Food for Windy Types and Mental Health
From a Sowa Rigpa point of view, the state of our mental health is predominantly based on the balance of the Wind element (rLung humor), in particular the Life-sustaining Wind located in our head. There are several factors that influence our physical and mental well-being. While some people may be born with a genetic predisposition to some imbalances, others may fall prey to the same inbalances through exposure to external factors such as environment, diet, and lifestyle, which can trigger epigenetic changes activiating gene expressions without alterating the DNA sequence.
Sowa Rigpa, an energy-centered tradition, like Ayurveda and other Eastern medical systems, describes that we are born with different proportions of the 5 elements, putting us in one of 7 combinations of humoral constitution or typology. These humors of wind, bile, and phelgm determine our body structure, metabolism, temperament, and our tendencies towards particular imbalances. While we cannot easily change our constitution or genes (not yet at least), we surely can influence our health by what we eat and how we live.
Wind (rLung) types have nervous systems that tends to be easily overstimulated. These are often highly sensitive, creative, and expressive people, who are deeply emotional. They may have difficulty concentrating and may sleep lightly or experience insomnia. These types also tend to lose weight easily due to unstable metabolism and may face irregular and hard bowel movements. They may have dry skin, thin hair, cold limbs, and migrating pains.
I find Lung types similar to a Highly Sensitive Person, the term coined about 30 years ago by Dr. Elaine Aron.
The characteristics of the Wind element manifest as light, dry, cool, moving, rough and hard. Sowa Rigpa says that people with this inborn predominance may dislike cold, dry and windy places. Eating light food like salads and vegetables, otherwise healthy, may not be as satisfying, and consuming coffee and energy drinks can make a discomfort worse. Additionally, lack of sleep knocks them out and can be more unbearable especially with age. Such an inborn dominance of this element predisposes one to Wind disorders, ranging from insomnia, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and a wide variety of neurologic disorders. On top of that, a Wind excess can aggravate all other disorders in any organs. Thus, it is crucial to control it.
Psychiatrists know that during the summer there is always an increase in anxiety, panic attacks, psychosis, and even suicidal attempts. It seems that the increase of light, longer days and shorter nights influence our circadian rhythm and increase the Wind element. According to Sowa Rigpa, Wind accumulates in spring, pacifying the phlegm energies accumulated during winter, and manifests fully in July and August. The second season where Wind is in excess is early winter, when an increase of depression (lack of light) occurs.
To put it simply, the Sowa Rigpa diet is based on the principles of the taste and potency. It uses food of opposite characteristics (allopathy) to pacify Wind (rLung): warm, heavy, soft, and oily food.
Here is the recommendation of a thousand years of experience:
- Meat and Bone broth – long cooked for many hours is best with a bit of wine or apple cider vinegar, root vegetables and spices. It is not neccessary to eat a lot of meat, but the broth has a truly healing effect on so many aspects of our health, including maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, and nervous and hormonal systems.
- Fat and Oils – i.e., sesame, avocado, and olive oils; butter, and especially ghee. Coconut oil can also be used for cooking (or ghee) as it can handle more resistance at higher heat, making it safer than any seed oils. Using lard and bone marrow is especially pacifying for Wind because of its heaviness.
- Seeds and Nuts – warming and heavy, they contain oils, proteins and many micronutrients. I recommend soaking or frying them before eating as it makes digestion and assimilation of the nutrients much easier. The best are sesame seeds or tahini and flax seeds. Chia seeds are also good due to its Omega 3 content.
- Root vegetables – heavy characteristics that help the Wind get “rooted.” Their complex polysaccharides have beneficial effects for the gut flora.
- Onion and garlic (cooked, not raw) – heavy, spicy and warm; add them to broth and veggies. Many Buddhist teachers do not advise eating garlic and onions because it makes us sleepy and thus, not ideal for meditation, but perfect for Wind imbalance!
- Milk and dairy (organic, and only if you tolerate them) – heavy, but cooling, so not so good with a Phlegm disorder (Beken is composed of Water and Earth elements). Trying organic homemade full fat yoghurt can pacify rLung and also support the gut flora with beneficial bacteria.
- Spices – aromatics like nutmeg, clove, anis, caraway, cumin, cinnamon, and ferula asafetida (aka Devils dung – smells like hell, but is very effective!) can pacify Wind.
I would advise vegetarians to eat more seeds and nuts, especially flax and chia (Omega 3). Veggies (root vegetables and greens, such as nettles, spinach, kale) should be eaten warm, cooked, roasted or fried, not so much raw. Avoid being a “grainitarian,” by not making grains the main portion of a meal because lectins in grains can irritate the gut lining, which is only about 1.5 mm thick, and trigger a wide range of disorders. Add baker’s yeast (dry, inactive one) often for B vitamins content or take a supplement (especially B12). Supplement also vitamin D3 with K2, zinc, and Omega 3 (now available from phytoplankton, not just from fish) or more, depending on your health status.
This article does not provide medical advice nor does it replace any standard healthcare. In case of any health issues, please contact your local health provider. The author is not responsible for any health effects that may have occurred after reading this article.
Next to come:
Food for Fire Types and Inflammations
Food for Phlegmatic Types and Metabolic Disorders
 The Root Tantra and Explanatory Tantra of Traditional Tibetan Medical, Yuthok Yonten Gonpo