Health Tips FAQs

What is ayurveda?

What are the most important things I need to know about maintaining proper digestion? 

What is a “dosha,” and why is it important?

What Is VATA?

What is PITTA?

What is KAPHA?

What is the best type of exercise?

What is the optimal daily routine for health, and why is it important?

Is it a good idea to be on a vegetarian diet?

What is the role of fasting, or detoxification?

Is it ok to eat gluten?

Is it ok to consume dairy products?

Is honey good for you?

What are some natural treatments for heartburn?

What are some natural approaches to improving problems with constipation?

What can I do about chronic pain?

What are some natural remedies for colds or sinus congestion?

What is ayurveda?

 Ayurveda is the traditional healthcare system of India. Ayurveda is to India as Chinese Medicine is to China, and will be useful for you to consider for several reasons. First, ayurveda has been continuously practiced for thousands of years and is likely the oldest continuously practiced system of holistic care in the world. Scholars generally date the Caraka Samhita, a fundamental text book of ayurveda, to approximately 500 BCE, with the oral tradition being even older. Practically speaking, this means that most of the other complementary medicine paradigms currently prevalent and popular, such as Chinese medicine and naturopathy, will share a lot with, or will have borrowed a lot from, ayurveda. Second, scientists have published a considerable volume of research on ayurveda, especially in recent decades.

We can translate “ayurveda” as “Knowledge of Lifespan,” and immediately we sense an approach quite different from what we are accustomed to. Of course ayurveda, as a health care system, offers a range of modalities for treating illness, including diet, herbals, exercise, yoga, mind-body techniques, daily routine, and more. The paradigm, however, fundamentally emphasizes prevention. To maximize healthy longevity, what foods do we eat, what routine do we follow, and what supplements do we take? What diet best supports longevity and health, across the span of a lifetime, decade after decade? What is the daily routine and what are the exercise patterns that most effectively support health and longevity over the long haul? If you would like to know, then ayurveda can help you find out.

What are the most important things I need to know about maintaining proper digestion?

According to ayurveda, good health and good digestion are essentially synonymous. In the ayurvedic system, we thus place strong emphasis on maintaining proper digestion.  When the physiology does a good job digesting a meal, we generate nutrients. But if digestion is weak, the byproduct of an improperly digested meal can result in production of toxins known in Ayurveda as “ama.” If the ama then starts to accumulate in the physiology in any appreciable degree, it begins to deposit in the various tissues and organs of the body.  This is the ground floor where disease gets in.

Here are some guidelines for maintaining proper digestion:

Have your main meal at lunch.  Dinner should be lighter. 

Snacking is ok, but no grazing.  After eating, allow 3 hours to digest your food before you eat again.  Avoid snacking at night.

Cold beverages are off the menu.  Room temperature beverages are fine, and warm drinks are most beneficial.

Food should be cooked, and consumed warm, or at least room temperature.  Fresh fruit need not be cooked, but raw vegetables and other raw foods should be reduced or avoided.

The ideal diet is a lactovegetarian diet (a vegetarian diet that includes dairy products).

Cold milk should be avoided.  Milk should be boiled and consumed hot. Milk should be combined with sweet tasting foods only.  Fresh cheeses are much better than aged cheeses.  Lassi, a yogurt drink, is easy to digest and provides probiotic support.  Clarified butter is an excellent oil for cooking.

Eat in a settled environment.

Fresh is best!

Raw honey is an ideal sweetener.  Avoid cooked honey. 

What is a “dosha,” and why is it important?

According to ayurveda, health is a state of balance, and disease a state of imbalance, of 3 fundamental physiologic, or “psychometabolic” principles, called “doshas.” The 3 doshas are called “vata,” “pitta,” and “kapha.”

What do these mean? The first dosha, vata, governs all movement, mind, body, and spirit: movement of thoughts through the mind, movement of food through the digestive tract, movement of blood through the blood stream. Anything moving is under the domain of vata dosha. Pitta governs digestion, metabolism, and transformation. The whole process of eating something, then transforming what you have eaten into nutrients, is governed by pitta dosha. Kapha governs structure, the physical structure of the body. Tissues, organs, etc, the material body, fall under the domain of kapha dosha.

When these 3 doshas are balanced, ie, present in the right amounts and functioning harmoniously together, 2 thumbs up! We’re in good health. On the other hand, if one or more doshas becomes imbalanced, or overactive, because of improper diet, improper daily routine, some stress, some germ, some environmental toxin, or whatever other cause, this may tip the system out of kilter, with symptoms of illness potentially setting in.

