Ayurveda for Endometriosis
Of late I’ve found quite an interest in Ayurvedic medicine on my quest to naturally treat endometriosis. This is not a huge surprise given my pull towards Buddhism and Yoga – which share similar values of balance.
There are several reasons why I feel Ayurvedic medicine is beneficial for healing endometriosis and other health ailments:
- It focuses on digestive health, taking into consideration individual qualities and constitutions in order to properly balance things out.
- It focuses on balance within an intertwined health system of body and mind.
- It includes nature as its most important teacher, going back to a more natural, systemic way of healing, with food as primary medicine.
- It gives an outline on what to eat and not to eat depending on your individual constitution.
I just finished a great introductory book called Prakriti Your Ayurvedic Constitution by Dr. Robert E. Svoboda – which gives an overview of Ayurveda and the different characteristics of each constitution. The following is some of what I’ve learned…
The Three Doshas
In Ayurveda there are three main energy sources in the body called Doshas. Together, these three elements are essential for life.
- Vata – Principal kinetic energy source in the body, connected to the nervous system, responsible for physical movement in the body, moving nutrients and wastes into and out of cells.
- Kapha – Controls body stability and lubrication including tissues and wastes.
- Pitta – Digestive processes and “cooking” in the body (including thoughts cooking in the mind). The enzymatic and endocrine systems are part of Pitta.
Dosha means “a thing that can go out of whack”. When Vata, Pitta and Kapha are out of balance then the system is likely out of balance as well.
Vata relates to nature as air or wind. It dries, cools, roughens, is erratic and irregular. It tends to congregate in the brain, heart, colon, bones, lungs, bladder, bone marrow and nervous system.
Kapha relates to nature as water and earth. It has the same qualities as mucus. It is slow moving, cold, heavy, dull, thick, smooth, sticky and sluggish. Kapha gathers in the brain, joints, mouth, lymph system, stomach, pleural and pericardial cavities.
Pitta relates to nature as fire. Like fire it is hot, intense, light and fluid. It’s fiery qualities are used to digest food. Pitta gathers in the skin, eyes, liver, brain, blood, spleen, endocrine system and small intestine.
The three doshas are regularly eliminated from the body – Kapha as mucus, Pitta through acid and bile and Vata through gas and as muscular and nervous energy.
The Six Tastes
How much of each Dosha your body produces depends on which of the six tastes you consume. Overdoing any one taste causes negative effects.
- Sweet – increases Kapha, decreases Pitta and Vata. It nourishes and excites the body and promotes an increase in all tissues.
- Sour – increases Kapha and Pitta, decreases Vata. It refreshes the body and encourages elimination of wastes, and improves appetite and digestion.
- Salty – increases Kapha and Pitta, decreases Vata. It eliminates wastes, cleanses the body and increases appetite and digestion.
- Pungent – increases Pitta and Vata, decreases Kapha. It improves the appetite.
- Bitter – increases Vata, decreases Pitta and Kapha. It purifies and dries all secretions and returns tastes to natural balance. It amplifies appetite and restrains skin diseases and fever.
- Astringent – increases Vata, decreases Pitta and Kapha. It purifies and constricts all parts of the body and reduces secretions.
Ayurvedic Body Types
Your individual constitution is determined by the factor that is dominate in the body. There are eight possible ayurvedic body types: Vata, Pitta, Kapha, Vata-Pitta, Pitta-Kapha, Vata-Kapha, Vata-Pitta-Kapha and Balanced.
I took a few tests online to determine my constitution including one are Banyan Botanicals and tested as a Vata-Pitta. The book goes into more detail and I believe is more detailed in figuring out what your constitution is. The book confirmed that my constitution is Vata-Pitta.
With knowledge of my constitution, I’ve been able to adjust my diet accordingly to foods that I should and should not be eating to balance out the three doshas in my body. I find this helpful, as I continue to struggle with what to eat, while certain foods are touted as being healthy, they do not always agree with my body.
Raw vs. Cooked?
