This is when it is time to change our daily routine and diet so they are in tune with the physical changes of earth. By living in tune with the natural laws of the season, we can maintain balance, and we will be able to build a stronger natural immunity against all the colds & flus that tend to happen with colder weather.
Lung Health and the Immune System in Fall
The biggest problem in the fall is dryness. The lungs need to stay moist, not “damp,” and cool but not cold. During illness the lungs often become hot, which in turn dries them out. People with Asthma, on the other hand, even with symptoms of heat, often have “cold trapped in the lungs,” .
When the temperature starts to drop, the body scrambles to protect itself from heat loss. Nourishing foods, especially soups, seem all the more enticing while offering the added benefits of refortifying deficient tissue and thickening the skin, thus insulating your body from the cold.
In Ayurveda, Vata season in general is from October through February, starting in most parts of the country when the weather cools off and leaves turn color and fall off the trees, and ending with the onset of spring. Vata is associated with a windy, dry, and cold climate. As our external environment changes, it increases Vata in our own internal environment. Nourishing foods are called “ojas” building foods. Ojas building, nourishing foods for autumn include root vegetables such as carrots and beets and hard “winter” squash like pumpkins and butternut squash as well as ghee and almonds.
Foods to favor during Vata season:
Foods with sweet, sour, and salty tastes. Warm milk, paneer (homemade cheese), honey, olive oil, ghee, sweet juicy fruits, well-cooked vegetables such as beets, carrots, asparagus and sweet potatoes. Nuts such as cashews, almonds, and pistachios are good for Vata. Sesame seeds are especially balancing for Vata.
Foods to reduce:
Dry cereals, cold or iced foods, barley, corn, buckwheat, rye, dried fruits. (Raisins are fine when soaked in water first. Dates are fine.) Sour fruits such as cranberries. Apples and pears are fine when cooked. Avoid raw salads and raw vegetables. Beans should be avoided in general, except mung dhal, and green beans.
Many Americans have a diet that is too dependent on wheat. For people with a tendency to excess damp accumulation (for example, easy weight gain, chronic yeast or bladder infections, chronic bronchitis, oily skin, issues of excessive phlegm), it is useful to reduce wheat and increase naturally cleansing green leafy and other cruciferous vegetables. Cold beverages and foods damage the spleen or Agni, so should also be avoided, this is my hardest thing to give up! I love iced drinks. Take a break from wheat and perhaps dairy, you will know your own body, pay attention. If you eat bread, eat bread made with natural sour vs. baker’s yeast. It is much more digestable. Some people do better without dairy. Goat milk is less damp producing than cow’s milk. It is easier to digest. All milk should be warmed and not drunk cold.
Vata balancing nourishing foods
Start out the day with warm lemon water. Sour lemons in morning tea convince sweat glands and stomach glands to stay juicy. Some ideas are Ginger Carrot soup, Butternut squash soup, Curried Squash, Golden Milk, Apple cider with spices. I will be posting these recipes soon! A pinch of tumeric keeps circulation strong. The most important general principle for everyone regarding diet during Vata season is to have warm, cooked foods. Since Vata is cold, dry and rough, warm, cooked foods made with a little olive oil or ghee have a wonderful soothing effect that immediately calms down restless Vata. Warm drinks such as hot milk or Herbal tea with ghee or coconut water, also have an immediate balancing affect. Cold sandwiches, sushi, raw veggie wraps, cold salads, and dry cereals with cold milk are the types of foods that can create a Vata imbalance and should be avoided during this season
Restoring Vitality to the Skin
The vitality of skin wanes as blood vessels constrict with colder temperatures, Your pulse rate also drops with the temperature. Warm blood close to the surface of the skin radiates too much heat. When the outside temperature drops, your body protects itself from heat loss by reducing blood flow to your skin, arms and legs. Trees experience something similar: when the weather turns frigid they pull their sap into their core, then their leaves wither and fall. Reducing blood flow dries out your skin, leaving it dull and lusterless. Massaging your body with dosha specific oils is one of the best ways to combat dry skin in the fall. Almond oil & sesame oil work for all oil dosha’s.
