The Ayurvedic Diet and How It Helped Me Manage IBD

When I was 16, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and was prescribed medication to treat it. Even with medication, I dealt with flares that caused severe bleeding, debilitating pain, nausea, vomiting, and muscle cramps, among other symptoms. For three years my mother and I visited one specialist after another on the East Coast searching for answers. When a doctor told me I was going to need a colostomy, surgery that diverts a part of the colon to an opening in the abdominal wall to bypass damaged parts of the colon, my family and I said enough.

My aunt Asha Wollman is an Ayurvedic doctor in Mumbai, India, and a practitioner of Chinese medicine. She recommended that I spend some time with her and seek help from Eastern medicine.

I was skeptical. But after considering life-altering surgery versus a more holistic approach, I decided I had nothing to lose.

I packed my bags and flew back to my birth country. The scents of jasmine, sage, and sesame hit me as I marched up the long white stairs into the flat where my aunt kept her practice. Inside, on Asha’s desk, sat one of her books on the Chinese philosophy of Oriental medicine. It was entitled Go With the Flow, and that’s what I intended to do.

Asha began treating me with Ayurveda medicine. Ayurveda is the traditional Hindu system of medicine that seeks balance in bodily systems through the use of diet, exercise, and breathing. It’s a highly personalized yet highly scalable form of medicine with scriptures dating back 7,000 years.

Asha assessed my doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha), which constitute balance between the mind, body, and spirit. When a person’s doshas are unbalanced, they create disharmony and can cause problems like disease.

Through analysis, my aunt found that I had an increase in Pitta and Vata, which meant that my constitution was out of balance. When a constitution is in excess you can experience emotional, mental, physical complications. Autoimmune diseases are powered by an increase in the fire dosha of Pitta. Vata controls blood flow and the elimination of wastes. She concluded the increase of Vata was causing my IBD to flare up. She built a highly detailed plan formulated specifically for me, which included acupuncture, a balancing diet, and exercise.

I did acupuncture three times a week for two and a half months to address the inflammation. Asha gave me a Vata and Pitta balancing diet that consisted of foods like lots of orange cooked vegetables, mung dal, and basmati rice. I was not allowed to eat anything raw or gassy. (Although the diet was temporary, I still turn to it when I feel a Crohn’s flare coming on.)

In addition, she guided me through meditation and yoga, which I was required to do with her two to three times a week to help me learn to be better in tune with my body and how my mind affected my stomach. (I realized through meditation practice and mindfulness that when I was nervous, I had to run to the bathroom.)

All these things helped me to learn that my illness was more than a part of my body: It was related to my thoughts, my mood, my behavior, and my lifestyle.

Within two months my IBD had calmed, and astoundingly, has been mostly in remission ever since.

My Experience Set Me on a New Life Path

The diet literally saved my life, and the wisdom that I discovered from this experience is what motivated me to open my own practice for personalized holistic healing when I returned to the States.

I still go to regular checkups with my gastroenterologist and take medication as required. But I also closely monitor what I eat and remain on top of my daily meditation and yoga practice as prescribed by my Ayurvedic doctor.

My experience taught me that it’s never just the disease that needs to be treated, but the whole body.

Tips for People Interested in Ayurvedic Medicine to Treat Digestive Problems

For a simple, everyday Ayurvedic detox beneficial for any kind of digestive problem, try the following: Take sips of hot water (don’t burn yourself!) throughout the day. Warm water acts like a turbo charge revving your body’s engine to operate with greater horsepower, as your system activates to lower the temperature of the water.

Castor oil is good for anyone with stomach pain and especially people with IBD. You can apply castor oil directly to your belly and cover with a towel and a heating pad. Do this for 10, 15, or 20 minutes two to three times a day.

Speak to your doctor or nutritionist about incorporating foods with digestive enzymes into your diet. Digestive enzymes break down protein, fatty acids, and carbs to help nutrients absorb into the body. They have really helped me.

It’s important to remember that an Ayurvedic diet is not a one-size-fits-all solution to health problems. It’s not even a diet in the traditional sense of the word. Rather, an Ayurvedic diet is a lifestyle plan tailored to your specific body so you can achieve optimal balance from the inside out. An Ayurvedic diet includes everything from your day-to-day habits, to the food you eat, to the particular kind of exercise you are getting. It’s unique to the individual. And it helped me to achieve optimal health.

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