Vata people are more likely to require cooked food, while Pitta and Pitta-Kapha types do best on raw food. Vatta-Pitta types are better to eat raw in the spring and summer and cooked in the winter. Kapha and Vata-Kapha people can do raw, but should not overdo it.
Food combining is important for Vata types who do best with one pot meals like soups, stews and casseroles. A variety of foods at once is discouraged for Vata types because of the dryness and variability of Vata’s limited digestive response.
Eating habits affect digestive capability. If you always eat cooked and then the next day eat raw, then the body finds it harder to digest as the system is not used to breaking down raw foods.
Fried foods aggravate all three Doshas and should be avoided.
Foods For Each Constitution
It’s not what you eat, but what you digest that counts. The healthiest food in the world will become for you the deadliest of poisons if you cannot digest and assimilate it properly.
– Dr. Robert Svoboda
The following are eating guidelines for each constitution. It is important to discover for yourself which rules should be followed and which ones are alright to break once in awhile 🙂
Vatas do well with Sweet, Sour and Salty Foods. They should avoid bitter, pungent and astringent foods and avoid large amounts of any one taste as Vata is aggregated by excess.
Wheat is good for Vatas, but if an allergy is present, then it should be avoided. Well cooked oats and rice are also good. Corn, millet and rye are drying and should be avoided.
Vatas do better with cooked vegetables than raw. Raw onions should especially be avoided, as they cause gas in the digestive track. Rough, hard vegetables like celery are better digested as juices. Greens like lettuce and spinach may be consumed on occasion as long as they are eated with an oily or creamy dressing.
Some of the best fruits and vegetables for Vata include: asparagus, beets, carrots, celery, garlic, green beans, okra, onion, parsnips, radishes, rutabagas, turnips, sweet potatoes, water chestnuts, apricots, avocados, bananas, berries, cherries, coconuts, dates, figs, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, mangoes, melons, nectarines, oranges, papaya, peaches, pears, persimmons, pineapples and plums.
Vatas should avoid all dried fruits and unripe fruits.
Vatas are the only type who truly need animal foods in their diets. However, overindulgence in meats should be avoided. Eggs, chicken, turkey, fresh fish and venison are all good for Vatas. Fried eggs should not be consumed regularly.
The best legumes for Vata types are black lentils, red lentils, chickpeas, mung beans and tofu. All nuts and seeds are good for Vata people but not too concentrated or regularly unless they are made into nut butters or milk.
Most oils are good for Vatas. Sesame seed oil is the best for Vatas and safflower oil the worst. Honey may be used frequently, but never cooked (cooked honey is poisonous in the body).
All spices, especially ginger and garlic are good for Vatas in small quantities.
Vata people are prone to addiction. They should avoid all vices including tobacco, sugar and caffeine. Large quantities of alcohol is very detrimental to Vata types.
Pitta types should avoid Sour, Salty and Pungent – the “hot” tastes and focus instead on “cold” tastes – Sweet, Bitter and Astringent.
Pittas should avoid meat, sea food, eggs, alcohol and salt. Vegetarianism is the best choice for pure Pitta people. Grains, vegetables and fruit should make up the majority of a Pitta’s diet.
Barley is the best grain for Pittas followed by rice, oats and wheat. Buckwheat, corn, millet and rye should be avoided as they are heating in the body.
Pittas should avoid tomatoes in all forms. Garlic should also be limited.
Pittas do best with the following vegetables and fruits: asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cilantro, cucumber, cauliflower, celery, cress, green beans, leafy greens, lettuce, mushrooms, okra, peas, parsley, potatoes, sprouts, squashes, water chestnuts, zucchini, apples, apricots, avocados, cherries, coconut, dried fruits, figs, grapes, lemons, mangoes, melons, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pears, persimmons, pineapples, plums and pomegranates.
If meat is consumed it should be limited to chicken, turkey, rabbit and venison. Legumes should be limited. The best legumes for Pittas are black lentils, chickpeas, mung beans and tofu.
Most nuts and seeds are too oily for Pitta types. Small amounts of flax and almond oil is alright and larger amounts of coconut, olive or sunflower oils, but not in excess.
