Charlie: You are what you eat, or so goes the old saying. Lisa Bracken joins us from Tulsa Spine & Rehab with a twist on that maxim. She’s your Ayurveda specialist at Tulsa Spine & Rehab, and she says, “When you eat, what you eat matters too.” Seasons change, and your diet should too. Is that right, Lisa?
Lisa: Hi, Charlie. That’s absolutely right. Yes. As the seasons change, we should also be making subtle and sometimes not so subtle shifts in what we’re consuming.
Charlie: So, let’s talk about the seasons. I think spring, summer, winter, fall. What are the seasons for eating?
Lisa: Well, from an Ayurvedic perspective, we look at the seasons as being threefold. So, we have summer, which is obvious is the hot season. We have fall and then we have late winter, early spring. So, fall and early winter kind of meld together and late winter, early spring kind of meld together. And if you take a look at eating seasonally, I think one of the best ways to really get a tangible sense for that is to just spend a little time at your local farmer’s market, and to see what’s available in April, May, and June versus what’s available in oh, August, September, and October. We have growing seasons and when we follow the rhythms of the growing seasons from an agricultural perspective, we find that our bodies become more in sync.
The whole study of the microbiome that’s really just taken off in the last decade or so has just been mind-blowing and I’m so excited about it. Science is discovering that our biome actually… We’re actually producing a different biome in the fall versus what we have in the spring. Our bodies actually produce different enzymes in the fall than we produce in the spring. And I go back to the basic underlying maxim of Ayurveda, which is as the external, so the internal. And we teach that the human being is really just a microcosm of the macrocosm. Did I say that right? Or macrocosm of the microcosm? Anyway, as in the world outside of us, so the same happens inside of us. So in the springtime, we have less to count on.
I mean, if you look back in history, spring was typically a time where there was not a whole lot growing. We didn’t have the luxury of the produce departments in our grocery stores trucking in fruits and vegetables from all over the world now. If we just relied on what the soil and what the environment provides for us, spring was typically a time of a little more [inaudible 00:02:54] leaning versus fall was a time for feasting.
Charlie: So in practical terms, where spring to summer, you’re saying that we should be eating a little more lean, a little more fruits and vegetables, and then in the fall we get a little more into the heavier food? Am I getting what you’re saying right?
Lisa: Yeah, you absolutely are. You’ve got it. So in the springtime, as I said, not a whole lot is growing. We’re getting some lettuces, we’re getting some bitter greens coming up from the ground. About late May, June, July, we’re starting to get a little more fruit on the trees. So, Ayurveda looks at eating from a perspective of the taste and how food tastes has a direct impact both physically as well as physiologically on how we feel. And so in the springtime, we encourage more of the bitter astringent and pungent foods. So it does mean lightening up, it does mean more greens, more bitter greens, dandelion greens, beet greens, things of that nature. Some asparagus is starting to come up here and there.
And if you think about agriculture and what’s not available in the spring, so one of the examples I like to offer is dairy. Dairy for starters, is really hard to digest and if you think about the classic dairy farmer, this time of year or spring time of year is calving season. So, let the mother’s milk, let it go to the calves. And then maybe like mid-July, early/mid-July, calves are growing and now there’s plenty of milk for the humans to consume as well. So one of the first recommendations I give to clients in the springtime who are struggling with allergies or struggling with heaviness, struggling with lethargy or weight issues, I just say, “How about ditching dairy for a month and let’s see how you feel.”
And often times, the result is pretty phenomenal. Mucus clears up, I’ve seen allergies clear up. People feel lighter, they don’t have near the cough or the bronchitis spells that they might be prone to year after year during this time of year and of course, losing some weight and also increasing their digestive ability by eliminating dairy has also been a terrific result. So lightening up in the spring is absolutely appropriate, whereas in the fall, we start leaning towards heavier foods. We have access to more root vegetables, and with the dairy that we’ve been able to procure over the late spring, early summer, we can start making butter, we can make yogurt, we can make ghee.
I mean, there are some people of course who are going to get really hardcore and they’re going to churn their own butter and that sort of thing, and make their own yogurt and make their own cheeses, but that’s not typical for most of us. Ayurveda’s like, “Do the best you can with what you’ve got. Eat lighter in the spring, enjoy more juicy fruits and cooling fruits in the summer. Go crazy with the mangoes, go crazy with the peaches, enjoy all the watermelons you want, enjoy your avocados.” And then as we move into fall and winter, enjoy your root vegetables because we’re beginning to insulate ourselves for the harsh winter that’s ahead.
