Parenting

Monsoon, Kids & Ayurveda with Dr. Varalakshmi Yanamandra

Ancient India believed and followed Ayurveda in their daily routine for thousands of years. When it comes to Ayurveda, it is all about maintaining a healthy lifestyle with wholesome foods and exercises like yoga and meditation. But with changing times and modernization, people have forgotten what it means to have wholesome seasonal foods and their benefits. What effects do our late nights and late mornings have on us? What eating junk food often does to our body?

I got in touch with Dr. Varalakshmi, who is an internationally reputed Ayurvedic Doctor. She is the current director of AyurWellness and Pain Centre in the United Kingdom. She teaches Ayurveda to many people through her online webinars and is also a faculty at Prana Academy since March 2020. She was a formal faculty at Europe Ayurveda Academy till 2019. Having suffered from severe hormonal and gut problems during her teenage and healed through Ayurveda, it became her mission to spread the word and teach women Ayurvedic practices for healing their bodies & lives. 

Healthy Ayurveda Practices For Kids By Dr. Varalakshmi Yanamandra

When I came across Varalakshmi, she was such a delight to talk to and shared alot of information that I did not have any idea on. One thing led to another and I asked to her incredible knowledge on my blog.

The changing weather and coming monsoon season effects us alot. Cold, cough and flu is right around the corner and kids suffer the most because of them. Being a Mom always gets me worried for my children and so I asked Varalakshmi about the same.

What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda, the ancient science of life, is not merely a system of medicine, but it concentrates on all aspects of life. One of the fundamental concepts of Ayurveda is called the Pancha Mahabhoota theory.

Image courtesy Google

At the subatomic level, all the living organisms are composed of five elements of nature: Air, Ether, Fire, Water & Earth. They exist in the form of three fundamental functional units inside our body called doshas: Vata, Pitta & Kapha. 

Image courtesy Google

These three doshas are like DNA present in each of us but in a different ratio like some might have more VATA and less of the other two doshas and so on. A person’s physical, emotional and mental characteristics depend upon the unique dosha combination or Prakruthi. 

There is a theory which states that we are one with the universe and a part of nature. Hence, factors like diet, lifestyle, and the environment we live in, influences the Tridoshas and lead to illnesses. 

Hence, our first step to lead a healthy life is to honor the subtle changes of nature by following & adapting our diet as per the movements of Sun & Moon. 

What is Dinacharya?
Dinacharya includes simple everyday practices aimed at improving the health and well-being of a person. Having a good routine helps our nervous system to feel safe and helps to handle any stress better. Diet, lifestyle, and sleep are the main factors that keep children in tune with their biological clock. Besides proper diet, it is good to create a routine for sleep. 

Waking up early in the morning helps your child be active throughout the day and keeps in tune with the circadian rhythm. Build a habit of using the bathroom first thing in the morning. Cleaning the tongue along with brushing teeth is essential to maintain oral hygiene. Following with bath can keep your child healthy. 

Good sleep is essential for all growing children. Encourage reading a book or prayer before bed. Avoid screens atleast two hours before bedtime.  

Which Dinacharya practices can kids follow in their routine?
Gargling with warm water, nasal drops with ghee or oils, ear drops, body massage with oil, meditation, exercise or playtime and maintaining a journal are some healthy practices for children.

Gargling with warm water, nasal drops with ghee or oils, ear drops, body massage with oil, meditation, exercise or playtime and maintaining a journal are some healthy practices for children.

Why is gut health important?
The gut/ Gastrointestinal tract plays an important role in the overall health of a person. It starts at the mouth and ends at the rectum and hosts trillions of bacteria which influence several functions including our digestion, metabolism, happiness, and even our immunity. 

Long before gut health became a hot topic, Ayurveda described Agni as the epitome of health. Agni which translates to fire is a unique concept in Ayurveda. Having a balanced Agni is the key to our Digestion, nutrition, assimilation, immunity, emotions, and strength. Agni is present in every part of the body and is responsible for transformation. 

What are probiotics and why are they important?
Our Gut is filled with trillions of bacteria which play a huge role in maintaining our health and well-being. These bacteria inside our gut are called the microbiome. These bacteria are working on the clock to protect our gut from bad bacteria and help with functions like digestion, immunity, and much more. 

Probiotics are the food or supplements that contain this live bacteria which we can consume. Incorporating good probiotics in the diet is a great way to enhance gut health. 

What are the best probiotics for kids?
Ayurveda considers Takra/buttermilk as one of the best probiotics. Takra is made by churning curd and diluting it with 1/4 th water by adding good spices like jeera and dhaniya. Instead of using curd which can often cause congestion in kids, Takra is a good alternative that is easier to digest and helps with common digestive woes. Teaching kids to end their meal with buttermilk is an easy way to incorporate it into their diet. 

