Hi everyone! It’s been awhile since I wrote about my experience with the Yamas & Niyamas, but since last Monday I’ve been working with the first Niyama, Saucha, which means Purity or Cleanliness. I’m still working with Deborah Adele’s book about the ethics of Yoga and using her Questions for Exploration at the end of each chapter as a way to guide myself through each Niyama.
For the first week of practicing Saucha she asks us to examine our diet. This was perfectly timed as I also chose the past week to give up Nightshade fruits and vegetables.
Nightshade fruits and vegetables belong to the Solanaceae family. There are also many flowers that belong to this family and some are highly toxic to humans. There are more than I will list here, but just for sake of ease I’m only listing the ones I normally eat.
- Tomatoes & tomatillos (includes tomato products like ketchup)
- Peppers – Bell/hot varieties to include the spice paprika
- Blueberries & Goji Berries
- White Potatoes (not sweet potatoes or yams)
For some people, nightshades cause inflammation in the gut, pain in joints, headaches or migraines, gas, bloating and general stomach upset. For me personally I mainly noticed the gas, bloating, and stomach pain. I’ve been eating peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and blueberries my whole life, but it wasn’t until my recent YTT that I noticed that eggplant in particular did not sit well with my body. I was talking to a fellow Pitta (see my Ayurveda post) about it and she asked me about nightshades and potatoes. I said I didn’t think I had a problem with potatoes, but something was tickling my brain. I had heard the term nightshades before, but in a limited capacity and couldn’t remember much about them. After further explanation from her I thought more about them and my most recent experience with potatoes.
After even more thought I realized I had experienced gas, bloating, and stomach pain after eating mashed potatoes not long ago. Just to make sure it wasn’t something else I had eaten I made a dinner with potatoes and peppers. The first time I ate them, no problem, but when I had that same dish the next day as leftovers, low and behold, same symptoms! Hmmmm… I thought.
The following week I bought a stalk of brussel sprouts and completely underestimated how many were on there! I ended up with a ton and ate leftovers of them for several meals within a 2-3 day time span. Those too, gave me horrible gas and bloating (while not in the nightshade family they contain a natural sugar called raffinose that can be hard for some people to break down and can cause G.I. upset). In the same week I made a Mexican Lasagna with tomatoes and peppers. If you are reading this thinking, what is she nuts?!, please know these are all normal things for me to make and eat. Anyway – after eating the lasagna and then the leftovers the next day I had the same G.I. issues. The entire week before I started this diet change I had horrible gas and was extremely bloated. To the point that my husband was teasing me.
My Week of No Nightshades
First I want to say that I am already a pretty clean eater. I don’t eat very much sugar and when I do it’s in small amounts. I also eat very little processed food, mainly organic tortilla chips from Costco, and I’m 98% meat free (occasionally I’ll have a bite of meat that my husband is eating – or bacon! It’s a condiment you know! ;). BUT when I started my week of no nightshades I was extremely bloated. I honestly didn’t realize how bloated I was until I woke up Saturday morning and looked in the mirror. It looked like I had lost at least 10 lbs. I’m not exaggerating. This is what inflammation does to the body. Not only is inflammation in the gut bad, but inflammation in a systemic sense is very bad. It can cause joint pain, skin problems, and stress on the immune system.
***WARNING: EXTRA TMI***
I’m adding this here because I think it’s worth noting and I know there are other people out there suffering too. If you are squeamish with G.I. talk, pass over this section….
I’ve always had pretty loose stools. Even as a child I my gut was very sensitive, especially to stress. Any time I felt anxiety I was stuck on the toilet. This got better as an adult, but never went away. Before I started eating clean I had what I now think of as a perpetually upset stomach. Yes. You read that right – ALWAYS having an upset stomach. Do you know how many nutrients I wasn’t getting because they were running right through me? I never even thought of this before!
Once I had my daughter I started to eat cleaner and learned about GMOs, pesticides, and how fake “food” affected our bodies. I quit eating “cream of” soups (and the like) and started reading labels religiously. This helped a bit, but not enough. Over time I learned to pay closer attention to what my gut was telling me. It wasn’t easy, I’ll be honest. Really this ability to “hear” what my body is telling me has developed since my YTT. The palate wants what it wants and that makes it easy to ignore the subtle messages from the gut, especially in the case of sugar, which we have evolved biologically to crave and get as much as we can when it’s available (If you think that statement is hogwash, type “sugar craving evolution” into your Google search bar – I dare you). But this was one of the first things I “heard” my gut telling me, “enough sugar!!!”. Now that I’ve identified this cue it’s impossible to ignore.
“Cleanliness is a process of scrubbing the outside of us; it changes our outer appearance. Purification works on our insides and changes our very essence. Although cleanliness is important, Saucha calls us to the inward journey of purification not the external appearance of cleanliness.” –Deborah Adele
It’s not just the gut that will speak to you, but your entire body, if you are tuned in enough to hear. The body speaks very subtly, but it does speak and I will tell you from personal experience, it’s better to listen. Our bodies are way smarter than we give them credit for. We need to give them the honor and respect that they deserve, and a great way to get started is to change what you are putting in it. Would you put 87 octane gas into a Ferrari? Why would you put chemicals like butane (TBHQ) and anti-freeze (propylene glycol) into your soul’s vessel in this lifetime? Just something to think about.
Namaste Friends <3