Charlie: Now, you said there are three seasons and so I’ve got the spring and I’ve got the fall, so I guess winter would be the other season?
Lisa: Actually, we look at summer as its own season.
Charlie: Oh, okay. So we have a spring, summer, and then winter?
Lisa: Right. And winter gets divided into… It gets to kind of go both ways, if you will. So fall and early winter are considered a season, so I typically look at it from oh, September to about January, December or January. And then late winter and spring is a season. So, from January until about April. April or May, depending on of course where you are with latitude.
Charlie: When you think about it, I mean, when Clarence Birdseye started freezing foods, he created a problem for our diet.
Lisa: Well, I mean, let’s not knock refrigeration all the way. It’s definitely a good thing. I mean, where else are we going to store ice cream, right?
Charlie: Well, it took some of the seasonality out of food. I mean, before you would get corn and greens a certain time of year, and they’re out of season, you don’t get them. Same with peaches and things like that, they come and they go in seasons. And you’re saying we should look to the true seasonality, and let that be our guide in how we eat. And it’s also about our immune system.
Lisa: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely, it is. And I do agree. We do want to look to the seasons to be our guide. I strongly encourage people like I said to spend time at the farmer’s market, or when you do go to the grocery store, just kind of hang out on the perimeter. Hang out in the produce section and avoid the middle aisles with all of the packaging and the processed food. It is about our immune system. I mean, especially what we’ve seen in the last several months with regard to the pandemic, we see the people who are really getting hit hard and who are struggling.
These are people with what we call non-communicable diseases, these lifestyle diseases of obesity. Some diabetes is involved in that, heart disease, these are conditions that are treatable. They are preventable and they are reversible. And study after study shows us the evidence is there that a plant-forward program… I hate to use the term diet. But a plant-forward program or what’s commonly referred to as the whole foods plant-based nutritional program. We live in Oklahoma, or I live in Oklahoma, right?
And so, a lot of people around me and that I know, they raise livestock. When I married my husband and moved here, we moved onto a blank Angus cattle ranch. Oh my gosh, I’d been a vegetarian for like 13 years when I moved here, and I was faced with, “Wow, here’s these beautiful black cows.” And you want to have your steak, have your steak, but just don’t have it every day and really begin the subtle shift that I spoke of at the beginning of the conversation. Meatless Monday was a trend for a while.
I can’t say enough, I’m so passionate about this whole plant-forward way of eating. Really putting fruits and vegetables at the first and foremost, on your plate and in your mind when you’re thinking about what’s next to eat, having your animal products very rarely, and that includes dairy. Having it very minimally, beginning to reduce as best you can and likewise, the processed foods, the packaging, the sugar. I mean, my goodness, Charlie. Sugar is the devil.
Charlie: We could do a whole segment on sugar.
Lisa: Oh, we could. I mean, talking about compromising an immune system. I mean, the autoimmune response, the inflammatory response that we have to sugar. I mean, if you don’t want to give up meat just yet, that’s fine. I’m good with that. You know? I mean, Ayurveda teaches that meat is medicine.
There’s a time and a place for meat. But the sugar, holy cow. If you can just back off the soda or if you can just stop eating sweets that are pre-packaged and start baking your own. And then maybe in a couple of months, start exploring how to bake your own cookies or your own cupcakes or brownies with agave or with coconut sugar or with something other than white processed sugar, that will go such a long way to helping support our immune system rather than putting it into this crazy reactionary storm.
Charlie: This is what Lisa does. She takes all of it and makes it make sense and it helps you live in balance and helps you bind your seasonal eating and [inaudible 00:10:47] accordingly and you’ll live better. Is that about right, Lisa?
Lisa: Yes, sir.
Charlie: Well, Lisa, thanks for being with us today.
Lisa: Hey, my pleasure. Thank you for having me, Charlie.
Charlie: Now remember, Tulsa Spine & Rehab, I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. It’s a collection of specialists who are teamed together in one place, providing chiropractic and physical therapy, massage, cryotherapy, a host of other specialties including Ayurveda. All with one goal in mind, to help you get moving.
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