Dr. Amy Shah is a double board certified M.D. and one of mbg’s favorite holistic health experts. With training from Cornell, Columbia, and Harvard, she helps her patients get to the root cause of illness. This week, we’re sharing Dr. Shah’s approach to taming inflammation for optimal health and well-being. To learn more, check out her mindbodygreen class The Ultimate Guide To Inflammation.
I'll be honest, when I was growing up with Ayurveda all around me, I totally I shunned it. I wouldn't be caught dead gargling with a mixture of turmeric, salt, and black pepper for a cold, and when my mom made me a mix of ghee, jaggery (raw sugar), and nuts as an "energy tonic" after my first child—I gagged. But then when I started learning about inflammation after medical school, it all changed.
I was shocked to learn that much of the "cutting edge science" about inflammation, was knowledge Ayurveda established 3,000 years ago. In Ayurveda they believe in balancing all the life forces, and when things are out of balance you start to get symptoms of inflammation like bloating, heartburn, joint pain, or anxiety. As a Western-trained physician, I don't claim to be an Ayurvedic sage, but I do like to incorporate a few things that both Ayurveda and modern medicine both agree on.
1. Intermittent fasting
This is one way to both supercharge your gut and aid fat loss. Studies are coming out all the time supporting the benefits of intermittent fasting (IM) and interestingly, Ayurveda has always encouraged people to rest their gut and improve health through fasting. IM is really great for digestion. It gives the body a break for a set number of hours so that your gut can rest, repair, and reset. The benefits to your gut and overall inflammation are staggering!
I recommend doing an intermittent fast two to three days a week. Start with a few nonconsecutive days when you don't eat between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. Once you master that length of time, you can extend it to 11 a.m. I feel that intermittent fasting is key to healthy aging, preventing inflammation, and to resetting the gut.
2. Anti-inflammatory spices
Spices like turmeric, ginger, garlic, and saffron have been used in Ayurveda for thousands of years and now studies are showing that turmeric may be stronger than painkillers (NSAIDS)—specifically for inflammatory conditions like arthritis. Turmeric also has anticarcinogenic, antimicrobial, and hepatoprotective properties. I love it when science and ancient medicine agree!
Around 1,000 milligrams of curcumin is what I usually recommend—this is equivalent to about 2 grams a day of turmeric root, or a little less of turmeric powder. Remember to add black pepper to the turmeric (this increases its bioavailability by 2,000 percent) and eat it with a healthy fat like coconut oil. I add a knob of turmeric and ginger to my green juice daily—quick and easy!
3. Your mind-body connection
If there's one thing I've learned from Ayurveda, it's that the mind-body connection is something you need to work on every single day. In Ayurveda good health includes not just the body but the mind and the spirit. Luckily, the scientific evidence is now showing this as well. We need to connect our mind to our bodies; we can no longer go through a whole day without noticing the dull pain in our wrist when typing or the fatigue we feel after certain foods.
Tuning into yourself doesn't require hours of meditation or yoga (although I do love my yoga); it can be done in as little as just five minutes a day. You can simply do anchoring breaths twice a day for two minutes. What that means is take a brief break from whatever you are doing to take deep, slow breaths to anchor yourself in what you are feeling at that point. Feel your body, what it is telling you, instead of ignoring it. Slow down your breath and make it more even. If you can do this twice a day (one of them while out in nature would be ideal) you are well on your way to a better mind-body connection. This means less inflammatory cytokines and more calming chemicals released into your blood!
So there you go, my top three tips on how to use Ayurveda and Western medicine to treat inflammation. There are so many more things you can do but if you stick to these three, you will notice huge differences in your health and symptoms of inflammation.