Fresh fruits and vegetables are an essential part of the Ayahuasca Diet

What is The Ayahuasca Preparation Diet?

A big part of a successful ayahuasca experience is following the ayahuasca preparation diet. Cleaning up our eating habits is encouraged to make ayahuasca more effective. There are many reasons behind undertaking an ayahuasca diet, from modern pharmacology to ancient shamanic perspectives. 

Taking ayahuasca is a significant commitment. Preparing well helps us start the process before we actually drink the medicine. Undertaking dietary restrictions develops discipline, and for many of us, an extra push to be mindful about what we are eating certainly isn’t a bad thing. 

Check out this guide to learn how different foods, activities, prescription or recreational drugs, and supplements should be treated in the weeks before ayahuasca. 

What is the Ayahuasca Diet?

The ayahuasca diet is restrictions on food and activities like sex. The diet is a longstanding tradition among ayahuesqeros of the Amazon basin.

There is no agreed-upon list for ayahuasca preparation, but here are the essentials that are generally agreed upon across traditions:

  • No salt, sugar, or spicy food
  • No pork or red meat
  • No dairy products
  • No sex or masturbation
  • No recreational drugs like alcohol, cannabis, or coffee
  • Certain prescription drugs (we cover this below)

The above list is basic. As you dig deeper into the ayahuasca diet recommendations, you will find many variations of foods, activities, and reasons behind them all. 

Why Ayahuasca Diet?

Traditionally shamans learning plant medicine would undertake a “dieta.” During this period, they would go into isolation in the jungle. By cutting off all social contact and limiting stimulation by eating bland foods, they could focus on learning the teachings of the plants.

Connecting with plant spirits is said to be how the shamans originally learned how to make ayahuasca.

Sometimes these dietas last for years. During this period, sex, masturbation, and sexual fantasies are to be avoided. The reason to avoid sexual activity is to limit distracting connection with others, so one’s energy and life force is not connected to one another.

Many anecdotal reports confirm that careful dieting and cleansing before ayahuasca makes the experience more powerful.

While science doesn’t really have a full picture of how the ayahuasca diet works, there is some speculation that the biology underlying psychedelic effects could involve gut health. We also know that mixing certain drugs with ayahuasca could be dangerous.

Related Infographic: Ayahuasca and The Shipibo-Conibo Tribe

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Ayahuasca Diet and Sex

From a shamanic perspective, having sex with someone creates an energetic bond. This could influence the process of working with plants and ayahuasca. From another perspective, staying focused on oneself before a ceremony is ideal.

Sexual relations, particularly with new partners before an ayahuasca ceremony, can lead to confusion. 

Some curanderos say that masturbation is said to deplete one’s lifeforce. Because ayahuasca is often used in the context of healing, one must preserve as much of their lifeforce as possible to devote to healing. 

Sexual fantasies are distractions from the process of healing or learning from the plants. People undertaking intensive dietas need to be extremely focused and sensitive to connect with nature.

For those of us going to ayahuasca ceremonies or retreats, discipline around any habit or desire will help prepare the mind for ayahuasca.

Diet Activities and Preparing Your Mind for Ayahuasca

An ayahuasca diet isn’t just about food and sex.

Ayahuasca is a journey into the mind, and we consume many things with our minds, like the news, social media, televisions, books and articles. Paying attention to how these make us feel or avoiding media altogether helps bring attention inward.

We are also influenced by the people around us. Social interactions or work and family dynamics have huge impacts on our mental state. Being mindful of who we spend time with before an ayahuasca ceremony or retreat can help us focus on our own process.

If possible, getting challenging conversations or decisions out of the way before ayahuasca can be one less this to worry about. Ayahuasca can help us find the motivation to make tough decisions and figure out what we need to say, but we can also take the first steps on our own. 

The more personal challenges we can face before drinking ayahuasca, the better.

Ayahuasca Contraindications

How prescription drugs like SSRIs interact with ayahuasca, and in fact, many other psychedelics, is not fully understood. For that reason, it is typically recommended to discontinue medications. 

