Typically, when we consume any given food item, our digestive tract gradually breaks it down into its most essential components so that our body can metabolize it and convert it to energy for the body to use. For most of the human population, this process is without significant defect when applied to the digestion of a protein known as gluten. However, when this protein, most commonly found in grains like wheat, barley, rye, bulgur, and spelt, is consumed by those with celiac disease, the sufferer will experience a potentially severe allergic reaction. When a sufferer of celiac disease consumes gluten, they will experience an immune response that then attacks the lining of the small intestine. This not only leads to the intestine’s inflammation, but the compromised state of the intestine’s villi – the tiny protuberances that line the intestine and absorb micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. With a faulty intestine lining, the sufferer is at risk of experiencing a variety of health complications.
The specific symptoms associated with celiac disease vary based both on any given person’s genetic predisposition as well as their age. Child suffers who consume gluten might experience diarrhea, vomiting, delayed or stunted growth, stunted puberty, and conditions deemed neurological in nature like ADHD. Adult sufferers may experience diarrhea, fatigue, headaches, emaciation, loss of bone density, and symptoms related to other compromised systems. Sufferers who continue to experience allergic reactions to gluten are at greater risk of some cancers as well as certain skin diseases.
It is currently unknown in the Western medical world what causes celiac disease, and while certain regimens may be used to manage symptoms or replace lost nutrients, the primary protocol is to have the sufferer live on a gluten-free diet. Doing so will often lead to not only a ceasing of symptoms but a re-building of any damaged tissue in the small intestine.
Given how closely Ayurvedic tradition ties the incidence of any given disease in any given person to that person’s digestive health, it should come as no surprise that the digestive nature of celiac disease overlaps with much of the general advice of Ayurvedic tradition as a whole. A person’s faulty digestion will lead to toxic buildup in the system, which in turn leads to disease. This process is therefore particularly acute when someone has an allergic reaction to gluten. The many symptoms and diseases that stem from a celiac sufferer’s intake of gluten can be considered an intensified, more direct version of the many diseases that are caused by a person’s faulty eating habits in general.
What can be considered particularly significant about a celiac sufferer in relation to Ayurvedic tradition is the specific nature of any given sufferer’s symptoms. Different sets of symptoms are likely a reflection of any given sufferer’s constitutional nature, wherein some sufferers might experience diarrhea and burning sensations as a reflection of a Pitta imbalance, while another will experience headaches, gas, and emaciation as a reflection of a Vata imbalance. Still others might experience loss of appetite and weakness as a result of a Kapha imbalance.
By embracing a lifestyle that upholds the various tenets of Ayurvedic tradition and avoiding gluten, most sufferers of celiac disease are likely to enjoy not only a scarcity of associated symptoms but a sense of wellness as a whole. For the act of recovery from previous allergic reactions, an Ayurvedic practitioner might prescribe a series of treatments that build the digestive strength of the sufferer and purge the body of toxicity through treatments like pancha karma. They will likely prescribe an herbal regimen as well, which would be designed to generally strengthen the sufferer’s digestive fire.
When we neglect to establish the root cause of one illness, it can turn into another, stronger illness in the future. The first step in resolving a specific ailment or disease in the body is to assess the nature of our lifestyle and make general modifications. Living our day-to-day life with a deliberate intention to improve our health will help us to both resolve the disease we are suffering from and prevent further incidence of it and other diseases in the future.
Per standard protocol regardless of modality, it is ideal to avoid any and all intake of gluten from grains including wheat, rye, barley, bulgur, durum, farina, malt, and spelt.
Favor cooked foods over raw and dried foods, as these foods are easier to digest and will therefore help to build digestive strength.
Reduce the intake of processed foods, refined sugars, and foods that contain chemicals and additives so as to eliminate as much toxicity as possible.
Generally favor foods that are light and easy to digest.
Engage the services of a trained Ayurvedic practitioner to receive various purgation therapies and other treatments that help to clear the body of toxicity and restore digestive strength.
