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food as medicine

Food as medicine

I am not such a big fan of Western health care. For some reason in the West a lot of people don’t take care of their body and mind. If they get sick, they go to a doctor who has to solve their problem. Most doctors don’t look at the lifestyle of their patients. They don’t even try to find out what caused the illness or injury. They just subscribe a pill and that’s it. It’s a big contrast with a lot of Eastern philosophies on health, where doctors focus on prevention. My favorite system of health care is Ayurveda, which is all about prevention and where doctors look at food as medicine. Not for nothing means Ayurveda knowledge (veda) of life (Ayuh).

You are what you eat. It’s an old saying, but it’s so true. But what do we eat nowadays? Chemical made garbage, full of artificial e-numbers and preservatives. Stuff our body doesn’t understand and mostly put aside as fat, but also stuff that makes us sick. The food industry knows their products are actually poisoning us, but he: they make money with it, so why care? The governments know as well, but don’t care. Why fight the ‘big guys’ when they bring in money?

Real food

So eating real food is the answer: fruit, vegetables. But this isn’t the whole answer. Because it makes a big difference what kind of fruit and vegetables you eat and how you eat them, according to Ayurvedic principles that looks at food from a therapeutical perspective. What you have to eat, is different for each person. Some people need dry, leafy foods like spinach, other people are better off by eating ‘greasy’ foods like pastas. So what do you need to eat to stay healthy?

To know that you have to know your body (and mental) type (or dosha as it is called in Ayurveda). There are three doshas. Everybody is a mixture of these three doshas, but one (or two) is normally dominant. These doshas are energies that different physiological functions in the body.

  1. Vata: Energy that controls bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and your heartbeat.
  2. Pitta: Energy that controls the body’s metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and your body’s temperature.
  3. Kapha: Energy that controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin, and maintains the immune system.

Vatas: creative, learn and gain quickly new knowledge, but also forget quickly, slender, tall, have cold hands and feet, feel uncomfortable in cold climates, are lively, fun personalities, have changeable moods, have an irregular daily routine, have high energy in short bursts, have the tendency to tire easily and to overexert, are full of joy and enthusiasm, responds to stress with fear, worry, and anxiety, especially when out of balance, are impulsive, have a monkey mind, generally have dry skin and dry hair and don’t perspire much.

Pittas: have medium physique, are strong and well-built (athletic types), have a sharp mind, good concentration powers, are orderly, focused, are assertive, self-confident and entrepreneurial at their best, are aggressive, demanding, pushy when out of balance, are competitive, enjoy challenges, are passionate and romantic, have strong digestion, strong appetite, get irritated if they have to miss or wait for a meal, when under stress Pittas become irritated and angry, their skin is fair or reddish, often with freckles, sunburns easily, are uncomfortable in sun or hot weather, heat makes them very tired, perspire a lot, are good public speakers, have generally good management and leadership ability, but can become authoritarian, are impatience, get anger easily, have typical physical problems including rashes or inflammations of the skin, like acne, boils, skin cancer, ulcers, heartburn, acid stomach, insomnia, have dry or burning eyes.

Kaphas: are easygoing, relaxed, slow-paced, are affectionate and loving, are forgiving, compassionate, have a nonjudgmental nature, are stable and reliable, are faithful, are physically strong and with a sturdy, heavier build, have the most energy of all constitutions, but it is steady and enduring, are slow of speech, reflecting a deliberate thought process, learn slow, but have outstanding long-term memory, have soft hair and skin, often have large “soft” eyes and a low, soft voice, tend towards being overweight, may also suffer from sluggish digestion, prone to depression, are more self-sufficient, have a gentle and essentially undemanding approach to life, have excellent health, good immune system, are very calm, strive to maintain harmony and peace in their surroundings, become not easily upset and can be a point of stability for others, tend to be possessive and hold on to things, don’t like cold, damp weather, their physical problems include colds and congestion, sinus headaches, respiratory problems including asthma, allergies, and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Maybe you can workout your dosha with the help of above descriptions. The best way to find out is to visit an Ayurvedic doctor, who can determine your dosha by feeling your pulse. Another option is to fill in a questionnaire. Most books on Ayurveda have one. If you google, you can find some online as well.

What to eat

If you know your dosha, you know what to eat. A Vata should eat mostly cooked, warm foods and warming spices like cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. They should stay away from icy drinks. A Pita has to eat fresh vegetables and fruits that are watery and sweet and eat lots of salads with dark greens such as arugula, dandelions, and kale. They  have to avoid fried food. A Kapha have to choose foods that are light, warm, and spicy. They should avoid heavy oily foods and processed sugars. You will find lists with what to eat and what not in most books on Ayurveda.

Being sick means – in Ayurvedic perspective – that you are out of balance. There can be a lot of reasons for it. To find your balance again you have to adjust your diet (and lifestyle).

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