Ayurvedic Guidelines for Spring (and how to beat those allergies)
Finally, the starkness of winter has been replaced by vivid green buds. Daffodils and tulips grace our vases, and anticipation for the summer is growing.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, spring is a distinctly kapha season. If it were possible to
sum Spring up in 2 words, I would say “WARM” and “RAINY”.
In fact, the Sanskrit word kapha, means ‘that which flourishes in water,’ and what season is more defined by the presence of water than spring? Due to the warmth, snow thaws, the sap rises and trees begin to bud, and energy begins to move upward. Similarly accumulated Kapha in the body starts liquefying and flowing. This process can either be a revitalizing event or it can trigger a number of health challenges. That is why so many people get spring colds and sinus. In addition, as flowers shed their pollen and fragrance, making Vata and Pitta people happy, kapha individuals get hay fever and allergies.
Sound familiar? The good news is that you don’t have to start popping antihistamines — a seasonal routine is actually one of our best tools for minimizing spring’s kapha-aggravating potential. And because Kapha is now in a liquid state, it can easily be eliminated from the body with the correct seasonal diet and lifestyle.
How do I know if I have a Kapha Imbalance?
In the mind: Changes in your mental state will often be one of the first indications that an imbalance is on the horizon. Signs that kapha is increasing in the mind include a generalized feeling of heaviness or sluggishness, drowsiness, brain fog, melancholy, or low mood and a tendency towards excessive sleep or afternoon naps.
In the digestive tract: This is one of the first places that aggravated kapha will make itself known. Early signs of kapha imbalance include a sense of heaviness, an uncomfortable feeling of fullness in the stomach, nausea, excess salivation which is thick or slimy, a sweet taste in the mouth, poor appetite or indigestion, and a slow or suppressed metabolism. Excess kapha in the digestive tract can also cause the stools to be heavy, oily, pale or sticky. Kapha is also at the root of mucoid diarrhea and pre-diabetes.
In the respiratory system: Signs of kapha imbalance include colds, coughs, excessive accumulation of mucus, a runny nose, excess nasal crust, and hay fever. Aggravated kapha can also cause congestion or a feeling of tightness in the sinuses, throat or chest.
In the circulatory system: Excess kapha in the circulatory system, skin, muscles and adipose tissue can be an indication that a kapha imbalance is starting to spread. This may cause lymphatic congestion, swollen lymph glands, mild (and intermittent) hypertension, hives, itching, pallor, cold sweats, reduced sweating, loss of strength, the formation of lipomas, fibroids, and/or weight gain.
The Basics of a Kapha-Pacifying Diet
You can reduce the amount of kapha in your system by avoiding oily, sour, sweet and salty foods. Instead, favour the pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes found in fresh vegetables, and indulge your taste buds with a variety of herbs and spices and very soon you will be feeling light and full of energy. Goodbye sinus and hay fever. It really is that simple. I’ll explain…
Large quantities of grains like wheat and barley, bread, dairy and red meat are best avoided in the spring. These are mucus-forming foods and heavy to digest. Cold foods and drinks, ice cream, and raw salads are best avoided too as they dampen appetite and impair digestion, especially if your digestion is trying to cope with excess kapha.
Some simple lifestyle changes can help to decrease the amount of Kapha in your system whilst shedding those extra pounds gained at Christmas.
- Wake up early and do some Yoga – Sun Salutations are ideal. Or try some Pilates or simply go for a brisk walk. Bhastrika (bellows breathing) and Right Nostril breathing are also helpful.
- Tongue Scraping: This simple hygiene practice removes bacteria and toxins that have accumulated on the tongue overnight. It also serves to stimulate and cleanse the digestive tract and the vital organs.
- Portion control is essential to balancing kapha. If the stomach is too full, digestion is impaired. Ideally, at the end of a meal, the stomach should contain one third food, one third liquid, and one third should be empty. Imagine a cooking pot filled to the brim – the food won’t cook properly and may overflow the pot.
- Eat a light breakfast, snack as little as possible, and eat a healthy meals that include a lot of vegetables, like stews, stir-fry, soup or kitchari. It’s also helpful to drink room-temperature or hot drinks, and to avoid iced drinks.
- Tisanes are a great way to enjoy herbs. Pick some of your favourite herbs/spices like rosemary, basil, fresh ginger and black pepper and steep in a cup of hot water. Add a slice of lemon and enjoy. Add a little honey to hot drinks as honey is heating and helps to melt kapha. Other herbs and spices which are delicious as tisanes are cardamom, cinnamon, fennel.
- Boost your appetite with finely grated ginger, a pinch of black pepper, rock salt, lemon juice and honey. Mix and keep in the fridge in an airtight container and have ¼ teaspoon 15mins before each meal.
- Fasting: this is a good time to observe a juice fast of apple, pomegranate or berry juice. (Do not fast if you become light-headed or weak. Use the above advice instead).
- Take Triphala at bedtime. Triphala is a traditional Ayurvedic formula comprised of three fruits that is balancing for Vata, Pitta and Kapha. It is revered for its unique ability to gently cleanse and detoxify the digestive tract while replenishing, nourishing, and rejuvenating the tissues.
- Avoid day-time sleeping, however tempting it may be. This aggravates Kapha. Better to go to bed at a reasonable hour so that you can wake early for Yoga. And just think – only 7 months to go before you can start spending more time in bed again in order to balance Vata during Autumn.
For more tailored advice, I am offering £20 off all consultations during April with the code G4S.
Kapha left unchecked leads to more serious imbalances
Long-standing kapha disturbance in the circulatory system can lead to varicose veins with thrombus, deep vein thrombosis, stagnation of the blood, hardening of the vessels, severely high cholesterol, oedema, congestive heart failure, and leukaemia. In the musculature, you will see severe hypertension, hypertrophy, or extreme hypotonia. In the adipose tissue, a long-standing kapha imbalance is often behind obesity and the formation of malignant fatty tumors such as ganglions and liposarcomas.
Excess kapha is also behind water retention, excess urination, low grade fevers, fungal infections, excess ear wax, dental tartar, excess hair growth, low libido, an exaggerated desire for sex, premature ejaculation (emotional), enlarged prostate, cold or heavy testicles, fibrocystic lumps, leucorrhea, and prolonged, slow menstrual cycles. Imbalanced kapha can also cause a foul smell, swelling and stiffness in the joints, a sense of heaviness in the eyes, and whiteness in the urine, eyes, or faeces.
Please see an Ayurvedic Practitioner before embarking on major diet and lifestyle changes or before buying herbs off the internet. They can help you to work out a diet and lifestyle which is safe and suitable for your constitution and requirements.
Pole, Sebastian. Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice. Churchill Livingston Elsevier, 2006. 54-56.
Lad, Vasant. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies. Three Rivers Press, 1998. 68-70.
Lad, Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda, Volume 2: A Complete Guide to Clinical Assessment. The Ayurvedic Press, 2006.