Food As Medicine: Ayurveda’s Approach to Heart HealthJan 31, 2024 09:31AM ● By Dr. Somesh N. Kaushik, ND ,BAMS, MPH, MPA, E-RYT 500
Photo credit: bt1976 on Adobestock
The heart is the central hub of the body. It is connected to every cell and tissue, so the functioning of all organs is dependent upon the health of the heart. Respiration, circulation and transportation of nourishment are all integrated through the heart—as well as its subtle influence on the mind and emotions.
In Ayurveda, the body consists of five universal elements—space, air, water, fire, earth—in combinations called doshas: Vata is space/air; Pitta is fire/water; Kapha is earth/ water. We all have elements of these three doshas in our unique profile. And, it is noteworthy that all three are housed in the heart, so maintaining dosha balance is imperative for a healthy heart. Out of balance doshas can manifest as hypertension or other conditions. When left unchecked, these can lead to chronic problems with the heart, brain, kidneys, eyes and blood vessels.
Ayurveda’s approach to correcting these imbalances starts with proper digestion, assimilation and elimination through correct diet and supplements, and continues with lifestyle adjustments including stress relief techniques.
Poor digestion due to an improper diet will contribute to toxins being distributed throughout the body. These toxins can mix with fat, clog and harden the arteries and lead to high blood pressure. To prevent this buildup, it is best to follow a Kapha pacifying plant-based diet including astringent foods such as beans, peas and lentils, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Bitter foods such as spinach, chard, kale and mustard greens, when cooked and seasoned with certain spices, help cleanse the colon and prevent fat buildup. In addition, grains such as barley, whole oats, quinoa and amaranth provide needed fiber and also enhance fat metabolism.
Fruits such as apples and pears should also be included, as well as green tea (antioxidant decreasing stress), lemon (softens blood vessels and lowers risk of heart failure), honey (relaxes blood vessel walls) and watermelon (antioxidant and diuretic flushing toxins).
Use healthy fats such as ghee or olive oil and eliminate saturated animal fats and hydrogenated fats such as vegetable oils. (The liver cannot process them easily and when heated they create free radicals and cholesterol.) Ghee is the most easily digested fat and also contains essential fatty acids that the body cannot produce. And, it can tolerate being heated to high temperatures.
Garlic, onions and cilantro will also help alleviate blood pressure as they promote smooth blood flow. Other herbs and supplements that are beneficial are amla (antioxidant-reducing blood cholesterol), triphala (anti-inflammatory increasing blood circulation, reducing stress and cholesterol), arjuna (reduces stress on the heart by dissolving fat deposits), ashwagandha (an anti-inflammatory that calms the mind and reduces stress), gotu kola (increases circulation) and
Lifestyle adjustments include avoiding alcohol and smoking, increasing daily exercise and incorporating stress reduction with yoga, meditation and breathing exercises. A qualified practitioner can suggest an individual plan to re-align the body to its own natural intelligence to heal itself.
Dr. Somesh N. Kaushik is an Ayurvedic and naturopathic physician with over 35 years of clinical and academic experience.
As a part of his yearlong “Food as Medicine” online series, join him this month for a free virtual presentation discussing the heart and cardiovascular health. Register through the Pawling Free Library (845-855-3444 or PawlingFreeLibrary.org) and plan to follow this series held every second Tuesday of the month.
Dr. Kaushik’s Ayurvedic and Naturopathic Clinic is located at 792 Rte. 35, Cross River. For more information, call 914-875-9088 (clinic M-F); 646-670-6725 (telemedicine), email [email protected] or visit DrKaushik.com.