Ayahuasca Diet

Ayahuasca Diet: How To Prepare For Ceremony

Ayahuasca Diet: Preparing Your Body, Mind & Spirit

In Spanish, dieta refers to diet. However, when we speak of this word in the context of an ayahuasca diet with the sacred vine, it becomes broader in scope. Dieta refers to any physical, social, or psychological preparation you must make to commune properly with the plant.

In the Amazon basin, this doesn’t just refer to experiences with ayahuasca but also deals with healing, consultations, divinations, and even hunting. Whenever human beings come into close contact with the plant world (which is considered sacred and intelligent), diets are used to facilitate the experience and show our reverence for the unseen world.

In traditional societies, plants are considered a part of our lives. While this differs from Western ones, there are good reasons to follow many of the instructions that form a part of these preparations. Shamans who have been practicing these rituals in the Amazon are traditionally made to isolate themselves as part of an ayahuasca diet. They can spend days, weeks, or even months in the deep Amazonian jungles, living in a spare cabin and eating foods that have symbolic significance to the ritual. These usually include fresh fish and animals found in the jungle, cassava, and plantain. There are some peculiarities about where the ritual is held, but sex and alcohol consumption are strictly prohibited almost everywhere.

In the Western world, there is usually a much longer list of things to avoid, and we will go into the reasons for that shortly. However, some might find these restrictions extreme and unnecessary. Whenever we have a profoundly therapeutic or mystical experience, we connect with energies that either don’t exist on this plane or are buried deep within us. These subtle energies lie behind a thin veil inside ourselves, and the ayahuasca diet helps us prepare for a deeper connection to this part of our individuality.

Purging What Doesn’t Serve You

I recommend you stick to the ayahuasca diet and prepare for the sacred ceremony. If you decide not to follow the diet, you will have an uncomfortable experience physically (especially in terms of vomiting), and those toxins left inside your container might not mix well with grandmother ayahuasca. The ceremony begins when you sign up for a retreat and lasts for weeks after you drink the brew. It is a commitment of several weeks. The point of the ceremony is to have a transformational experience, which requires sacrifice and preparation.

ayahuasca diet Purging

When our bodies are toxic, it becomes almost impossible for us to connect with these subtle energies. This is why we spend most days feeling numb to everything around us. While the ayahuasca vine helps us get closer to these energies, we must ensure we act as a clean vessel for them. There are instances where people go through extreme purging before participating in these sessions. For example, in Peru, some ceremonies begin with a huancawi purge, where a tonic made by the huancawi plant is consumed. The aim is to ensure you are as receptive as possible to these energies before you begin.

What happens if you ignore these guidelines? Most probably, you will spend a better part of the ceremony cleansing your energies (mainly purging). This could mean feelings of nausea, discomfort, diarrhea, and vomiting during sessions. If you come prepared, you will likely find connecting to these sacred energies much more accessible. Above all, following the ayahuasca diet shows a deep reverence and respect for the spirit of ayahuasca, and she will respond in kind when the two of you meet in the ceremony room.

Ayahuasca Diet Benefits

Ayahuasca diet’s main benefits:

  • They help the body heal itself. Whatever we put our bodies through profoundly impacts our overall health and spiritual disposition. During this period of abstinence, our body begins to listen to its signals (which might have been lost). It learns to care for itself and treat itself like a pure and sacred thing.
  • Help us recover quickly after the ceremonies. Since these sessions leave us emotionally, mentally, and physically vulnerable to many energies (good and bad), we need protection to help us reintegrate safely. Dietas can help us do that.
  • Commitment to Change. After all, as difficult as it might seem initially, these preparations inculcate a sense of discipline in us. We learn to follow the rules for a higher purpose and might even stick to some of the changes we observe in our lifestyle. In any case, these ayahuasca diets help purify our consciousness, which can help us become more spiritually inclined even beyond the ceremonies.

Another important reason to follow the ayahuasca diet mentioned here is that the Western diet and lifestyle are very different from the Indigenous one. Since the Indigenous people live in close communication with nature and mostly eat unprocessed food, their bodies and minds are already attuned to a plant-based life. On the other hand, the Western diet consists mostly of refined and processed food, an excessive intake of alcohol, and the presence of other preservatives and additives.

The same goes for the different kinds of drugs (both legal and illegal) that are taken regularly. Some of these medications are life-saving and necessary, but even they might have certain adverse effects when combined with psychoactive substances like ayahuasca. Many Indigenous shamans might not even be aware of the potentially dangerous drugs that must be avoided before the ceremony. Therefore, we need to consider them in our preparations.

When it comes to diet, there are three main areas of focus: food and dietary choices, abstinence from stimulating substances and experiences and avoiding medical contraindications or side effects.

