“Let Food Be Your Medicine, and Let Medicine Be Your Food”

[These are lecture notes from a speech Dr Mark Vinick has given throughout California. He is available as a guest speaker.]Hippocrates (father of modern medicine).
i.e. When ill, use food to heal, and let food be the basis of prevention to prevent illness from occurring in the first place.
“Without proper diet, medicine is of no use.
With proper diet, medicine is of no need.”- ancient Ayurvedic proverb.
The ancient science of Ayurveda is believed by many to be well over 5,000 years old. The ancient Ayurvedic scriptures: Charak Samhita,
Sushrut Samhita, and Ashtanga Hridaya.
All indicate that this science was given by the Creator to ancient sages for safeguarding the health and well-being of us all.
Charak Samhita- “To be happy, healthy, and successful in life, one needs good food.”
Yoga- That which connects heart, mind, and soul. Creates health.
Ayoga- That which disconnects heart, mind, and soul. Creates disease.
Bhagavad Gita- 5,000 year old text.

Chapter 17, verse 6:

“A Yogi, eating good food, maintaining proper routine, and virtuous actions will not have any disease”.

Chapter 17, verse 8:

Sattvic food creates a healthy, happy, blissful, and successful, long life.

Chapter 17, verse 9:

Food that is excessively pungent (spicy hot) ,sour, salty, sharp, dry, or too acid is Rajasic, and leads to dukha (suffering), misery, grief, and disease.
Sushrut Samhita- If one eats food like an animal (ie. Heart lotus not open), one will have a tendency to overeat, creating indigestion of many types: physical, mental, emotional. This will create numerous types of disease.
PURUSHA & PRAKRUTI- the two aspects of the UNMANIFEST. The Manifest and Unmanifest are two aspects of life.
Ayurveda and Yoga both are based on Sankhya Philosophy, one of the six schools of Indian Philosophy.
PRANA- is unmanifest, exists within Prakruti.
Chi- Chinese, Ki- Japanese, Ruah (Breath of Life)- Hebrew.

It consists of three components:

Soma- cooling, Lunar influence.
Agni-heating, Solar influence.
Marut-circulating, etheric energy.
From Prana, the Five elements manifest.

THE FIVE ELEMENTS: PANCHA MAHABHUTANI

SPACE-AIR-FIRE-WATER-EARTH

Represent the Etheric, Gaseous, Radiant, Liquid, and Solid states of matter. These principles of density apply to all that is manifest, from the most subtle, Ether or Space, to the most dense, Earth.
Qualities of Space: Cold, dry, light, subtle, liquid, mobile, sharp, soft, smooth, clear.
Qualities of Air: Cold, dry, light, subtle, mobile, sharp, rough, hard, clear.
Qualities of Fire: Hot, dry, light, subtle, mobile, sharp, rough, hard, clear.
Qualities of Water: Cold, wet, heavy, gross, liquid, static, dull, soft, smooth, cloudy.
Qualities of Earth: Cold, dry, heavy, gross, solid, static, dull, hard, rough, cloudy (dark).
THE TWENTY ATTRIBUTES: They are the basis for the properties of all objects found in nature, both gross (material), and subtle (mental).
They are the positive and negative, the yin and yang (in Traditional Chinese Medicine) of all forces in the universe.
Cold/ Hot –Sheeta/Ushna
Wet/Dry-Snigdha/Ruksha
Heavy/Light-Guru/Laghu
Gross/Subtle-Sthula/Sukshma
Dense/Flowing-Sandra/Drava
Static/Mobile-Sthira/Chala
Dull/Sharp-Manda/Tikshna
Soft/Hard-Mridu/Kathina
Smooth/Rough-Slakshna/Khara
Cloudy/Clear-Picchila/Vishada
In general, the cold, wet, heavy, and gross qualities tend to descend and contract, and contribute to creating the body. They also relate to Soma, the energy associated with the Moon. The hot, dry, light qualities tend to ascend and expand and contribute to creating vitality, and the mind. These relate to Agni, the energy associated with the Sun.

THE DOSHAS-Psychophysiological types

SPACE AND AIR- VATA

Qualities of Vata- cold, dry, light, subtle, mobile, sharp, hard, rough, clear

FIRE AND WATER- PITTA

Qualities of Pitta- hot, slightly oily, light, flowing, mobile, sharp, soft, smooth, clear

WATER AND EARTH- KAPHA

Qualities of Kapha- cold, wet heavy, gross, dense, static, dull, soft, smooth, cloudy

HOW FOOD WORKS As A Medicine:

Dravya= material

ALL DRAVYA’S HAVE:

Taste=Rasa ( six)
Potency=Virya (heating or cooling)
Post-digestive effect= Vipak
Energy=Shakti (vibrational energy)
Action=Karma
Special effect=Prabhava

TASTE AND THE ELEMENTS:

SWEET- Consists of Water and Earth elements. It is heavy, moist, and cooling. Decreases Vata and Pitta, while increases Kapha. It is the most aggravating taste for Kapha. Its primary actions are to build tissue (all seven), and calm the nervous system.