In addition, we know that different people have different natures. The reason for introducing this point is that in the Ayurvedic system, we use the 3 doshas as a basis for classifying, or categorizing, people. In other words, some of us are vata types, some pitta types, some kapha types, or various combinations. Although all of us have all 3 doshas governing the physiology, most of us, by virtue of how we were born and have developed, are naturally inclined to express the qualities of 1 or 2 doshas more than another. Then, knowing one’s ayurvedic body type provides guidance as to how one should best manage his/her health. After all, in the face of a given set of health concerns, what’s right for one person might be wrong for the next, depending upon who that person is, and how s/he is built. 

What is VATA?

Vata governs all movement: mind, body, and spirit. Vata dosha, by definition, has these qualities: it is cold, moving, quick, dry, rough, light, and airy. Vata is composed of the elements space and air. People often liken vata to a snake. Not in the sense that snakes are a little creepy, if you think that, but rather in the sense that snakes demonstrate all of these qualities. The next time you see a snake in your garden, if you try to catch it, it is not so easy. Snakes are quick, and they move. If you do manage to catch the snake and you pick it up, you’ll find that is it is cold and light, and that its scales are rough and dry. Someone with a lot of vata in his or her physiology when balanced naturally expresses the following qualities: quick and alert, light and energetic, excellent imagination, vitality, and immunity. Too much vata, or vata out of balance, can give rise to: anxiety, insomnia, constipation, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, excessive worry, dryness, and a range of similar medical problems and concerns.

What is PITTA?

Pitta dosha  governs heat, digestion, metabolism, and transformation in the physiology. Pitta dosha encompasses the process of digesting one’s food, and of transforming what we have eaten into nutrients. Pitta has these qualities: it is hot, sharp, moist, sour, and intense. Pitta is composed of the elements fire and water, and is often likened to the sun. When we think of pitta dosha, we think of the blazing hot sun on a July afternoon. Someone with a lot of pitta in his or her physiology, when balanced, naturally expresses these qualities: dynamic, efficient and productive, excellent leader and public speaker, with a sharp intellect. Too much pitta, or pitta out of balance, gives rise to heartburn, anger, temper flares, and skin rashes. Any inflammatory condition involves at least in some measure imbalance of pitta dosha.

What is KAPHA?

Kapha dosha governs structure and lubrication, mind, body, and spirit. Kapha dosha is heavy, sweet, steady, soft, and slow. Kapha is composed of the elements water and earth, and the animal in nature to which Kapha is often likened is a swan. Someone with a lot of kapha in his or her physiology, when balanced, naturally expresses these qualities: tranquil, steady, generous, firmly built, and affectionate. Too much kapha, or kapha out of balance, gives rise to depression, weight gain, obesity, diabetes, excess mucus production, sinus and respiratory conditions, and a range of similar medical problems or concerns.

What is the best type of exercise?

We emphasize that exercise should help remove stress from, not create stress for, the physiology. There is no need to train for a decathlon, unless you want to. A brisk walk counts as exercise and is appropriate and healthy for the great majority of people.

We can also recommend specific types of exercise, geared toward specific types of people. Vata types should favor calming types of exercise, such as walking or yoga, while kapha types should favor more stimulating exercise, such as jogging or racquetball. Pitta types can do most any exercise, but should avoid intense competition.

What is the optimal daily routine for health, and why is it important?

In a word, the optimal daily routine is:

Early to bed, early to rise, get some exercise in the morning, and have a decent lunch!

Why is this so? Consider the following daily cycle of the doshas:  

Ten a.m. to 2 p.m. is the pitta period of the day. As the sun is rising to its highest point in the sky, pitta dosha increases in everyone. During this period, the qualities of pitta dosha predominate in nature and the environment. Two p.m. to 6 p.m. is the vata period of the day, and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. is the kapha period of the evening. The cycle then resumes; 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. is the pitta period of the night, 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. is the vata period of the early morning, and 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. is the kapha period of the morning. Thus we have four hour blocks of time, times 3 doshas makes 12 hours, repeated twice makes 24 hours. At any given moment day or night we are in one of these periods.

With this framework in mind, and reflecting back on what we know about the doshas, we can now construct our ideal daily routine. If you would like this rhythm, this natural daily cycle of the doshas, to be working in your favor, rather than against you, what should your daily routine look like? How do we structure our daily routine to harness support of nature in our daily activities? Stated another way, what should you do when, each day, to assure that as you go through your day, and life, you are paddling your canoe with the current, as opposed to upstream?

