Category Archives: Digestion

Transition Time

The days are slowly getting shorter. Yet, if you’re like me, you still want to carry on at the same pace as before.

In Ayurveda the autumn season is linked with Vata – movement. With the large intestine being the seat of Vata, I often get clients contacting me with more issues around eliminationat this time of the year. You may feel a bit more sensitive than usual, and want to get involved in many activities but lack the energy. Your body is already starting to anticipate the change in season. There may be times when you feel anxious, unsure, stressed. This is normal at this time.

As we approach the Autumn equinox, a period of transition from the heat of the summer to cooler typically more windy weather, most of us are more sensitive physically and emotionally. During the transition it’s important to devote time to help your body deal with the changes happening within and externally.

Here are 3 sets of advice to support you during this time. In particular, they’ll help you to handle the cold and dryness that dominate during this season and to help bring fluid and warmth in, maintain gentle movement and support the ability to let go.  

Advice set 1 – dietary tips

  •  Include heating spices in your diet e.g. cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and ginger
  • Eat warm, soupy, oily, sweet, sour and salty foods to bring more fluid and (see extra tip below)
  • Consume less raw food and avoid very cold or frozen foods and drinks and cold dairy products.

Advice set 2 – lifestyle tips

  • Establish a routine of waking up and going to bed early to ground and centre yourself     
  • Take more exercise e.g. go for a walk to raise energy levels, do yoga regularly – at least 3-5 x weekly for 30 minutes
  • Bring rhythm into your life for more stability

Advice set 3 – yoga techniques 

  • Lie down in the relaxation position – savasana – on coming home from work for a few minutes to help reduce stress and tense muscles, tiredness and boost your immune system.
  • Sit for a short period each day in a calm environment 
  • Do nasya or neti to breath more deeply, boost the immune system and bring balance to body and mind

Spicy pumpkin soup ( for 4 generous starter portions)

3 tbsps olive oil & sesame oil (half and half) or ghee
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 generous tbsp fresh ginger (peeled and chopped)
1/8 tsp chilli powder
½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp black pepper
500g pumpkin (diced)
Salt to taste
small bunch of fresh parsley (finely chopped)

Heat the oil in a pot. Test the heat of the oil by dropping in one cumin seed. If the oil sizzles it is hot enough to add the remainder of the seeds. Fry until brown.
Add the fresh ginger and stir well.
Add chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric and black pepper and mix well and leave to cook for a minute. Add salt.
Add the diced pumpkin to the pot and mix well.
Add enough hot water to cover the pumpkin completely and stir well.
Leave to simmer for approx. 20 – 30 minutes.
(optional) Pour the mixture into a liquidizer and blend for 30 seconds.
Sprinkle on the chopped parsley just before serving.

What’s next?

Choose at least one idea to put into practice in the coming week.
Go out and get the ingredients for the recipe.
Feel free to share your feedback with me, including photos!
I’m happy to answer your questions to support your choices so feel free to contact me. 🙂

Varied Diet

Question: I find it difficult to maintain a nutritional diet. Info about how to create a varied diet would be helpful for me.

My answer:Last year I gave an ayurvedic cooking course and in one of the presentations I gave  ideas of what to eat according to the season and to your dosha (whether you are predominantly Vata, Pitta or Kapha). Here’s the link to the slide presentation.