COMMON SOURCES ARE:

FRUIT- sweet

GRAIN- esp.wheat, rice, barley.

NATURAL SUGARS- sucanet, rapadura, date sugar, etc.

MILK and MILK PRODUCTS- butter, ghee, cream.

SOUR- Consists of Earth and Fire elements. It is hot, light, and moist. Decreases Vata and increases Pitta and Kapha. Its primary actions are to cleanse tissues, and increase the absorption of minerals.

Common sources are:

SOUR FRUITS- lemons, limes.
YOGURT.
FERMENTED FOODS.
SALTY- Consists of Fire and Water elements. It is hot, heavy, and moist. Decreases Vata and increases Pitta and Kapha. It is the most balancing taste for Vata. Its primary actions are to lubricate and soften tissues, stimulate digestion, and inhances the taste of foods.

Common sources are:

SALT-sea and rock.
SEA VEGETABLES- seaweed, kelp.
PUNGENT- Consists of Fire and Air elements. It is hot, dry, and light. Increases Vata and Pitta, and decreases Kapha. It is the most balancing taste for Kapha, and the most aggravating for Pitta. Its primary actions are to stimulate digestion and metabolism. It also clears the sinuses, promotes sweating and detoxification, improves circulation, and reduces gas and muscular pain.

Common sources are:

PUNGENT VEGETABLES-chili peppers, garlic, and onions.
PUNGENT SPICES- black pepper, ginger (esp. dry), and cumin.
It should be used in very small quantities only
BITTER- Consists of Air and Ether elements. It is light, cooling, and dry. Increases Vata, and decreases Pitta and Kapha. It is the most balancing taste for Pitta, and the most aggravating for Vata. Its primary actions are to detoxify, and lighten tissues. It also has antibiotic, anti-parasitic, and antiseptic qualities. It is useful in weight reduction, water retention, fevers, skin rashes, and cools the liver. Its cool and dry nature helps to balance the hot, oily nature of Pitta. The dense, heavy, and moist nature of Kapha is reduced by its light and dry qualities. Since its consists of Air and Ether, a Vata type who consumes bitter taste in excess will reduce (deplete) all seven tissues, and will develop Vata conditions such as insomnia, constipation, and psychological (fear, anxiety, worry), and neurological disorders.

Common sources are:

GREEN LEAFY VEGGIES- spinach, kale, collard greens, dandelion.
BITTER FRUITS-olives, bitter melon.
BITTER SPICES- turmeric, fenugreek.
COFFEE.
ASTRINGENT- Consists of Air and Earth elements. It is dry, cooling, and heavy. Increases Vata, and decreases Pitta and Kapha. Its primary actions are drying (absorbs water), stops bleeding, tightens tissue, heals ulcers, wounds and mucous membranes, dries fat, and has antibiotic and antibacterial qualities.

Common sources are:

LEGUMES- dry beans, lentils, garbanzo, azuki, mung, white, red,etc.
ASTRINGENT FRUITS- cranberries, pomegranates, dry fruits, and fruit peels.
ASTRINGENT VEGETABLES- broccoli, cauliflower, artichoke, asparagus, turnip, most raw veggies.
ASTRINGENT GRAINS- rye, buckwheat, quinoa.
ASTRINGENT SPICES- turmeric, marjoram.
COFFEE.
TEA- black and green.
If taken in moderation, both Pitta and Kapha benefit from astringent taste. But the cool, dry nature of astringent, will aggravate Vata, and in excess will create constipation, cardiovascular disease, weight loss, excessive thirst, and dryness and blockages of the shrotas (channels within the body).

SUMMARY OF HOW TASTES AFFECT VATA, PITTA, AND KAPHA:

Sweet, Sour, Salty Decrease Vata, Increase Kapha

Pungent, Bitter, Astringent Decrease Kapha, Increase Vata

Sweet, Bitter, Astringent Decrease Pitta

Pungent, Sour, Salty Increase Pitta

SUMMARY OF HOW FOOD QUALITIES AFFECT

VATA, PITTA, AND KAPHA:

Heavy Increases Kapha, Decreases Vata

Cold Increases Kapha and Vata Decreases Pitta

Oily Increases Kapha Decreases Vata

Light Increases Vata Decreases Kapha

Hot Increases Pitta Decreases Vata and Kapha

Dry Increases Vata Decreases Kapha

THE THREE GUNAS:

SATTVA- Purity, harmony, light. As the full moon reflects the light of the Sun while having no inherent light of its own, the sattvic mind reflects pure consciousness, the pure light of the soul.

