Confusion abounds in the arena of food and nutrition. There’s an overwhelming number of diets available, and it can be difficult to know which one (if any) are right for you.
We have reached a kind of health epidemic where the majority of us are suffering from one ailment or another. This is likely due (at least in part) to the proliferation of processed and convenience-foods that have hit the market in the last 30 or so years. Our bodies are fighting back and letting us know that enough is enough. But which path do we follow? How do we eat for health?
There is no shortage of information circulating about what foods are good for health – which ones we should be including regularly and what we should be avoiding. We’re advised to take this food for this ailment, and this one for that…not to mention the array of supplements.
The confusion kicks in when one piece of information does not coincide with the last piece we heard or read about. Where does that leave us? Who do we listen to?
Maybe you tried a particular diet that your friend was getting great results with, only to find that you felt terrible on it. Or maybe you jump from one suggestion to another, never giving any of them a real go.
The food we eat has a direct impact on our level of vitality and overall well being. It is the fuel that runs the engine. Our food is transformed into our body and influences the quality of our thoughts and emotions, so it’s important that we consider what we eat. But besides our food, there’s something else we need to contemplate when considering our diet.
Your Individual Constitution and Food
The first step to gaining clarity and knowing what to eat for health, is in understanding that the idea of a one-size-fits-all diet or model of health is unhelpful and inaccurate. In some ways, humans are built very similar to each other. But we are also individuals and have a unique make-up, or constitution. This affects the way we each relate and respond to our environment, including our food.
Modern nutrition studies the individual foods and gains an understanding of the properties of that food and the benefits it possesses. This information is helpful to have. It’s important to understand which foods are high in iron, protein, calcium etc. When we are deficient in nutrients, it’s good to know where we can find them naturally in our food.
However, by only looking at the properties of the foods, we are missing a big piece of the picture.
Our Uniqueness Stems From the 5 Elements
Ancient cultures came to realise that the elements that we typically associate with the external environment (space, air, fire, water and earth), actually have a home in each of us, too.
This can be challenging to wrap the head around initially, but bare with me…
Every one of us has a different combination of the 5 elements – how cool IS that! It’s actually what makes us the individual that we are.
If you know anything about Ayurveda, you’ll be familiar with the three doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha. The 5 elements come together to make up the three doshas. Vata is governed by space and air, Pitta by Fire and Water, and Kapha is governed by Earth and Water. We all have each of the doshas within us but as I mentioned, the combinations differ.
So a stocky, solidly built individual has more of the earth element than the wirey thin person, who will typically have more of the air element (Vata). They will tend to be more like the wind in nature – irregular in behaviour (less grounded), excitable, talkative…like the wind their body may be on the dry side, perhaps some constipation, maybe fear and uncertainty.
The key to understanding yourself in terms of the doshas and the underlying elements, is to begin tuning into the qualities of the elements, and paying attention to where these qualities show up in YOU…in your body, mind, and emotions.
The Qualities of Each Element as Seen Through the Doshas
- VATA (Space and Air) – Dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, mobile, clear, dispersing
- PITTA (Fire and Water) – Oily, penetrating, hot, light, mobile, liquid, sour smelling
- KAPHA (Water and Earth) – Heavy, slow, cold, oily, Slimy, dense, soft, static
In and of itself, this information is simply that…information only. Yes, it does help to shed some light on our nature and our predispositions and tendency, but the real gems come when we look at ourselves in relationship to our external environment and in the context of this post, our food.
We Were Never Designed to Eat All Foods
This becomes really interesting (not to mention empowering) when we look at food.
If everything in nature is composed of the 5 elements, then that includes our food. And if all (natural) food is made up of elements, then they also consist of the same qualities that we can recognise in ourselves.
Can you see what this means?!
We are looking here at a system of like-increases-like, and the opposite restores balance.
So for example…if you have a lot of the fire element within you, you would tend to run hot, and your default reaction to stress would likely be irritability, frustration and anger. There are certain foods that are hot in nature. An obvious example is chilli – this is an easy one to understand, however not all heating foods are so obvious. The affects of most foods are in fact very subtle, which highlights the importance of developing sensitivity, and drawing on the available resources when starting out.
But back to the ‘fire’ individual…if this person was to eat a diet high in heating foods, they are adding fire where fire isn’t needed, and will be causing an aggravation throughout the system. Over a lifetime, this will lead to dis-ease.
On the flip side, if this ‘fire’ person is aware of their constitution and has an understanding of the doshas, they have the tools to restore balance to an aggravated state. They will understand why they are prone to anger; they recognise that the sudden flare up of inflammation in their digestive tract or on their skin, is a sign of too much heat, and they’ll take steps to rectify it. They might choose to eat more foods with a cooling, soothing nature; make sure to keep themselves well hydrated; don’t over-load themselves with things-to-do; stay out of the midday sun; keep a check on their emotions; practice Sitali, or cooling breath, and take some aloe vera juice.
Know Your Nature, Eat For Health
Moving into alignment with our unique constitution doesn’t require any special skills…just a willingness to take some time to begin to understand yourself and your food in a more intimate way.
It’s not a quick fix, but the rewards are immense. As you travel down this path you will notice how more present you become. This is because it’s a system based on cultivating self-awareness, so we can come to know experientially what works for us and what doesn’t.
It’s time for a new and more personalised approach to health and eating, that will take us to deep levels of health that we are only just realising.
I’m glad you’re here!
In health and harmony,