Ideas for breakfast lunch and dinner


Staying Cool this Summer

Summer is with us. It is lovely to be able to enjoy the warmth of the sun. Moreover, the light from the longer days lifts our spirits and our body can make plenty of Vit D if we spend just 30 minutes enjoying the sun each day.
Yet, the heat of the summer can also be a negative source of stimulation. We are typically much more active because of our increased energy levels and all this action produces heat within our bodies (fine as long as we don’t overheat!). What’s more, the general race to get as much done before going away on holiday or travelling can easily result in hot tempers, irritation etc.
I was recently talking to a friend who complained of redness around her eyes and generally swollen eyes. In Ayurveda, the eyes are one of the main sites of Pitta, associated with the fire and water elements. Fire is experienced within the body as the force which breaks down food, thoughts and ideas – digestion, and also in our body temperature. For burning eyes, swelling or redness, and in general to stay cool in both body and mind it is important to follow appropriate lifestyle and dietary tips. So, as we move into summer,let me share with you 9 of my top lifestyle and nutritional tips to keep the internal fire steady and balanced so you stay cool in both body and mind while at home or travelling this summer.
Enjoy a diet that includes
1. cooling spices, for example, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, saffron, and plenty of fresh green herbs (my favourites include coriander and mint)
2. leafy greens such as kale, chard, at least once a day to introduce the bitter taste, the most cooling of the six tastes that we learn about in Ayurveda
3. light and cooling grains such as basmatic rice, quinoa and barley.
Keep cool and hydrated by
1. making sure you drink plenty of (non-sparkling) water (at room temperature or slightly warm) throughout the day to hydrate even more quickly. Add a squeeze of lime juice to liven it up
2. having at least one glass of water for each hour you are in the air on any flight to and from your holiday destination. I generally carry a small thermos flask with me on flights (remember to empty it BEFORE being screened!)
3. avoiding/limiting caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, tea, fizzy drinks, and alcohol especially when you fly. They have a dehydrating effect on your body cells, which means that it will take you longer to recover from jetlag.
In your day to day life
1. avoid the hot sun especially on an empty stomach or right after a meal, and don’t leave home on an empty stomach.
2. cool down during the day with a refreshing pure rosewater face/body spray when you’re feeling hot and by putting slices of cucumber on burning eyes at night.
3. wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses when out in the sun

Post-holiday Health Hints

This week one of our teachers shared simple hints on how to give your digestive system a break after the holidays. They are for all of us especially if we’re feeling run down after a hectic time over the holiday season.
We’re well into Winter, the season when the Kapha principle manifests, which involves qualities of heaviness, slowing down. Most of us have spent the last few weeks busy socialising with family and friends eating heavy rich foods. Heavy + hectic = stress & strain on all levels of our bodies.

To find balance the tips I shared with you last month are still valid. However, here are 3 specific post-holiday health hints.
Health Hint 1: Brew up a large flask of lemon and ginger water, enjoy it at the start of the day and sip throughout the day.
Health Hint 2: Chew a small piece of fresh ginger with a little salt and lime juice before your lunchtime meal
Health Hint 3: Go on a simple diet of lentils, rice & vegetables (kitcherie) for three days (see recipe below!)

Post-Holiday Kitcherie
Ingredients (for 2 portions):
basmati rice (100g)
red lentils (100g)
salt (to taste)
fresh ginger chopped into small pieces
1 teaspoon cumin powder
pinch of turmeric
pinch of black pepper
handful of raisins (optional)
½ lemon, juice of
160 g seasonal vegetables
4 tablespoons sesame oil /ghee
water (2 ½ x rice and lentils)
1. Squeeze the lemon.
2. Wash the rice and lentils thoroughly. Leave to drain.
3. Peel the vegetables and cut them into cubes or round slices.
4. Pour enough sesame oil/ghee into a big pot to cover the bottom.
5. Add the vegetables, cumin powder, turmeric, raisins, lemon juice, salt, the rest of the oil and the ginger. Then add the rice and lentils, stir.
6. Add 2 times the amount of boiling water and bring everything to the boil before reducing the temperature and cooking over a low flame for 30 minutes.
7. Turn off the heat and leave the dish to stand for 10 minutes. Serve & enjoy!

Antidotes for Holiday Health

In our Ayurvedic nutrition course recently our teacher gave out some useful tips on how to “antidote” certain foods that we all enjoy eating but which, especially during this season of the year, winter, can be particularly challenging to our digestive system.
According to Ayurveda Winter is the season when the Kapha principle manifests. Think of winter and thoughts of cold weather, nature slowing down, a certain heaviness, which can produce dullness but also stability. The food we eat/want to eat at this time reflects our body and mind’s desire to find balance. We tend to go for more warming foods which are well seasoned with heating herbs and spices. Good examples would be baked dishes or slow cooked dishes.