However, this must be done on a case-by-case basis. Changing or discontinuing medications is not always a simple matter and can only be done safely with the guidance of a medical professional. Do not discontinue medication without proper support.

Discuss your ayahuasca plan with a doctor if you have questions about medication.
Discuss your ayahuasca plan with a doctor if you have questions about medication.

Ayahuasca and SSRIs

Certain antidepressants are known as SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. This type of medication is prescribed because they work on the body’s serotonin system and has helped many people with their mental health. 

Because compounds in ayahuasca also work on the serotonin system, there is concern about mixing these two drugs. Some researchers have cautioned that a phenomenon known as serotonin syndrome could occur by mixing SSRIs and ayahuasca, which would have adverse effects.

While there are no documented cases of serotonin syndrome from ayahuasca and SSRIs, the combination of the two is fairly new. Shamans of the amazon should not be expected to have extensive knowledge of western pharmacology.

The safest option, with our current understanding, is not to take SSRIs with ayahuasca. If one did, it is very possible that the SSRI would make ayahuasca less effective.

Ayahuasca and MAOIs

Another type of medication that is sometimes taken for the management of depression and anxiety is MAOIs which are monoamine oxidase inhibitors.

The ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) also contains MAOI. Ayahuasca is actually a combination of plants, the ayahuasca vine, and typically (but not always) a bush known as chacruna (Psychotria viridis.) The bush contains the powerful psychedelic DMT, which, when when eaten on its own, is broken down very rapidly in the gut and has no effect.

Monoamine oxidase is what breaks down DMT, along with other neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors slow down how fast the body processes these neurotransmitters. With an MAOI, DMT isn’t broken down immediately by the body, will be absorbed, and the effects of ayahuasca can be felt. 

When serotonin and dopamine are not metabolized by the body, they can be put to use, and this is thought to be how MAOIs help depression. If someone is taking an MAOI, they are on a restricted diet as the compound tyramine, found in certain foods, can cause serious health consequences, including serotonin syndrome.

Ayahuasca and Tryamine

Interestingly, many foods avoided by the ayahuasca diet contain tyramine. It is also known by modern medicine that MAOIs, in combination with tyramine, can result in headaches, sweating, or potentially heart palpitations and spikes in blood pressure.

There is a fair amount of scientific literature outlining foods to be avoided when taking an MAOI. 

There are no known reports of consuming tyramine-rich food causing someone serious harm in the ayahuasca ceremony. However, you will notice many centers suggest avoiding high-tyramine foods on their preparation lists.

There is the possibility of dangerous side effects, particularly for those with heart conditions.

Again, check with your retreat center and healthcare provider if you are concerned or unsure if ayahuasca is safe for you.

Some examples of tyramine-high foods are:

  • Dairy
  • Fermented foods like saurkraut, kimchi, miso, and tofu
  • Pork and red meat
  • Turkey
  • Fish preserved by smoking, pickling, or fermentation
  • Yeast like Marmite
  • Non-alcoholic beer

Ayahuasca vine in the jungle
In the jungle, many of the foods we are used to in the West don’t exist.

How Long to Diet Before Ayahuasca?

Most ayahuasca retreat centers will recommend 1-2 weeks of preparation. Some people undertaking extended dietas will prepare for many months. The minimum is not eating for 4 hours before the ceremony.

The process is typically easier if one’s diet is slowly changed. For example, getting off prescription medication is a slow process.

For someone using a recreational drug like cannabis, several weeks of abstinence are recommended. Quitting coffee is also not something to take lightly, as many people have withdrawal symptoms.

Even changes like eating less sugar can have big effects on our mood. Making a plan for phasing out certain foods sets us up for success. Writing down the plan helps, along with doing the new diet with other people going to the retreat.

Post-Ayahuasca Diet

Maintaining the food recommendations and abstinence from sex is often recommended for a few weeks. At the very least, taking a couple of days after ayahuasca to integrate and recharge with healthy lifestyle choices will help you get the most out of an ayahuasca experience.

Some suggest that there is a “window of opportunity” after ayahuasca.