Pitta is reduced by sweets (yay!) so they can handle more sweet things. Molasses is hot, however, and should be avoided by Pittas.
Pittas should avoid hot spices. The best spices for regular use are cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, fennel, turmeric and small amounts of cumin and black pepper.
Pittas should avoid tobacco and alcohol as these are hot in the body. Coffee and black tea are alright occasionally.
Kapha types should focus on eating Bitter, Pungent and Astringent foods and avoid Sweet, Sour and Salty foods.
Kapha types should eat less grains than Vata and Pitta types. The best grains are buckwheat, millet, barley, rice and corn. Wheat should be avoided.
All vegetables are good for Kaphas with the exception of potatoes, tomatoes, and water chestnuts. Leafy greens and seeded vegetables (like squashes) should be preferred over other root vegetables. Raw vegetables are good as are peppers.
The best fruits for Kaphas include: apples, apricots, cranberries, mangoes, peaches, pears, and pomegranates.
Kaphas do not require much protein so they should not consume much meat. If they do then it should be chicken, eggs, rabbit, seafood and venison. Legumes should also be limited and black lentils, kidney beans and soybeans avoided. Well cooked tofu is alright in small amounts. The best legumes for Kaphas are black beans, mung beans, pinto beans and red lentils.
Kapha types should avoid nuts and seeds. Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are permissible occasionally. Kaphas should avoid oils. Almond, corn, safflower and sunflower oils are alright when necessary, but in small amounts.
Kapha should avoid all sweeteners except for honey in small doses. All spices are good for Kaphas except salt, which should be avoided. Ginger and garlic are best.
Black tea and coffee are acceptable for Kapha types and occasional smoking is tolerable as the smoke helps reduce Kapha. Overindulgence, however increases Kapha. Only pure Kaphas should touch hard alcohol.
Vata-Pitta types should follow a Vata controlling diet in the fall and a Pitta controlling diet in the spring and summer. “Vata-Pittas should avoid spicy, pungent foods and search instead for sweetness in everything they do and consume” – Works for me 🙂
Pitta-Kapha types should follow a Pitta controlling diet from late spring to early fall and a Kapha controlling diet from late fall through early spring. Bitter and Astringent foods are best for Pitta-Kapha types. Sour and salty should be avoided.
Vata-Kapha types should follow a Vata controlling diet in the summer and fall and a Kapha controlling diet in winter and spring. Vata-Kaphas should consume sour, salty and pungent tastes and avoid sweet, bitter and astringent tastes.
General Ayurvedic Food Guidelines
Brown rice is not recommended for anyone to consume as it is very difficult to digest. Milk should only be consumed by those with very strong digestive fires (pure Pittas). Salt should be limited as in excess it quickly ages the body. Honey should never be cooked, as it acts as a poison in the body.
On the Positive Side?
I feel like the food guidelines presented in Ayurvedic healing provide me a better blueprint of what to eat and what to avoid. I’ve already eliminated so much with the endo diet (gluten, dairy, soy, caffeine) and feel better, but not all the time.
In realizing that things like brown rice, raw onions and tomatoes are bad for my constitution, helps me to pay attention to my reaction to these things and adjust accordingly. (I have said good bye to raw onions – tomatoes I have a harder time…)
I know that I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg in learning about Ayurveda for healing, but is has sparked my interest. I do plan on continuing studying it and playing it out on my own natural healing journey 🙂
Thank you for taking the time to read this…a long one today….
Is there anything that I missed, or additional knowledge you want to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below….
Peace to you….
Great article Aubree! I finally know why I don’t like Tomatoes much 🙂 I reckon many of us endo girls are Vita Pita types. I see many similarities in us 🙂
Thanks Melissa! I agree that the Vata Pitta type is relatable to endo and think it would be an interesting study to see if this is true 🙂 I think that most would be at least Pitta since liver/gallbladder/digestive issues are prominent in Pitta types – all linking back to endo. Also Pitta types are strong willed, organized, type A personalities – traits also common with endo gals 🙂