Americans have a problem.
We think everything can be fixed with something more, something we can buy, something we can consume. I know when I am feeling a little "off" I'm easily tempted to log onto Amazon and have a pair of shoes or an herbal tincture sent over. Back before I fell for Ayurveda I would rush off to my favorite Juice Bar for a Kale Coconut Blueberry with Spirulina, Wheat-grass Juice, and extra B-Vitamin Boost when I started to feel like I was coming down with something. I now know this is a great way to ensure that I would get sick. Why? Because it was more-- and what I needed was less.
For most of us sickness is not a sign that we need something. It is a sign that we have had too much.
Ayurveda divides illnesses into one of 2 categories: Santarpanotha meaning caused by excess nourishment or Apartarpanotha meaning caused by lack of nourishment. Outside of anorexia and marathon runners we rarely see disorders rooted in depletion in the US. We are over-nourished. Most of us need less: less food, less work, less information, less stress.
Ayurveda believes that a healthy body will transform the food we eat into exactly what we need.
A simple diet of grain and dahl, a bit of meat and veggies (spices and oils) is sufficient for a long healthy life. More than this and we are feeding the excesses of our bodies (not to mention the packaging landfill, petroleum and water consumption, transport, storage and waste of commercial food production). Think tumors and growths, arterial plaque, adhesion, swelling (inflammation), parasites, obesity, atheromas, sluggish or abnormal tissue function caused by blockages and overuse. We are wearing ourselves (and our planet) out with too much stuff!
Americans (most of us anyway) consume far more than we need. The consequences of this are seen in our favorite diseases: cancer (overgrowth of cells), heart disease (blocked channels), diabetes (bodies overwhelmed by sedentary lifestyle and excess of poor quality consumption).
The current Detox fad is halfway to admitting that less might just be more. Unfortunately most cleanses are simply a way for someone to sell you more stuff (detox kits, fancy water, and colonics). And in the end few leave followers with solid knowledge of day-to-day healthy living. So then you 're-tox' until you buy another detox kit and around and around you go.
We do not need to look to the elders of Japan or Corsica to see what might make us live longer (more fish oil?! yogurt?! goji berries?!). What we can gain from them is the template of their simple working lives and diets. We can embellish with fresh, local foods and resistance to the pressure to over-do everything, American-style.
In an attempt to provide a guideline for healthier living everyday here are 3 easy steps:
Eat freshly-made food. Avoid: bags, boxes, cans, frozen stuff.
Every day eat something that was grown locally (really local-- not 500 miles away local)
Meat-free Monday (or Tuesday or Wednesday etc) or better yet a weekly cleanse day of broth and fresh juices.