The Ayahuasca Diet
You have probably come across several mentions of the ayahuasca diet in your research. But what is it all about, and is it necessary?
There are essentially two diets with regards to ayahuasca, but often they get lumped into being the same thing.
The ayahuasca safety diet
The ayahuasca vine contains an MAOI, which blocks an enzyme called monoamine oxidase, which breaks down excess tyramine in the body. Tyramine is an amino acid that helps regulate blood pressure and it is found in many different foods. However, if you eat foods containing tyramine while taking an MAOI, tyramine can reach dangerous levels in the body. This can potentially lead to a sudden spike in blood pressure, to stroke, brain hemorrhage, and even death. However, as far as we’re aware there has never been a death relating to people eating the wrong foods before ceremony.
Therefore, we recommend avoiding foods high in tyramine for about 24 hours before drinking ayahuasca. Now, it is extremely unlikely, perhaps impossible that anyone would die this way. To the best of my knowledge, there have been no reported deaths from drinking ayahuasca after eating foods high in tyramine. It is more likely that you would get a severe headache.
Foods that contain tyramine include:
Fermented foods like soya sauce/Tamari, soya bean paste/curd (like Miso or Tofu), beer, vermouth, wine, aged/mouldy cheese (cheddar, Parmesan, Swiss cheese, blue cheese), yeast, mature avocado, eggplant, figs, grapes, pineapple, plums, raisins, prunes, broad beans, fava beans, lentils, peanuts, dried milk, sour cream, yogurt, buttermilk, chocolate, Vegemite and sauerkraut.
For a more complete list see: http://www.forums.ayahuasca.com/viewtopic.php?t=14761
The shamanic diet (or dieta)
Shamans from the Amazon say that by eating certain types of food and avoiding others, we begin the process of cleansing, which enables our bodies to become far more sensitive to working with the plant spirits. This is undoubtedly true to anyone who has experienced a proper shamanic dieta for themselves. It is important to remember that shamanic knowledge is practical knowledge. It is not based on belief; it is based on what has been tested and what works.
If you really want to get the most out of your ayahuasca experience, I recommend following the shamans’ advice. This means avoiding the following foods and activities:
– Hot peppers or anything spicy in general
– Onions or garlic
– Salt (a small amount is usually ok)
– processed sugar
– Caffeine or any kind of stimulant
– Oil or fried foods
– Sexual stimulation, including masturbation
In the jungle, the foods that you’re allowed to eat are limited mostly to plantain, potato, yucca, rice, some chicken, and fish.
If you are starting the diet back home, it is fine to eat a greater variety of fruit, vegetables, grains and pulses. Just keep your diet simple, natural and organic as much as possible, with no spices or stimulants.
Yes, it is hard for most people, but it is an excellent exercise in self-discipline, and not giving into what the ego craves. It also demonstrates to the spirit of ayahuasca that you’re taking the work seriously. Therefore, you should stick to the diet if for nothing more than showing respect for the sacred journey you are about to embark on.
You should start the diet at least 24 hours before you drink ayahuasca; however, I strongly recommend you start three to five days before. One week is even better.
You may read or hear reports from people who say the diet is unnecessary and that it makes no difference. That may be true for them. However, in my experience of running retreats, the majority of people who stick to the shamanic dieta as much as possible do tend to have deeper and more powerful ayahuasca experiences.
If you’re in a position to work with ayahuasca on a long-term basis, you can always experiment with the diet and find what works best for you. However, if you are coming to Peru for what might be a once in a lifetime experience, you should do everything possible to increase your chances of having deeper and more powerful ayahuasca journeys.