The Stomach Diaries Part VIII: My Experience With Ayurveda

July 30, 2019

The Stomach Diaries Part VIII: My Experience With Ayurveda

Exactly one year ago, I went to see Ayurvedic doctors. I had heard bits and pieces about Ayurveda here and there in my wellness journey, but after listening to Sahara Rose’s episode on the Glowing Up podcast, I felt aligned enough with the treatment to shell out my own non-insurance-covered dollars and see an Ayurvedic doctor. I booked an appointment with Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar and his wife, Manisha, who run the practice together. I’m a huge researcher, so prior to my appointment, I read the book The Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda, listened to a lot of podcasts, and read tons of articles online. Before I even set foot in Dr. Kshirsagar’s office, I pretty much knew, from an Ayurvedic viewpoint, what my issue was.

For those of you who are still trying to figure out how to pronounce Ayurveda (it’s aye-your-VAY-duh), let’s take a step back and talk about what Ayurveda is! Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system of health. It is also the oldest form of medicine in the world. The name Ayurveda is a compilation of two Sanskirt words: ayur (“life”) and veda (“knowledge”). Ayurveda divides all humans up into three archetypes: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Each of these archetypes can apply to your body and mind.

Physically, Vatas are long, lean, have difficulty putting on muscle, run dry (dry skin, hair, eyes, etc.), and tend to run cold. Mentally, Vatas tend to be creative, imaginative, airy, and spontaneous. Physically, Pittas have athletic builds, gain muscle easily, have oily skin, and tend to run warm. Mentally, Pittas are passionate, fiery, ambitious, and organized. Physically, Kaphas are curvy, have baby-like features, and tend to gain weight. Mentally, Kaphas are generous, go-with-the-flow, and peaceful. We have a bit of all three doshas in us, but there’s always one dosha that is dominant. You can have a different dominant body dosha from your dominant mind dosha. The problem occurs when there is a dosha imbalance. For instance, excess Vata could mean brittle nails, bloating, constipation, dizziness, and anxiety. Excess Pitta could manifest itself in heartburn, burnout, acne, and anger. Finally, excess Kapha energy could contribute to weight gain, stagnancy, lack of self-care, and depression.

I took Sahara’s online dosha quiz and confirmed that I was, in fact, a Vata. As I learned more about Vata-ism, the more boxes I checked off that confirmed my Vata imbalance. Dry skin/hair/eyes? Check. Chronic bloating and constipation? Check. Always cold? Check. Easily anxious? Check. Hypomanic mood and energy swings? Check. Trouble concentrating? Check. Joint pain? Check. Wildly creative to the point where my brain never shuts off and I can’t sleep? Check check check. I even read one article that said Vatas tend to have flat feet. I HAVE FLAT FEET. I needed an Ayurvedic doctor to tell me what to do.

When I saw Dr. Suhas (in person, he goes by Dr. Suhas instead of his last name for ease) and his wife, Manisha, they knew just by looking at me I was a Vata with a huge Vata imbalance. Since Vatas are “airy,” the goal of my treatment plan was to ground me. This meant literally eating foods from the ground (i.e. root vegetables, spices, etc.). I knew my mainly fruit diet wasn’t helping my Vata imbalance, but every time I re-introduced foods, my body went haywire (bloating, stomach aches, constipation, eczema flare-ups, etc.). I’ve never been one to give up, so I was eager to try this treatment plan to see if this would be the missing link. I knew that from eating such a limited diet, I was very depleted of different nutrients, so everything the doctors said made sense. The treatment plan included me eating what I was currently eating (bananas, apples, kefir, apple cider vinegar, raw cacao powder, and tea), but also slowly introducing kitchari (starting off eating about 1 tbsp a day). Kitchari is a warm rice pilaf-like dish with lots of warming spices that is very nutrient-dense and easy to digest. You can add vegetables too but I was just eating it bare bones to start off with. The Kshirsagars had me adding in this blend of warming spices because I had so much coldness in my body. For some reason—I don’t 100% know why—they had me stop eating all berries. As far as supplements go, they had me taking Vital Skin, Vital Aloe, Vital Blood, and Lymph Herbal Tea in addition to the turmeric and fish oil I was already taking. Twice a month, I had to do a “castor oil cleanse” which meant me drinking 3 tbsp of castor oil mixed with 8 oz orange juice. (Yes, it tasted as nasty as it sounds, but it sure did help the constipation situation.)

Aside from my diet, my entire body was so full of toxins, Dr. Suhas told me I needed to sweat out these toxins profusely through all the layers of my skin. He wanted me to either do hot yoga or sit in a steam room twice a week (it was important it be a steam room and not sauna because I was so dry). Since this was also the period of time I was literally throwing out my neck, shoulders, and back every other week, I opted for the steam room.

I kept up this regimen and was feeling good! I had eventually increased my kitchari intake to 1.5 cups a day and was diligent with the steam room sessions. I continued my regular acupuncture and cupping. If all went well, I would be able to introduce more foods and eat more well-rounded meals.

Then, I noticed my hands started cracking. They felt irritated and “on fire”. I knew the feeling. It’s a reaction I get to something that isn’t agreeing with me. I tried taking out kitchari from my diet and immediately, my hands cleared up. I was still, however, getting my chronic stomach aches, and I had a feeling I might feel even better if I took out apples, so I eliminated apples. And my stomach aches lessened. As did my joint pain/throwing out body parts. The odd thing is the more I restrict my diet, the better I feel. I intuitively know there must be an underlying issue more complex than simply eating grounding foods to balance out my excess Vata energy. That is why I’m not currently seeing my Ayurvedic doctors. I 100% believe in the healing power of their medicine, but I know I need to first get a diagnosis. My nutritionist is sending me to Stanford Medical Hospital to get testing done. I’m a firm believer in herbal remedies, but I also believe that Western Medicine complements Eastern Medicine in a beautiful way—namely being able to expedite the process of getting a diagnosis so that you can figure out what herbs you need to take to heal yourself faster.

My first appointment with Stanford was in December, my next appointment with them is tomorrow, and I’ve had a handful of appointments in between. I’ll talk about what doctors I’ve seen at Stanford and how my visits with Stanford are going later this week in my next Stomach Diaries update. Who knows, maybe by tomorrow, I’ll even have a diagnosis!

If you made it through this entire blog post, give yourself a pat on the back because wow! Have you tried Ayurvedic Medicine? How was your experience with it? If you want to learn more about Ayurveda, definitely check out Sahara Rose’s website.

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