Posted on: by Alistair
I have long been an avid supporter of Dr Esselstyn’s efforts to educate and inform the public of the positive effects of a plant-based diet. His efforts with cardiac patients, illustrated in the movie “Forks over Knives”, is inspiring and the outcomes are remarkable. With his help, severely ill patients with long term health problems are given decades of extra time with their families and friends.
Ayurveda would agree with his approach and treatment methods as they are in accordance with the principles of Ayurvedic therapies. Dr Esselstyn advocates a diet that is typical of an Ayurvedic anti-ama diet, ideal for those who accumulated a significant amount of toxins in their body. However, this diet does not follow the one-size-fits-all approach to health.
In Ayurveda, the following are typical recommendations of an anti-ama diet and follow closely with Dr Esselstyn’s advice:
- Fruit: No sweet fruit, only sour – cranberry, lemon, lime, grapefruit
- Vegetables: Steamed sprouts, steamed vegetables – some raw salad is good for Pitta. Lots of greens. No root/sweet vegetables or mushrooms
- Grains: Kicharee, barley, quinoa, millet, rye, rice. No bread/ pastries. Less wheat and oats
- Beans: Mung
- Nuts: None, some pumpkin seeds
- Dairy: None. Goats’ milk is slightly astringent and is less Kapha forming
- Meat: No shellfish, fish, fats, red meat, pork, eggs
- Oils: None. Ghee okay in small quantities as are mustard or linseed oils, which are drying
- Sweeteners: None. Sugar is Ama forming. Honey is okay (2 tsp/day).
- Drinks: Ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, dandelion root coffee.
- Fasting is good for removing Ama but not for long periods (once a month for a day is sufficient).
This is what my teacher, Atreya, has to say about an anti-ama diet protocol:
The main ama reducing diet is a Kapha diet that is higher in fresh foods and eliminates all animal products. It is Sattvic and only small amounts of food should be eaten when hungry. This diet cannot be used when the patient is too weak, young or old as it is strongly reducing. Fasting is also recommended if possible. Vegetable juice fasts are better than fruit fasts for most people. Spices are important to keep up the Agni at all times during this diet or when fasting.
The problem with the anti-ama diet is that it is a shodhana therapy – a reducing therapy that moves toxins from the thick structures (deep tissues) to the hollow structures (digestive tract). It is intended only in cases of moderate to severe toxicity and only indicated for those strong enough to endure the intense purification. Crucially, shodhana therapies are always countered with a period of brimhana therapies – therapies that build up the body, bringing strength (but not ama) back to the tissues.
In Ayurveda the administering of shodhana and brimhana therapies is overseen by a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner who ensures that there is a balance between the removal of ama and the strengthening of the body. A weak body without ama is not necessarily preferred to a strong body containing ama. It is always a balance.
So while the Engine 2 diet provides a great deal of healing to those suffering from chronic conditions (conditions usually caused by ama), it does not provide a meaningful way to find balance in the longer term. Specifically, it is the exclusion of oil in the Engine 2 that needs particular focus.
Oil and Ayurveda are often inseparable as anyone who has been treated in an Ayurvedic clinic will attest. Oils are used liberally in massage therapies and ghee is the principle ingredient in any panchakarma treatment.
So why then, is oil contraindicated when a large amount of ama is present? Ama interferes with the proper digestion of food and excessive use of oil can reduce the efficiency of Agni (digestive power) so this can lead to the further accumulation of Ama. So avoiding oil under these circumstances can be immensely beneficial.
However, the nervous, muscular and skeletal systems each require oil in order to adequately perform their associated functions. The nervous system needs oil to insulate and prevent it from “burning out” and the muscular system needs lubrication to allow fibers to slide over and across each other. Creaking joints and inadequate synovial fluid can also be signs that the body is not receiving an adequate supply of oil. As much trouble as we may have with our adipose tissue, having a regular amount of it critical to the correct functioning and maintenance of our bodies.
It is important to recognize the importance of oil in any diet. The question is always a case of which, how much, when and for that you can read more here.
Removing vital ingredients from our diet without a proper understanding can cause more harm in the long term so it is important to work with a knowledgeable practitioner who can support and advise us in our journey to better health.