Have you noticed any of the following symptoms this month–puffy cheeks and face; puffy or itchy eyes; runny nose; stuffy sinuses; rosier cheeks; skin rashes; sore throat; respiratory challenges; increased heart rate; warmer hands and feet, rings fitting tighter, feet squished in your shoes? What’s going on from an Ayurvedic standpoint?
Let’s take a look, and then let’s see what you can do to prepare for the hot summer months ahead while minimizing negative seasonal symptoms in the process.
APRIL SHOWERS, SPRING FEVER AND SPRING CLEANING
Spring season is considered the Kapha season, which means that the water and earth elements are more prevalent. April showers signal the increase of moisture. At the same time, the increasing heat is beginning to melt the snow in the mountains, overflowing the rivers downstream.
What happens in nature serves as a metaphor for what is happening in your body. The extra water and earth that have served your body well during the cold winter months are beginning to release, creating swollen tissues and runny noses, particularly for people with more Kapha. In addition, “your body, accustomed to the cold of winter, is now adapting to consistently warmer days,” states John Immel, Founder of Joyful Belly. “Although you may have been craving this heat, your body isn’t ready just yet – it’s still catching up to the changing weather. As a result, this excess heat can cause symptoms related to congestion and puffiness, especially for Kapha and Pitta types. As much as the sap runs in the maple trees, your hands may swell on a warm day in April as your heart rate increases. You may notice your cheeks and face feel swollen and puffy. With every one degree rise in basal body temperature, the heart rate increases by ten beats per minute.” 1
Psychologically, in April, the energy around us is literally buzzing like the bees. After the long winter, we can’t wait to get outside and get busy. Love is in the air as the birds and bees do their thing. And our rejuvenated energy encourages us to start cleaning house. Internally, it’s time to clean house as well, clearing the lymph and removing any excess heat from the blood before it has a chance to build and overflow for summer.
GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS FOR APRIL
What are the most important things to do to keep balanced with nature in April?
- Don’t oversleep. Most people should rise with the sun; Kaphas should get up one hour before, and Pittas can wake up half an hour before sunrise.
- Focus on breath work. This includes neti pot each morning and deep pranayama breathing for at least 10-15 minutes daily. As an added benefit–proper breathing through the nose helps energize cellular activity to encourage weight loss!
- Ramp up your time outside to absorb some much-needed Vitamin D and natural daylight. And if you’d like to help cleanse the lymph at the same time, exercise outside for 30 minutes each day and kill two birds with one stone, if you will pardon the pun.
- As the weather warms up, switch from daily abhyangas with oil to dry brushing, if it makes sense for your dosha and skin type.
- Support your Spring house cleaning with a physical detox. Contact Positively Ayurvedic or another reliable practitioner for assistance.
- This time of year the appetite naturally decreases. As the body prepares to lighten and cool down for Summer, honor your body’s wisdom and eat fewer and smaller meals with lighter foods.
DIET RECOMMENDATIONS BY THE DOSHA
In general, April is a good time to consume more fibrous greens, beans and sprouts, gifts of nature that are more available this time of year. In fact, as Dr. John Douillard of LifeSpa says, “the deer dig up bitter roots as the ground thaws. Digging up dandelion, burdock, Oregon grape, turmeric, ginger and berberines has been a standard practice for thousands, if not millions, of years.”2 As the good doctor and recent medical research suggests, consuming bitter roots now helps the liver do some spring cleaning, including the scrubbing and scraping of the villi and lymphatic lacteals of the intestinal skin. This cleansing of the intestinal lining prepares the body for the new crop of digestive microbes, which will be needed to assimilate the harder-to-digest greens of Spring and Summer.
As always with Ayurveda, every body is different. Here are some guidelines for each body type to follow:
Kapha: Favor pungent, diuretic and diaphoretic foods to help prevent congestion and general sluggishness. Corn, celery, kale, cabbage and collards are good diuretics. These help to dry out overly moist and puffy Kapha in the watery month of April. To encourage healthy circulation and reduce puffiness, especially when your hands and face are swollen, use diaphoretics like radishes, mustard greens, arugula, chives, raw onions and garlic to increase sweat and facilitate blood flow to the surface of your body. Aromatic diaphoretics include mint, peppermint, rosemary and basil. Pungent spices, such as cinnamon, cayenne, ginger and black pepper, also increase circulation and can be used generously this time of year by Kaphas.
Pitta: Favor bitter greens and herbs to help cleanse the liver, reduce inflammation and prevent allergic reactions. Great examples of bitter foods include fennel bulb, watercress, chard, radicchio, kohlrabi, lettuce, beet greens, endive and microgreens. In addition, bitter herbs, such as dandelion root, burdock root, turmeric and manjistha, help drain heat from the blood, preventing fever, sore throats, swollen hands, and heat-induced headaches. See more on the bitter taste in this month’s Positively Ayurvedic article, When Bitter is Better.
Vata: Stick to your normal eating plan and a solid routine. The Air and Ether of Vatas are well-balanced with the extra Water and Earth of the Spring season, but Vata can go out of balance easily with any big change of season.
Of course, you need to tune into what the weather is doing currently, particularly if you live in the Southern hemisphere. And as always, seek out the advice of a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner if you have an imbalance that requires a modified diet plan.
The sole purpose of this article is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have an acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or email Karen Callahan at firstname.lastname@example.org.