Ayahuasca and other psychedelics like psilocybin and mescaline increase something called “neuroplasticity” for a period of time after a session. Neuroplasticity and depression are connected and can be thought of as the brain creating new connections, habits, and perspectives.

Other plant medicines like psilocybin mushrooms and San Pedro cactus likely work with neuroplasticity as well. In fact, there is much crossover between psychedelics and centers offering psilocybin retreats that will often use ayahuasca diet guidelines as well.

There is no formal study of how the ayahuasca diet affects something like neuroplasticity or how long it should be done. Much of what we know is still anecdotal or based on the longstanding wisdom of shamans. 

Ayahuasca Food List

So what can you eat before ayahuasca? It’s easy to get focused on how great salt and sugar are and forget the list of acceptable foods is long. You can find many such lists around the internet.

Not every ayahuasca center, facilitator or tribe does the same diet. Find what works for you and ask your organizer if you are unsure.

When browsing them, do keep in mind that nobody is expecting you to do a full dieta. A dieta can be a transformative experience, but if you are preparing for a retreat or ceremony, it isn’t necessary to diet like a shaman to have a good experience.

Foods to Avoid Ayahuasca Diet

  • Salt + Pepper
  • Sugar
  • Spicy food
  • Oils, animal fats, and fatty foods like avocados
  • Red Meat
  • Pork
  • Fermented Foods
  • Dairy Products
  • Processed foods
  • Fried Foods
  • Chocolate in large amounts
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Cold drinks

Bonus Foods to Avoid

  • Onions, garlic, Leeks
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Citrus

What to Eat Before Ayahuasca

  • Vegetables – you can get creative with all the vegetables!
  • Fruit – low-sugar fruits. Berries are best, and this list is helpful.
  • Whole grains – white and brown rice, quinoa, corn, oats, barley, couscous, millet,
  • Potatoes, Sweet potatoes, and yams
  • Corn
  • Beans
  • Squash
  • Nuts – not too many as they are fatty. No peanuts.
  • Nut butter – watch out for salt
  • Nut milk like almond, coconut, and cashew. (ideally homemade, storebought has preservatives)
  • Eggs (ideally organic)
  • Chicken (ideally organic)
  • Fish (must be fresh)
  • Herbs like parsley, cilantro, dill, oregano, etc.
  • Tea without caffeine

Can You Eat Bread on the Ayahuasca Diet?

The answer to this one depends on the center and the type of bread. Avoiding gluten is found on some lists, while others recommend whole grains. Others make no mention of bread. 

The best thing to do about specific questions like this is to ask your contact person at the retreat you are going to. Consider how your body tolerates bread. For some people, gluten is problematic. The ayahuasca diet can be considered a cleanse and taking a break from consuming anything causing digestive issues is worthwhile.

Is The Ayahuasca Diet Necessary?

Generally speaking, the more someone prepares for ayahuasca, the easier the experience will be. Ayahuasca is a powerful purgative medicine; if you don’t clean up your diet, the medicine will do it for you!

Doing your best to clean your body and mind before a ceremony or ayahuasca retreat is generally thought to save you a lot of time vomiting in a bucket or finding your way back and forth to the bathroom for many rounds of diarrhea. 

The most important detail with ayahuasca is to be safe. Mixing ayahuasca with recreational drugs could be fatal. Prescription drugs are a new topic for some ayahuasqueros.

Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about any prescriptions or supplements you are taking.

If you eat chocolate or tofu before a ceremony, you aren’t going to die, and the medicine will still work. If the medicine isn’t working, it probably wasn’t because of that one thing you ate weeks ago. 

While trying to follow a new diet, it’s a good idea to have a bit of compassion for yourself. The idea is not to obsess and stress about every bit of food you eat. Familiarize yourself with this list and simply do your best to prepare for ayahuasca.

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About the Author

Patrick is a freelance writer and blogger at AdjustableNormal. Since his youth, he has been fascinated with psychedelics and altered states, experimenting with them on and off the page. His drive to explore consciousness has brought him around the world and down many rabbit holes to yogis, plant nerds, and alternative communities. Originally Canadian, he lives in the Peruvian Andes with his wife and cat.

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