Fall/Autumn Diet Give Your Gut a Reset
Autumn is a season of deficiency and change. When the temperature starts to drop, the body scrambles to protect itself from heat loss. Nourishing foods, especially soups, seem all the more enticing while offering the added benefits of refortifying deficient tissue and thickening the skin, thus insulating your gut and body from the cold.
In Ayurveda, nourishing foods are called ojas building foods. Ojas building, nourishing foods for autumn include root vegetables such as sweet potato and beets and hard “winter” squash like pumpkins and butternut squash as well as apples and almonds, Joyful Belly Ayurveda school suggested on the web.
Ayurveda, a natural system of medicine, originated in India more than 3,000 years ago. The term Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge). Thus, Ayurveda translates to knowledge of life.
Ayurveda therapies include herbal medicines, special diets, meditation, yoga, massage, laxatives, enemas, and medical oils.
Have you ever noticed your skin loses much of its luster in the fall? The vitality of skin wanes as blood vessels constrict with colder temperatures (a process called vasoconstriction). Your pulse also rate drops with the temperature. Warm blood close to the surface of the skin radiates too much heat. When the outside temperature drops, your body protects itself from heat loss by reducing blood flow to your skin, arms and legs. Trees experience something similar: when the weather turns frigid they pull their sap into their core (the roots). Soon their leaves wither and fall. Reducing blood flow dries out your skin, leaving it dull and lusterless.
The Muscles & Colon
The opposite of spring fever, by late September reduced blood flow leaves your muscles feeling fatigued. As it begins to grow darker earlier, a comfortable evening curled up on the couch with a favorite movie seems all the more attractive. Smooth muscle tissue, including the tissue of your colon, become sluggish when the temperature and pulse rate drop. The colon, also sensitive to stress, carries the wear and tear of autumn. You may tend towards constipation and anxiety in the fall.
Routine & Resiliency
Wearing oneself ragged in October’s social calendar could result in compromised immunity for flu season come November. Alternatively, relaxation and downtime free up energy to help the body prepare for winter. Skipping meals, staying up late, and irregular mealtimes create stress and deficiency.
Cold Feet & Warm Socks
Some people get cold feet even with two pairs of socks. These socks can’t coax blood out of hibernation once it moves to the core. The body may simply lack confidence or strength to maintain core temperature and warm the toes. A sweater to heat the core does a better job than an extra pair of socks to cure cold feet. Lifestyle changes, such as warm clothes and indoor heating, can convince the body it has heat to spare. Additionally, daily oil massage in the morning before bath coats the skin and prevents evaporation. As in a summer sweat, evaporation causes significant heat loss. Oil massage thus helps retain heat. Once pathological cold has penetrated our system, hot baths may be the only way to restore circulation. A pinch of turmeric keeps circulation strong. Sour lemons in morning tea convince sweat glands and stomach glands to stay juicy.
Ingredients, Recipes & Herbs for the Fall
Less blood in the skin means better circulation in the core. The stomach gains access to more blood and clamors for food. We experience this as a craving for starchy and heavy foods like potatoes sometime mid August. Appetite and digestion improve just in time to thicken up and insulate the skin.
Miso is a fermented salty soup. Soups are warm and hydrating. Sour increases all secretions in the body, liquefying Vata stuck in the GI and elsewhere.
Kapha and Pitta beware of high salt content. When used appriopriately salt can be one of the most powerful medicinal ‘herbs’ for Vata. It encourages a dry colon to stay moist allowing for easy flow of the bowels. Salt also encourages water retention and raises blood pressure.
Ferments in general (alcohol, bread, yogurt, cheese, etc) pacfiy Vata but increase Pitta and Kapha.
Since they contain the metabolic by products of bacteria (i.e. bacteria poop!), overuse reduces quality of the blood.
2. Cooked Apples
Does an apple a day really keep the doctor away? It’s a familiar American adage that deserves a renaissance, but with a twist. Ayurvedically, it’s a cooked apple not a raw one that keeps the doctor away. Raw apples can be cold, drying and might not digest as easily, especially if unskinned. Cooked apples are warm and soft, like soups, and digest in a snap.
A spoonful of applesauce on the tongue registers sour, a taste that increases saliva and stimulates the digestive tract. Sour taste also cleanses the liver and cools the blood by drawing bile out of the body into the small intestine, somatically experienced as a softening of the eyes. Malic acid, the constituent responsible for sour taste, has a particular affinity for liver cleansing and support. Apples are also sweet, a taste that nourishes the body and awakens our delight.
After we chew and swallow the cooked apple, it descends to the stomach and passes to the small intestine. Although absorption of sweet taste here increases blood sugar, apples have a relatively low glycemic index (38) and calorie count (72). Next, the applesauce moves into the colon. Sour taste continues to warm and stimulate secretions that maintain a moist colon. The high fiber (2.9 grams/cup) bulks up stool for an easy elimination that cleanses the colon.
A clean colon and clean blood is a clean bill of health for many of us. Applesauce is a nourishing tri-doshic experience woven into our American cultural fabric and healing history.
3. Sweet Potato
Sweet potato is unique among comfort foods for its Kapha pacifying lightness. This tuber is beneficial even for those with heavy digestive symptoms. Unlike dairy products, potatoes, and other common comfort foods like pasta, sweet potatoes feel light in the stomach, while still being nourishing. Sweet potato is supportive for digestion and contains ample fiber to encourage good elimination. Besides simple starches, sweet potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates, which means these roots can satisfy the appetite for long stretches. Despite the name “sweet,” it may be a beneficial food for diabetics as preliminary studies revealed it helps to stabilize blood sugar levels.
Scott Blossom, in a unique interview with Joyful Belly, says “They facilitate lymphatic circulation. Pretty much all the roots do, the bitter ones are even better. A close second is turmeric. In the winter time especially I love root vegetables. The kind of carbohydrates they provide is so easy to digest it’s really malleable to lots of different flavors, and you can use many spices with it.”
“Then when it hits my stomach it’s so nourishing and warm. It is soft and soothing to my stomach. Yam immediately gives me a sense of strength and grounded vitality. Further, they are so easy to digest. I just never have any problem digesting a yam. They seem to help other foods digest. I like when I cook them in combination with other foods. They are truly a peacemaker in the belly.”