We’ll start at the beginning of the day. Six a.m. to 10 a.m. is the kapha period of the morning. Kapha is the heavy, physical dosha. What do you want to make sure you do every day before this period starts? Wake up! Out of bed by 6 a.m. every day. That experience of waking up dull and groggy at 8 a.m. or even 9 a.m. is from sleeping into the kapha period of the day. Vata, in contrast, is light and energetic. Assuming we got to bed on time the night before, waking up during the vata period of the morning is ideal: the lightness and energy of vata dosha will stick with you throughout the day.

The best time to exercise is between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., during the kapha period of the morning. The second-best time to exercise is between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., during the kapha period of the evening. The prescription, then, is nothing new; wake up early and get some exercise! The heavy physical qualities of kapha render this the most natural time for physical activity. In ayurveda we emphasize that exercise should help remove stress from, not create stress for, the physiology. There is no need to train for a decathlon, unless you want to. A brisk walk counts as exercise and is appropriate and healthy for the great majority of people. If you are interested in doing something more intense, for example running 6 miles, you are much less likely to injure yourself if you do so during the kapha period, as opposed to other times of the day.

Out of bed early, then between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. in the morning, during the kapha period, we exercise. Ten a.m. to 2 p.m. is the pitta period of the day, with the sun rising to its highest point in the sky. This will be the ideal time for doing what? As we’ve said multiple times, eating your biggest meal! Then, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. is the vata period of the afternoon. This is the proper time for mental activity.

Now the cycle resumes. Six p.m. to 10 p.m. is the kapha period of the evening.. What do we want to be sure to do before this period ends? Do what by 10 p.m.? Get to bed! You don’t have to be asleep by 10 p.m., but in bed, lights out, television off, by 10 p.m.! We want our sleep to be heavy. Turn the lights out and lie down by 10 p.m., and the heavy quality of kapha will spill over into your sleep. If, however, we make the mistake of staying up too late, 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. is the pitta time of night. Pitta is intense, we get a second wind, and then it’s even harder to fall asleep. We’ve all had that experience. In addition, there’s an even better reason to get to bed by 10 p.m. We said that pitta governs digestion and metabolism. During the pitta time of day, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., we eat and digest our biggest meal. During the pitta time of night, between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., we metabolize and process the day’s wastes. This is when the clean-up crew comes in. It is very important to be in bed by 10 p.m., then, so the body can properly cleanse itself. If we are habitually awake and busy during this nighttime pitta period, the natural cleansing processes are inhibited, and ama starts to accumulate, thus setting the stage for potential disease or illness. This is why it is so critically important for your long-term health to get to bed on a regular basis by 10 p.m.

The Table below outlines the essentials of the ayurvedic daily routine:

Daily Routine
Time Predominant Dosha Activity
2 a.m. – 6 a.m. Vata Wake up
6 a.m. – 10 a.m. Kapha Exercise
10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Pitta Eat
2 p.m. – 6 p.m. Vata Mental activity
6 p.m. – 10 p.m. Kapha Exercise and go to bed
10 p.m. – 2 a.m. Pitta Sleep

To summarize this daily routine, then, in the simplest possible terms: Early to bed, early to rise, get some exercise in the morning, and have a decent lunch!

Is it a good idea to be on a vegetarian diet?

According to ayurveda, the ideal diet is a lactovegetarian diet, i.e., a vegetarian diet that includes dairy products. Scientists have reported the many health benefits of a vegetarian diet in the medical literature, which include reduced risk for both cancer and cardiovascular disease. Thus adherence to a lactovegetarian diet is the ideal goal for most people. However, one does not necessarily need to be vegetarian to benefit from this program. If you are going to eat meat, poultry, fish, or eggs, have them at lunchtime. Eat only very small amounts, if any, meat products for dinner.

Although some people choose not to become fully vegetarian, it is important for most people to include a lot of vegetables in the diet.  Remember that as a general principle, vegetables should be cooked, not raw.  This is because cooked vegetables are much easier to digest.  A little bit of salad at lunch time is ok, but we should avoid eating big salads for dinner.

We recommend lots of vegetables for our patients, and if you really try eating that many vegetables raw, you will quickly come around to understanding why it is recommended that you cook them. One might expect to experience too much in the way of gas, bloating, and other digestive challenges from a diet high in raw vegetable consumption. 

What is the role of fasting, or detoxification?