Ayurvedic Oil Bath
Ayurveda’s remedy for Vatta imbalance and for dry skin is an herbal oil bath. It’s simple. Take one cup of organic sesame oil, or if you are a hot type, coconut oil. Whatever oil you use, warm it gently. You can place a glass bottle of oil in hot water for 5 minutes.
Now massage lots oil into your body from head to toe, leisurely and fluidly. Allow the oil to seep into your scalp and skin, bath in it. Sesame oil penetrates past the dermis of the skin. Oil massage helps retain heat.When your body is soaked in oil, lay down in a warm quiet spot for 15 minutes or more. Really relax. People with dry skin will notice that after 15 minutes, much of the oil has been absorbed into your skin. Oil bath’s calm my nerves very well, its well worth the time. After the oil bath get in the shower and gently wash the oil off with a natural non toxic soap. The oils do need to be washed off. My children & I bath each other in oil together, its bonding and relaxes my children also ( Major plus!!!!).
Emotions & the Mind in the Fall
The fall is a time for inspiration and new ideas. The movement of blood from the outside of your body, back to the core increases blood flow to the mind. The opportunity to reflect on the last few months could stir up emotions as well. I am already feeling the reflective state. Wind, sudden temperature shifts, and the school season also provoke higher stress levels this time of year. According to Ayurveda, keeping the nervous system stable through fall is our number one tool for maintaining strong immunity and staying healthy. Fall is the season of letting go, the metal element in traditional chinese medicine. As the lungs are the organ most affected by grief and sadness, it is important, especially if you have weak Qi or Asthma, to be in touch with issues of grief and sadness, so that you may process them. That means allowing the discomfort of grief and sadness to be felt so it can be moved through. It might mean working with a therapist, or doing Mindfulness Meditation.Unprocessed emotions, or unskillful dealing with emotions on a daily basis, is one of the “internal” causes of disease in Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, it is as important as poor diet is in prevention of disease.
Rest, Routine & Resiliency
Wearing oneself ragged in October’s could result in compromised immunity for flu season come November. Alternatively, relaxation and downtime free up energy to help the body prepare for winter. Skipping meals, staying up late, and irregular mealtimes create stress and deficiency. During Vata season it is important to maintain regular routines of rest and activity and to eat warm foods. If you already have a Vata imbalance, then extra attention to routine and diet are crucial during Vata season to avoid increased Vata imbalances such as restlessness, insomnia, constipation, dry skin, and worry.
Herbs & spices for Fall:
I use high doses of Stinging Nettles. This herb has been shown in many studies to reduce Histamine response, the chief culprit in allergic reactions. Stinging nettle is a treatment for the pain of arthritis and gout, for anemia, allergies and urinary problems or as a topical treatment for eczema, insect bites and painful muscles. The root and leaves of the plant contain several compounds that are biologically active, including flavonoids such as quercetin that have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help remove free radicals from your body; these unstable chemicals can damage your cellular membranes and DNA.
Churna Spice Mix to Balance Vatta
Cardamom seed, Cumin seed, Fennel seed, Asafoetida, Ginger, and Turmeric. Grind together equal amounts of the first three seeds, and then add 1/5 the amount of each of the last three powders.
Curry Spice Mix for cooking
2 Tbs Cumin, 2 Tbs Cardamom, 2 Tbs Coriander, 1/4 cup Tumeric, 1 Tbs of dry mustard and a pinch of cayenne.Grind together and store in a glass jar.
A wonderful tea for Vatta contains Licorice, Fennel, Ginger, Cinnamon, Black Cardamom, and Ajwain. This is an excellent warm, sweet, moistening combination that pacifyies Vatta and also benefits the large intestine, the seat of Vatta in the body. Add ghee or coconut oil.
Tulsi or Holy Basil is another Vata passifying tea that is satvic ( for everyone). Benefits include oral care, relief from respiratory disorders, as well as treatment of fever, asthma, lung disorders, heart diseases and stress.
Nasya Oil is a combination of herbs including brahmi, calamus, and scullcap in a base of sesame and olive oils. Used to lubricate the inside of the nose and ears, it is very soothing to mucous membranes and other tissues of the nose that can become dry in the fall. I use this oil religiously, I feel the immediate effects.