In the Western world, nutrition can often take a back-seat to modern medicine, but this is not always true in Eastern cultures. Ayurveda or one’s understanding of long-life is a popular indigenous medicine, which originated in India and is based on tradition. According to the World health organization, one-fifth of the world’s populations apply Ayurvedic traditions. Ayurvedic nutrition therapy is based on mind-body communication that influences an individual’s natural balance. This tradition believes that imbalance can promote the formation of toxins, or “ama,” including: irritable bowel, poor appetite, headaches, obesity, fatigue, food allergies and poor immunity. Ayurveda promotes balance by attempting to rid the body of the present toxins.
Ayurveda classifies a person as a unique combination of doshas, or elements, by asking an individual several questions about their personality in both the past and the present. According to Ayurveda, the three doshas (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) are products of the five elements that constitute the universe- water, fire, air, space, and earth. An individual can be one dosha, or a mix of various doshas.
The basis of Ayurvedic nutrition therapy is to consume a variety of whole foods that are adapted to an individual’s metabolism, or dosha(s), in order to, promote energy, good health and a long-life; The dominating dosha will dictate an individual’s dietary plan.
In my ventures in southeast Asia, I was afforded the opportunity to sit down and chat with an Ayurvedic doctor. This pleasant, older Indian man informed me that I am primarily Vata, composed of air and space, and instructed me to avoid foods that produce wind (ie: Raw, high fiber foods) because these foods may contribute to an increase in my primary dosha, rather than promoting balance. It makes complete sense from his perspective, but from a dietitian’s perspective it can be quite absurd. He was basically telling me to avoid the fruits and veggies I know and love! So, being the compliant patient that I am, I made sure to get a Shirodhara (dripping oil head massage) and have been exploring new fruits and veggies that are nicer to my mind, my digestion and my dosha.
More to come on my adventures in traditional medicine…
Written by: Cassie Vanderwall