Digestion is a complex process. Although it does not require our conscious attention, we do have indirect control of these processes. If our digestive system is not in good shape, undigested food will collect in the intestine, leading to an array of digestive problems and auto-immune disorders. In this article we will share tips on how to achieve and sustain a healthy Digestion.
Ayurvedic medicine emphasizes proper digestion of food as a key to good health. Digestion encompasses the basic concepts of tridosha (Vata, Pitta and Kapha), saptdhatu (the seven tissues), and mala (exercise) – all fundamental tenets of Ayurvedic medicine. An efficient digestive system is vital to achieving and sustaining a healthful balance.
Tip 1 – Honor your eating rituals: While the role of Ayurvedic herbs can often be critical to proper digestion, Ayurvedic medicine also employs certain eating rituals that enable the digestive system to function optimally. It is not uncommon for people to eat food in a hurry. But when we eat our breakfast as we drive to work, our attention is less on food and more on the highway. Additionally, many studies have shown that people who eat in front of a television gain more weight. These sorts of distractions take attention away from food and digestion and place it on events or images far from the act of eating. Take your time, seat down and enjoy your food.
Tip 2 -How you eat and where you eat matters: Ayurvedic medicine counsels us to eat slowly, in a peaceful setting, alone or with people with whom we feel comfortable. It is also important not to eat when you are upset. Eat sitting down without distractions and refrain from speaking while you chew food. Do not gulp cold water while eating; this dilutes your digestive juices. Instead, sip warm water or a stimulating tea such as ginger or long pepper tea.
Tip 3 -Listen to your body: It is important to eat only when you are hungry, leaving plenty of time between meals, leaving 4-6 hours. Eating at different times each day produces irregular enzyme secretions, thus slowing digestion. The largest meal of the day should be lunch, when digestion is strongest. Mid-day is logically the best time for a large meal, because this is when we most need fuel. Try to eat a nice breakfast (after a night time fast of 10-12 hours), a healthy lunch and a light dinner.
Tip 4 -Not all bodies eat equally, know your Dosha : Ideal food quantity will vary from person to person depending on body type, weight, height and digestive capacity. Vata people and those with Vata disorders need to eat small, frequent, and easily digestible meals in order to keep their blood sugar balanced. Warm foods are also important for the Vata people. Pita personalities and those with Pita disorders have large appetites and also need to eat frequent and easily digested meals, but their food should be cooler in nature. Kapha personality people need to eat only a couple of meals a day as they have a tendency to gain weight.
Tip 5 -Establish a relationship with your food: Before you eat, meditate on the food. It is very important to establish a relationship with food. Taking time to be grateful for nature’s gift of life will put you closer in touch with nature, and thus with yourself. Such attention will allow you to absorb many attributes of the food before you, including its aroma and color, which will also help to stimulate the digestive process.
Sit quietly after each meal, for 3-5 minutes and then take a short walk. This will go a long way in balancing the mental, emotional and physical aspects of the digestive process.
Remember that fresh, in-season, organic foods are the best, and should be eaten whenever possible. Eat foods according to the season and your body type; apply these 5 tips and you can achieve and sustain a healthy Digestion.
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Author: Dr. Virender Sodhi, Naturopathic Doctor, MD (Ayurved)