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Photo by Scott Diekema, Nepal Semester.

Ayurveda, Spices, and Healthy Guts- oh my!

One of the most memorable moments from this week, etched within the depths of my taste buds, was the Ayurvedic cooking class with Sharon. Chowing down on the steamed veggie momos, aloo paratha (potato stuffed bread), curry paneer, and spicy potatoes was definitely the peak moment. But what sparked just as much aliveness within me was learning about the spices used in the dish and how they relate to Ayurvedic healing.

I knew spices offer a lot of nutritional benefits, but I never realized the straight medicine they are! I didn’t know that one of the spice’s purpose (besides tasting scrumptious) is to aide in digestion. Western doctors send you to a fluorescent-lit store to pick up synthetic drugs and Ayurvedic doctors guide you towards mother earth’s organic medicine to heal- including the delicious spices in your meal. “Ayurvedic medicine (“Ayurveda” for short) is one of the world’s oldest holistic (“whole-body”) healing systems. It was developed more than 3,000 years ago in India.It’s based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. Digestion is the cornerstone of health and immunity in Ayurveda. This is where the magic of spices comes in. In Ayurveda health starts in the gut. A healthy digestive system reflects clarity in the mind. After the class I started to research more about Ayurveda and the benefits of spices. It was like a light vortex opened up above my crown and the heavens sang, ‘Maybe finally the gut issues I have been experiencing will be sorted out in Nepal.’

For the past year and a half I have been experiencing, what seems like, non-stop gut issues. I saw a western doctor multiple times but they said nothing was wrong besides constipation. They wrote me a prescription to the fluorescent laboratory and I took some laxatives that didn’t do anything. I researched a little bit about gut health- but the ignorance within me kept saying, ‘If you meditate enough, contemplate enough, and drink enough water it’ll go away.’ But it didn’t. And it got worse as soon as I arrived in Nepal. I went from feeling stomach pain 50% of the time to 80-90%. So I knew enough was enough, it was time to really take action and see an Ayurveda doctor.

It has been two and half weeks since I have been seeing the doctor and on my prescription is a whole lotta’ plant (nasty!) powders plus certain foods . My prescription looks something like – For the morning: yoga/meditation, 2 glasses of warm water when I first wake up, apple, aloe vera juice, and a scoop of plant powder with warm water. She asked I eat two warm meals with lots of spices, little rice, and loads of veggies. For the evening: more plant powders. The major cultural clash and difference between the Ayurveda doctor and a western doctor is the fact food, spices, and yoga/mediation are on the prescription. The main goal is to get me back to a state where I have regular bowel movements and eventually experience ‘sama agni’ which corresponds to great digestion. The main focus is poop! In the Ayurveda pharmacy it seems as if about every medicine I saw was geared towards gastro health. I find very fascinating that health returns back to the gut.

This morning I had a long conversation with my homestay family about digestion and gut health. They all said they haven’t been sick ever or for years (basically saying they rarely get sick).  I have no idea if that has anything to do with Nepalese traditional cooking- or if they just have really good genes-but it seems as if it could be related (not stating that it is). I am so blessed to be living in a culture which totally supports my gut healing and Ayurveda principles. I am so curious and inspired to learn more about the science and art of Ayurveda. I believe my ISP project is going to be centered around Ayurveda gut health while partaking in a panchakarma cleanse. I can’t wait to see how it unfolds. Crossing my fingers I leave Nepal with a healed gut and most importantly a shift in my lifestyle- catered to Ayurveda principles.