Confused about your digestion imbalance & related symptoms? I made this chart to help you figure it out.
Identifying common symptoms can help narrow down aggravating factors.
How To Use The Symptoms Chart
The top row (beginning from left to right) indicates the major allergenic food type. The first column (starting from top to bottom) indicates common symptoms associated with allergenic food. Circle every Y in each symptoms row, then add the total for each column, and write the total at the bottom. Those columns with high scores of 5 or more, may indicate you have a food intolerance.
There is often more then one dosha involved in an imbalance. The dosha(s) listed here are most typically associated with the intolerance described. For example, weight gain is a kapha imbalance, but vata can cause weight gain if it dries up the channels in the body, and causes kapha to accumulate. In that case, it would be a vata/kapha imbalance. Regardless, this exercise will help you to familiarize yourself with concepts, and associations between bodily functions and doshic characteristics, so that a pattern will emerge that gives you a better understanding of your condition.
Many symptoms can be found in multiple allergen types. In order to maintain accuracy test results, only the symptoms that are most likely to occur per allergen indicated. For example, both yeast and oxalates can contribute to constipation, however, if there is a oxalate intolerance, then likely there will be some systemic or localized form of pain, and if there is a yeast intolerance there will likely be acne, or constipation. Therefore, symptoms that are most prevalent with a dietary intolerance are listed, but there certainly can be more symptoms then those listed.
Type of Dietary Intolerance
|Symptom, Increased Dosha
(V is vata, P is pitta, K is kapha)
|Gluten||Dairy||Fructose||Oxalates||Yeast, Bacteria, Parasites
|Weight Gain, K||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Weight Loss, V||Y||Y|
|Thyroid Disorder, VPK||Y||Y||Y|
|Oozing Discharge, K||Y||Y|
|Kidney Stones, K||Y||Y|
|Urinary Tract Infection, K||Y||Y|
|Non-Bacterial Prostitis, VP||Y|
|Pelvic Floor Pain, V||Y|
|Intense craving breads, Pastries, Sweets, K||Y||Y||Y|
|Infertility, missed menses, V||Y||Y|
|Psoriasis, Eczema, PK||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Interstitial Cystitis/Painful Bladder Syndrome, VK||Y|
|Shoulder Pain, V||Y||Y|
|Water Retention/Swelling, VK||Y|
|Runny nose, itchy eyes, mucus in lungs, K||Y||Y|
If a gut-healing program is indicated, elimination of foods that trigger reactions, increase symptoms, or impose degradation of the tissues, is necessary, and should be strictly avoided, while intestinal healing takes place. Some food allergies are readily apparent, and people just know, by sense, instinct, or observable reaction such as nausea, rash, etc. For others, triggers are more allusive. Reactions occur days later, and there does not seem to be any sequential reason for them.
Trigger foods are frequently found in gut imbalances, and many types of diseases and conditions. Elimination diets have historically been the most accurate, and also the most challenging, method for identifying food triggers. In an ‘elimination diet,’ all possible provoking foods are eliminated for at least two weeks, and slowly reintroduced, in order to identify what is provoking a disease symptom. Elimination diets proper, consist mostly of game meats and small amounts of white rice. In the last several years, however, elimination diets have evolved to typically exclude all grains. There are several variances of elimination diet programs, which usually vary according to which foods are believed to provoke an imbalance, and the area of specialty of the program’s creator. For example, elimination diets aimed at autism often advise the elimination of grains, but elimination diets aimed at those with colitis or crohn’s diets stress the abstinence from dairy.
Using a Journal
Before beginning an elimination diet, even if you are just eliminating one food item, purchase a journal. By keeping track of what is eaten, in a journal, with short notes of how you felt after you eat it, you will start to recognize a pattern. Many times the patterns revealed are surprising and unsuspected, especially when reactions were caused by foods eaten days prior. To keep an accurate journal, write down everything that was eaten, and how you feel within the hour. Journals can be used to track improvements after a elimination, or help to identify which foods to eliminate, before beginning an elimination diet.
The purpose of an elimination diet is to remove any possible offender for a period of time, and reintroduce it. If a reaction occurs: change in mood, digestive disturbance of any kind, headache, nausea, return or increase in disease symptoms, it can be inferred that you have found a trigger. This food will need to remain out of the diet until further healing has occurred in the gut. Some triggers will need to be avoided indefinitely. There is no set protocol or time line. Every person is unique, heals at different times, and responds differently.