Ayahuasca Diet Guidelines

First, we will discuss the foods you need to avoid. While the guidelines differ slightly depending on the retreat, there are a few common considerations. For one, you should avoid highly processed and refined foods as much as possible. This includes junk foods, foods, and drinks that are extremely high in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats, and even those that are incredibly spicy. Pork and red meat are to be avoided. I recommend a plant-based diet.

The best diet you can follow before this experience includes whole foods and is plant-based. Foods that occur naturally are the ones our body agrees with the most. Some of these foods, especially fruits and green leafy vegetables, will also help kickstart your metabolism (which could mean increased bowel movements). This effect will be compounded if you’re not used to such a diet in your daily life. Don’t worry; this is a good thing and an indication that your body has started its cleansing process.

Ayahuasca Diet – Avoid Stimulating Foods

Garlic, onions, chilis, spices, foods high in citric acids, and fermented foods—are best avoided during this period. This is because, while eating clean and nutrient-dense foods is essential, it’s equally important not to have foods that stimulate our senses.

Ayahuasca Diet

According to shamanic teachings, spicy foods tend to have a cutipado effect on our senses. Roughly speaking, it means bewitched, which could affect the energies we’re trying to channel through the vine. These foods are said to block or interfere with the channels we use to communicate with higher energies.

In a more physical sense, these foods can cause unpleasant sensations if they come out during the ceremony. Think of this in terms of burning sensations, sickly feelings, and even an excessively sticky and sweet composition of the substances that come from us. We want any purging experience that does occur to be as pleasant (or the least unpleasant) as possible.

Tyramine and MAOIs

We should remember that the ayahuasca vine inhibits monoamine oxidase formation in our bodies, which is why we can experience its psychoactive properties. These MAOIs cannot process tyramine, which is naturally present in many foods. When tyramine is not broken down, it can lead to unpleasant sensations, including headaches, increased blood pressure, or nausea that does not lead to vomiting.

While these sensations are not harmful or threatening, they might lead to a suboptimal experience. This is why you should avoid food that contains tyramine, such as:

  • red meat
  • aged cheeses like cheddar and parmesan
  • pork
  • peanuts (in excessive amounts)
  • fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, fermented tofu, or soy sauce
  • artificial sweeteners like aspartame
  • alcohol
  • chocolate (in excessive amounts)
  • nutritional supplements such as protein powders

You might come across warnings regarding food interactions with MAOIs. While pharmaceutical MAOIs can cause extreme situations (including death) when taken with tyramine-rich products, this is not the case with ayahuasca. The effects of ayahuasca are reversible and short-lived, which is why there are no recorded fatalities from these interactions.

When it comes to animal products in general, you should keep some things in mind. For one, most traditional ceremonies allow the consumption of chicken. However, these are usually free-range and locally found species. They are raised on farms or caught in the jungles. In contrast, most of the non-vegetarian food we consume comes from facilities where the animals aren’t treated well, are kept in miserable conditions, and are pumped with different chemicals. Not only does this make them physically unhealthy for consumption, but it also makes them spiritually unfit.

When we talk about food or any form of consumption related to this ceremony, we want our energy to be as pure as possible. Thus, we’re likely consuming the energy of an unhappy animal treated with cruelty. This is why it makes sense to be conscious about what you eat and where it comes from.

What To Eat The Day of Ceremony

So, what should you be eating before the ceremony? Eat whole, unprocessed grains, such as wild or brown rice, quinoa, and oatmeal. At the same time, you should eat fresh fruits and vegetables and legumes like green peas, lentils, and other pulses. You should avoid overripe fruits as well. In general, try to eat home-cooked vegetarian meals that use small amounts of oil (such as olive oil or coconut oil), salt, sugar, and spices.

Eat light, plant-based meals on the day of the ceremony. While you should drink adequate amounts of water or herbal teas, it’s best not to observe a strict juice fast on or before the ceremony. For one, most juices are incredibly high in sugar and also eschew the benefits that come with the dietary fiber found in whole fruits and vegetables. Second, while eating light is recommended, not having solid foods can work against you.

An ayahuasca experience is a physically, emotionally, and mentally challenging experience. You might be in for one of your life’s most energetically intense periods. Therefore, healthy foods will give you the energy to handle whatever comes your way later. Most people advise that your last meal should be taken at least four hours before the ceremony to give it time to digest. I usually stop eating around noon on the day of the ceremony, and I might have a little fruit in the early afternoon if I need more sustenance.

