Anti-Aging, Bloating, Amma (toxin) Info and More from an Ayurvedic Perspective
In London I was fortunate to spend time with a insightful, highly knowledgeable and beautiful Ayurvedic practitioner, named Dr. Deepa Apté who is an Indian medical doctor (Bachelor of Medicine; Bachelor of Surgery, India) and Ayurvedic practitioner.
I learned so much from Deepa. While there are some differences between Ayurvedic and Beauty Detox (such as in Beauty Detox we do not recommend consuming dairy across the board), there is a similar, highly compatible emphasis on digestion, preventing toxicity buildup, and belief that the buildup of toxins is a primary cause of aging and disease.
Dosha refers to the three main body types in Ayurveda (Vata, Pitta, Kapha, which we will discuss in detail in the below interview).
I had always believed that I was a Vata-Pitta dosha, based on questionnaires I had done and basic knowledge. But Deepa read my pulse and did various diagnoses on me, and I learned that I am actually Tri-Doshic, so a balance of all 3 doshas (which is apparently very rare)!
Deepa has an AMAZING spa in London called Ayurveda Pura. If you are there or visiting London you should definitely make it down there. It has very traditional, healing Ayurvedic treatments, such as Shirodhara, the practice of pouring herb-infused oil for long periods over the third eye, which is grounding and balancing.
A wide variety of facial and massage treatments are also offered, using skincare that is customized (and organic) for you, based on your body type (dosha).
She also carries great, organic teas, and you can book an appointment to get your pulse read by Deepa, as an evaluation of your body type.
Here is the transcription of an interview I conducted with Deepa (some words and sentences might be slightly worded differently, due to transcribing process). I think you’ll learn some very interesting things:
Kimberly (KS): So would you say the main principle of Ayurveda is to create balance, and what are the methods that are used for this purpose?
Deepa Apte (DA): In Ayurveda, we say that just like your five fingers (holding up hand), there are 5 approaches. Not necessarily in order of importance, the parts of Ayurveda for balance are foods, herbs, massage, yoga and lifestyle.
Let’s say someone has an excess of Vata (the dosha, or body type that is air-based). They may have an imbalance of dryness. What would the food-based Ayurveda approach entail? More soups, juices, smoothies for instance, to nourish the body.
People think foods and herbs are different. But some substances can function as both. For instance, let’s look at turmeric: if you put it in the body through foods or a particular dish, it functions as food.
If I’m using it in a particular way and form to nourish the bones and skin it becomes an herb. It’s the attitude towards it that determines the approach. Turmeric is good for balancing the Vata constitution because it’s good for the nourishing the bones.
KS: Oh great- let’s talk about the doshas, or the different body types? Would you say most people are dominant in two doshas?
DA: Some people can be dominant in one, or balanced between all three, but most people are dominant in two doshas.
When you look at body types in Ayurveda, you are looking at two different body types. Meaning, the first type is the basic one that you are born with. It’s like your DNA.
It’s your identity that will never change. No matter where you go, or what you do, the identity and your basic constitution will always be with you.
But what you are nowadays, the other body type, is the result of environment- travel, family, food and so on.
The best way to compare these two body types is like a hard surface. The surface is solid, stable, sturdy. But the outer body type is like a layer of dust, where imbalances can occur. Ayurveda works to remove the imbalances, the “layer of dust”, so you can go back to your basic body type.
This is how you’ll be your happiest, healthiest, and live a long, good life.
KS: So Ayurvedic practices are centered around getting rid of this “layer of dust”?
KS: So back to the primary Vata dosha…would you be more active and have a more flighty nervous system?
DA: You would be more active. But when we look into each body type…people ask me, “Which is the best body type?” Each body constitution has very good qualities. But if they are to go out of balance, certain imbalanced characteristics would show up.
Vata types because of that air movement, they are very creative, very artistic.
When we say artistic it doesn’t always have to be in terms of painting and drawing. It can be writing books (smiles at me!), or putting something together. Cooking is also a very typical, healthy Vata activity.
KS: So the point is to balance your constitution? Not to try to get to the point where you are equally all three- as you are born with the innate dosha dominant combination that you are?
KS: The elements play a role with the doshas – air, water, etc. Does that have an influence on how you would choose foods, massages, etc?
DA: Yes. So if someone has that Vata excess they would need more earth elements, more grounding in their life. More earthy treatments.
Very easily divided, Vata is air, Pitta is fire and Kapha is earth, or water. Because air governs Vata, Vata types tend to think and talk very fast, and move quickly. But the excess activity may lead to dryness. There is a tendency towards dry hair and dry skin.