According to ayurveda, weak digestion can lead to accumulation of ama (the toxic byproduct of improper digestion). This ama then deposits in the joints, muscles, and other connective tissues, causing pain, stiffness, and fatigue, depression, weight gain, and other symptoms. One of the main approaches we adopt in managing chronic health problems is the reduction and elimination of ama through detoxification.  There are some very helpful approaches for this that you can try at home:

Self-care procedures for detoxification (ama pachana)

  1. Be sure to use plenty of the following spices with your cooking: ginger, cumin, black pepper, fennel, hing, basil, mustard seeds.
  2. Eat your main meal at midday! Dinner should be light, i.e. soup with toasted flatbread or cooked cereal with warm milk.
  3. No snacking after dinner!
  4. Ginger pickle: To prepare this, take a few slices of fresh ginger, and place them in a small cup or bowl. Squeeze the juice from a lemon over the ginger, add a little salt, and let the ginger soak in the lemon for an hour or so. Have this before lunch.
  5. First thing in the morning, have a glass of warm water with a teaspoon of raw honey and a squirt of lemon.
  6. “Hot-water routine”: This means frequent sips of hot water throughout the day.
  7. 24-hour liquid fast once a week. This provides a great tool for resetting agni and reducing ama.  

We advise patients to do the 24-hour liquid fast from lunch to lunch. The patient eats a normal lunch, then takes nothing solid until lunch the next day. We are not requiring zero calories for 24 hours, just nothing solid. You can have juices, milk, purees, and so on, for both dinner and breakfast. For example, instead of solid foods for dinner, have a glass of warm milk, or cook up some vegetables and puree them in their cooking water in a sturdy glass blender. Likewise, for breakfast, have some tea, warm milk, or some fresh squeezed juice.

Scientific data support the traditional ayurvedic recommendation of fasting as an approach for managing chronic pain. Fasting and caloric restriction have been shown to provide marked anti-inflammatory and mood enhancing effects. In one study, fasting followed by a vegetarian diet led to significant reductions in pain and joint inflammation for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

  1. Digestive decoction recipe: (We advise against using this decoction if there is a pitta imbalance, such as symptoms of frequent heartburn, or reflux.) Boil 1 quart of water with 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp coriander seeds, 1 tsp fresh grated ginger, ½ tsp fresh lemon juice, and 2 pinches of black pepper. You may add 1 tsp of raw sugar to taste if desired, as well as 2 pinches of black salt if it is available. Place in a thermos and sip throughout the day (not in the evening). This decoction can be used in place of the plain hot water suggested as part of the hot water routine.
  1. Ginger 14-day program: (Do not do this ginger protocol if you have frequent heartburn or other symptoms of gastric hyperacidity.) On day 1, chew 1 slice of fresh ginger first thing in the morning. Breakfast should be very light, or skipped. Each subsequent day add an addition slice of ginger for a total of 7 days. On day 8, repeat seven slices of ginger and taper one slice less per day until day 14, when you have only one slice again.
Fourteen-Day Ginger Program
Day # of slices of ginger
1 1
2 2
3 3
4 4
5 5
6 6
7 7
8 7
9 6
10 5
11 4
12 3
13 2
14 1


  1. Sweating is good for reducing ama. This can be accomplished by periodically visiting the sauna.

These guidelines for ama reduction can help with chronic pain, fatigue, depression, stiffness, and other  chronic symptoms.

Is it ok to eat gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in some grains. Currently a lot of people are focused on avoiding gluten in the diet to improve health. It’s true that some people cannot tolerate gluten, but gluten is fine for most people.

Celiac disease is a condition in which consumption of gluten triggers an inflammatory reaction of the lining of the small intestine. This leads to poor absorption of nutrients, diarrhea, excess gas, foul smelling stools, abdominal discomfort, and other symptoms. The incidence of celiac disease has increased dramatically in recent years and is thought to be in the range of 1%.18 Physicians can often diagnose celiac disease using a simple blood test, and symptoms respond well to a gluten-free diet. Thus people who have celiac disease must avoid eading gluten. This can be accomplished by avoiding grains that contain gluten (like wheat, rye, and barley). Other grains, like rice and quinoa, do not contain gluten, and are fine for people with celiac disease to include in the diet.

Although people who have celiac disease must avoid gluten, for most other people, eating gluten is perfectly appropriate. Certain individuals without celiac disease may have some level of intolerance to gluten but this remains controversial and poorly understood.  Many people who do not have celiac disease report feeling better after eliminating gluten from the diet. This could possibly be caused by a low level gluten intolerance of some type, but could also be explained by a number of potential confounders. First, when people decide to go gluten free, they typically start reading labels, and taking more care in selecting what foods they buy. They begin to reduce or eliminate junk foods, and start feeling a lot better. This improvement might simply be because they are generally eating healthier, having nothing at all to do with gluten. Secondly, given the near hysteria in the public consciousness surrounding gluten, some power of persuasion, or “placebo effect,” may be at play.