Avoiding Alcohol, Weed, and Caffeine

Alcohol, weed, and caffeine are all very strong stimulants. Hence, you should avoid them if you want an unadulterated experience. In some traditional societies, people are given a mix of marijuana, ayahuasca, or other plants. While there might be some reasons for this, and it might work in certain conditions, there is merit in consuming ayahuasca without the effect of anything else. I would avoid any teacher who uses this combination.

If nothing else, you would probably want to understand how this vine can help you in your journey ahead. If there are other psychoactive plants in the mix, you might not understand what is causing you to have this particular experience. Alcohol and caffeine cause havoc on your body when it is in the middle of a purge, and ayahuasca will not mix well with these substances. If you can’t remove these stimulants during your ayahuasca diet, I suggest you consider waiting for a moment when you have more control over your dependencies.

Another thing to keep in mind is the afterglow. Usually, an afterglow is the feeling of bliss or oneness with the world you enjoy after your psychedelic experience. We would understandably want to prolong this sensation for as long as possible. When we consume alcohol or other stimulants too close to the ceremony, we tend to experience a much shorter afterglow than we would like. I also recommend continuing your ayahuasca diet for one week after your ceremony—ayahuasca will continue to work its magic if you leave your vessel clean after the ceremony.

At the very least, you should stop consuming alcohol and caffeine three days before the ceremony. However, it’s advisable to do so two weeks before the session. If you are overly dependent on alcohol or your morning caffeine shot, the sooner you wean yourself off of it, the better.

In many Indigenous communities, shamans prepare intensely before each ceremony. Since most sessions are conducted to commune with the Divine, preparation is taken seriously. I like to think about this period as a cleansing of our body, mind, and soul. We cleanse and prepare our vessel so that the spirit of ayahuasca has a beautiful place to dance and play.

Avoiding Stimulation & Stress

This part of your preparation focuses on spiritual cleansing in all forms. Traditionally, shamans seek isolation to be alone with their thoughts and away from unnecessary distractions. Even in villages, which were usually close-knit communities, shamans stayed inside their houses the days before the ritual. Minimize the number of interactions with others and refrain from wasting energy on idle gossip or social media.

The modern world is stimulating in far more ways than before. On a normal day, we find ourselves inundated with numerous signals that try to engage our senses. If we want to watch something, we have a wide range of streaming services available. The same goes for choices in food, travel, and clothing. While we have more choices now, that doesn’t necessarily mean we can make better decisions (or our lives are more fulfilling).

Most of us have to deal with sensory overload, which occurs when too much random information is thrown our way. Our brain gets so overwhelmed with all this that it tends to shut down. Our ancestors knew their flight-or-fight response would help them avoid danger and protect themselves and their families. For us, this has become a problem. When our bodies (and minds) are continuously stimulated, we cannot relax and may have problems functioning properly.

Stress makes us feel tired. If we’re constantly chasing highs (through drugs, sex, or alcohol), our minds do not get a chance to allow our actual thoughts and feelings to meet us. We don’t spend our time self-reflecting or understanding what we truly need. Most of these highs come from wants rather than needs.

Now, imagine if you were in this state before your ayahuasca experience. Chances are, you will neither have enough energy to participate fully nor act as the blank slate that these energies need to write (or rewrite) your narrative.

Ayahuasca Diet – Avoiding Sexual Stimulation

Most cultures see sex as a powerful exchange of energy between two people. Whether in a long-term relationship or having casual sex with a stranger, a sexual encounter leaves a mark on each of you. Of course, some of these exchanges are more powerful than others, but all of them leave an impact on us. Now, when we’re participating in an energetically intense ceremony, the energy of our recent sexual encounters will affect, and be affected by, these energies.

Ayahuasca Diet - Avoiding Sexual Stimulation

This might mean that you have experiences or visions that feature your sexual partners, or you might begin to feel more energetically linked with them than before. You’ll likely have a few difficult days and face withdrawal symptoms; therefore, give your body enough time to recover before the ceremony.

During the week leading up to the ceremony, I fine-tune my body, remove food stimulants, and spend as much time alone as possible. Being alone is a fantastic way to prepare yourself for the ceremony.

Ayahuasca Diet – Digital Detox

A digital detox might be the hardest thing to do for most of us. We spend most of our days glued to our devices—television screens, laptops, or mobile phones. Admittedly, this will take more time than expected. However, minimizing our dependence on these before the ceremony is extremely important. Not only do they distract us, but they also affect our mental health.

People who spend too much time online need help adjusting to the real world. Second, people immersed in the virtual world, or even in majorly practical concerns in the real world, usually have trouble sitting alone with their thoughts. When we partake in a mystical ceremony in such a state, there’s a good chance we won’t get much out of it. We might become more frazzled when suddenly faced with these otherworldly energies.

How do you begin your digital detox? Start with things you’re not overly attached to. Keep your phone away from you or put it in another room; if you are working, put your phone on silent.