If you look into Pitta, because Pitta is fire, fire has a quality of being more focused, more penetrating. Pitta people are very focused and determined. They know exactly what they want. They don’t go around asking people what they should do- and neither do they get confused. They may get agitated with excess heat.
Kapha is water and earth. Water is very gentle. But earth is more stable. Therefore, kapha personalities are more laid back, go with the flow. But that earth quality is heavier. It does not allow them to move quickly, and sometimes there can be some stagnation.
The skincare we have here and use in the spa is designed for the different doshas, as they each contain herbs and essential oils to help reduce the dosha imbalances.
KS: So all your aestheticians in the spa here are trained to evaluate each person’s dosha and customize all the facials, all the treatments?
FOOD – RAW AND COOKED
KS: So back to food for a moment. This is something I get asked about a lot. It’s the concept of eating all raw foods, and the Ayurvedic perspective of that. I ate all raw for a few years, and I personally started feeling imbalanced. What do you think about an all raw food diet?
DA: Cooked foods can be easier for digestion in some instances, and an important part of balance. When you talk about cooked foods, it depends on which food you are talking about.
You can have some raw foods, and raw vegetables- there is nothing wrong with that- but there are some vegetables that should be cooked sometimes, and meat should be cooked. We respect the digestive enzymes in some raw foods, because in Ayurveda, agni, digestive fire, is very important.
There is a very strong belief in Ayurveda of the importance of the sun. And just as the earth revolves around the sun, our bodies revolve around the digestive fire, or agni.
Too much cold foods can dampen the digestive fires.
DA: Yes. We believe if the digestive fires are strong, it means no toxins will be formed. And if there are no toxins, it means no disease. And no disease means a healthy, long life.
Weakened digestion means toxins are formed, which means diseases will come, and a shorter life.
Even if you are not aware of it, so much of your life revolves around the path of the sun. You wake up when the sun it up. And psychologically, when the sun goes down you start to want to go to bed.
During summertime, we are awake longer, because we can see the sun. But in winter time, psychologically, we can feel it is much later than it is, because it gets dark so early.
In Ayurveda, there is a lot of importance also to geography. It is believed that exactly where you are influences your behavior and attitude. Even eating habits must go with the weather. In hotter countries and places, people tend to be more laid back. But in colder places it is different.
So everything has to do with fire. Therefore as it relates to food, in Ayurveda we believe that cooked foods are important. A combination of raw and cooked foods can be eaten.
My teacher always reminded me over and over again, “There is nothing on earth that is not Ayurvedic. Everything has got Ayurvedic principles, but how do you apply them?”
For instance, someone can have a lot of raw greens and raw salads in their diet (like Beauty Detox). But you can make the salads more Ayurvedic by adding some black pepper, chili powder, spices and herbs like turmeric to add more agni to the salad.
DA: Yes and also, adding more lemon juice and grated ginger is more heating, more warming, and can add some agni fire to your raw salad.
KS: These herbs and spices all make perfect sense to me, to help warm up salads. Even the lemon juice component of our Beauty Detox-created, Glowing Green Smoothie, has some warming elements.
But what would you say to someone that has a primary fruit diet, as such warming spices and herbs are not added to fruit?
DA: I look at the from an Ayurvedic and medical standpoint. All of us need a good balance of everything. Whether you are vegan, vegetarian or eating meat, based on what the body requires is what you need to eat.
In Ayurveda we say body and mind. It’s better to listen to the signs and symptoms that the body gives us and not the mind. Mind keeps changing.
The best example I can give is let’s say you work all day. The body says, “I’m tired. I need to sleep. But the mind says, no not yet! You have to send those 3 emails before you go to sleep. So many listen to their minds and not their bodies.”
So there are times when the body may tell you, “Yes, more raw food will suit me, because the body says that is what I need right now. And sometimes it will say, it is too cold right now. I need more cooked food right now. So always listen to the body, not to just what the mind says.”
KS: I completely believe that! (Check out blog on “awareness.”) If it’s New York in January and you are trying to follow a rigid diet because you agree with the principles on paper, but are denying yourself the nourishment or the cooked foods you need, that seems very imbalancing to me.
DA: Yes and to be honest, fruits are healthy but they don’t give you all the nutrients you need. It’s good to eat a wide variety of other foods too. Fruit may not give all that you need. Remember your body has muscles, bones, skin, many parts…and they all must be nourished.
KS: So, more about food. Ayurveda is not necessarily about being vegetarian.
