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Doing the Ayahuasca Dieta Year-Round

Preparing for an ayahuasca ceremony is a trip in itself. The commitment is physical, mental and spiritual, and not for the faint of heart. Depending on the tradition, church, retreat, or avenue one participates with, the preparatory guidelines can vary in detail, but the demands will most likely be similar. One being an ayahuasca dieta. While dieta invokes images of food and drink, the whole of the dieta also encompasses the mental and spiritual prep work. While not so much a food-based lifestyle, the dieta can be a commitment and a sacrifice. Are there benefits to committing to this practice year-round? And should a dieta be pursued without plans to partake in the ceremony? 

What Is an Ayahuasca Dieta?

In the Amazon, where ayahuasca originates, the dieta was viewed differently from Western culture. Traditionally, the dieta was considered the pillar upon which this work with ayahuasca was built upon. The dieta is a contract between the plant medicine and the healers that led the ceremony. These shamans (curanderos and curanderas) commune with the plants and have a dialogue about the establishment of the dieta. The shaman can negotiate details like length of time, and particular things to abstain from with the plant medicine until a final agreement is settled. Sometimes students must follow the dieta for one week, but sometimes it could be required for months or even years. 

Once the terms are agreed upon, the shamans share these details with the students. The agreement is a contract and is sealed within a ceremony, where students will drink the ayahuasca brew to initiate the beginning of the contract. In exchange for the sacrifice of following the dieta, the plant medicine agrees to teach the students. 

Though the details can vary, the main items that students must abstain from include pork, red meat, alcohol, sweet foods, spices and spicy foods, fermented foods, dairy, and salted foods. There are also specific vegetables and fruits to avoid include avocado, tomato, spinach, and over-ripened fruits. However, these are only the food and beverages to be avoided. 

The intention and thoughts surrounding the entire experience of dieta are essential to the commitment. Students are asked to abstain from sex, as sexual energy is considered human lifeforce, and it’s crucial to reserve as much energy as possible for the ceremony. It is a physically, mentally and spiritually demanding journey, and the students will be grateful for adhering to the dieta as closely as possible. Additionally, one cannot be complaining about the strict rules or fantasizing about decadent foods and sex. The commitment must be in the body and the mind throughout the entirety of the dieta.

As westerners have begun partaking in ayahuasca retreats over the recent years, adaptations for ayahuasca tourism have developed. Before the ceremony, students are asked to follow a dieta in advance of the ceremony. The dieta may be followed for three to 14 days, depending on the tradition and shaman. Doing the dieta in advance is so the students can eliminate toxins and prepare the body and mind for the experience with mother ayahuasca. The dieta is designed for safety, as the medicine does not mix well with certain medications, and many modern diets are not conducive to internal cleanliness. This doesn’t eliminate the possibility of purging during the ceremony, but it certainly helps. Dietary restrictions are a bit looser in the Amazon, where purging is just a part of the process and not viewed as negatively as in Western culture.

The end of the dieta is honored within the ceremony, at which time the shaman usually offers the students a particular food, just as a pinch of sea salt or small spicy peppers. The students are advised to ease back into regular eating habits and introduce food, behaviors and thoughts with intention. The medicine remains connected to the student, and to fully respect the gifts given by the plant medicine, it’s best not to rush back into ‘normal life. Moving forward with intention and self-awareness is the best path forward to integration. 

What Foods Can Be Eaten During the Ayahuasca Dieta?

For some people, the dietary restrictions can be tough to adhere to. For the modern American diet, it feels like many comfort and convenience foods are not an option. The ayahuasca dieta is plant-based, although some meats are allowed, such as organic, free-range chicken, organic eggs, and wild-caught fish like tilapia, trout, sole, halibut, and snapper. 

