Change of Seasons: 3 Ayurvedic Tips for Staying Healthy
As of September 22, the fall season is officially upon us. Although it may still feel like summer in some places (like here in Santa Barbara), the days are indeed getting shorter, the leaves are turning brown and the heat and intensity of summer is beginning to wane. According to Ayurveda, this transitional period between seasons is known as ritu sandhi. In Sanskrit, ritu means season, and sandhi means junction, so ritu sandhi is the time period that joins the seasons, and is when the body is more likely to go out of balance. According to Ayurvedic texts, the specific period of ritu sandhi includes the last eight days of the season that is ending, and the first eight of the season that is beginning.
During this transitional time, it may seem like your immune system is feeling a bit more run down or your chances of getting a cold are increased. The reason for this from a Western perspective is that the temperature shift causes a different group of viruses to flourish. According to Dr. Benjamin Kaplan, an internal-medicine physician at Orlando Health in Florida, "Many studies show that rhinovirus and coronavirus are the two main agents of the common cold. Interestingly, they flourish in cooler weather, such as what we have in the fall." This means that there are a lot more outbreaks of the common cold during the change of seasons between summer and fall and then winter and spring.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, moving from summer to fall is a shift from pitta season (heat) to a more vata season (cool, dry, windy). As we shift into fall, this is a great time to slow down a bit and focus on both your physical and mental health. For many people, summer is a time of more activity-- days at the beach, vacations, shuffling kids to various camps and activities. Eating habits may have gotten a little off track with barbeques, nights out and traveling. Fall is a time to recalibrate and reestablish balance in our routines and diet.
This transitional phase is also a great time to give our digestive system more attention, since the weather fluctuation can create variable digestive patterns, i.e. constipation one day, and heartburn and overly fast digestion the next.
Here are three Ayurvedic tips to stay healthy and balanced during this phase of seasonal transition.
As we transition into fall, it is a great time to do a gentle detox. At this point, we have become accustomed to the heat of summer. We have probably been eating more cooling foods to counteract the heat. It is a good idea to change these habits as we enter into fall, since eating cooling foods when the weather turns cool will create an overabundance of vata in the body. This will in turn increase our risk for colds, dry skin, joint pain and digestive issues like constipation. increases our risk for colds, dry skin, constipation, and joint pain.
A three or five-day detox diet of eating kitchari for lunch and dinner will help to balance the body, as well as boost metabolism and immunity. It will help prevent overaccumulation of vata, while reduce the pitta that has built up during the summer months. Kitchari, a traditional Ayurvedic dish made from a base of rice and lentils, can be modified for any palate or dosha by adding any vegetable of choice, including, but not limited to, zucchini, carrot, sweet potato, bell pepper, fennel, mushrooms, etc. Incorporating spices like ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander and fennel add rich flavor, while boosting digestion and creating a grounding effect for the body. An easy recipe can be found here: http://www.mapi.com/ayurvedic-knowledge/my-vedic-kitchen/vegetable-kichari.html
Amalaki is an herb that is great for the immune system (whose Ayurvedic counterpart is known as ojas). Rich in Vitamin C, amalaki has strong antioxidant properties, and helps support the eyes, skin, brain, heart and lungs. It strengthens the digestion, while balancing stomach acidity that is common with increased pitta dosha. Taking this herb will help keep you healthy and energetic as we enter into fall.
Focus on Digestion
Gut health is integral to our ability to ward off viruses, so maintaining proper digestion during the change of seasons is essential. One way we can help bring digestion into balance are by incorporating an herbal tea made of a combination of cumin, coriander and fennel. Not only is this tea soothing and balancing, but it is warming to the body, which is what we need when temperatures start to drop. Incorporating herbs like black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, and nutmeg into foods and beverages is a great way to rev up a sluggish digestive system that may be experiencing too much vata dosha.. On the flip side, if you find that your digestive system is more on the overactive, hyper-acidity side after a busy summer, drinking aloe vera juice will help to bring it back into balance.