As the leaves dry, crackle, and fall to the ground, our bodies in turn react to the change in environment. According to Ayurveda, an ancient form of medicine approximated to be 2000 to 5000 years old, when our bodies move into colder, milder weather this correlates to the 'Vata' dosha.
What is a 'dosha' you ask?
A dosha is one of three energies derived from the five elements that are accepted by Ayurvedic practitioners and doctors to circulate and govern the physiological activity of the body. The three doshas are Vata, Pitta or Kapha. While each person can have a predominant dosha to be in healthy alignment, a person will be at equilibrium where the three doshas are synergistic.
'Vata' is described as the dosha derived from space and air, 'Vata' controls movement specifically blood flow, waste elimination, respiration and the movement of thoughts, when 'Vata' gets out of balance dryness, flighty thoughts, constipation and miscommunciation occurs. Banyan Botanicals an Ayurveda products company notes that in 'Vata' works best with routine, warmth, serenity and nourishment.
To further support the body being balanced during this 'Vata' time of year. Here are some tried and true tips for using Naturopathic medicine to ease your way through winter:
The shortest day of the year in Earth's Northern hemisphere is the Winter Solstice or December 21st, this means we have less time with visible daylight. While less daylight might be intriguing to you and working late hours might seem like a great way to combat the early sunset it is important this time of year of year to have an early bedtime as staying up too late can aggravate 'Vata'.
As the weather cools and continues to get colder it is important to increase the amount of warm foods in your diets by increasing the number of cooked foods you eat and add spices like cardamon, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, mustard seed, basal, bay, cloves and turmeric. It is even more necessary to keep the head and soles of your feet covered so as to not let cold into the body. 'Vata' needs warmth to remain stable and keep the body systems moving.
Speaking of movement, let's talk exercise, even as the weather cools its equally important keep the body moving through physical exercise, be cautious not let the body get too cold during exercise. During this season its great to try gentle physical exercise like tai chi, qi gong, walking, yoga and mat pilates, or keep lymph moving by dry brushing daily.
Support creativity and the harvest, keep your ideas flowing, talk to your friends on a long, gentle walk in nature, orfind a creative outlet/hobby- whether that's beading, painting, baking or knitting-do an activity for you by you!
While it seems like there is pumpkin spice everything these days, from coffee to desserts, try avoiding the sugary version that can suppress the immune system, instead opt for whole pumpkin rich in provitamin A beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin C, even better try the following soup created by Nature & Science Nutritionist Kristy Malone, MA, NTP.
Paleo Pumpkin Spice Soup
Makes 4 servings
1 medium whole butternut squash (or use 1½ lbs prepackaged cubed squash)
1 Granny Smith apple
1 medium yellow onion
5 garlic cloves
1 tsp. honey
1 lb. bacon
1 Tbsp. ghee (may sub coconut or avocado oil)
32 oz. chicken broth
1 c. pumpkin purée
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. sea salt and black pepper to taste
Optional: 2 scoops Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides (for added protein and to thicken)
1. Set your oven to 350 degrees. If using a whole squash, halve it lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out and discard seeds. Remove the skin with a vegetable peeler and cut into 1-inch cubes.
2. Cut the apple into wedges and coat the apples wedges and cubed squash in about 1 tsp olive oil, and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle honey over the apple slices.
3. On another baking sheet, lay out the bacon strips. Bake all for 20-25 min at 350 degrees (for crispier bacon, leave in the oven for an additional 5-10 min).
4. While the apple, squash, and bacon are cooking, chop the onion and garlic. In a large pot, heat the ghee over medium heat until hot but not smoking and sauté the onion and garlic until soft and slightly browned.
5. Add the chicken broth, pureéd pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, salt, pepper, baked apples and squash, and one strip of bacon. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes.
6. Remove from heat, add collagen if using, and then use an immersion blender or transfer mixture to a blender (multiple batches may be needed) to blend all ingredients thoroughly until texture is smooth and consistent. Serve hot and top with crumbled bacon and a dash of pumpkin pie spice.
Vegan: Sub maple syrup for honey, omit bacon and add additional 1/4 tsp salt, sub coconut oil for ghee, sub vegetable broth for chicken broth, and omit collagen.
Vegetarian: Omit bacon and add additional ¼ tsp salt.
Dairy-free: Sub coconut oil for ghee.
To talk more in-depth about Ayurveda, doshas, balancing your dosha, or how to live more in alignment with Naturopathic Medicine for optimal health with the changing season, book an appointment with Erin Rhae Biller at Nature &Science Medicine.
By Erin Rhae Biller, NMD, BA, a naturopathic medical assistant, at Nature & Science Medicine.
Ayurveda 101 from Eat Taste Heal: http://www.eattasteheal.com/ayurveda101/ETH_ayurveda101.htm
Understanding Vata, www.mapi.com/ayurvedic-knowledge/doshas/vata.html
BodhiMed, Ancient Medicine for Modern Health, http://www.bodhimed.com/bodhimed-health/177-magical-vata-digestive-spice-mix