Ayurveda – The Fountain of Youth
In India, 5000 years before modern Western medicine began researching the connection between the mind and body, the oldest and most complex collection of wisdom created health by healing the mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of the body through ayurvedic medicine.
Much more than just a treatment of ailments, Ayurveda translates to “the science of life” and aims to balance the mind, body, and consciousness. Understanding Ayurveda means you have the knowledge to find this balance by being aware of your own traits and predispositions, and then begin lifestyle changes to maintain vitality and health.
Health with Ayurvedic Medicine
Just like everyone’s personalities are different, we all have a unique flow of energy that’s dependent upon individual characteristics—mental, physical, and emotional. This flow of energy is constant throughout our life but can be thrown out of balance by many different factors, both internal and external (1).
If our energy is out of balance, for example, we may have experienced trauma or illness, but other disruptions can stem from poor diet, stress, personal relationships, and even the changing seasons.
In Ayurvedic medicine, if we can identify these disruptions, and address or treat them, then we have restored balance and health can resume. But because our bodies are constantly undergoing shifting energy, we must continually work to maintain balance.
Health is balance, illness is an imbalance. Once we understand the imbalance, we can restore health.
The Three Energies of the Body
Referred to as “doshas”, three types of energy are present in everyone and represent a combination of mental, physical, and emotional characteristics.
We tend to have one dosha that’s naturally predominant, another secondary, and the third being not as dominant.
- Pitta – Natural born leaders, Pitta types are vibrant and intense. They tend to be very motivated and busy, but prone to anger and frustration when out of balance. Pitta governs digestion, nutrition, absorption, and metabolism.
- Vata – Outgoing and talkative, Vata-dominant types are flighty people, sometimes naturally thin, but have the propensity for anxiety and sleep troubles when imbalanced. Vata dictates heart rate, breathing, muscle movement, and cellular function.
- Kapha – Our anchor to the physical world, Kapha types are loving, patient, and reliable. They are generally emotionally stable. If we have an excess of Kapha, we’re prone to weight gain, and low energy. Kapha governs the hydration of skin, the lubrication of joints and tissues, and maintains immune function.
The three doshas work together to maintain a unique balance within every person, but when we have an excess of one or too little of another, symptoms can manifest until we shift our doshas back into harmony.
What Should We Eat According to Ayurveda?
One of the main beliefs in Ayurveda is that the food we eat affects and interacts with our doshas, and can make us feel either vibrant and alive, or miserable. Basically, we can be full of energy and vitality, or feel sluggish and hopeless, depending on what we put in our body.
How does this happen?
According to Ayurvedic wisdom, everything we eat has a primary quality or one of three “gunas”. Not to be confused with doshas, which can be thought of more as a life force, gunas are the qualities that form a dosha, but they’re also qualities found in foods and other things in nature. The three gunas are sattva (purity and peace), rajas (activity and passion), and tamas (darkness) (1).
An Ayurvedic Diet
The most significant thing to remember in your diet is that we aim to boost our sattva. Even though the three gunas exist in equilibrium, by boosting our pure, clean foods, we decrease those that do not have those qualities (rajas and tamas) (2). Coincidentally, sattvic foods are objectively the healthiest and most nourishing for the body. Follow these tips to have more peace with sattvic foods:
- Eat unprocessed fruits and vegetables, preferably organic
- Incorporate sprouted grains
- Eat nuts, seeds, legumes, and drink herbal tea
- Focus on what you’re eating (not watching TV, or driving)
- Eat in a calm atmosphere
- Include a variety of flavors, colors, and spices
- Prime digestion with ginger and warm water
The best foods for an Ayurvedic diet are fresh, flavorful, and consumed in moderate portions.
Is Ayurvedic Medicine Scientifically Proven?
You can find the framework of this ancient and complex medical system in modern alternative therapies today–homeopathy, meditation, and integrative medicine all maintain some components of Ayurveda.
Treatment usually begins with an evaluation of signs and symptoms, followed by a special diet and herbal remedies, and supportive therapies like massage, yoga, and meditation. Ayurveda bridges the gap between the physical, mental, and emotional manifestations of health.
We know now that cultivating the mind-body connection is one of the strongest influences we can have on our health, and emerging research supports this idea. Just 7 minutes of meditation per day has been shown to increase gray matter in the brain, in addition to positively impacting well-being, stress levels, and memory (3).
Two staples in Ayurveda, ginger, and turmeric, have successfully crossed into the modern world, not only due to their versatility as cooking spices but also for their well-documented health benefits.
Modern remedies with Ayurvedic roots:
- Ginger – Ginger has been shown to protect cells from oxidative stress, and mediate the effects of reactive oxygen species that can do damage to DNA within our cells (4).
- Turmeric – Curcumin, found in turmeric, has been shown to increase the activity of a specialized protein in our brain that protects brain cells from stress and promotes neurogenesis–or the creation of new brain cells (5).
- Cinnamon – Effective at reducing what’s referred to as metabolic syndrome, which is the name given to a combination of chronic conditions such as insulin resistance, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity (6).
- Bacopa – Bacopa Monnieri inhibits the release of inflammatory proteins, and can protect brain cells from stress-induced damage (7).
While individual components of Ayurveda are very well supported, the ancient yet living traditions of Ayurveda combine to not only create health but establish and maintain emotional and mental wellbeing.
Therapies that see the human body as a complex and ever-changing system of energy are the perfect complement to modern diagnostic science.
Is Ayurveda Really Effective?
Ayurvedic medicine is able to treat many chronic conditions that have remained largely untreatable by Western approaches–such as diabetes, cancer, asthma, and arthritis (8).
Ayurveda and modern Western medicine can work together harmoniously, but the differences are important to understand. Conventional Western medicine primarily identifies and treats symptoms, rather than the root causes of illness. Ayurveda serves to restore health under the principle that all life thrives with energy in balance. If a body is strong and in balance, then it will be better able to defend against disorder and disease.
That being said, Ayurveda doesn’t take the place of conventional treatment methods where they are valid, but it does unify whole-body treatment and provides that which modern medicine often ignores–the mind-body connection.
What’s the best way to connect the dots between your modern lifestyle and wellbeing?
If you’re struggling with hormonal, emotional, or digestive imbalances, the best plan is to connect with your Power Type. You’ll have a clear picture of who you are physically, mentally, and emotionally, so you can personalize your health journey.