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Kathy Gehlken, MA, RDN/CAP, CMP
10th Avenue Between Geary & Anza
San Francisco, CA 94118
Tuesday 11 am to 7 pm
Wednesday 11 am to 7 pm
Thursday 1 pm to 7 pm
Fall–changeable and unpredictable, one day is sunny and warm, the other is chilly with maybe even some rain. It’s a season of harvest and markedly shorter days and longer nights.
In Ayurvedic Medicine, Fall is understood as the season where Pitta is at it’s peak. In India, Fall is the transitional period from the Monsoon season, where Vata is at it’s peak, to Winter where all three doshas are at a lull. Here, we do not have a monsoon season, just a long period of accumulated heat and dryness that starts sometime in Spring and continues to the first real rains. This has led many here to say that Vata is at it’s peak in fall. Classically though, Vata is at it’s peak during the colder, rainy period and so may be at it’s peak in early winter here.
Some recent science investigating seasonal gene variation found similarities in gene expression during monsoon season in equatorial climates and cold winter season in more northern climates.
A colleague and I are doing a study investigating this–we’ll be needing people to volunteer to collect data on what they are feeling in their bodies to match up against what practitioners are observing here and in India. It’s a pilot study, so we hope that it will lead to further research. If you’re interested in volunteering to collect data, stay tuned. We’ll be sending the survey out in a month or two.
For now, it would seem that attention to both Pita and Vata should be the order of the day and individually we should attend to whether we predominantly feel hot, dry, oily and/or cold and act accordingly.
Tis the season to think about dieting. Or is it? Many of us are thinking about New Year’s resolutions that revolve around weight. Thinness is the Holy Grail of our time and there is immense pressure from the medical community, media and our peers to join in the quest. We know that if we don’t try to lose weight we won’t be healthy or beautiful—we’ll be at risk for a myriad of diseases, we won’t be able to wear the cutest styles or have a love life. Our idols are airbrushed to an impossible level of thinness, but we don’t care, we believe the hype. And, if necessary, we’ll nip, we’ll tuck and we’ll starve ourselves because we want to be happy and beautiful.
Ayurveda is often misused in the war on weight. If we just eat the appropriate tastes or the right combination of foods, then, magically, our bodies will transform into that thin, happy version of ourselves that we yearn for. Funny thing though in Ayurveda, weight on its own is not really considered to be a parameter of health.
I talked to Dr. Yashashree Mannur, BAMS, my teacher, about what Ayurveda–the Ayurveda based upon the texts that are thousands of years old—has to say about this. Here’s what she had to say…
You may have heard that salad is not an encouraged item on the Ayurvedic menu…so, I use the term “salad” loosely here. Yes, it is true that raw foods are not encouraged on a regular basis in Ayurvedic nutritional science, as they are rough, cold and difficult to digest—all qualities that are increasing to Vata. So, this is a salad of cooked items, dressed in olive oil with spices. It features spring onions, fava beans and mint or cilantro—all available in spring time farmer’s markets.
In springtime, according to our digestive fire and constitutional nature, we can incorporate a little more of the lighter, rougher and dryer qualities in our meals because Kapha dosha, the water and earth elements, is at its peak. Yellow Split Peas are a good source of the astringent taste and are therefore Ruksha or drying. They also have a bit of the Khara or rough quality. Turmeric is drying and warm, while fresh ginger adds some umph to your digestive fire. These qualities can be helpful during mid-Spring when accumulated Kapha is in its liquid stage after the late-winter/early spring build up. Continue reading
Ayurveda recognizes that we are creatures of our universe not apart from it—our bodies are exquisite symphonies of regulation, metabolism and structure interacting with the external environment. That symphony takes its cues from the daily and seasonal light-dark cycle. When this pattern is disrupted our natural rhythms become disrupted as well. The best way to resist this disruption is to have daily and seasonal routines that we follow which also signal to our internal systems what to expect. Ayurvedic medicine calls these routines dinacharya for daily routine and ritucharya for seasonal routine. Continue reading
If you have ever consulted with an Ayurvedic Practitioner, chances are that they recommended abhyanga to you. Abhyangas are a prized therapy in Ayurvedic Medicine and can be received from a massage therapist or self-administered. Christine Tykeson, fellow Ayurvedic Practitioner and Massage Therapist in Lompoc, CA, has been doing extensive research into the use of Sesame oil and Ayurvedic Body Therapies and shared her insights with me recently. Continue reading
These days the media waves are cluttered with diets and products that claim to aide in detoxification. Modern medicine is contemptuous of these claims and is quick to point out that there is very little science to support claims about detoxification. Yet detoxification is an age-old treatment and has been used by traditional medicine systems the world over. In Ayurvedic medicine, detox is a premier treatment, the pinnacle of which is Pancha Karma (PK). PK involves an intensive regimen that includes simplified diet, herbs and therapeutic practices that help the body recover from the lingering results of improper diet, poor digestion and environmental toxins, the effects of which accumulate over time. In short: detoxification. In India, many undergo these treatments in hospitals where the process is supervised by medical professionals. More and more westerners, including myself, have also undergone these treatments. In my case, I underwent PK to address troublesome symptoms of peri-menopause and can say unequivocally that after my Pancha Karma, I no longer experience my symptoms, the most troublesome of which were daily hot flashes. As a side benefit, I lost ten pounds.
Methodical detoxification has a long track record in traditional medical systems other than Ayurveda, as well. Continue reading
At your core, deep inside your gut, you have a garden…a plethora of bacteria creating your very own bio-network. The health and happiness of this intimate ecology influences your health, your likelihood of being obese and a myriad of other health concerns. All of us live in a grand symbiosis where we play host to a trillion little one-celled creatures—they outnumber the cells that make up our tissues by ten to one. We provide the little guys with a place to live and regular access to food, and they help us with digestion and influence how our metabolism and immune system works. But you are not just a passive host—the choices you make about food are your contribution to this system that, in turn, supports your health. Continue reading
It’s greening up outside and flowers are starting to blossom. In Ayurvedic medicine, spring is the time to lighten up. Diet, daily routine and exercise can help us enliven and blossom forth, shedding the heaviness accumulated during the winter.
Spring is all about the elements water and earth, i.e., Kapha dosha. Lighter, drier foods, getting up a bit earlier and livelier exercise all help to balance Kapha. Tastes that balance Kapha are pungent, bitter and astringent—these tastes feature prominently in spicier dishes, dark leafy green vegetables and beans. Continue reading
Dopamine. The name sounds a little sinister like something someone might slip into your drink. But no, dopamine is a neurotransmitter and is released inside our brains when there is a potential reward nearby. It’s a key participant in the way we learn how to seek things that make us happy and give us pleasure. (1) Continue reading