Other natural probiotics include sauerkraut, kefir, and kimchi. Sauerkraut is pickled cabbage with salt for a certain period of time. Vegetables like carrot, beetroot can also be added to make your own recipe of sauerkraut as per your taste. I love adding fennel and turmeric to my sauerkraut. Keep a ratio of 75% cabbage to 25% other veggies and flavors. 

Kefir is also easier to make at home just by adding kefir grains to cow milk or goat milk. It tastes a bit sour than yogurt but is considered more nutrient and good. 

What kinds of food should children have according to Ayurveda?
As per Ayurveda, childhood is a Kapha dominant phase, and hence balanced diet that is not too heavy or ultra-processed is good. We aim to feed kids a wholesome and dosha balancing diet. For the same, following some basic guidelines while preparing a meal for children is the key.

✓ Favor Pungent, bitter, and astringent tasting foods keep Kapha in balance.

✓ Find an alternative for the ultra-processed foods which are healthy yet liked by children replacing chocolate with homemade sweets using jaggery. Make meals attractive by using colorful vegetables and fruits such as pomegranate, sweet berries, melons, etc.

✓ Encourage more seasonal & local fruit and vegetables more than exotic ones. Avoid ultra-processed foods like frozen meals, instant pizza, canned food, carbonated drinks and, swap these with homemade items like baked sweet potato, homemade crackers.

✓ Include grounding foods like cow’s milk, ghee, yogurt, rice, whole grains, jaggery and honey, whole seeds and nuts, pulses and legumes and, green leafy vegetables like spinach.

✓ Add a small number of spices like ginger, turmeric, and pepper as it helps in digestion and metabolism.

✓ Lastly, be flexible with your child’s choices and acknowledge that it is an exploring age for them.

Explain the importance of following a healthy routine and lifestyle to your children. Give them time to understand and also lead them by example. Remember that parents are the biggest influencers and role models for their kids. Don’t just teach them but adapt them personally too!

This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’ hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla and sponsored by Queen’s Brigade.

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Jaggery – The Ancient Sweetener

Have you tried Gur ka sherbet in summers or Gur with ghee and roti in winters? Those flavors are something that remind us of our childhood. My Grandma had the habit of using jaggery in many recipes where sugar was required. Even our sewaiyan and kheer have always had the unique sweetness of jaggery in them. This habit to affect has been passed on in our generations. Needless to say, I still enjoy that flavor and have been continuing it with my kids.

It is said that Portuguese introduced jaggery in India during the invasion over spice trade and the name is derived from the Portuguese word “Jagara”. But according to Indian history, it is believed to originate in India itself and somewhere around the Eastern part. Hence, Ayurveda has been using jaggery for more than 3000 years now and advises the use of it on a daily basis. It is best to consume it especially during winters because it is the season for fresh supply in abundance. It has two varieties namely sugarcane jaggery and date palm jaggery. Palm jaggery is considered more sweet and more nutritious as there are very less chemicals involved in making it.

Jaggery has many vital nutrients and has innumerous health benefits.

✓Wholesome diet: Jaggery is also called wholesome diet. It contains iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, glucose, fructose, protein and fat.

✓Boosts immunity: Jaggery helps the increase of haemoglobin in your blood. It is loaded with antioxidants and minerals which help our body to resist infections.

✓Blood purifier: Jaggery is known to be one of the best blood purifiers. When consumed on regular basis but in limited quantity it helps in cleansing of blood making our bodies more healthy.

✓ Detoxifies liver: Jaggery cleanses the liver by flushing out all our toxins. It effectively detoxifies your body.

✓Treats flu-like symptoms: Gur wali Chai is very famous in winters for the same reason. Jaggery warms up your body so either have a piece of it or add it to a glass of warm water or your cup of tea as a substitute of sugar and reap it’s benefits.

✓Prevents anaemia: Jaggery is rich in iron and and folate. This keeps our red blood cells count in check and maintains our haemoglobin. Pregnant women should definitely consider having it on a daily basis.

✓Energy booster: Sugar is easily broken down by the body and provides easy but short supply of calories while jaggery takes its time to be broken down and hence the rise in energy is gradual but long lasting. So there are no risks of diabetes. It also helps in problems of fatigue.

✓Acne and pimples: Helps in treating many skin problems like acne and pimples.

Common ways to use.
Til Gur laddoos and peanut chikkis are the easiest snack that can be made for your family. Instead of using jams and spreads, offer your kids roti with jaggery and ghee. Gur ka paratha is a kids favorite. Sugar and brown sugar can be substituted by jaggery in your cakes and cookies as well as in french toasts and pancakes.
A small lemon sized piece of jaggery is a must to have after every meal or at least post-lunch to get the most of it.

This blog is a part of #LBWP – Let’s Blog with PRI, Season 2. You can also check out blogs written by my fellow bloggers Sanandita and Sindhu.

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