup, onions, relishes, pears and rice.

 

 

Text: Katie Choi
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