Some typical reactions that indicate reaction to a trigger food, include but are not limited to:
- Skin eruptions, eczema, acne
- Joint Pain
- Digestive complaints (indigestion, bloating, gas, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea)
- Lung or nasal congestion
- Moodiness or Irritability
- Cold Sores
Reactions can occur anywhere from 24 hours to 72 hours after exposure. If you introduce a new food to quickly, it will be difficult to discern the origin of a potential allergen for you. This is the most accurate way to identify allergies.
Dietary Triggers Worsen or Cause Symptoms Of The Following Conditions
- Eosinophilic Esophagits [i]
- Autism [ii]
- Gastroesophageal Reflux [iii]
- Cancers [iv]
- Autoimmune diseases [v]
- Atopic Dermatitis [vi]
- Learning Disorders [vii]
- Asthma [viii]
- Down’s Syndrome [ix]
- Cystic Fibrosis [x]
- Bowel Disease [xi]
- Environmental Allergies[xiii]
- Nervous System Diseases[xiv]
Characteristics of Dietary Triggers
- A. Triggers: Dietary triggers are food items that have become allergenic because of compromised immune system function, and digestive weakness. Dietary triggers are found in many conditions especially digestive imbalance, autoimmune disorders, cognitive disorders, and arthritis. When consuming a trigger, a hypersensitive immunes system flares, and symptoms are increased. Identifying triggers, and removing them from one’s diet can significantly reduce the symptoms of many imbalances, and help the intestinal tract heal.
- B. Dietary Trigger Categories- Generally dietary triggers fall into 5 main categories. These categories are: gluten, dairy, fructose, oxalates, and yeast. There are many symptoms and imbalances associated with each. When a trigger has been identified from one of these groups, the entire group must be avoided so that the gut can heal. Some people are able to consume the food group after healing has taken place, and others have to avoid the food group indefinitely. There is no way currently to predict who will be able to eat these foods again, or how long it will take, before foods can be reintroduced permanently.
- C. Identification of Triggers- Identifying triggers can be done most accurately through strict elimination diets. Traditionally, elimination diets used by nutritionists, dieticians and some doctors, advised the exclusion of all possible allergens. This left a basic diet of wild game, and a few low carbohydrate vegetables. Over a period of several months, a food was ingested to see if it provoked a negative reaction. If it provoked a reaction it was determined to be a trigger. Presently, there are several variations of elimination diets, and testing to help identify triggers.
Characteristics of an Elimination Diet
- A. Elimination Period- Exclude the suspected food from diet for a set period of time (recommended minimum 2 weeks), for food, and both immediate and delayed reactions to be eliminated. If dairy is suspected, everything with dairy in it should be eliminated. If dairy is eaten, then one has to start over. The accuracy in the test has been inhibited.
- B. Reintroduction Period-Testing period to see if reaction occurs. Only one food should be introduced at a time to avoid multiple reactions and confusing results. If dairy was eliminated, wait two weeks, and drink a ½ a glass of milk, wait four days after drinking the milk, and observe if any symptoms increase or appear (congestion, fatigue, digestive disturbance, headache, or any discomfort). It is important to wait four days before introducing any new item, to avoid confusing results that can be caused by delayed reactions.
Two Main Types of Elimination Diets
- Elimination Diet- This is an aggressive approach at gut healing, and usually only those who are truly ill can maintain it. All possible suspects are removed, and include: gluten, dairy, grains, fruits, legumes, beef, chicken, roasted nuts, peanuts and some vegetables.. After the initial 2-4 weeks, one by one reintroduce a single food item every four days. If there is an immediate or delayed reaction such as bloating, constipation, diarrhea, IBS symptoms, IBD symptoms, fatigue, etc. Keep the food item out, until a later date when digestion has healed more. This protocol will help you safely identify specific food triggers, however it can be quite rigorous for many people to follow. In instances when severe cases of disease manifestation, or other situations when aggressive treatment is required, it is recommended to complete a full 4-weeks of dietary eliminations before beginning a reduction period.
Gentle Elimination Diet: In this diet, 1-4 suspected triggers are eliminated for a period of 2-4 weeks. These can be ascertained through doing the tests listed on the following pages, or keeping a food journal that lists food items and how you felt after you eat them. Keep the journal in your bag or purse so you don’t forget, or you can write your journal experiences as notes in your phone. The challenge, or reintroduction phase is similar to the elimination diet. In this protocol, only one item is introduced at a time, and adverse reactions are noted. While this type of elimination diet helps reduce extreme changes that can be a challenge to maintain over time, it also increases probability of accidentally eating an allergen and compromising accuracy.