Bear in mind also that foods containing gluten frequently also contain a type of carbohydrate called “fructans.” Recent research suggests that the gastrointestinal symptoms experienced by patients self-reporting a diagnosis of gluten sensitivity may be caused not by gluten, but rather by the fructans. In one study, the investigators gave participants muesli bars containing either fructans, gluten, or placebo. Those consuming the fructan containing bars reported significantly worse gastrointestinal symptoms compared with those consuming the gluten. There was no significant difference between gluten and placebo.

If steering clear of gluten makes you feel better, it is no problem to continue doing so. Nevertheless, grains such as bulgar wheat, rye, and barley are extremely healthy foods for most people. Though these grains contain gluten, when consumed fresh and as whole grains, they can constitute an important part of a balanced and nutritious diet and will be well tolerated by the great majority of individuals. Such grains have been staple foods across multiple cultures for millennia. In the thousands year old tradition of ayurvedic dietary therapeutics, there are no concerns specified with regard to gluten-containing grains.

If you have celiac disease, you must eliminate gluten from your diet. If you do not have celiac disease, you can still reduce or eliminate gluten in the diet if you feel it improves your situation, but much of the time it may not be necessary. 

Is it ok to consume dairy products?

Dairy products are a perfect food, or a perfect disaster, depending upon whether you follow a few rules. ayurveda provides one set of guidelines for milk, another set of rules for cheese and yogurt, then another set of guidelines about butter. For milk (cow’s milk, goat’s milk), there are two important things to know. First, milk must be a hot beverage, and should not be consumed cold. Specifically, milk should be heated just to the point of boiling and then consumed hot or warm. When you see small bubbles forming on top of the hot milk, that’s when it’s time to take it off the heat. You can then let it cool down a bit as desired. If your milk has been pasteurized, boil it anyway. Boiling takes the milk to a higher temperature than routine pasteurization. It “denatures,” or unwinds the protein molecules, making it easier to digest. Cold milk in and of itself can be hard to digest, and may be kapha aggravating (i.e., it might be expected to cause increased congestion). By bringing the milk to boiling before consuming it however we significantly neutralize these issues. For even better effect, add a slice of fresh ginger or a pinch of turmeric to the milk as you heat it. The second rule is milk can only be combined with sweet-tasting foods. We cannot combine milk with bitter, sour, salty, pungent, or astringent foods. We’ll consider grains to be sweet. You can combine milk with breakfast-style foods, eg, a piece of toast or some cereal, or you can combine milk with dessert or with a cookie. On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to combine milk with lunch or dinner. That is to say, you shouldn’t combine milk with your tuna sandwich or your lasagna.

To summarize, milk brought just to boiling and consumed hot, by itself, or with something sweet is an ideal beverage, constituting an important and nutritious component of a vegetarian diet. In contrast, cold milk out of the refrigerator with your chicken stir-fry is not such a great idea and can lead to congestion, ama accumulation, and digestive challenges. The great majority of people who report difficulty digesting milk products, including those with lactose intolerance, actually can tolerate milk just fine in moderate amounts, with the ability to do so greatly enhanced simply by adhering to these two rules. Heating milk has been shown to reduce allergenicity and studies have demonstrated that the great majority of children with milk allergy can tolerate milk if heated.

Although the improper use of milk can cause congestion, the proper use of milk can actually provide therapeutic benefit for patients with congestion or respiratory symptoms. See the recipe for spicy milk, which provides a delicious nourishing and therapeutic drink to those suffering from respiratory symptoms.

In contrast to milk, cheese and yogurt are okay to have with lunch. In fact, as these are heavier foods, lunch is the preferred time. Fresh cheeses, i.e. the “wet” cheeses, are much better for you than aged cheeses. When we say that cheese can be a healthy and nourishing food, we are talking about cottage cheese, panir, fresh mozzarella, etc. These would be healthier than, say, an aged cheddar.

Yogurt is an important food that is best consumed in the middle of the day. The preferred way to have yogurt is to make lassi, a simple and nutritious yogurt drink. (see recipe section) Lassi should be considered a staple in the diet, ideally consumed daily after lunch. 