To manage the heaviness of this season get in the habit of adding warming spices and herbs such as ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, cumin, fenugreek, saffron, thyme, parsley to your dishes. It is the time also to avoid fatty, greasy and fried foods, and eat more seasonal local vegetables, especially leafy greens.

But it’s the holiday season and we want to have fun. So I’m going to share with you FIVE antidotes my teacher shared with me to keep your digestion on track if you eat the following foods IN MODERATION during the holidays.

  • Holiday Antidote 1: You enjoy ice-cream – sprinkle a mixture of clove, cinnamon and cardamom powder on it
  • Holiday Antidote 2: You are making a milky pudding – add saffron
  • Holiday Antidote 3: Cheese is served at the end of the meal – add black pepper
  • Holiday Antidote 4: You are serving avocado with the meal – add lemon juice and black pepper to it.
  • Holiday Antidote 5: You are baking biscuits/cookies or pies – add dry ginger to the wheat flour.

And here’s a quick sweet recipe to get you in the festive mood.

Date & Seed Balls ( for 10-15 generous portions)
Preparation time: 10 – 15 minutes
1/2 cup dates
1/3 cup seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds)
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon cardamom powder
2 tablespoons honey
4 -5 tablespoons dessicated coconut
Finely chop the dates and the nuts/seeds.
Place in a bowl with the salt and cardamom powder.
Mix well.
Add the honey and mix well.
Put the coconut onto a plate.
Use your hands to make balls with the mixture and roll them in the coconut.
Serve straightaway or chill then store in an airtight container.

Food for balance

A subscriber contacted me recently who had learned that she has a “moderate to severe Vata imbalance.” She wanted “a few suggestions about foods to include in (her) diet to help with that?”
According to Ayurveda Autumn is the season when the Vata principle manifests. When we think of Autumn we think of a windy time of year, a time that is dry(ing) and colder than the warmer summer months. The wind also brings with it a lightness that can be refreshing and clearing. All of these are qualities we may also experience within the body. When the Vata principle is not in balance, there is more “wind”, more movement of air in the various body cavities which may cause discomfort. The lightness within the body might translate into a feeling of not being connected or grounded. Typically the feet and the hands are cold and dry, and the body feels the cold more easily.
At this time we all need to make sure that our diet has more liquid to counteract the drying effect of the season and also that it contains warming foods and herbs and spices. Soups are a super simple dish to add to our diet, especially those with warming spices and herbs such as fresh ginger, turmeric, and sage, parsley, and thyme and using local seasonal vegetables such as carrots, onions, pumpkins and other squash, and beetroot.
To manage the lightness and dryness of the Vata principle I like to make hearty protein-rich soups from mung beans, lentils, or other beans and add warming oils such as sesame oil or ghee. The soup could be our main meal (at lunchtime), and for those of us who lead busy lives, it’s an easy option to make plenty and have the leftover soup in the evening. But what about breakfast? We can carry on the soupy idea and have a warming porridge of oat groats or brown rice spiced with cinnamon and sweetened with raisins and soaked & peeled almonds. Mmm…
Meals at this time should help us feel comforted and cosy to manage any fear or anxiety we might have from not being grounded or feeling uncertain. Throughout the day we can drink warm to hot water or herbal teas to keep hydrated.
In Ayurveda we talk about six tastes and the ones that help to balance this principle are the sweet taste, the salty taste and the sour taste, in moderation. Sweet, as in whole grains, have a sustaining effect to your blood sugar, and sweet is the taste of love and compassion, emotions that are often out of balance or lacking in our Western society. The sour and salty tastes bring heat into the body and aid digestion as well as retain water.
And here’s one of my favourite soup recipes for the season. Enjoy with sprouted bread for a hearty meal!