Ayurveda is Helping Me Heal My Gut (and More). And It Can Do the Same for You.

Updated: Feb 25

It’s January 2022, and people want to know how to stay and be well. So many of us are sick and tired. This virus’s hallmark is extreme exhaustion. It depletes the body of all its energy. My mom said it felt like life was pouring out of her, and she might be dying. For realz. That is the opposite of being well.

And for those of us who have somehow managed not to get this shit, we are sick and tired for other reasons. Autoimmune disorders and stress-related dis-eases have taken me down personally and also plague my friends. My chronic, debilitating physical symptoms began in my gut at age 16 and have escalated over the last 32 years. I've been diagnosed with everything from IBS at 18 to candida and SIBO a few years back. I’ve spent literally 10s of thousands of dollars treating my symptoms and conditions — and they still seemed to be getting worse. I was mentally exhausted from trying protocols that helped a little for a while, but I couldn't deny that I was getting sicker. I was the frog boiling in the pot. Ribbit.

Thing is, I wanted to trust the guidance of my doctors. I wanted to believe if I followed their instructions it would heal me. I mean for the Love of God, the PCPs, naturopaths, and functional medicine physicians I’ve seen have all been good, smart people dedicating their lives to what most would agree is considered the ultimate healing profession. And right before covid hit, I thought I’d found the secret sauce for managing my symptoms. I wasn’t doubled over with gut rot, and bonus, I was super skinny, and my skin was clear. Problem was I was only eating green vegetables and proteins. I mean that’s it. No carbs. No sugars. No real joy in my mouth. But, I was willing to do it if that was what it was gonna take — cuz I thought I’d tried it all.

And in the world of western medicine, after three decades of actively trying to heal my gut, I believed I had tried it all. And maybe I had. And maybe that is not what needed healing. It wasn’t my gut, and it was my gut. My whole body and my whole lifestyle needed an adjustment because I was clearly out of alignment. That’s why when we start to get sick, we say, “I feel off.” We are out of alignment with nature. I was out of alignment with nature, so I was breaking down.

Living a modern lifestyle, even one considered “really healthy,” can take us out of alignment with the natural rhythms of life that support our well-being. Binge-watching Game of Thrones, again, until 1am, again, for example, is considered a normal part of our culture. But, what we don’t realize is that that is just one example of the multitude of ways we deplete and cheat our body of the nourishment it gets from nature’s cycles. Everything we do, every day and every night, makes a difference. That idea, that fact, might be either terrifying or the most liberating thing you’ll ever hear in your whole damn life. We either free or damn ourselves with our day-to-day choices — a little at a time.

That’s what I learned by applying Ayurvedic principles to my life. Yeah, I’d heard that before, but I never took it on because dang biscuits, that seems like a lot of responsibility! Then covid hit, we pivoted the business, I worked even more, then loads of extra screentime, then my gut and body getting even weaker, then more dizziness and my ears ringing, then morning hangovers when I wasn’t even drinking. I was totally falling apart. I felt like I was slowly dying. For realz.

My partner Suzie, again, lovingly said, “Hey B. I really think you should give Ayurveda a shot. I think you should talk to Myra. What you’re going through is classic vata and pitta imbalance, and what you say you’re doing is opposite what I think Myra will recommend for you. And, I think you are overly depleting your body with this eating regimen you’re on.”

No shit, Sherlock, I thought.

At this point, I don't think I had the energy to say no. I didn’t have the energy to have another conversation with the same docs who were trying to help me. It was like I was beating my head against the wall, in a corner, and no matter where I looked, I just saw this wall, this way of doing things, in front of me. I had to step back from the wall of western medicine to be able to see the whole world of possibilities around me.

Cuz that’s what Ayurveda advises us to do. To see, be in, and responsibly use the world around us. It tells us to take better care of our five senses and use them to nourish and heal ourselves. It tells us that by abusing our senses we get and stay ill. It prescribes some of the most simple, common sense, intuitive, natural, effective medicine in the world — because it’s of the world. It heals by attuning our habits and routines to the natural rhythms of the day and the seasons. In Sanskrit, ayur means life and veda means knowledge. It heals by bringing us the knowledge it takes to live — to be fully alive — not by bringing us a cure once we have totally fucked things up. And it can cure fucked up stuff up too, up to a certain stage of disease.

As I write this post, I’ve been texting with my friend who has been dealing with many of the same physical — and corresponding mental — issues I have had to wrestle with. She, too, has been working with an amazing functional medicine physician here in Bend. Even though she feels terrible, she’s the “gotta be an optimist cuz what other choice have I got” attitude. And that kind of optimism is great. Until it becomes toxic. Recently she texted me, “Between my strict ass diet and ovary, I'm wiped out, depleted, and heavy. But, I know I'm setting myself up for success and feel hopeful to get strong and healthy again. I was SO bummed to miss last night, but I was barfy from the pain.”