Many fresh or lightly cooked vegetables are encouraged, such as potatoes, broccoli, arugula, lettuce, cucumber, carrots, yucca, beets, and jicama. So long as fruits are not overripe, eat plenty of berries, grapes, apples, melons, peaches, pears and bananas. Nut and seeds like cashews, almonds, walnuts, hemp and chia seeds are encouraged and grains like amaranth, spelt, quinoa, and brown rice. Beans and lentils are also approved. While garlic and onion should be avoided, adding dill, basil, thyme, oregano and turmeric can add flavor to any meal. 

What Are the Benefits of an Ayahuasca Dieta? 

For anyone needing to fine-tune the physical body, the ayahuasca dieta is a balanced diet that can help eliminate toxins from the body, and help eliminate foods or beverages that may have been an issue in one’s life. Tolerance and addiction to certain things can become problematic for some, and removing them from daily life can offer a new perspective and allow for physical healing. From this perspective, an ayahuasca dieta can offer much-needed physical restoration while still providing the body with all of the essential nutrition it needs to function properly. 

The body is the physical vehicle for the mind. Not only do humans consume food, but they consume in many other ways as well. Television, reading materials, floods of advertising, environmental toxins, and unhealthy relationships are ways humans consume. These external stimuli permeate the energetic field and can linger in the brain and body. The dieta aims to help the student consciously eliminate or reduce these factors to help prepare the body and the mind. 

Physically speaking, the ayahuasca dieta is wholesome and nourishing to the physical body. Reducing red meats and pork from one’s diet has been shown to improve heart health, and it’s becoming well known that alcohol is a non-nutrient with minimal health benefits. Caffeine and sugar addictions are common across all age groups and can have negative consequences on health. Anytime someone makes a conscious decision to better themselves and then follows through with those commitments, there are benefits. 

One thing to note is that the dieta requires the student to stop using any MAOIs before the ceremony. When mixed with the potent chemicals in ayahuasca, this can cause a toxic reaction leading to heart palpitations, changes in blood pressure, intense headaches and more. While this might be possible for some people for short periods, others require these medications and should consult with their doctor before adjusting any prescribed treatment plans. 

Should You Consider the Ayahuasca Dieta Year-Round?

Essentially, anytime one finds themselves to have an unhealthy attachment to a food, relationship, behavior, or even thought cycle, it’s a good idea to find a way to break the cycle and release the attachment. And especially to get to the root of the problem to heal. Many times, this is why people also seek out healing with ayahuasca. Whether or not one is interested in pursuing a full ayahuasca dieta, or just the food portion, be sure to do so with intention and purpose. There is no harm in following the dieta year-round.

If you’ve followed the ayahuasca dieta long-term, we’d love to hear more about your experience. Did you do so in preparation for the ceremony or in contract with the plant medicine? Or did you simply follow the dietary guidelines for health purposes? Drop us a comment below and let us know!

1 thought on “Doing the Ayahuasca Dieta Year-Round”

