Diet or Dieta? Preparing for an Ayahuasca Journey
If you have spent time preparing for an ayahuasca retreat you’ve probably come across a few terms that look synonymous – a ‘diet’ and a ‘dieta’. While they sound alike, in fact the terms refer to quite different aspects of the medicine work. So what is the difference between an ayahuasca preliminary ‘Diet’ and a ‘Traditional Plant Dieta‘?
Table of Contents
What’s a Diet?
Well… a diet is a specific regimen pertaining to the foods you are supposed to be eating. Most plant medicine practitioners will ask you to refrain from a variety of foods, for a variety of reasons. Foods that are unhealthy, processed, fried, full of sugars or other additives that have a negative impact on your well-being in some way. It can also refer to the cleansing of the body from toxins (including any drugs you may be ingesting, legal or otherwise). These toxins can make the actual journey much more difficult, with the physical impact becoming much more taxing. There is a fairly standard ayahuasca preparatory diet that features fruits and vegetables, grains and the like.
Are There Other Preparatory Diets?
Preparatory diets are common when working with plant medicines. Often they will be thought of as consisting of three types of plant tiers:
- Master or Teacher plants, usually consisting of quite large species like Lapuna or Noya Rao.
- Purgatory plants that detoxify the body, building a better foundation for your work with Ayahuasca, like Ushaspuasha and Tobacco.
- Protection or Initiation plants, typically served as part of an aspiring Curanderismo’s apprenticeship.
The time we take to diet these plants depends on the plants themselves or the healing you need, and can range from 7 days to 6 months.
….and What’s a Dieta?
A Dieta refers to a commitment. Part of that commitment is a strict dietary regimen, and while preparatory diets vary, they tend to be central to a Dieta. Dieta’s are thought to help build a connection with the essence of a plant. Plant medicines are used to help heal psychological, physical and spiritual issues with roots in some deeply ingrained trauma. A stronger connection to the plant, prior to ingesting it, is thought to make their healing properties more profound. A similar, more grounded theory is that when someone commits to a Dieta, they are offering a sacrifice of some kind. This sacrifice signifies their deep reverence to the plant, the healer, and the process, and as a result of this deeper focus, tend to have better outcomes.
The exclusion of certain foods may also depend on the plant you’ll be working with. All psychoactive plants have characteristics that are either amplified or pacified by these dietary guidelines of the Dieta. By following the advice as closely as possible we will enable the plants to work in a much more subtle way.
Different Lineage, Different Dieta
Not all Dietas are created equal. Every lineage, or unique indigenous tradition, has a particular version of a Dieta. The Shipibo approach is quite different to that of the Mestizo or Banco. Don’t be surprised if the protocols put in place by your Centre or Teacher may differ slightly.
Traditionally, a Preparatory Diet consists only of cooked plantain, oats and rice for the duration of the Dieta. However, different lineages, or indigenous traditions, have different tolerances for this aspect of the Dieta. Some will allow you to eat small river fish, boiled potatoes and other vegetables, boiled eggs or boiled chicken.
In some forms of Dieta you’re intended to be in complete isolation, not even allowed to leave your room. This time in isolation will allow you to focus on the reason you are undertaking the diet, leading to a deeper healing.
Ending the Dieta
As your time in ceremony draws to an end, you will similarly need to end your Dieta. There are several ways to do this, but typically you’ll be given a mix of citrus, chili and onions. You may also be afforded an ‘Icaro‘ for protection, and a Tobacco ‘Soplar’. Once this is done, you’ll be advised to maintain a typical post-Ayahuasca diet for up to 4 weeks. If you break your Dieta too early or fracture it there are repercussions that can take many years to fix.
Dietas in the Modern World
Ayahuasca has escaped the realm of the indigenous and entered the realm of commercialism. In an effort to accommodate Western participants with limited appreciation for indigenous use of Ayahuasca, Dieta’s are evolving. Often, Dieta’s no longer restrict your interactions with other people or stimuli. It is now common to hear about ‘Social Diets’ and / or allowances for modern conveniences like televisions and wifi. If you read reddit posts from someone in the middle of their Dieta, that act of sharing the experience with a community is itself a deviation from traditional practice.
There is no ‘best’ way to prepare for an Ayahuasca journey. However, if you believe in the wisdom of the lineages and want to undertake a Dieta, who you choose to work with is very important. Seek out a Centre or Shaman that offers a space where you can be in complete isolation and receive the support required throughout this period. Conducting your Dieta in a space that is energetically clean and free from distractions will help limit the dispersal of your energies. If it has worked for thousands of years across hundreds of generations, surely this tradition is a great place to start!
For further information about preparing for ayahuasca, please check out our Definitive Guide to Ayahuasca Retreats!