Among the benefits of lassi is that it provides probiotic support. What does this mean? Scientists are showing increased interest in and awareness of the importance of maintaining the health of the “microbiome.” This term refers to the large number of health-promoting bacteria and other microorganisms that normally inhabit the human intestinal tract. Maintaining the right balance of healthy bacteria in the gut is increasingly understood as playing an important role in digestion and overall health. Lassi and other yogurt products contain helpful bacteria that are supportive of health and digestion. We can think of lassi as a “natural probiotic.” Drinking lassi on a regular basis is a good way to promote the health of the microbiome.

We do not encourage the use of a lot of butter. Ghee, which is made from butter, is a much better option. You can purchase ghee at the store.  Or, see the recipe tab for instructions on how to make ghee at home. Ghee contains a healthier balance of fats compared with regular butter. You can use ghee on your toast, or as an ideal cooking oil. (Other favorable cooking oils include olive oil for medium-heat cooking, as well as safflower oil, sunflower oil, and organic canola oil.) 

Is honey good for you?

The rule in ayurveda is cook your food. Every rule, of course, has an exception. Fresh fruit has been cooked by the sun, so you don’t have to cook it. However you can cook fresh fruit if you like. Harder fruits, such as apples or pears are wonderful when cooked, but you don’t have to cook them, unless you want to. There is one important exception to the “cook your food” rule, and that is honey. Honey is an ideal sweetener, raw.

According to ayurveda, cooked honey is toxic. There is something about cooking honey that generates a lot of ama. If you take honey that has been heated, or pasteurized, and feed it to bees, it will kill the bees. So,whereas raw honey is an ideal sweetener, people should avoid cooked honey.

This means that when you purchase honey at the store, make sure it says “raw” on the label. When you purchase baked goods, look on the label. If there is honey cooked into it, don’t buy it. If you go to the bread section of most health food stores, and you look at the labels, the great majority of the breads on the shelves have honey cooked into them. Leave these on the shelves, and buy another instead. Cooking with other sweeteners, such as cane sugar, fruit juice, or molasses, is fine; just don’t cook with honey.

You can put honey in your tea once the tea is sufficiently cooled down such that you can place and hold your finger in the tea (about 115 degrees Fahrenheit). You can add honey to a warm drink, but not to a boiling hot drink.

From the standpoint of modern science, the reason for the deleterious effects of cooked honey may be related to the chemical hydroxymethyl furfuraldehyde (HMF). Scientists who have studied the nutritional composition of honey have reported a significant rise in HMF in honey samples that have been heated to 60º C (140º F) and 140° C (284º F). Concerns have been raised about HMF as a potential carcinogen.

What are some natural treatments for heartburn?

Avoid foods that are hot and spicy, as well as foods that are too sour or salty. People with heartburn should avoid tobacco, alcoholic beverages, anti-inflammatory pain killers,  carbonated beverages, and eating too heavily at night. We advise people to eliminate, or severely reduce, vinegar, alcohol, and red meat. We encourage stress management techniques and remind our patients to eat in a settled environment. People should avoid eating during meetings or under stressful circumstances. We instruct people to favor pitta pacifying foods such as sweet juicy fruits, including melons. Coconut is also very pitta pacifying.

Following are some traditional and home remedies for esophageal reflux, hyperacidity, and other pitta-related digestive symptoms.

Therapeutic herbal tea:

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp fennel

1 tsp cardamom

Boil spices in 2 to 4 cups of hot water for 3 minutes. Strain, pour into a thermos, and sip throughout the day.

Drink ¼ to ½ cup aloe vera juice after lunch and supper.

On an as-needed basis, sip a cup of warm milk with 2 teaspoons of either rose water or rose petal preserves.

Chew cardamom seeds periodically throughout the day.

Amalaki (Indian Gooseberry) is an excellent rasayna (tonic) herb for balancing pitta. An appropriate dose is 2 g of the whole fruit (without seeds) twice daily.

What are some natural approaches to improving problems with constipation?

According to ayurveda, a normal bowel movement first thing every morning, without straining, signals proper gut function and health.  Here is a protocol for helping people to improve bowel habits and alleviate constipation:

When you wake up, have a glass of warm water with a teaspoon of raw honey and a squirt (5-10 drops) of fresh lemon juice. Stir briskly to mix the honey in the water. This not only serves a cleansing function but also triggers a gastric-colic reflex resulting in a prompt bowel movement. Remember that the honey must be raw, and the water warm but not hot. (One should not add honey to boiling hot water because cooked honey is toxic). After drinking the warm honey lemon water, consider taking a few minutes to sit on the commode to allow for a bowel movement to occur. Do this even if you do not have any sensation that a bowel movement is imminent. This practice helps train the physiology to get the bowels moving first thing every morning. If you don’t have raw honey or lemon, just use warm water.

