Varsa (Monsoon season): Food regimen and living habits
The rainy season appears at the commencement of visarga period. It is characterized by greenery and humidity in the environment, and cloudy weather conditions. Humidity causes an increase in the number of insects such as mosquitoes and flies, and unhygienic conditions prevail around.
Effects on the body
The increased humidity has its effect on the body. Increased moisture caused by the rain vitiates Vata dosa and reduces the digestive power that has already weakened during summer. The digestive power is also affected by environmental conditions, dust and smoke, increased sourness in food stuffs and gases released from the earth due to the rains. In between if it does not rain for a few days, the intensity of heat increases causing accumulation of Pitta dosa. The nutritive value of wheat, rice and other grains also reduces. Also more chances of infection increases susceptibility to malaria, filaria, coryza, diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, colitis, alasaka (retension of undigested food in the abdomen), arthritis, inflammation in the joints, high blood pressure, impurities of the blood causing pimples or boils, ringworm, itching and several other disorders.
Predominant Rasa (Taste) – Amla (Sour)
Predominant Mahabhuta (Element) – Prthavi (Earth) + Agni (Fire)
Condition of Dosa – Vitiation of Vata dosa, deposition of Pitta dosa
Activity of Agni (Digestive fire) – Gets vitiated
Strength – Low
Purification Therapy – Basti (Enema) to pacify Vata dosa
A compatible diet and living habits
The diet during the monsoon should include substances that are light, fresh, hot, easily digestible and those that strengthen the digestive fire. They should be capable of pacifying Vata dosa. Hence, the diet recommended includes dairy products such as yogurt and buttermilk, sweet diluted yogurt or buttermilk flavored with cloves, trikatu (dry ginger, black pepper and long pepper), rock salt, thymol (carom) seeds and black salt which keeps digestion strong. Roasted corn is easily digested if followed by buttermilk. Also recommended are old grains such as wheat, barley, unpolished rice and corn; pulses such as green gram and pigeon pea; vegetables such as bottle gourd, lady finger, angled loofah (turai), tomatoes, cucumber and mustard; and fruits such as apple, banana, pomegranate, pear, blackberry and ripe mangoes.
Mangoes and milk are particularly beneficial. Mangoes must be ripe, sweet and fresh. They can cause harm if unripe and sour. Drinking milk after eating a ripe mango is nourishing. This combination helps the body gain strength and stability, so it can even replace a meal. Similarly, regular use of ripe blackberries heals boils and pimples, burning, and skin and urinary diseases. Garlic and mint chutney, salty dishes made in clarified butter (ghee) and oil, gruel, vegetable soups, linseed and honey in water or with other substances (that are not hot in potency) are also beneficial in this season.
To calm Vata and Kapha dosa in this season, substances with bitter, sour and salty taste should be included in the diet. Sour, salty and oily foods calm Vata, especially when the weather cools down due to heavy rains and winds. Water purification should be ascertained before consumption. Properly harvested rainwater is the purest form of water and is beneficial. Underground water should preferably be boiled and cooled before drinking. Water can also be treated and purified by adding holy basil leaves and a pinch of alum powder. Nowadays, water filters, reverse osmosis and other modern techniques are very helpful for this purpose. Adding honey in purified and cold water is advantageous.
Massage with oil, application of ubatana and fomentation is beneficial. Wear clean and light clothes and immediately change wet clothes. Sleep in a place which is not exposed to wind and rain. Take food on time and only when hungry. Dinner should be eaten early. To prevent mosquito bites use mosquito nets. Keep the surrounding area clean and use an insecticidal spray for stagnant water because it is a dwelling place for mosquitoes and other insects. Maintain proper environmental cleanliness.
Incompatible diet and living habits
Cold and dry foods are incompatible. Harmful during this season are pulses such as black gram, turkish gram, lentils and Bengal gram; grains such as Indian millet, barley, coarse grain flour of gram and barley (sattu); vegetables such as potatoes, jack fruit, bitter gourd, leafy vegetables and peas; and fruits such as water chestnuts. A lesser amount of rain in the monsoon aggravates Pitta dosa. In such conditions, avoid sour, fried, hot and spicy, stale and other Pitta aggravating foods and eatables made from gram flour. According to a proverb, consumption of milk in sravana (July-August), buttermilk in bhadrapada (August-September), bitter gourd in kvara (September-October) and yogurt in kartika (October-November) are not recommended. An afternoon siesta or sleeping outside in sunlight, exposure to the sun, excessive sexual indulgence, excessive walking and exercising too much is harmful. A heavy diet and eating frequently and without hunger should also be avoided.
Completely avoid yogurt and buttermilk at night. Do not wear wet and damp clothes and avoid sleeping on a wet bed. Keep the joints of the body, especially the thigh joints and the genital organs dry. Wash vegetables and fruits thoroughly before use. Never use impure water from rivers and ponds, drink only purified water. Drive vehicles at normal speed to prevent skidding. Rubbing ice cubes or applying other effective medicines to the body gives relief from prickly heat. One can enjoy the rainy season to its fullest by following the above diet and lifestyle tips.