Spring Cleaning for Health

by | Apr 22, 2003 | Archives

This week Merri and I are away from the farm for our bi- annual Panchakarma treatments. Panchakarma is an incredibly enjoyable and vitally important purification process that has been refined in India over thousands of years. This purification is an important part of Ayurveda, the science of life from India.

In addition to this wonderful cleaning of toxins out of the body, we alter our diet from winter to spring. To learn how to tune your diet for spring here is an excerpt of Jay Glaser's website http://www.ayurvedamed.com/about/

The Tridosha Principle – Basis for a Balanced Body and MindThe word “doctor” comes from a Latin root meaning to lead or teach. In the last two editions of this newspaper we have talked about important principles of Ayurvedic medicine in terms that everyone can relate to. In January we discussed daily routines and biological rhythms and in February we addressed aging caused by oxidative processes. Sounds like modern science? It is, but it is also ancient science, the original science of medicine known as Ayurveda. This month, after that warm up, we are going to look at the heart of the science itself.

In the late 1970's several research colleagues and myself were influenced by a visit by Nobel prize winning physicist, Ilye Prigogine. He had shown that all that is necessary for non-equilibrium systems to create order out of chaos is the influx of energy. The simplest and most elegant example of this is when he put a thick, viscous fluid in a beaker and put it over a source of low heat. As expected, after a while the fluid at the bottom rose to the top, cooled, and sunk to the bottom, at first in a haphazard way. But with time, if the beaker and heat distribution was symmetrical, the rising and falling fluid would create convection cells, with a smooth laminar flow. Eventually you could look at the top of the beaker and see a dozen perfectly polygonal columns surfacing at the top where the rising fluid turned around. Symmetry and order had been created out of a chaotic fluid.

The ingredients of this system are 1) the beaker 2) a source of energy, and 3) a flow of material. These are the requirements of a living system, because biological systems are essentially structures that create and maintain order amid chaos. Viruses, bacteria, amoebas, fungi, ferns, trees, insects and mammals all contain these three ingredients: (1) a physical structure or channel through which (2) flows a material due to (3) the release of energy. In a nutshell, we take in food, we move it via channels throughout the body where it gets burnt to release its energy which we then use to maintain order (keep our temperature constant, repair tissues, seek shelter, etc.). Health is simply a matter of keeping this basic process in balance.

The ancient Vedic rishis (seers) also observed this biological phenomenon and recognized the same 3 elements: an element of movement or flow, vata; the release of energy or metabolism, pitta; and the structure, kapha. They recognized that disease was a dysequilibrium between these three physiological operators called the three doshas.

For example, vata, being movement or transport in the body, is like the wind: light, cold and always moving or shifting. Vata governs elimination, nervous system activity and locomotion. If imbalanced, vata creates a drying, cold, brittle and irregular influence. Think of a tree at high altitude, exposed to the wind and cold. It grows up dry, brittle, cracked, and irregular in shape. Vata dosha has an similar influence on our physiology, and vata imbalances include osteoarthritis and osteoporosis (dry, brittle joints and bones), insomnia and anxiety (excessive and irregular movement in the mind), constipation (irregularity and internal dryness) and aging. There are many ways to aggravate vata in your constitution, but one of the best is to take on excessive activity, staying up late, and keeping irregular hours.

Pitta dosha, being metabolism or transformation of energy, is by nature hot, red, sharp and penetrating. When imbalanced it expresses itself as inflammation or heat, so any disease ending in -itis (meaning inflammation) is generally a pitta disorder. Hot flashes, heartburn, rosacea and most other skin disorders are also due to aggravated pitta. Spicy or sour foods, overheating exercise, anger and frustration are examples of causes of pitta aggravation.

Kapha dosha governs the fundamental quality of structure in the physiology, so its nature is solid, stable, heavy and inert. When aggravated (or increased out of proportion), kapha manifests as obstruction as well as heaviness or swelling. Sinus congestion, obesity, diabetes, and edema are examples of kapha disorders.

One important principle of Ayurveda called the law of similars and opposites states that the presence of a quality in one's life or environment increases the effect of that quality in the physiology; opposite influences decrease the effect of a quality. Health can be maintained or restored by using this principle to structure a balanced routine and environment. In other words: eat heat, get heartburn; eat fat, get fat. If something is dry and brittle, it needs to lubricated and nourished. This sounds so simple, but I am sometimes amazed to see how we fail to grasp this concept.

Ayurveda is a delightful science, because the ancient texts describe the effect of nearly every environmental or dietary influence in our lives on our natural state of equilibrium: different kinds of drinking water, fruits and vegetables, even 215 kinds of meat. The texts describe what to avoid or favor to treat chronic disorders and make it easy and motivating for us to follow the proper program. For vata, naturally, we take warm, rich, nourishing food. Pitta disorders need a cooling influence. Kapha disorders are the least fun to manage, because they are helped by habits that require deprivation and austerity: light diets, more exercise, less salt.

Jay's explanations are easy for me to understand and simple to follow. Tomorrow's message shows how to improve your diet in the spring.

Until then, may all your health be good.




One of the most sensible, easy to use health programs that Merri and I use is Ayurved, the Indian science of life. Years ago after we became ill from Chernobyl radiation we visited the Ayurvedic Health Spa in Lancaster, Massachusetts every six months for seven years. The treatments there not only helped us rid ourselves of the effects of radiation but taught us how to live in a far healthier way. After the Spa shut down we have continued using this practice and this week are having our bi-annual panchakarma (detoxification).

Ayurved taught us how our bodies are governed by three doshas (physiological operators), seven dhatus (tissues) and three malas (waste products) which are in dynamic equilibrium with each other. Any disruption of the natural harmony, proportion and biological rhythms of these elements violates the balancing principle, and if not corrected, may lead to illness or dis-ease.

We learned how an out of kilter metabolism builds up waste. The concept is that inefficient metabolism (called agni) and digestion create ama, by-products or residues, which deposit in the channels of the macro and micro-circulation (shrotas) and in the tissues (dhatus). This prevents the unobstructed flow of biological matter and intelligence, and promotes imbalance and ultimately dis-ease. These concepts reflect current understandings of cell physiology and pathological processes such as aging and arterial disease.

This is one reason why our recent health messages have focused on cleansing techniques to rid ourselves of this waste buildup within our bodies. See links to these messages about cleansings tips below.

From this we also learned ways to eat, work, relax and live so that less waste is created and maintained within so we enjoy increased energy, vitality and longevity.

During these visits we also gained a great respect for Dr. Jay Glaser, a North American trained M.D. who lived in India for many years and has specialized in integrating western medicine with Ayurved.

Now Jay is offering a FREE course that presents a few points of Ayurved at a time with lessons sent every ten to fourteen days. I highly recommend this course. You can read an introduction at http://www.ayurvedamed.com/about/#about

Until next message, I wish you the best in energy, happiness and health!

Join us and sign up soon for Jay's course on Ayurved that he will conduct at the farm. We only have six more spaces left.