You can minimize your use of digital screens before bedtime. Even if you stop using your phone or tablet one hour before sleeping, you will notice a significant shift in your mental and physical health. Blue light from screens influences your natural circadian rhythms. Taking a break from screens leads to better sleeping preparation. You can do this by replacing your current habit with a reading one. Using a Kindle or reading a book is a wonderful way to prepare for sleep.

Ayahuasca Diet - Digital Detox

Most experts agree that people who consume less social media and are not addicted to their digital devices are usually happier and more content. For further reading on this subject, check out Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism: Choosing A Focused Life In A Noisy World, which offers some great research and advice on reducing digital behavior in our lives. His main premise is that we should be more mindful and intentional when engaging with technology.

Avoiding Side Effects and Contraindications

This is the most crucial guideline for anyone on any kind of medication. Contraindications refer to certain conditions where it’s advisable not to take a particular medicine or treatment. In other words, while these medications are valuable and necessary for you, they will potentially cause harm when taken alongside ayahuasca.

The most important thing here is that even well-intentioned shamans might not know the medications you’re on and cannot give qualified advice on what to avoid and why.

Many of these medications need regularity when you are on prescription. Most medicines can be avoided for some time, but some cannot. Therefore, one of the first things to consider is whether you can temporarily stop your medication. While many retreats are becoming more alert to these conditions, the responsibility primarily lies with you. Here are some of the major concerns around medications:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): Most antidepressants are SSRIs, and any mood enhancers or migraine medications that affect our serotonin levels can have an adverse effect on us when taken in combination with ayahuasca. Specifically, there is a risk of serotonin syndrome that is extremely dangerous. When two or more drugs interact, there is an increase in the serotonin levels in our bodies. When serotonin levels are normal, it helps properly function our brains and nerve cells. This is why it directly impacts our moods and sleep cycles. However, too much of it can cause a wide range of symptoms, from relatively mild ones like shivering, headache, diarrhea, insomnia, and elevated blood pressure to severe ones like high fever, tremors, seizures, unconsciousness, and an irregular heartbeat. In some extreme cases, it can also cause death. You have a chance of contracting this syndrome when you increase the dosage of your regular drugs or combine one with another (as in this case). This is why most retreats ask you to stop taking these medicines as much as six weeks in advance. However, you also need to consider if that is possible. Never alter your dosage without consulting your doctor, and follow their advice if they believe you should not stop taking these medications, even for a short period.
  • MAOIs: Pharmaceutical MAOIs can harm our health if taken in conjunction with ayahuasca, which is already an inhibitor. Some of how this reaction could affect us include cardiovascular diseases, extreme hypertension, cerebrovascular diseases, frequent headaches, and severe liver and kidney impairment cases.
  • Plant-based and other decoctions: As discussed earlier, there are many reasons to avoid mixing different plant-based decoctions or other natural mixtures without supervision or carelessness. While some of these might not cause any harmful effects, some need to come with warnings. For example, there is a practice of smoking the secretions of Bufo alvarius (commonly known as the Sonoran Desert toad) along with ayahuasca. While some might believe this causes more intense experiences, it comes at a significant cost. Two compounds—bufotenin and 5-MeO-DMT—react adversely with the harmaline found in ayahuasca. There have been rare instances where this has caused death. Therefore, you should wait a few days after taking ayahuasca if you want to smoke this decoction. Another plant that one needs to be careful about is the toé, also known as Brugmansia or angel’s trumpet. Some shamans are used to preparing the ayahuasca brews with toé. When the dosage is too much, it can lead to death. Even in cases where it’s used for a long time, it can cause permanent mental impairment. This is why it’s always advisable to ask what goes into your brew, and if you’re uncomfortable with something, don’t try it.
  • Herbal supplements: A few popular herbal supplements block ayahuasca in potentially dangerous ways. These include kava, kratom, St. John’s Wort, and Ginkgo biloba. Again, many people might not be aware of how these supplements affect us when we take ayahuasca, so it’s best to avoid taking them for a specified period before the ceremony.

While common sense indicates that we don’t take any other psychedelics such as MDMA, psilocybin, or LSD during this time, it’s also helpful to check if any other medication you’re on can have an adverse effect during the ceremony. Also, this is important: if you can’t discontinue the medication you’re taking currently, please postpone having your ayahuasca experience until things change.

I completely understand your eagerness to try something that helps you deal with long-standing issues. However, the risks associated with ayahuasca are high. If you have any doubts, please speak with the ayahuasca teacher or retreat facilitator before the ceremony. If you would like more tips on preparing for your ceremony, please see the Beginners Guide to Ceremony.

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