Panchakarma is the primary cleansing therapy in ayurvedic medicine. It has been practiced for over 5,000 years and has lineage variances across India, which influences some of its defining features. It is one of the most complex and specific forms of detoxification in natural medicine. The name “panchakarma” comes from two Sanskrit words: panch, meaning “five” and karma, meaning “action.” The five actions are: vamana, virechana, basti, rakta moksha, and nasya. They remove excess doshas from the body and eliminate ama (toxins).
Ama are the toxic residue of poor digestion. Digestion refers not only to the food we eat, but also to how we assimilate our emotions and environmental exposures. It is the process of utilizing nutrients and eliminating waste. Anything that compromises our immune system, interrupts normal detoxification, and increases oxidative stress and free radicals can impede digestive function and has the potential to instigate toxicity in the body. The poor digestion of emotions, food types, and environmental pollutants potentiate an opportunity for disease manifestation. If our physical body, emotional well being, and mental acuity are operating at their peak, then we can live healthfully during any circumstance.
Ongoing detoxification is especially imperative today, because of increased accessibility to modern conveniences and their polluting by-products. We can skillfully maximize our immunity and disease-fighting potential through the diversity of plant medicines. The need to detoxify intensely will be reduced, and disease will be remediated before it begins. Panchakarma is successful at both detoxification and rejuvenation by employing a three-part process: preparing the body for elimination, the five actions, and rebuilding the body. During the preparation phase, the excess is drawn to its main site of origin in the intestinal tract. During the five actions, the excess is powerfully expelled from its main site. This leaves the body in a depleted, vulnerable, and weakened state. The third phase, rasayana or rejuvenation, rebuilds the body from depletion into totality. It is best to engage in panchakarma at least once a year, or once every other year.
All of ayurveda’s internal treatments (cikitsa) can be separated into two main categories: brimhana, ‘to make heavy,’ and langhana, ‘to make light.’ Brimhana refers to the rasayana (anti-aging) and vajikarana (aphrodisiac) therapies, which facilitate tissue growth, repair, and rejuvenation. Brimhana therapies are used for those weakened by illness or old age. The brimhana therapies nourish the body. Langhana refers to the detoxification procedures in ayurveda. They lighten the body and remove toxins and excesses. There are two main categories of langhana therapy: shamana, ‘palliative,’ and shodhana ‘purification.’ Shamana refers to the lifestyle practices that provide ongoing detoxification and mitigate symptoms for many individuals. Shodhana refers to the strong eliminations that are part of panchakarma.
Palliative measures are called “shamana” in ayurveda. The word shamana is sometimes used interchangeably with lifestyle, since both are detoxifying in nature. Generally, palliation refers to reducing excess through detoxification practices, such as diet, herbs, spices, sweating, massage, fasting, and vigorous exercise.[i] Palliatives can be used on an ongoing basis as part of a lifestyle, at the junction of every season, and during times of illness. They are also used to prepare the body for panchakarma. Most characteristic of palliation is inducing remission or reducing symptoms, where panchakarma removes the root of disease. It is said that if panchakarma is done correctly, a disease will never return after it is eradicated.
Preparation for the five primary actions in panchakarma is called “purvakarma.” Purva means ‘before,’ and karma means ‘action.’ If purvakarma is done incorrectly, detoxification will not occur properly. Instead, toxins are only removed from the superficial layers of the body, and leave the seeds of imbalance to sprout anew. Purvakarma works to draw the excess dosha(s) from effected tissues, and enervate ama (toxins) into the digestive tract, where they can be eliminated through the five primary actions of panchakarma. In order to effectively loosen the toxins in the body, purvakarmas emphasize three palliation practices: pachana (a stimulating diet), snehana (internal and external oleation), and swedana (sweating).
Purvakarma calms the body of symptomatic flares, modulates the immune system, and reduces toxins. For many imbalances and diseases, purvakarma is powerful enough to remediate the issue. Purvakarma programs can last from three days to several months, depending on individual imbalance or disease. If a person is in a weak state, she will require a longer program of purvakarma. The five primary actions of panchakarma are seldom done on anyone who has become emaciated, weak, or brittle. In these cases, the measures of purvakarma are employed for longer periods in order to build the body in preparation for detoxification. Panchakarma is ultimately reserved, for those with strength, doshic excess, and ama.
Pradhanakarma (the five actions and the home purification procedures)
Panchakarma refers to five specific actions in ayurvedic detoxification. The five actions, also known as pradhanakarma, pull toxins out of digestion that correspond to specific doshic imbalances. Vata’s primary site is the colon; pitta’s primary site is the small intestine; and kapha’s is the stomach.