DA: No, it is not. You can be a vegan but you can also eat meat.
The way I grew up in India in a family of Ayruvedic practitioners and yoga teachers. In yoga, you have to be a vegetarian, as it is said that eating meat can interfere with meditation. But in Ayurveda it is not a strict requirement.
KS: Would you say that eating too much meat is aging?
DA: In Ayurveda we say that what speeds up aging is excess heat in the body, and excess dryness.
Excess heat burns things, so it can burn the tissues. And the same with dryness. If you have fresh fruit, it’s like the skin, nice and smooth. But as it gets more dry, your skin starts wrinkling.
KS: It seems eating dairy and meat would create excess heat in the body as they are so much digestive work.
DA: Yes. Dairy and meat take up a lot of digestive enzymes to break down. This creates a lot of internal heat. When people feel acidity or dyspepsia from eating yogurt or dairy, it can be from that sudden increase of strong heat.
KS: That is different from the gentle, more gradual warming of ginger and agni-promoting substances we talked about earlier?
DA: Yes, and we are talking about excessive heat.
KS: What are the staples of an Ayurvedic diet?
DA: We say that meat is not food, but medicine. It is only to be eaten by people of a certain body type, or certain people that really need it. It should not be eaten out of luxury or because you like the taste. That is not the right way.
Vegetables, grains, herbs and spices, good fats and some meat for some are part of the diet. Fruit should be eaten as a snack, it should not be eaten with the main meals. It shouldn’t be mixed with other foods.
KS: Another synchronicity with Beauty Detox. We say only eat fruit on an empty stomach for digestive reasons, and I would suppose that the Ayurvedic reasoning is the same as well!
Now what would you say about the diets that are high in protein, and promoting low or no grains, even whole grains, in the diet?
DA: Again, you have to listen to your body and how you feel. If you are forcing your body to stop eating grains, for whatever reason, and the body is needing it, you may be depriving of energy. In such cases, people can overwhelm the body by eating far too much meat. And your body needs balance, it needs other foods.
KS: Plus there is no fiber in all the meat and animal products, and that is a big problem also.
So…back to agni! I’ve always heard to avoid drinking iced drinks because it cools agni.
DA: Yes, that is correct.
KS: Are there any other suggestions you can tell us for improving agni?
DA: Very classically, to stimulate the digestive fire, we say to have ginger and lemon tea.
KS: In Beauty Detox we call that our Detox Tea! Ginger for the heat, and lemon for the cleansing, flushing properties.
DA: When the digestive fire gets weakened, toxins start forming in the body. But when you look into that toxin, you can compare it to a cheese-like substance. If you keep it in the fridge, the block of cheese will always remain solid. But if you start taking it out and heating it on a pan over fire, it will start to melt.
And that is exactly what happens to toxins in the body. If the digestive fires are strong, they will help break down the toxins and flush them out of the body.
Early in the morning, the sun is rising- it all revolves around the sun- and the rays are not that hot yet. So the first thing in your body should be warming, to support the digestive fires.
KS: Yes, perfect. I’ve always recommended starting the day with hot water with lemon, or theDetox Tea, but adding some ginger and cayenne. It seems intuitive to me that humans all around the world start with something warming, whether it be tea or coffee. But in our case, the hot water with lemon has far more healthful properties!
KS: What about seasonal eating?
DA: Yes, seasonal eating is very important.
KS: What about dairy? It is very difficult for many people to digest.
DA: There are many different forms of dairy. With Ayurvedic foods- not Indian foods, but Ayurvedic foods, the dairy is cooked or warmed.
Milk shouldn’t be cold, it needs to be cooked or boiled.
There are some body types, like kapha, which should not eat dairy, because diary is not digested quickly.
KS: In Beauty Detox we say across the board no dairy for anyone…that is one point where there is some differences with Ayurveda.
KS:Amma is a term I’ve heard before in Ayurveda to mean toxins.
DA: Yes, for toxins.
KS: And toxins refers to a wide range of substances- metabolic by-products, poorly digested food components, environmental pollution, heavy metal…
DA: Yes, all that. Plus in Ayurveda we say that amma can be on a physical level or an emotional or mental one. If someone feels really sad or really depressed that is also amma and will affect the body.
KS: So in that case, yoga would be needed to help balance the mind.
DA: Yes, that is correct.
KS: A lot of people in the modern age have issues with bloating. Our probiotics can be a big help for many, as is simplifying meals, eating some cooked veggies if they have difficulty with all raw, etc. What is your take on this?
