By Kalpana Shere-Wolfe, MD
Ayurveda, which literally means knowledge of life, is the ancient medical system of India. Ayurveda states that we are made up of the same substance as that of the universe – we are an integral part of it and therefore should follow the natural laws of the universe. The major elements or mahabhutas of Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth which make up our world are also part of us. From these arise the doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha which are responsible for maintaining proper function and balance of body and mind. Vata consists of Air and Space and is responsible for bodily functions that involvement movement such as circulation, heartbeat, respiration, elimination. It has the qualities of cold, dry, mobile, subtle, rough, and light. Pitta consists of Fire and Water and is responsible for digestion, metabolism and energy production. It has the qualities of hot, sharp, sour, pungent, liquid, flowing and oily. Kapha consists of Water and Earth and is responsible for physical structure and fluid balance. It has the qualities of oily, heavy, cool, slow, dull, sticky and stable.
In Ayurveda, proper food and digestion are fundamental to good health. Agni or the digestive fire with proper food produces ojas, the final and most refined product of digestion. Ojas positively affects our psyche, emotions, physical body and immune function. Improper foods and weak agni results in ama or poorly digested substances that can acts as toxins. So the keys to good health are both proper food and strong digestion. Ayurvedic recipes provide support for the digestive fire (agni) and the proper fuel (freshly prepared food).
Many of the spices used in these recipes have a potent effect on digestion.
As we leave summer and approach winter, a vata dominant time of year – the qualities of cold, dry, light, rough and mobile become more apparent. Ayurveda advises us to avoid or reduce cold, dry and light foods during this time period. Examples of foods to avoid would be ice cream, sorbets, iced and carbonated drinks, popcorn, crackers and chips. This is a wonderful time of year for warm, cooked, heavy and unctuous foods such as soups, butter, stews, rice, beans, lentils, casseroles, cooked and stewed fruits, cooked and spiced vegetables as well as warming spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, black pepper, and mustard seeds.
In Ayurveda, food really is considered medicine.
Below are two ayurvedic recipes: kitcheri – an Indian staple consisting of rice and lentils and chappatis – an Indian flat bread with some variations.
Mung Dal Kitcheri
1/2 cup yellow mung dahl (washed and soaked overnight*)
1/2 cup basmati rice (washed and soaked overnight*)
1 cup of green beans washed and cut into ¼ inch pieces
Can also use zucchini, carrots or kale - any vegetable will do as long as it is fresh
1 tsp finely shredded ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 rounded tsp cumin seeds
1/16 tsp hing or asafoetida
2 tbsp. ghee
4 cups water
1 cup of organic wheat flour
1 tsp olive oil
Pinch of salt
For anyone interested in Vedic cooking, I highly recommend Yamuna Devi’s The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking.
About the Author: Kalpana Shere-Wolfe, MD
Dr. Kalpana Shere-Wolfe is an Internal Medicine physician with specialization in Infectious Diseases and Critical Care. She completed the Bravewell Fellowship through the University of Arizona Program for Integrative Medicine with Dr. Andrew Weil in 2010. She attended the University of Pennsylvania where she majored in Biochemistry and then went to SUNY Stony Brook to complete her medical training. She completed her residency at St. Lukes'-Roosevelt Medical Center; her Infectious Diseases fellowship at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine; and her Critical Care fellowship at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.
Dr. Shere-Wolfe’s interest in Integrative Medicine stems from her experiences with yoga and sound through the ancient practice of Vedic chant which she has studied for almost ten years. She strongly believes that we have the capacity for self-healing, and that this can be supported by good nutrition, rest/sleep, movement, and positive mindset. She also believes that tools such as our breath, body and mind can be used to access deeper layers of ourselves that aid in awareness, behavior and ultimately healing and happiness. She views most herbs, supplements and pharmacologic medicines as sometimes necessary or helpful as short term aids in the healing process.
Her specific interests include the use of integrative modalities for patients with chronic infections and immune related diseases. At the Center for Integrative Health and Healing she provides Integrative Medicine consultations for a variety of illnesses including chronic fatigue syndrome, post-infectious disease syndromes, post treatment Lyme diseases/chronic Lyme disease, anxiety, depression, pain and wellness. She incorporates chanting/sound, breath, Ayurvedic principles and yoga therapy into her treatment. In addition, she offers consultations in the use of Ayurveda for wellness and yoga therapy treatment of chronic conditions.
To schedule an appointment to see Dr. Shere-Wolfe at our Integrative Medicine Clinical Practice, please call 410-448-6361 or email CIMClinicInfo@som.umaryland.edu.
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