The primary therapy used in panchakarma to reduce excess kapha dosha is vamana. It relieves excess water and earth from the body via the stomach with therapeutic vomiting. Vamana is used mostly for kapha imbalances, excess mucus conditions, obesity, cholesterol, swelling, water retention, depression, lethargy, bronchitis, and eczema. It can also relieve excess pitta from the stomach. In the home purification procedures, we supplement this procedure in tandem with therapeutic fasting.
Virechana eliminates excess from small intestine using laxatives. The practice is used mostly for pitta type imbalances, such as hormonal dysfunction, fast digestion, acne, heat eruptions on the skin, anger, and stagnant liver. Virechana can also be used for vata and kapha disturbances, because it reorganizes normal function of agni. Virechana is the easiest panchakarma procedure to employ, generally safe for everyone, and can be done on its own apart from cleansing and detoxification.
Basti removes excess from the colon with therapeutic enemas. It is used mostly for vata conditions, such as arthritis, emaciation, anxiety, nervousness, depression, insomnia, brittle bones, constipation, and nervous system disorders. It can also be used to treat pitta and kapha. Basti is the most powerful of all the panchakarma procedures, and can also be used on its own. It is broken into two categories: nourishing or detoxifying. In the home-based purification procedures, we use both nourishing and detoxification bastis.
Rakta Moksha (blood letting)
Rakta moksha cleanses excess from the blood, and is typically used to treat pitta disorders. There are differences of opinion and in practice regarding this therapy. It is not used in some lineages, where practitioners employ a second kind type of basti instead. Sushruta, the renowned Ayurvedic physician and author of some of the classic Ayurvedic texts, was a proponent of rakta moksha. Charaka, who proceeded Sushruta, did not employ rakta moksha. Some practitioners follow Charaka’s methodology, while others follow Sushruta or other leaders in ayurveda. In the home-based purification procedures, we use alteratives, a category of herb that is a blood purifier, and liver detoxification herbs to purify the blood.
Nasya (nasal intake of medication)
Nasya removes excesses from the sinuses to alleviate sinus conditions and improve brain and sensory function. Nasya can reduce symptoms, rejuvenate sinus tissue, and detoxify. Nasya mediums include medicated oils, ghee, smoke, and powdered herbs. In the home-based purification procedures, we use nutritive nasya oils.
Pschatkarma (rebuilding the body)
Traditionally, each of the five eliminations is used over a complete panchakarma procedure that lasts two months or more. Using the three-part process of ayurveda: the body is prepared with the purvakarmas for a certain period; one of the five procedures of panchakarma is employed; and the patient then rests. Eventually, all five of the procedures are performed over a period of time that takes at least 28 days. Panchakarma depletes the body in order to pull out all sources of toxins. The weakened patient is then guided to rasayana, the rejuvenation procedures, in order to reconstruct the tissues in the healthiest way possible. Today, because of current time constraints and financial limitations, few people have the ability to engage in such a lengthy program. Most modern ayurvedic practitioners use a modified program, which highlights and remediates the patient’s greatest concern through the use of one to three of the five panchakarma procedures.
In The Hamsa Program, the panchakarma measures have been safely modified for home use. In this context, the modified cleanse procedures are palliative. Unlike panchakarma, which removes the cause of imbalance from the body at its roots, palliative measures induce remission. The reduction of toxins occurs on the superficial layers and can abate or significantly reduce symptoms— sometimes indefinitely. The seeds of disease, however, can sprout again if old lifestyle habits return. In order to optimize detoxification, increase the rate of healing, and maintain remission, the patient builds the appropriate lifestyle infrastructure.
Home purification practices and lifestyle provide the necessary infrastructure to support clinical panchakarma programs and all other detoxification protocol. They enable the patient and her practitioner to reap the full reward of panchakarma’s capabilities. They arouse awareness, enable us to casually shift patterns in our lives, provide information regarding our internal experience, awaken the inner healer, and develop the necessary perception to curb our own disease tendencies, so that we can doctor ourselves as much as possible.
[i] Panchakarma book
“If the motion of the flywheel is not regulated, the whole machine is disturbed. The breath affects more then the body, for the rhythms of the body, in turn, affect one’s emotional and mental life.” [i] Swami Vivekananda
The yogis have understood for many years, that conscious breathing can effectively help us manage our thoughts, and increase a deep sense of inner contentment. Abnormal breathing can be induced by poor posture or stress, and is known to increase free radical activity, and other systemic abnormalities. Correct breathing increases energy, improves skin complexion, and supports blood and lymph circulation.[ii] Pranayama, is the conscious, or directive way of manipulating the breath, found in many paths of yoga and ayurveda. Pranayama can assist the realignment of correct breath function, increase physical endurance, muscle cell reactivity, and metabolism.
