Ayahuasca Preparation Diet
If you are planning to drink Ayahuasca it is important to be ready and follow this dietary protocol. A more restricted diet is most beneficial two weeks prior to the start of retreat, and two weeks after the close of retreat. This diet is according to certain traditions and is used to prepare oneself for working with Indigenous plants, as well as show respect to the spirit of the plants. Increasing the amount of time you follow this diet will only benefit your overall journey with Ayahuasca and many other master plant teachers.
If you are attending another type of plant medicine retreat, the dietary requirements may be slightly different. Be sure to check this with your facilitator or guide. There are also differences to honor within traditions.
The Basic Diet Preparation:
The basic requirement is a healthy diet close to the earth (fruit, veggies, grains, beans, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, mild and fresh herbs: basil, cilantro, cumin) and good hydration. Please abstain from the following food and drinks before and after retreat for at least one week, 2 weeks is strongly preferred:
- Salt (every third day you can go lightly with salt, abstain 3 days prior).
- Strong Spicy foods such as chili, cayenne, black pepper, onion, garlic.
- Dairy, processed, deep fried and greasy foods.
- Fermented foods.
- Carbonated beverages.
- Caffeine (if able give your system a break from caffeine—you know your body best).
- Sugar (pure honey, maple syrup, fruit in moderation are ok).
- Unhealthy oils (extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil are ok in moderation).
- Processed bread (Ezekiel or spelt breads are ok in moderation).
- Red meat (be off pork 3 weeks before and after).
- Marijuana, mushrooms, alcohol, medications or recreational substances.
- All sexual activity (with self and others, including the media).
- Violent or disturbing media (images that are potentially upsetting).
It is very helpful to empty yourself as much as possible and arrive in a space ready to receive these sacred sacraments. As soon as you have made the commitment to commune with silence, our master plant teachers, the power of retreat begins to attend to you. Open, relax and take very good care of yourself. You will have no regrets.
Why are there dietary restrictions with Ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI). MAOIs block an enzyme called monoamine oxidase, which breaks down excess tyramine in the body. Tyramine is an amino acid that helps regulate blood pressure. But tyramine can reach dangerous levels if you eat foods containing tyramine while on an MAOI. This can lead to a sudden spike in blood pressure, and to stroke, brain hemorrhage and death. There have been nearly 100 deaths recorded due to interaction between pharmaceutical MAOIs and tyramine-containing foods.
However, Ayahuasca is a reversible MAOI, or RIMA. RIMAs are not as dangerous as other MAOIs and there has never been a recorded fatality due to a food interaction with Ayahuasca. However, food interactions with Ayahuasca can nevertheless cause unpleasant symptoms such as severe headache (sometimes lasting for days) and accelerated heartbeat. There is also significant anecdotal evidence on this forum that eating proscribed foods can contribute to the risk of panic attack. Sometimes people eat proscribed foods with Ayahuasca with no problems, yet on occasion very small amounts of proscribed foods may cause symptoms. Surveys conducted on this forum suggest that food interactions may happen about 30% of the times that people eat proscribed foods with Ayahuasca. Sometimes the same person may have no problem eating proscribed foods with Ayahuasca on some occasions but have reactions on other occasions.
The MAOI safety diet should not be confused with the spiritual/shamanic dieta practiced in the Amazon. The purpose of the shamanic dieta (which basically involves avoiding flavorful foods, salt, sugar, spices, etc., as well as sexual and social stimulation) is to sensitize oneself to the plant spirits.
A great resource for learning more about diet and medical precautions when working with Ayahuasca is The Temple of the Way of Light.