  1. Okay, not ayahuasca, I did MOAIs for a couple of years about a decade apart. I worked as a mental health therapist, so I’m pretty familiar with the routine. Also I’ve heard and read many people advising that the dieta includes MAOI diet restrictions, or justifying the dieta for the same reasons as MOAI-medication diets, in other words “scientific” reasons rather than spiritual or “native” traditional reasons. This is wrong. MOAI diets mainly exclude “aged” foods, because these foods include tyramine Cheese (but not unaged American cheese), peperoni (really all processed meat) red wine, beer, scotch, soy sauce) The second time I went on Parnate, the list was much less restrictive. The earlier list had foods that potentially had tyramine without anyone having scientifically examine how much tyramine everyday foods actually contain. It turns out commercial pizza has very little, partly because most commercial/take-out/restaurant pizza has no mozzeralla. Commercial beers have negligible amounts, craft beers do have lots of tyramine. Basically modern processing has removed much of the tyramine, as well as reducing nutrients! White wine was always okay, as is vodka. Most patients are discouraged from any alcohol, as are Ayahuasca users, but lets be clear its not because of tyramine.
    Also the heavy duty pharmaceuticals were non-selective: they decreased both MAOI-A and MAOI-B, can continued to do so while in the body, they are called “irreversible”. More modern ones like selegine and moclebemide, and natural ones like B. Cappi and Syrian Rue, and harmine and harmalines extracted from it, St John’s wort, etc., mainly or even entirely inhibit only one and they are “reversible” (reversible and irreversible here are technical terms in pharmacology, don’t assume they have the meaning they do in ordinary English). This very greatly reduces the risk of a hypertensive crisis- the main harmful side effect. Blood pressure can spike, but this can be treated fairly easy, any sufficiently stocked medical center and even humble doctors’ offices should have drugs to treat this, at least keeping the patient out of danger. I’m sorry to say the first time I was prescribed Parnate, I started violating the diet;st checking out the location of the nearest Emergency Room, then going to a Chinese restaurant and eating and drinking whatever I wanted. I eventually quit because it was getting ridiculous. My doctor also warned me that the chances of hypertensive crisis from one meal to the next was highly variable. So I might get away with eating pizza and beer for weeks, and then suddenly getting the tyramine hypertensive crisis from the same food or drink on a different occasion.
    This is very long-winded, especially from someone who did MAOIs for depression and couldn’t even stick to it for very long! But people need to stop being pedantic and say that any MAOI-style dieta is for medical safety. Some people tend to use these occasions to brag about their medical knowledge concerning MAOIs and they will lecture newcomers, and after all that they’re often wrong.
    The dieta should be followed specifically for mental and spiritual preparation, as the article above describes and emphasizes (thankfully).
    Also MAOIs are very rarely prescribed for depression anymore, and I wouldn’t be surprised if only a handful of Ayahuasca users had to temporarily give them up ever in history. They are also prescribed for Parkinson’s, perhaps that group is a bit larger. But still, psychiatrists generally do not like prescribing possibly suicidal-depression-patients a medication they can deliberately harm themselves with, or at least risk a medical emergency. Also note that MAOIs have a much better treatment and patient satisfaction record than any other antidepressant. They are arguably the best antidepressants. I have seen newer scientific papers that specifically leave off MAOIs and only measure the patient outcomes of antidepressants that have been developed since. They cheat. So, if you use a search engine like google to look up “what is the best antidepressant”, you will get many results of comparisons of antidepressants that deliberately omits MAOIs. I’m not sure what that signifies anything about modern medical culture. Probably nothing good.
    Also don’t underestimate the “placebo” effect of taking a potentially dangerous medication and needing to adjust the diet because of it. People do tend to take the treatment more seriously than just taking a SSRI pill like Prozac. Depression is a disease which many people don’t take seriously, or at least seriously enough. Getting MAOIs is a sign and signifier that the patient, the doctor, and even their families are ready to go to great lengths to get the patient better. Having other people take your diagnosis seriously, especially if they are unconvinced of the need or effectiveness of usual antidepressants, will help the patient tremendously in organizing their lives in a way that healing can occur. Traditional shamans often take the social and familial benefits of treatment into account, moreso than mainstream doctors, even psychiatrists. It’s kind of ironic that a medication developed by modern science might help in ways a traditional shaman might appreciate better than the headshrinkers.
    I could talk, (and probably arrogantly pontificate!) more about spiritual and mental health benefits of the Ayahuasca dieta, but I guess I’ll leave that up to others. I just think it’s important to get across is that they are “the real” benefits, and looking to modern pharmacology, really isn’t. And this is a problem that needs to be straightened out in the “Ayahuasca community”. Spirit, self-discipline, respecting others, and especially those healers we have gone to for help, those who host sessions. I’m very against the reductionism of large pharmaceutical corporations, and ambitions of bringing DMT and other Aya constituents to modern psychiatry, in ordinary doctors’ offices. That’s not where Aya belongs! Thank you and namaste!

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