Lifestyle and dietary advice for a smooth transition from winter to spring
In Ayurveda the key to good health, is to live in harmony with nature and its natural rhythms, whether this is the alternation of day and night and following a daily regime (Dina Charya) or changing our diet and lifestyle to the rhythmic cycle of seasons (Ritu Charya).
As nature is defined by the five elements of Air and Space (Vata), Fire and Water (Pitta) and Water and Earth (Kapha), each season is dominated by one or more of these elements. Balancing these elements within our nature or constitution (Prakruti) around the seasons becomes essential to maintaining good health. By following some basic Ayurvedic principles into your life, you can weather this seasonal transition smoothly without encountering the seasonal allergies that come with the start of spring.
For all my clients in clinic we go through seasonal dietary and lifestyle changes and for many a gentle Spring Cleanse, but for now we shall stay with simple lifestyle changes, and cover cleansing later. By changing their diets seasonally, their immune systems have got stronger and many who suffer from seasonal allergies like hay fever, cold and coughs have managed to either reduce the severity of their symptoms or avoided them all together.
Ritu Charya (seasonal regime) is one of the most simple, yet powerful form of medicine in Ayurveda.
Qualities of spring: and its effects on the body
With climate change we have seen seasons change all around us. A spring day can also bring aspects of winter and summer to it. To know when best to implement seasonal changes, it is best to look for the qualities of spring which are warm, moist, gentle and unctuous. As the warmth of the sun melts the winter ice and snow, similarly the accumulated Water and Earth (Kapha) liquefies in our bodies. To enjoy a healthy spring we need to keep Kapha in balance.
Function of healthy Kapha is to lubricate our joints, as well as protect the mucus membranes of our lungs and stomach. When balanced we feel strong and stable, if out of balance, Kapha creates excessive phlegm in the lungs, causes sinus problems, nausea, heaviness, water retention, dullness and depression. As well as early spring allergies such as hay fever and rhinitis.
It’s all about our Digestive fire or Agni:
The basis of everything in Ayurveda is a healthy digestive Agni or “fire”. Agni gives us the physical power of digestion as well as the ability to discriminate and digest our sensory impressions, thoughts and emotions. A strong Agni will enable you to differentiate between essential and non-essential; healthy to toxic; wise from foolish. A good functioning Agni also prevents the build-up of ama, the heavy residue left in the body when you consume things you can’t assimilate or completely digest. A good Agni helps build healthy tissue and improves immunity and resilience to dis-ease.
All Ayurvedic regimes and rituals are based around forming and supporting a strong Agni; be it daily rituals to seasonal regimes.
What is the remedy?
Your Ayurvedic prescription for spring is to develop a rhythm and routine that helps you gradually lighten up physically, mentally, and emotionally without disturbing the stable virtues of Kapha. The best approach is multidimensional and changing your diet and lifestyle and adding certain herbs and spices to your diet
Counter balancing these qualities with food
To ensure a strong Agni, we have to eat at regular times during the day; have routine meals with regular intervals of 3 -4 hours between each. Switch to lighter foods and avoid foods that increase Kapha; dairy products, iced or cold and raw foods, as well as heavy and oily foods especially in the morning and for dinner. It is better to reduce or minimise foods that are sour, sweet and salty in taste as this can provoke Kapha.
Favour a diet of bitter, astringent and pungent foods, warm cooked foods rather than raw, qualities that reduce and help keep Kapha in check. Below is a list of foods to include:
Vegetables such as Bitter leafy greens; Spinach, Collard Greens, Kale, Mustard Greens, Swiss Chard, Alfalfa Sprouts, Artichokes, Asparagus, Bean Sprouts, Bell Peppers, Bitter Melon, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chicory, Corn, Endive, Fennel, Green Beans, Hot Peppers, Jicama, Leeks, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Peas, Radishes, Seaweed, Snow Peas.
Grains: Amaranth, Barley, Buckwheat, Corn, Millet, Oats (dry), Quinoa, Brown Rice or Old Basmati Rice and Rye. Preferably old grains
Legumes which are astringent or bitter in taste and drying in nature are best: All sprouted beans, Adzuki, Black Gram, Garbanzo, Fava, Kidney, Lentils, Lima, Split peas, Chick peas and Green Gram (Mung).
Warming spices to include are: Anise, Asafoetida, Basil, Bay leaf, Black pepper, Caraway, Cardamom, Cayenne, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander seeds, Cumin, Dill, Fennel, Fenugreek, Garlic, Ginger, Horseradish, Marjoram, Mustard, Nutmeg, Oregano, Peppermint, Poppy seeds, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Spearmint, Thyme, Turmeric, with plenty of fresh herbs such as Dill, Fennel, Parsley, Coriander, Mint.
Drink herbal teas made with herbs such as Tulsi, Echinacea, Licorice, Cardamom, Chicory, Cinnamon, Cloves, Dandelion, Ginger, Hibiscus, Orange peel. Warm water in the morning with honey and a few drops of lemon helps balance Kapha with its heating, cleansing properties
Daily Rituals and Lifestyle to balance and remove excessive Kapha
Daily Abhyanga: Use warm oils such as Sesame Oil, Mustard oil or medicated oils such as Dhanvantari Tailam (our daily massage oil) or Sahacaradi Tailam for daily abhyanga. Dry brushing before your shower improves circulation and stimulates excessive build up Kapha.
Oral hygiene: Include tongue scraping and gandusha or oil pulling using Arimedadi Tailam (our medicated mouth wash) to remove excessive Kapha which resides in the ENT areas.
Nasal Cleansing: Instil 1- 2 drops of Anu Tailam (Nasya oil) in each nostril every morning. This removes excessive Kapha and soothes and protects mucus membranes especially if you suffer from seasonal allergies.
Spring Herbal Allies
The following herbs are my spring picks, although they have numerous other benefits and can be used for many reasons I have outlined which of these would be most beneficial during spring.
Triphala: Contains three of the most important Ayurvedic herbs for detoxifying and rejuvenating the body and improving Gut health whilst balancing all 3 Doshas.
To keep Agni strong:
Trikatu: A combination of 3 spices; Ginger, Black pepper and Long pepper that stimulates digestion and breaks down Ama or toxins
Agnimantha: A single herbs formulation that improves digestive strength and reduces bloating and constipation
Hinguwastak: A combination of 8 herbs. Rekindles digestive fire and assists in digestion of heavy foods, reduces bloating and excessive formation of gas.
Boost immune system
Chywanprash: is a famous Ayurvedic jam or elixir made with 41 herbs known to boost immune system, improve digestion and for supporting respiratory system
Tulsi: this single herb combats respiratory ailments, is a great nervine tonic and helps in seasonal allergies. Can be taken as a herbal tea
Guduchi: Has numerous benefits which include being the best immune modulator, improves digestion also reduces stress and anxiety
Things to consider
Spring and autumn are the ideal times for a Panchakarma or Ayurvedic Cleansing. The transition period between seasons is when the body is primed and ready to purify itself of accumulated toxins. Click here for more information on our home cleansing programme
Spring is the time for renewal and transformation and preparing the mind and body for the year ahead. These are just guidelines on how you can enjoy this springtime. The one simple rule is to slow down and keep it simple. Keep your Kapha balanced!
Resources: You can source the following from Ayurvedic Stockists:
Herbal Teas: https://www.pukkaherbs.com/
Up next: Managing hay fever naturally