She was in so much pain, she was feeling like she could vomit. Un-fucking-acceptable! How many times have I been in that situation? Yeah, I feel like shit, and this treatment makes me feel shittier, but I’m hopeful. Fuck that noise.

(For the record, I curse for emphasis. Intentionally. It’s strategic, not gratuitous. You should try it sometime.)

So I just did for her what Suzie did for me. I said it again.

“So I'm going to say a thing cuz I got to. I think the protocol you're on with ______ is taking you down more. That was my experience of the same thing you're going through now. I had to experience it in order for me to be able to share it. After taking on the Ayurvedic stuff, particularly what we are talkin’ about around eating here, it made me better. For me, it took a lot to step away from the protocols I was getting from my naturopathic and functional medicine docs and truly trust that my body could heal itself if I aligned it with nature and the seasons. Do you really think in your deep heart that another approach like that restrictive diet is going to do it? Or is there something inside of you that says fuck this shit, I'm going to take a whole new path. At least that is what my inner Alice said to me. Love you!”

She responded:

“B you nailed it. In my heart and head I'm like, I've been down this road already and here I am again. Thank you for your voice of reason and continued support.”

That’s exactly what I thought once I finally backed out of my corner, turned around, and saw that the world was not just flat surfaces and right angles — once I was willing to drop all I thought I knew, all that I’d learned from my clinical physicians. I realize I might sound like I’m shit-talking naturopaths and functional medicine practitioners. I’m not. They are simply doing what they were taught. And in the “west,” most docs did not receive a truly holistic, integrated medical education. They study within a certain paradigm or way of seeing the body. Few explore healing traditions like Traditional Chinese Medicine or Ayurveda that demand we pay attention to everything including our environment, relationships, nature, and the elements.

In fact, right now, I’m curious because after I told the last functional medicine doc I worked with extensively about some of the recommendations I got from Suzie, she said she was enrolling in an Ayurveda course to see how it aligned with current knowledge. I should circle back around to her. I have not already reached out to her because I don’t want her to hear, “I did the opposite of what you told me to do, and I got better.” And while that may be true in some ways, it misses the mark and sounds super shitty. What I really mean is, “Your model of the human body is pretty different from the Ayurvedic approach. The Ayurvedic approach had me adjust way more than what I was eating. It looked at what I was doing and when I did it. All of it. I adjusted my life across the board. By expanding my understanding of what constitutes nourishment, digestion, and depletion beyond the food I put in my mouth to include everything I take in through my senses, I now feast on the world around me and am truly healthy and satisfied." That’s much more accurate than “your stuff sucks.”

So, if you might be one of those many people dealing with mystery health issues that don’t get better, maybe, like me, you need to back out of the corner and turn around to regain your health. And because it’s had such a huge impact on us, we want to share our experiences, knowledge, and hope with you.

Here are some options if you are interested:

Beginning, Tuesday, February 8, from 7-8:15p, I will be leading the Namaspa 40 Days Winter Rest and Recharge Program. In this program, you will learn about and implement simple Ayurvedic principles into your daily routines. The 40 Days program regularly includes meditation, dietary principles, and personal reflection. This time, instead of a regimented Power Flow schedule, attendees are encouraged to do whatever style of yoga they like to fulfill weekly requirements, especially Yin Yoga. And here’s where we’re really switching things up… Instead of a 75-minute meeting made up entirely of small group discussion and inquiry, our weekly meetings will be a combination of floor-based yin, breathwork, meditation, and discussions about living an Ayurvedic lifestyle.

AND… Suzie is offering an Introduction to Ayurveda workshop, Saturday, February 12, 4-5:30 via Zoom where you can “discover and incorporate the timeless wisdom of Ayurveda into your life to empower you to create a life that is healthier and happier. This holistic health care system incorporates the use of every aspect of life to assist our bodies in finding the way into our own individual balance. When we find balance, we find health.”

Suzie is also finishing up her 600-hour Ayurvedic Health Counselor Program from Hale Pule Ayurveda and Yoga and is currently taking clients for consultations. Suzie is one smart cookie, and she has been a huge help to me in my healing journey.

You can also schedule a consultation with Myra Lewin, Founder and Director of Hale Pule, directly from her website. Suzie and I have both relied on Myra’s wisdom as she has guided us through Agni Therapy and Panchakarma — a traditional 10-14 day maintenance and treatment therapy. I encourage you to read and listen to EVERYTHING on the Hale Pule website. Myra and her team have created invaluable blogs, podcasts, and intuitive energy meditations that will educate, inspire, and help you regain your natural state of health.

If we want something to change, we have to be willing to do what we have never done. Maybe that includes questioning without diminishing or dismissing the modern medical paradigm. If I break a leg and have a compound fracture, please take me to the hospital for treatment. But for the other stuff — for the “knowledge of life” — tap into the old wisdom. Cuz as I like to remind myself in my commitment to aging well: Ain’t nothing like a classic.

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