DA: If someone has a lot of amma, a lot of toxicity in their body, their body is going to try to protect itself. When they eat some foods, it gets bloated. It may or may not be from the food itself, which they interpret as such, but more because of the compromised, pre-existing condition in the body.
In Ayurveda we believe that person may have too many toxins. So you have to work on getting rid of the toxins first.
DA: Ayurveda says natural sugars that we find in plants are good.
Hundreds of years ago we did not have all these artificial foods, and the body can not break them down.
KS: What about honey? If the body is balanced, can you regularly consume honey?
DA: Oh yes. If you are eating natural honey it is okay to consume, but again, everything goes according to the body type. So honey has certain heating qualities to it, even though it’s very sweet. It is good for Vata and Kapha, for instance. Not Pitta.
KS: I love honey, and I also love bee pollen. Is that approved in Ayurveda?
DA: Yes! That is natural too and wonderful.
ENERGY CHANNELS & MASSAGE
KS: Can we talk about the energy channels in Ayurveda more deeply? In other practices, there are energy centers referred to as chakras and meridians. Can you elaborate on Ayurvedic terms?
DA: In Ayurveda we have a term called marmas. Nadis are the channels through which the energy flows, and marmas are the points of energy. Ayurveda believes that as long as energy flows through all the marma energy points in the body there will be health in the body. If the energy gets blocks anywhere, it creates a blockage, and imbalance is created.
In yoga, the term for major energy points is called chakras. Ayurveda and yoga are sister sciences, and there are some similar marma energy points in those areas, but are different to some degree. Both these disciplines are important. We can say that yoga is for the mind, and Ayurveda is for the body.
If the body is not healthy, the mind will not be healthy, and vice versa, if there is sickness in the mind, there will be sickness in the body. There are some different terminologies between these two disciplines, but the function is the same- to create balance.
Now let’s look at massages. If someone that has an excess of Vata energy, they tend to have dry skin and dry hair. Certain oil massages are good, as is Shirodhara, the practice of pouring the oil onto the head for some time, right at the location of the third eye. It’s very good for reducing Vata.
KS: That is a very interesting practice.
DA: Yes. We call Shirodhara a meditative therapy. Not only for the client, but also for the therapist. Maybe a liter of oil gets poured. But it is poured, collected, and repoured.
KS: Is it sesame seed oil?
DA: Typically yes….but it depends on the person’s body type. It can be customized to be pittta-reducing, vata-reducing, kapha-reducing.
This is a signature Ayurvedic treatment.
KS: Massages are a very important part of healing, it seems.
DA: It is written in the ancient textbooks that if you bring about changes in the nervous system, you will bring about changes in the endocrine system and the immune system. And in Shirodhara, we actually create changes in the nervous system.
So once the nervous system is calmed, the immune system is stronger, and the endocrine system is more regulated.
KS: So in other words, the nervous system affects everything.
DA: Everything, yes.
KS: Can you tell us more about the Ayurvedic practice using oils on the skin?
DA: Yes, it’s called Abhyanga. Classical, whole body Ayurvedic massage. But Ayurvedic massage usually follows long strokes, because there are energy points in the body. And the long strokes help the energy flow through the energy channels. But the massages should be tailor made to a person’s body type.
Different kinds of strokes, speed and exact massage are tailored to each person that comes in the spa. We have them fill out a questionnaire, and based on their answers, dosha type, etc. the best massage for that person can be created.
BACK TO DOSHAS
KS: When you look at someone, can you tell what dosha they are? Can you tell I’m Vata?
DA: Kind of.
You think you are Vata, but when I look at you I see some Kapha in there. You might be Tri-doshic.
KS: You think I’m Kapha?!
DA: Your basic constitution. If you go back to how you were as a child, or your natural tendencies. Maybe you feel you have an excess Vata dosha, but that might be because of all of your traveling and the kind of work that you do. But I think most probably as a basic body type you are Tri-doshic, which means that you are balanced between the 3 doshas.
But Ayurveda is a proper science, it’s not mind-reading. That’s just me guessing by looking at you. I’d have to take your pulse and look more into it. We say you only get 50% from looking at someone. I don’t know how you sleep or your habits are, unless I ask.
Feeling the pulse we get to learn basic body types, status of the organs, the stages of pregnancy, etc. You can also diagnose based on feeling the marma points, the tongue, the eyes. You can feel the heat, watery and spongy feelings from touching the marmas.
KS: What about oil-pulling? How does that help pull out the toxins?