Ayurveda teaches us that disease and sickness is derived from poor digestion and inappropriate food choices, so we make deliberate and conscious choices as to what foods we do and do not put in our body. When we suffer from a specific ailment, we then have an opportunity to make even more specific food choices to increase the chance of resolving the body’s imbalance. Food needs to be in season, in moderate combinations of one or two food groups, not too hot or cold, in a modest enough quantity to allow for room left over in the stomach, consumed without too much liquid which hinders digestive power, and fresh and not left over from more than a few hours before. A sufferer of celiac disease will benefit from a natural diet of whole foods in general, and will benefit from a dosha-balancing diet as based on their particular symptoms and related imbalances. If, of course, the sufferer has allergies specific to other food groups as well (e.g. lactose intolerance), then the appropriate measures must still be taken to avoid allergic reactions.
Rice White Basmati
Rice (white basmati)
While some foods can help to balance an aggravated dosha, other foods can cause further imbalance. Dry and cold foods as well as pungent, bitter and astringent tastes will dry out the body and aggravate the Vata dosha; sour, salty and pungent tastes as well as spicy foods will add more heat to the body and aggravate the Pitta dosha; sweet, sour and salty tasting foods will add heaviness to the body and aggravate the Kapha dosha. Along with gluten-based grains, celiac sufferers will benefit from avoiding foods associated with their particular doshic imbalance.
Avoid raw and cold foods
Avoid dried foods, like dry fruits, salty snacks, and snack bars
Avoid processed foods
Avoid artificial additives
Avoid leftover foods
Most legumes including green lentils and garbanzo beans
Raw and cold foods
Dehydrated, packaged foods
Sour foods (like yogurt, sour cream, and pickles)
Sweets and candies
Dairy products (except goat milk, in moderation)
Generally, Ayurveda discourages the consumption of too many cold beverages, as doing so hinders the strength of the body’s digestive fire. Instead, favor room temperature or hot beverages to encourage the strength of the digestive fire.
A decoction of pippali and black mustard seeds
An herbal infusion of haritaki and ginger
Avoid cold and frozen drinks
Avoid sugary or fizzy drinks that blend with the digestive juice and make it weak.
Avoid alcohol, coffee, and black tea.
Herbs are used in the Ayurvedic system much like Western medicine utilizes medicines and vitamins and can be taken like a tea 2 to 3 times a day. Herbs aid in the digestion of food, the breakdown and elimination of toxins, and strengthen the cellular structure of our system for greater vitality. Herbs become more potent once mixed with other herbs of similar properties. Mix 2 to 4 different herbs from the below list together by adding a quarter to a half teaspoon full of each, for a total of 1 teaspoon of herbs total. Drink these in a half a cup of hot water.
When applied therapeutically to specific ailments, yoga postures provide an opportunity to strengthen the body, rid the body of toxic matter, and restore balance. The postures included in this section can be practiced as part of a more general sequence or can be focused on in short sessions. When first exploring yoga postures, it is best to only practice them for twenty or so minutes per day and build up from there once the body becomes more flexible.
Aromatherapy utilizes the fragrances of essential oils when applied to the skin. Essential oils can burn the skin and therefore must be diluted with a base oil such as sesame, coconut, sunflower, canola, or mustard oil. Mix 1 fluid ounce of base oil with about 12 drops of essential oil before applying to skin. You can also just mix 5 drops of base oil to one drop of essential oil if using on one spot.
Ayurvedic tradition suggests that repeating certain words or sounds can help a person suffering from an ailment restore subtle balance to nerve tissue and enhance one’s mental clarity. Different sounds are prescribed to either repeat mentally or chant outwardly. These sounds are also used and repeated in the mind for the purpose of spiritual growth.
Controlling the breath is a central practice toward developing peace and stillness in the mind and body. When the breath is under our control, we are no longer at the mercy of the senses that are stimulated by everything and lead to greater fluctuations of the mind. When applied to the context of resolving specific ailments, the breath is used as a tool for developing lung capacity, heating the body, cooling the body, and resolving mental afflictions like anxiety and stress.
The Full Breath
Alternate Nostril Breathing
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