With breakfast, include a handful of soaked prunes or raisins. Soak these in a bowl with just enough water to cover the fruit overnight, then eat them with breakfast the next morning. Soaking in water renders the dried fruit much easier to digest. If you have a lot of pitta in your constitution, avoid the prunes and stick with the soaked raisins. Prunes can aggravate pitta dosha because of their sour taste.

Lunch should be the main meal of the day. We have earlier discussed this in great detail. See Chapter Three for some great menu options.

Dinner should be lighter. 

Include a cup of cooked greens with lunch and/or dinner. Remember, this means a total of at least one cup of greens after they are cooked. We are talking about a lot of greens! Favor leafy green vegetables like spinach, chard, kale, bok choy, mustard greens, beet greens, and collard greens. Chop the greens before cooking and add a few drops of oil and spices as they cook. See Chapter Three for additional details.

At bedtime, take 2 g to 3 g of triphala with a little warm water. Triphala is a well-known ayurvedic mixture composed of three herbal ingredients. Triphala serves as a gastrointestinal tonic, and has a mild laxative effect. You can find triphala at most health food stores, pharmacies, and other retail outlets that stock supplements.

Try the “hot-water routine.” Drink frequent sips of hot water throughout the day. We advise our patients to purchase a thermos, then fill the thermos with plain hot water that has been boiled in an uncovered pot for 5 minutes, and sip it throughout the day. If the weather is very hot or you are having hot flashes, let the water cool down a bit before sipping. Drinking water that has been boiled in an uncovered pot helps to balance all of the doshas.

Do a 24-hour liquid fast once a week: We advise patients to do a 24-hour liquid fast, from lunch to lunch, weekly. The patient eats a normal lunch, then takes nothing solid until lunch the next day. We are not requiring zero calories for 24 hours, just nothing solid. You can have juices, milk, purees, and so on, for both dinner and breakfast. For example, instead of solid foods for dinner, have a glass of warm milk, or cook up some vegetables and puree them in their cooking water in a sturdy glass blender. Likewise, for breakfast, have some tea, warm milk, or some fresh squeezed juice.

The above outlined protocol for improving constipation will provide excellent results for most people. If, however, you have not achieved the desired results after 4-6 weeks, you can also try the following tip. Fill up a copper bowl or pitcher with fresh water, place the vessel at your bedside, and drink the water early in the morning. Drink as much as you can. Several weeks of this practice can help the bowels to start functioning properly. 

What can I do about chronic pain?

In addition to medication management and ama pachana (detoxification), patients with chronic pain should exercise as much as possible.

In the setting of chronic pain, regular exercise can both improve function and reduce pain intensity. The patient can choose walking, going to the gym, lifting weights, water aerobics, or whatever s/he finds enjoyable and sustainable. Importantly, finding a routine you enjoy will lead to a sustainable program. One should avoid falling into the practice of exercising intensely for a few weeks then just dropping it. The patient should focus and developing a routine that is practical and sustainable over time. Patients can also consider yoga as part of an exercise regimen in managing pain.

We also re-emphasize the central importance of daily routine. Getting to bed on time, waking up early in the morning, and exercising in the morning on a regular basis will all contribute to progress in achieving improvements in pain and energy levels. Patients should avoid excess traveling, tobacco, drugs, and alcohol. Mind-body and stress-reduction techniques also make a valuable contribution to self-care.

We additionally recommend to many patients a fabulous self-care procedure called abhayanga. This is a daily oil massage self administered by the patient immediately before taking a bath or shower. The best oil to use for most patients is sesame oil. Some patients with too much pitta will not tolerate sesame oil on the skin due to its heating qualities. In these instances, one can substitute with coconut oil or olive oil.

Before performing the oil massage, the sesame oil should be “cured.” To accomplish this, pour the oil into a saucepan and place it on your stovetop on low-medium heat. After a few minutes, place a drop of water into the oil. When the drop of water “sizzles,” then that batch of oil has been successfully cured. Oil is flammable, so be sure to heat it up gradually, on lower heat as opposed to high heat, and do not leave the heating oil unattended! Note that if you are using coconut or olive oil instead of sesame oil, they do not need to be cured. After curing the oil, using a funnel or a steady hand, you can pour it into smaller plastic squirt-top bottles for ease of use.