DA: In Ayurveda, we believe that when you swish the sesame oil around…back to the idea of preventing toxin formation. The first place of toxin formation can be located in the stomach. So we believe that in swishing the oil around, we believe that it helps pull toxins out of the stomach. And when you spit out the oil you are getting rid of toxins.
If you look into it from a medical standpoint, there is a vagus nerve that connects the roof of your tongue to your stomach. When that nerve is stimulated, the digestive enzymes are also stimulated, or they become strong.
So by moving that oil around, you are stimulating the vagus nerve. And you will see 20 minutes after the oil pulling that will feel more free.
For everything there is a medical explanation.
COLONICS AND ENEMAS
KS: What about colonics and enemas?
DA: These can be very good. They become part of the cleansing element of Ayurveda. There are indications and contra-indications for all these things. For instance, you can’t do colonics during pregnancy because this is a nourishing phase. Enemas can be done towards the end of the pregnancy.
KS: I’m a big believer in enemas.
Now let’s talk about another big topic for women: aging.
DA: In Ayurveda we give a lot of importance to anti-aging and beauty. We believe that you feel affects how you look. If you feel happy, you will look more beautiful.
Looking beautiful we believe it is one of our duties. We believe the physical body has been given to us, on rent, by the Creator, and it is our duty to look after it.
KS: Yes. I believe beauty- true beauty- is not a superficial pursuit or characteristic, but a deeper one based around health. And anti-aging is not just looking good, it’s around feeling good and having great energy to live your best life!
DA: The tissues have to be healthy. In Ayurveda we believe that oil massages are the best way to pursue anti-aging, because as I said earlier, it helps to strengthen the immune system.
KS: Any kind of oil?
DA: The kind of oils you like, apply it to the whole body.
KS: Are there also specific points you recommend?
DA: You want to massage the main marma or chakra points as well, right on them. Whenever we massage marmas, we start my massaging anti-clockwise. Then you can go clockwise. 30 seconds each way.
KS: These are all practices you start to incorporate today.
DA: People always say to me, “I want to follow Ayurveda, but I can’t change my whole life.” I tell them that they don’t have to follow all or none.
Ayurveda is about following the bits and pieces that you can incorporate into your daily life.
KS: I love that your spa treatments and products are reasonably priced (especially for London!).
DA: We also say that if something is healing, it should be widely and naturally available.
KS: Last question…why do you think I have a Kapha constitution?
DA: We say that water is gentle and flowing. There is a saying that water will take the shape of the vessel it is in. But at the same time the Kapha is also earth, and it gives someone that silent determination. I’ve decided to do that, and I am going to do it.
If you decide to do a big project, let’s say writing a book, as you have – you will figure out the way to get around the way to get around the hurdles and pursue it and get to the end.
Kapha are emotionally and mentally strong. And they are the ones that are able to really overcome difficulties in life. Looking for a solution – rather than just giving up.
You’re quite strong – physically and mentally. Just from talking to you I can see that.
That’s your Kapha dosha protecting you. Vata are the ones that fall ill mostly. Pitta is fire, so it kills bacteria, viruses, etc. But Kapha, because of that water, it means strong immunity and that strong earth.
So when I say you have Kapha, I don’t mean an imbalance but I mean in your basic constitution.
(KS: I have always, always thought my dosha was Vata Pitta, so this is quite eye-opening!)
I want to check your pulse, if you don’t mind.
KS: Yes, that would be amazing.
(A few minutes of pulse diagnosis and questions, more discussion.)
DA: I check the left arm because the left side of the body is the “feminine” side for everybody.
It is as I thought. You are Tri-doshic. So you are a very good balance between the three doshas equally. You have the Vata creativity, the Pitta determination and the Kapha steadiness.
Tri-doshic is very, very unusual.
KS: What percentage of people are Tri-doshic?
DA: Maybe 5%.
Tri-doshic types will do what they set out to do. But a very unique quality to being Tri-doshic is that they do not talk about themselves. They are very humble. And believe if someone is meant to find out about them, if it is right, they will.
From a yogic standpoint, your pulse is a lotus pulse. There is a quality called satvic, balanced.
There may be some Vata imbalance now, because you are traveling a lot right now, and this is temporary. Environmentally-based.
KS: There is so much depth to Ayurveda! Thank you so much Deepa, I really appreciate everything you shared with me.
DA: You’re welcome Kimberly — any time!
Well everyone, I hope that you enjoyed our interview and all the information!
Again, I can’t recommend Deepa’s spa more, and that if you are in London you will go visit, get some facials and treatments, feel balanced and grounded. I am in love with her teas and massage oils and other products, and you can also order them to be shipped online, I believe!