Should We Eat Like Bunnies in the Spring?
As a culture we move through diet fads every few years. We collectively look for the next thing that is going to help us lose weight and feel better. We may have some success initially but then familiar habits take over once the cleanse or diet is over.
Some cleanses can be so intense that they strip away not just the junk but the healthy stuff too. When this happens and we don't transition gradually out of the cleansing process, this can wreak more havoc than never having cleansed at all.
When the mucosal lining is stripped from the intestines through a harsh cleanse or acidic/spicy foods, it can take seventy two hours to build it back up. That means that if you don't take at least this amount of time to ease back into normal foods after cleansing that the gut lining will be less protective and work less efficiently.
Ayurveda actually doesn’t believe in harsh cleanses. It believes in cleanses that are nourishing to the body and mind so that you don’t go into fight or flight mode while doing it- which cancels out the benefits. In Ayurveda, even at the most intense portion of a seasonal cleanse, beans, grains fruits and vegetables can still be consumed, although fruit must be consumed alone. This means you will always have access to a complete protein and carb and not feel like you are starving yourself. Thus the cleanse is nourishing and rejuvenating, not restrictive.
Rejuvenation is a lost art in the west. We do a cleanse and eat a hamburger the day it is over. I once went for a colonic treatment and the practitioner told me I could eat anything I wanted when I left. I didn't and still don't agree with her.
But in Ayurveda, rejuvenation or rasayana is considered just as important as the cleanse itself. After the body is cleaned, it needs to be rebuilt with stronger, purer tissues. Healthy, happy tissue is built through high quality fats, proteins and starches consumed in moderate amounts appropriate for your body type. For example, naturally thin people need more fat and starch and naturally thick people need less fat and starch. And medium size people need medium amounts of fat, protein and starch to rebuild the body. It's just like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
So what does an Ayurvedic cleanse look like? First off, let's be clear Ayurveda is not a fad. It has been recorded for thousands of years and passed down orally since the beginning of time. If something wasn't working for them, it would not be passed down through the generations. What is interesting is that if we look at different fad diets, we can actually see each diet contains pieces of wisdom that are appropriate in different seasons.
These days we have so much protection from nature, access to global food and technology consuming our attention that it's harder for us to realize principles our ancestors were required to live by in order to survive. For example, our ancestors never ate the same food year round. The gut bacteria in their microbiome shifted from season to season in order to be able to better digest the food that was available to them at that time of year. These shifts are still occurring in our bodies today. If we pay attention, we may notice that we feel fine when we eat bread in the winter but practically go into a food coma when we eat it in the summer.
Let's look at how we can eat appropriately in each season!
In the spring we have a modest harvest. Low calorie berries and green sprouts are in season. This is the best time of year to eat a reduced calorie diet. We can kick the body into fat burning mode by eating more greens and low carb foods and consuming a moderate amount of healthy oils.
In the spring we are melting off the accumulation of water, fat and toxicity that have built up from the winter. In the same way that the snow of winter melts in the spring sun, so the dense fat in our body melts as the temperature gradually warms. However, if we do not take the right steps, then the fat gets congested and causes spring disease, allergies being the classic example. A person may also experience lethargy, joint pain and a host of other illnesses.
In the summer, the sun is hot and our circulation is naturally directed to the periphery of the body through sweat. This is a mechanism that keeps the body cool. Because blood is moving from the center to the surface, our digestive organs don't have as much circulation. Therefore, the digestive fire is not as strong.
Our appetite appropriately decreases. We can take small meals packed with light energy. Fruits have lots of natural and easy to digest sugars that support the body. The sweet taste of fruit also has a cooling effect and helps regulate body temperature in the summer time.
In the fall, we move toward a heartier diet of grains and root vegetables. These contain dense nutrition and build the body's reserves for the winter time. This is the best time of year to eat heavier foods because they will protect us against the cold temperatures.
So the body moves into a more ketogenic or fat burning state in the spring when we eat a calorie restricted diet with lots of bitter and astringent veggies, berries and beans. It maintains a low level of fat burning in the summer if we are primarily consuming fruits, vegetables and whole grains. And in the fall, a moderate amount of fat is stored for the winter.
According to Ayurveda, it is the transitional times in life in which we are most prone to disease. This includes every type of transition you can imagine- sunrise, sunset, waking up, going to bed, fall to winter, winter to spring, spring to summer, childhood to adolescence, adolescence to adulthood, adulthood to old age, graduations, moving, marriages, divorces, etc.
Spring is special. It is considered the New Year in Ayurveda. New life is emerging from the earth as the cold melts away. There is abundant opportunity for transformation in the body and the mind.
As we transition into Spring, we have an opportunity to empty out what the body has accumulated from the previous season. When we allow ourselves to release this accumulation, not only do we reduce or eliminate completely common spring symptoms, we upgrade our health, generate mental clarity and set healthy trends for the upcoming season. We also reset the tastebuds so we actually start to crave what is right and healthy for us.
Usually when we think of a cleanse we think of something that is very austere like only drinking lemon and water or only consuming green juices. Not this cleanse. For our Ayurvedic cleanse, we will shift the body into fat burning mode. This is not accomplished by eliminating carbs from the diet. Contrastingly, it is accomplished through ingesting ghee (clarified butter) in the morning and then maintaining a fat free diet high in beans, grains and vegetables throughout the rest of the day.
As we ingest ghee in the morning, like attracts like. This means the ghee draws fat toward itself into the intestines. Here the long time stored toxins from various fat cells in the body can be broken down and released through the bowels. The result is that we successfully release long time fat soluble toxins from the body.
I would love for you to join our upcoming cleanse and eight week online course. Simple Ayurveda to Change Your Life begins on Wednesday, April 14th at 7:00pm. This is both an educational and experiential course. We will learn about the basics of Ayurveda, habits that up-level your life and most importantly we will go through a two week Ayurvedic kitchari cleanse together. Simple Ayurveda will allow the mental, emotional and physical potential which has been hiding underneath the grime to shine through.
***ABOUT THE SIMPLE AYURVEDA COURSE***
In addition to the two week cleanse, class will include education on:
1) Ayurveda basics
2) Shat karma or bodily cleansing exercises (usually to do with clearing mucous from the body)
3) Body Thrive, a workbook by Cate Stillman, universal habit application- good for supporting the body’s ability to naturally detox itself
4) Optimal meal times
5) Morning and evening routines
6) Ayurvedic times of day and how to capitalize on them
7) Aligning your routines with the changing seasons
8) The six tastes in Ayurveda and how to use them appropriately for the season and your body type
9) Your unique Ayurvedic constitution composed of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha doshas
To find out more information about the course and to sign up, click here!