Its qualities are: Neither hot or cold, neither wet or dry, light, subtle, mobile, sharp, soft, smooth, clear.

RAJAS- Activity, passion. Similar to a partial lunar eclipse. The pure light of the soul is partly obstructed by self-motivated interests clouding the mind. In its extreme expression it becomes destructive for self and others. Its qualities are: hot, slightly wet, slightly heavy, gross, mobile, sharp, hard, rough, cloudy.

TAMAS- Dullness, inertia, darkness. Similar to a total lunar eclipse. The light of the soul is completely obstructed by darkness, leading to actions not guided by the soul. Its qualities are: cold, wet, heavy, gross, solid, static, dull, hard, rough, cloudy.

SEASONAL INFLUENCES:

VATA SEASON: FALL/- Cool, Windy, Dry (Wet in Winter)

The cold, dry weather of Fall increases Vata in the body, and we should follow a more Vata pacifying (reducing) diet at this time. Favor warm food and drinks, heavier foods and more unctuous (oily) foods. Eat more of the sweet, sour, and salty tastes. Avoid dry and cold foods and cold drinks. Eat fewer foods with pungent, bitter, or astringent tastes.

KAPHA SEASON: SPRING (Early)- Cold, Damp, Heavy

The cold, wet weather of spring increases Kapha, therefore we should follow a more Kapha balancing diet. Favor a diet that is lighter and less unctuous. Favor warm foods and drinks. Eat more foods with the pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes, and fewer foods with the sweet, sour, and salty tastes.

PITTA SEASON: SUMMER- Hot, humid

Because the hot, warm weather of summer increases Pitta, we should adjust our diet to favor foods that pacify Pitta. Eat more cool foods, cool drinks (not cold), and foods with sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes. Include the fresh, sweet fruits and vegetables that grow in this season. Take fewer foods with pungent, sour, and salty tastes. Eat less of the following foods: yogurt, cheese, tomatoes, vinegar, and hot spices.

DAILY ROUTINE: GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS:

Awaken before sunrise, or at least no later than 7a.m. Start the day with a stewed apple (see recipe), followed at least 20 minutes later with a cooked whole grain breakfast. The purpose of the stewed apple with clove is to improve and balance your digestive fire (jatar agni). The clove has a sweet post-digestive effect, so it will improve agni but not increase pitta, if used sparingly.

Lunch should be taken between 12 Noon and 1pm. It should be the largest meal of the day. It is best to eat in a relaxed atmosphere, with your attention on the meal, without distractions such as TV or reading. A few moments of gratitude before the meal, helps elevate the energetic vibrational quality of the food, and allows the physiology to settle down and more readily assimilate the nutrients. Even just taking three deep breaths before eating is helpful. Remain seated for 5-10 minutes after eating to allow the digestive system to proceed unhampered as it begins the process of transforming what you have just eaten into becoming your new cells, organs, and tissues. If time permits, it is helpful to take a 10-15 minute walk to aid the digestive process, oxygenate the system, and enliven the mind and body.

Dinner is best eaten before sunset, allowing at least three hours between the end of the meal and bedtime. It should be lighter than lunch. The idea is that lunch should be large enough to fuel your afternoon activities, and dinner should be just enough to get you through your evening activities (preferably relaxing ones), and in bed before your hunger returns.

Bedtime is best before 10p.m. If tired, ill, or detoxifying, 9pm. is even better. If you have had a light nutritious dinner, at least three hours before bed, the nutrients will have had sufficient time to be digested and pass into the circulation where the process of rebuilding and repairing tissues can occur. This process occurs optimally between the hours of 10 pm–2 am. This allows your physiology to create Ojas. Ayurveda recognizes this substance to be the link between spirit and matter. It is the communication link between our consciousness and our mind and body. If Ojas is of superior quality and quantity, our immunity will be at its peak. We will feel, perform, and look our best. Sleep before midnight is twice as restful as sleep after midnight. If we go to sleep after 10 pm, we will not create quality Ojas for the next day’s activities. If we go to sleep after midnight, we not only do not create new Ojas, but we burn our existing stored reserves of Ojas. In addition, if we are awake and active after 10p.m. we usually get a second burst of energy (from our reserves of Ojas), and usually become hungry. However, since the digestive fire (agni) is strongest around 12 noon, and becomes much weaker after the sun sets, whatever we eat this late will not be fully digested and will create toxins (Ama), which enter the circulation and travel throughout the tissues creating disease. Hence the importance of “early to bed, and early to rise”.