Sharad Ritucharya – Ayurveda Health tips for Autumn
Ayurveda has long emphasized the fact that different seasons have different effects on our body and that to maintain good health it is necessary to adapt our food and lifestyle habits according to the changes in our environment. Ayurvedic principles stress more towards prevention of disease rather than cure & treatment.
Charak Samhita, one of the founding texts of ancient Indian medicine written by Maharishi Charak (who is often referred to as the father of Ayurveda), states that if we follow a disciplined diet and health regimen for a particular period, also known as Ritucharya or seasonal routine, it can help balance the tridoshas (vata, pitta, kapha), greatly improving our overall, mental, physical & emotional health!
Sharad Ritu or autumn season falls in the Visarga Kaal (Dakshinayana/cooler time period), in the months between bhadrapad to kartik, according to Ayurveda or between mid-September to mid-November as per the modern calendar. Coming after the rainy season, with the sun shining brighter and clear skies, the strength and energy levels are moderate due to an improved Agni (or digestive fire) but pitta dosha can get aggravated due to exposure to sudden sunlight after a dull monsoon season.
Sharad Ritu & doshas
Depending on which of the panchmahabhutas (Prithvi (earth), Vayu (wind), Akash (space) Jal/Apa (water) and Agni/Tej (fire) are on the ascendency in that season, the doshas in our body react accordingly with chaya (mild accumulation), prakopa (high aggravation) and prashamana (natural balance) of one or the other dosha.
During Sharad Ritu, the jal/apa (water) and agni (fire) mahabhutas are dominant. The vata dosha which was aggravated during the Varsha Ritu is naturally soothed during the autumn months but increased exposure to sun aggravates the pitta dosha (mild accumulation during the rainy season). Pitta dosha is actually the dosha that controls our digestion, skin & hair colour, regulates vision, helps develops intelligence and formation of rakhta dhatu (good blood) but their proper functioning happens only when the pitta is well balanced. Imbalance/increase in the pitta dosha can cause acidity, burning sensation in stomach/intestines, diarrhea, ulcers, skin infections etc. As Pitta dosha is a mix of two mahabhutas – agni & jal or fire and water, in addition to improper digestion, there can be excess water in the system resulting in bloating.
In Varsha Ritu, a diet for vata prevention/accumulation was necessary, similarly as the pitta dosha is aggravated during Sharad Ritu, it is essential to consume food items that can pacify/balance the pitta. Ayurveda recommends a diet for pitta, with foods that have sweet (Madhur), pungent (tikhat) and bitter (kashya) taste which can pacify the aggravated pitta dosha. An ideal Ayurvedic diet plan for autumn would include food items that are light (laghu), easy to digest and have cooling properties.
Diet for Sharad Ritu
- As the digestive fire is not too strong, eat food in moderate quantities, less than what you may usually eat
- Eat ghee in sufficient quantities as it improves the digestive fire, removes the dryness of skin and helps balance the pitta dosha
- Make sure to include grains such as wheat, barley and white rice in your meals
- Eat lentils such as green gram, tuvar but go easy on rajma, chana, urad during autumn
- Include vegetables such as bitter gourd (karela), ash gourd (dudhi), pointed gourd (parwal), methi, suran (elephants’ foot), radish, carrot, beetroot etc. in your food intake. Try and avoid eating gassy vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli. Also reduce your intake of potatoes. Make sure that all vegetables are cooked well.
- For meat eaters, dry & lean meat is recommended
- Avoid spicy, sour, oily food substances that can aggravate Pitta dosha
- Limit your intake of tea and coffee
- Include milk and its products in your diet but avoid curd
Lifestyle during Sharad Ritu
- Eat only when you feel hungry, avoid overeating
- Drink water that has been boiled to 3/4th of its original quantity. While boiling water add pitta calming herbs such as amla, lodhra, punarnava
- Restorative remedies such as Virechana, which is one of Panchakarma therapies and includes body and mind purification, specifically help eliminate the pitta dosha and can be completed during Sharad Ritu
- A body massage with Chandan (sandal wood) paste can be beneficial as Chandan is known to have cooling properties which help in balancing the pitta dosha
- Skip those daytime naps, as they may hinder digestion and cause bloating
- Continued and direct exposure to sunlight can aggravate pitta, so make sure you don’t go out too much in the hot sun
- Pranayama, regular yoga & staying active by having a regular exercise schedule are a must for continued good health
These are broad diet & lifestyle habits which need to be inculcated gradually to give your body time to adjust to the seasonal changes. You can get more expert advice, personalized health & diet plans from a practicing Ayurvedic Vaidya or an Ayurvedic nutritionist so that you continue to enjoy good health during Sharad Ritu.