The Ayahuasca Diet


The Ayahuasca Diet

shamanic dieta
Gigantic lemons at Santuario Huishtin

Central to Amazonian shamanism is the dieta: the ancient practice of receiving the knowledge and healing of Amazonian plants by drinking their medicine in isolation in the rainforest, observing dietary restrictions, and abstaining from social relations (particularly from the opposite sex). 

The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, according to vegetalistas, all things on Earth possess their own energies (including plants and foods) and that these energies that can interfere with the work of receiving the knowledge of the plants. Secondly, it is believed that the body has an ability to heal itself when unencumbered by toxins, physical or spiritual in nature. Many Amazonian healing practices aim to heal by detoxifying the body and spirit and the concept of the cleanse, the “limpia,” is central to Amazonian traditional medicine. No doubt about it, the restrictions involved with the dieta can be as challenging as working with the medicine itself!  We must in shed our attachments to many things: to comfort food, intimacy with others, and the many forms of technology we have grown accustomed to…


Pre Ayahuasca Diet Restrictions

There are a lot of interpretations of what foods to avoid in preparing for an ayahuasca retreat so it is easiest to follow the dictum “the cleaner the better.” 

Ideally, you should begin your preparatory diet two weeks in advance, dramatically reducing most sugars, salts, spices, and oils and processed foods. However, often due to travel, many may not find this possible. In the worse case scenario, you should avoid for 72 hours before your retreat the use of dairy, preserved and canned foods, artificial sweeteners and flavourings, pork and red meat from your diet. Most fruit and vegetables are fine though fruits that are tough on digestion and the stomach and not recommended immediately preceding working with ayahuasca such as lemon, papaya, avocado, and pineapple. Legumes should be moderated due to their tendency to ferment and create blockages in the digestive track.

Since the Ayahuasca vine is an MAO-inhibitor, it temporarily inhibits the activation of the monoamine oxidase (MAO). This enzyme is essential to process the amino acid tyramine. For this reason, it’s very important to also avoid eating foods containing this amino acid such as chocolate, nuts, coffee, yoghurt, fermented foods (like cheese and soy sauce, etc), and protein powders as you could experience negative side effects such as head-aches and hyper-tension. 

Foods to Avoid: (At the Very Least 72 hours Before Retreat)

Chocolate, Dairy, Red Meat, Pork, Seafood, Nuts, Fermented Foods, Caffeine, Processed Foods, Preserved and deli foods, Artificial Additives, Flavourings, and Sweeteners, protein powders, and brewers yeast, deep fried foods, hot spices.

Foods to Reduce to Minimum

Salt, Sugar, and Natural Sweeteners, Spices (some Ginger, Tumeric, Cinnamon is fine in moderation), Onion and Garlic (cooked is better).  Nuts, Papaya, Avocado, and Pineapple should be avoided 72 hours before your retreat. Moderate use of Legumes.

Foods You Can Eat!

Organic (if possible) Vegetables, Fruit, Clean Fish, Eggs, Chicken, Rice, Quinoa, Amaranth, Lentils, Whole Grains, Natural Oils (Olive, Coconut),  Seeds, Nuts (except Peanut), Fresh Herbs. A little honey and sea salt is fine.


Finally, you should also avoid alcohol, and any herbal supplements for at least two weeks before working with the medicines as well as maintain a clean diet as much as possible without the aforementioned foods. Ideally, you should try to avoid using any prescription drugs (or recreational) for a month before your retreat. Please note that some medicines may require a longer duration of abstention. You also need to abstain from sex and protect yourself from negative energies as much as possible. This is also very important when in the process of dieting, as one can feel quite sensitive around other people as one is undergoing an emotional and spiritual cleanse as much as a physical one. 

shamanic dieta
Harvested cacao beans drying under the sun.

The Ayahuasca Diet

The foods that are offered on the ayahuasca dieta are simple, bland, easy to digest foods that do not inhibit the working of the medicine or create unwanted side effects. They often already part of the their everyday fare of the rainforest and include boiled rice (without oil or salt), boiled or roasted plantains, boiled potatoes or manioc (yucca/cassava), vegetable soups, and at times some (toothless) fish (particularly boquichito). Also served occasionally are eggs. Fruits (mangoes, guava, bananas, etc) may be offered but are not recommended due to their high sugar content. It is important to note that foods are offered depending on availability and the medicine you are working with.  For some dietas, you may require a stricter diet of only plantains and rice. 

shamanic dieta
Brilliant orange coconuts, a staple at Santuario


Dietary Restrictions Post Ayahuasca Diet

In general it is recommended that you continue with your pre-ayahuasca food regimen until one month after your retreat at Santuario. However it is important to confirm this with the maestro if there are specific foods you should avoid depending on the medicine you have worked with.  

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