When we inhale, oxygen is taken into the body via the nasal sinuses and mouth into the lungs. From there, oxygen is picked up by the iron atom in the blood called hemoglobin, and transported to every cell in our body. Without sufficient red blood cell production, common in many diseases, and related to anemia, digestive disturbances, and B12 insufficiency, a person may not acquire the appropriate amount of oxygen, and chronically suffocate. Without oxygen, we cannot heal negated tissues properly. On the contrary, inadequate oxygen is a primary contributor to many autoimmune diseases, aging, and age related diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.[iii]
In yoga, the breath is a primary facilitator of prana, the life force. The principal mean to which prana enters the body is via oxygen inhalation, where it then moves through nadis (energetic channels), that course through the entire physical and energetic human template. Through intentional breathing, one can consciously direct prana through the body via the breath. In doing so, one develops the ability to clear blockages and impediments in the hormone and nervous system. Yogic texts reveal that there is a natural rhythm to the alternation of dominance between the nostrils. If one nostril is dominant for longer periods of time then normal, it can indicate distorted physiologic functions, imbalance, and pathology. Studies in chronobiology, identified similar circadian rhythms in breath patterns with predictable changes in right and left nostril dominance that occur every 20 to 200 minutes. Their studies indicate greater EKG coherence with the even balance between right and left nostril dominance. [iv] [v] Alternate nostril breathing, a common pranayama practice of breathing through one nostril at a time, facilitates coherence between right and left nostril dominance. Studies show, alternate nostril breathing improves spatial and verbal cognitive skills, related to right and left brain dominance. [vi]
Darlene Osowiec, a psychologist known for her research and work related to pranayama, hypnosis, and circadian rhythms, observed that one’s right and left nostril equilibrium revealed her patients level of psychological balance. Her research, documented the synchronization of right and left breath dominance, and uni-nostrl breathing, that occurred as her patient’s levels of anxiety decreased in conjunction with their pranayama practices.[vii]
Disordered breathing has been observed to occur in conjunction with hormonal imbalances, and several diseases. Several hormones, are involved in the physiologic regulation of breathing, and participate in adjustment of breathing in disease. Leptin, the hormone that tells our body we are full, stimulates respiration. Studies have shown that leptin supplementation assists obese patients with hypoventilation, and reduces physiologic inhibitions to breath appropriately.[viii] Estrogen and progesterone are hypothesized to offer protection from sleep-disordered breathing. [ix] Excess testosterone imbalances contribute to certain breathing disorders. [x] Researchers speculate that excess testosterone is a key component to the pathogenesis of sleep apnea, a breathing disorder that causes breathing cessation during sleep. [xi]
Yoga practitioners understand the flow of prana through the experience, and perception of its movements. Observations of prana, led to a detailed mapping of the nadis, their systemic function, and relationship, with our breathing patterns.
The nadis are tubular forms of subtle matter that prana flows through in our body. There are countless nadis, and some texts estimate anywhere between 72,000,000 into the billions. All the nadis in the body originate from the same center called the kanda, which is located between the anus and root of our sexual organs.[xii] The three most important nadis are the ida, pingala and sushumna. The sushumna is considered “the chief” nadi, and is identified as the human spine. The sushumna, houses the six main chakras inside the body, and the seventh chakra, which is located outside the body above the head.
The ida nadi starts from the right ovary or testicle. The pingala nadi starts at the left ovary or testicle. They intersect several times along the spine before exiting out the nostrils. Ida exists out the left nostril and pingala out the right. Ida is cooling and pacifying. Pingala is heating and stimulating. Ida is the feminine moon. Pingala is the masculine sun.
The attributes of each nadi can be accentuated through pranayama and conscious manipulation of the breath, which is our life force, and prana. Altered nostril breathing, a pranayama practice, restores the balance between the right and left nostril. For example, breathing out of the ida nadi only, while keeping pingala closed with the thumb will help to calm the mind and increase a desire for sleep. Breathing out of the pingala nadi only, while keeping ida closed, will help to stimulate the mind, and increase desire for activity.
When either of these nadis are blocked or inhibited we struggle to access prana. Chronobiology studies indicate that shifting nasal dominance via forced expulsion into a closed nostril, creates a symbiotic shift of cerebral dominance.[xiii] In other words, through focused breathing out of one nostril we affectively influence areas of dominance in our brain. Daily pranayama practice, can assist in the reorganization of our breathing cycle and dominance. Simply through observation and awareness, we can come to know and understand the subtle functions of our body that powerfully influence our totality.