You will then perform the oil massage just before your warm bath or shower. Bathing after the oil massage actually enhances the body’s deep absorption of the oil. Oil application after bathing is felt not to have such a positive effect. Morning is the best time, but later in the day or in the evening is also okay. Start with your head and work your way down. If you are washing your hair you will begin with the scalp, otherwise skip the scalp and begin with the face. Apply some oil to the palm of your hand and massage it into your scalp. Do the same with the face, and then the back of the neck. Extra attention should be paid to massage the oil into the temples. When you apply oil to the arms, use the palm of your hand and massage the oil around in a circle over the joints, and up and down over the long bones. Do not forget to include the hands and fingers. Apply the oil to the chest, then the abdomen, in a circular manner, clockwise direction. You should apply oil to the upper and lower parts of your back as best as you can reach. Next, approach the legs in the same way as the arms. Apply the oil to the joints in a circular motion, while massaging up and down over the long bones, beginning at the hip and working your way down. Finally, be certain to focus a little extra attention on massaging the oil into the soles of the feet.

After completing this oil massage you can sit for a few minutes then step into the shower. Ideally you should allot about 15-20 minutes to doing the oil massage but if you are pressed on time you can do the entire abhayanga in just 7-10 minutes. You can also substitute an abbreviated “short-abhayanga,” if necessary. This involves performing the massage on only the temples and the soles of the feet and takes just a couple of minutes.

Done regularly this oil massage will help reduce and prevent chronic musculoskeletal pain. The oil massage provides multiple other health benefits as well, including relaxation of the nervous system and improvement of the luster of the skin.

A few practical tips warrant mention. Reserve a specific set of towels for drying off after you have done your oil massage and shower. The oil will penetrate the towels, and after a while can be hard to wash out. You don’t want to ruin all of your towels. Also, be mindful of keeping the floor of the shower clean to avoid slipping.

Many herbs and supplements help with the management of chronic pain. These supplements are effective for many people, and generally have fewer dangerous side effects compared with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (like ibuprofen or naproxen) or opioids (like morphine or hydrocodone). Individual supplements that can help reduce pain include turmeric, boswellia, and glucosamine sulfate. Remember that your physician or practitioner may also recommend a multi-ingredient herbal formula specific to your personal constitutional type or individual situation.

We often advise our patients with chronic pain to take lessons in the Alexander Technique. This technique offers an approach to the health of mind and body with an emphasis on releasing counterproductive habits, especially those related to posture and the spine. Studies have shown that lessons in the Alexander Technique result in improvements for patients with chronic spine-related pain. You can learn more, and find a local Alexander Technique teacher, through the American Society for the Alexander Technique ( The Feldenkrais method provides another potentially effective option for patients. Not only physical therapy, but also acupuncture, chiropractic care, and massage therapy can all effectively contribute to pain management.

What are some natural remedies for colds or sinus congestion?

Avoid kapha aggravating foods and beverages. Specifically, radically limit intake of foods and beverages that are cold and/or sweet. In other words, if you have a sinus infection, don’t eat ice cream! If your child or grandchild has nasal congestion or frequent middle ear infections, do not give him or her cold juice or cold milk out of the refrigerator. Such beverages will increase kapha, cause more congestion, and may aggravate, or even represent the cause, of the child’s symptoms.

As a general principle, avoid sugar-sweetened beverages altogether. No soft drinks and no juice drinks, period. Fresh fruit is great, but avoid store-bought fruit juices, especially when cold. You can have fresh-squeezed juices at home in limited amounts, but as always consume these at room temperature, not cold.

Reduce or avoid puffy breads. Instead, favor flatbreads, such as pita bread, chapatis, or tortillas. In any case, you should always try to toast breads before eating.

Follow a kapha-balancing diet.

At the first sign of upper respiratory symptoms, prepare the following home remedy:

Mix together a few tablespoons of raw honey with a few teaspoons of turmeric. Stir to make a honey and turmeric paste. Take 1 teaspoon of the honey-turmeric paste 2-4 times a day.

Try the “spicy milk” recipe described in the recipe section.

Drink the following homemade decoction. Place in a thermos: ¼ tsp cumin seeds, ¼ teaspoon coriander seeds, ¼ tsp fennel seeds, a pinch of black pepper, a little salt to taste. Add two to four cups of boiling hot water, then sip throughout the day.

Gargle with hot water, salt, and turmeric.

Inhale moist steam with eucalyptus oil.

Finally, we should reemphasize that as children are prone to respiratory congestion, parents should avoid giving their children kapha-aggravating foods and beverages. The common practice of serving kids lots of cold milk and cold juice represents an underrecognized cause of pediatric health problems. Before giving your children a glass of milk, remember to boil the milk first, ideally with a pinch of turmeric or a slice of ginger, then serve it hot. No cold milk for kids. No cold juice. And especially no sugar sweetened beverages!