Well, I’ve always said healing gut health is a journey. And recently I took another step on the long and winding road by starting to work with an Ayurvedic doctor. For those who don’t know what Ayurveda is, it’s a holistic healing system rooted in India. In ancient Sanskrit ‘Ayur’ means life and ‘Veda’ means knowledge – as such, it’s a practice that goes far beyond just what we eat. It’s based on the principles that health and wellbeing are the result of a balanced mind, body and spirit.
How did I end up here? Don’t get me wrong, my gut health had drastically improved after my Faecal Microbiota Transplants four years ago. But something still wasn’t right. I tried to let it go and just enjoy the freedom of being able to seemingly eat what I wanted, when I wanted to, thinking it might just be an adjustment period. But our bodies will keep reminding us when something isn’t right. They’re wise like that. Then 2020 turned into one of the most stressful years of my recent life, and that stress revealed how much work I still had to do. I knew that now was the time to dig deeper.
Ayurveda had been on my mind for a while. While I felt like I’d tried every treatment under the sun, I hadn’t tried this one – in some way I knew I needed to but just wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready because I didn’t exactly know what I was getting myself into. Ayurveda is connected to yogic practice, which has been part of my life for many years. We’d touched on Ayurveda during my yoga teacher training and I’d seen lists of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ foods. After battling a gut disorder for decades, one that’s seen me try countless elimination diets and countless safe/unsafe food lists, I couldn’t face something like that again. But I didn’t understand that Ayurveda is not about making lists and deeming certain foods ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Yes, of course there are foods that are better suited to your constitution (‘dosha’ in Ayurveda) but, as my doctor says, ‘joy should come first’. Working with her has been a lesson in letting go – of how strict I can be on myself, of a sense of lack that’s come to pervade my life based on what I feel I can and can’t do and eat. It’s not about restriction, it’s about harmony and balance – two things I want in my life and my diet.
What I also like is that this stems from thousands of years of wisdom, not the latest fad diet. Gone are my green smoothies, for example, because Ayurveda says fruit and vegetables don’t combine well. Psychologically it felt healthy to whack a bunch of veggies in my smoothie – less fructose and more nutrients = healthier, right? – but what’s the point if you can’t digest that so-called ‘health’? (I’m aware there are many such recipes on my site, and I’ll being revisiting and adjusting them as I move forward). From my experience, the ‘healthier’ I ate – vegetable juices, raw foods, that time I tried a completely vegan diet – the more I suffered.
I’m not saying I’ve cracked the case yet. After suffering from a prolonged gut disorder, I’ve got a lot of work to do. I’ve adjusted my diet, which is actually much easier than I thought it would be, especially when you start to look at foods in terms of nourishment rather than nutrients. I’ve changed the way I exercise, giving up intense active Ashtanga yoga for grounding, slower practices. I’ve incorporated Ayurvedic self-massage (Abhyanga) into my weekly routine. I’m taking the supplements my doctor prescribed. And I’m starting to see the physical proof I need to keep going, something green smoothies sure as hell never gave me.