Fasting in Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine
Fasting in Ayurveda
Ayurveda believes that light fasting can greatly benefit your health. Light fasting healthfully stimulates the digestive fire of your entire gut, from your salivary glands to your large intestine, including your stomach, pancreas, liver, gall bladder, and small intestine (called Agni in Ayurveda), causing it to metabolize your foods and drinks more efficiently. Now your gut produces less toxic waste (called Ama in Sanskrit), which is one of the major roots of disease in Ayurveda. This is why light fasting in Ayurveda is considered an important part of a healthy lifestyle that prevents unnecessary disease in Ayuredic medical theory.
The key to healthy fasting in Ayurveda is to stick with the middle way and avoid extremes. Radical fasting weakens the body. And, most importantly, fasting has to be appropriate to your primary and secondary doshas , called Prakruti in Ayurveda, and also the any current dosha elevations associated with any current disease or disorder.
Fasting in Chinese Medicine
One of the bedrocks of prevention and treatment in Chinese medicine is this aphorism: Good sleep, good digestion, and good elimination equals good prognosis. Healing is a process, not a pill, and you cannot cure with a drug what you have created with a lifestyle. You cannot attain good health if one of the fundamentals is missing.
* Good sleep is essential for restoration and repair of tissues and the mind.
* Good digestion is how we extract nutrients from food.
* Good elimination is vital for both the immune system and for clearing
the body of toxic waste.
You could add to the above good breathing and good thinking. The breath is how we take in vital oxygen which is transferred from the lungs into the blood and transported though the body by the pumping action of the heart. Many of us are shallow breathers. When you breathe well, you enrich your blood. This is why Pranayama is such a valuable part of yoga practice, why mindfulness meditation of Buddhism is centered on awareness of the in and out breath, and why Taoist Tai-Qi also focuses on correct breathing during Tai Qi practice.
Chinese Medicine does not support radical extremes.
In fact, there appears to be no support for complete fasting at all in Chinese medicine. Rather, Chinese medicine sees cleansing the body of toxins as a function of vegetable consumption. The classics say, “Grains are for energy, meats for strength, and vegetables for keeping the body clean.” So if you want to cleanse yourself of toxins, pushing vegetables is the middle way.
Vegetable Fasting in Chinese Medicine
For a few days or even for a week, try having your protein at breakfast and lunch, and having a large plate of mixed steamed veggies for dinner. Include various greens—kale, dandelion; some cruciferous veggies—broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage; and something starchy like acorn or butternut squash. There is no need to ruin your digestive fire with raw, green smoothies. Rather, have your vegetable in their whole form and experience the fragrance and sensual pleasure of each vegetables visual and gustatory beauty.
Ayurveda on Fasting:
Unlike Chinese Medicine, fasting is part of Ayurveda. However, Ayurveda prescribes fasting according to your Body-Mind type, or Dosha. This is a key point. Different constitutional types have different needs.
Fasting in Ayurveda: Tailored to You Dosha BodyMind Type
The key point for fasting in Ayurveda is that its never “one size fits all”. You have to fast according to your dosha.
- Vata: Monodiet fast only. Does not do will with complete fasting. Use Triphala while fasting. Drink warming tea like Ayush brand Pro-Vata
- Pitta: Monodiet fast only. Favor enough bitter herbs and vegetables, drink cooling herb tea like Ayush brand Pro-Pitta
- Kapha: Can do complete water fast if strong. Use Guggal and Triphala. Use Ayush brand Pro-Kapha tea to reduce Kapha.
As regards the food itself for each dosha while fasting. In broad strokes:
- Vata types should use some gentle some warming spices like fennel, ginger and asofoetida, and a little healthy fat like olive oil or avocado. Kitchari is very good.
- Pitta types can drink lime juice lemonade with rose water, and use sweet or cooling spices like cinnamon and cilantro in their kitchari with bitter green vegetable in small amounts.
- Kapha types can add warm spices like black pepper, but no oil, and if on mono-diet eat very small amounts and less starch. Drink ginger and long pepper tea.
In a nutshell, the reason you must taper your fasting to your dosha is because each dosha has different characteristics.
Vata types, for example, who are naturally thin, dry and cold, don’t usually do well with total fasting. They have lots of air element, and will become too spaced out and weak. A Kapha type, however, with large bones and flesh, tons stamina, but with a tendency to laziness, withdrawal, and weight gain could really tolerate and benefit by aggressive fasting.
The Ayurveda Mono-diet Cleanse
Ayurveda in general does not believe in complete fasting for more than a couple of days, except in rare cases. What it does support is regular, brief, partial fasting, even once a week, in which you drink plenty of salt-free liquids, such as fresh vegetable juice, water, yogurt mixed with water and cumin powder, or raw milk boiled with ginger and cardamon. At the same time you can eat a single light meal at noon or early evening, of either fruits and boiled raw milk, rice and yogurt, or rice, veggies, and mung dal cooked with cumin, ginger, and black pepper (called Kitchari).
This is referred to as a mono-diet cleanse. It cleanses the digestive tract and rekindles the digestive fire (Agni) so that toxins (Ama) are consumed.
Besides once-a-week fasting, at the change of seasons or any time purification is desired, try one of the above mono-diets for 2 to 5 days, even a week if you can handle it. Also drink lots of water during this time. See this article for more info.
One way to think of food is as information for the body. (Actually, it really is.) Food, like all matter, is comprised of atomic particles organized in a particular pattern. When we eat we take these in, break them down with our agni digestive fire (enzymes, hydrochloric acid, etc), and reassemble them into new cellular structures.
Fasting reduces the amount of input your digestive system needs to break down and reassemble. The stomach, pancreas, gall bladder, liver, and small and large intestines get to rest. (A Sabbath for your insides.) And rest is restorative. The digestive system becomes stronger. The trick in Ayurveda is to do it right, matched to your unique type.
Mental Hygiene: Free Drugs!
Good thinking. This is a large topic, but in essence we know from science that some kind of positive mental attitude aids health. It’s sufficient here to say that there is nothing as toxic as some of our own thoughts! Some times people overdo realistic concerns about toxins in their bodies from food and miss this part of health. Some people get so anxious about bad food or toxins that they make themselves sick with nervous tension.
Asian philosophy observes that our minds make us ill by creating unnecessary physical tension. Many people’s bodies never fully relax and their minds never get calm. Thinking, thinking, thinking, even when it is neither useful nor necessary. Chinese medicine says “the mind leads the Qi.” (Qi or chi is a generic Asian term for energy.)
The mind here includes feelings. That means that while emotions like fear, worry, and anger can bind up the Qi,causing all kinds of diseases; meditation and conscious mind can undo this somaticization process. We can consciously use our minds to relax the Qi so that all our organs are nourished and work harmoniously. Meditation is to your mind what bathing is to your skin.
An easy way to experience mental stillness is to observe silence. Try not speaking for 12 hours. Even better, try 24 hours. See how you feel. For yogis this is a regular practice called Mowna. You will see the mental chatter slowly dissipate, and your power of hearing and sight, both external and internal, will improve. Silence is fasting for the brain; it has a cleansing effect. This is especially valuable for Vatta types with a lot of nervous energy, and Pitta types that are always seeking control.
Try the Ayurvedia way of fasting for your body and brain today!
Ayurveda, Acupuncture, and Chinese Medicine in San Diegohttps://www.bodymindwellnesscenter.com
Interesting well-described article. Thank you 🙂