One of the most important concepts in Ayurveda is digestion.
When you know how to improve your digestive system, you have the key to your health.
Ayurveda refers to the digestive principle as Agni (aug-nee). Agni is a Sanskrit word and the root of the English word ignite.
Agni is literally translated as the fire within the body or that which has the power to transform one substance into another.
Digestion is a process of taking the intelligence of food and transforming it into you!
Just think…every cell in your body has been created by a transformation from food. If you are digesting food well, the result is healthy cells and body tissue; if not, then the disease process has already begun as undigested food is considered toxic to the body.
Learn Your Metabolic Type
Your ability to digest efficiently depends on your body type. (All people are not born equal in this regard.)
To be clear, one type of digestion (determined by your dominant dosha) is not better than another… Each has its advantages and drawbacks. The important point is that you know what type of digestion you have so that you can make maximum use of the type of digestion you were born with, and work to improve it as much as possible.
Actions which disrupt digestion are:
- Eating too fast
- Consuming food when upset
- Drinking iced drinks
- Excessive liquids during a meal
- Stale foods
- Microwaved foods (destroys life force)
- Genetically modified food
- Inattention to the act of eating (watching TV, reading, driving while eating)
- Poor food combinations
- Eating late at night
If you suffer from digestive problems such as gas, bloating, heartburn, constipation or fatigue, (over 90% of American's do), then Ayurveda offers many simple solutions to support you in healthy digestion.
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How to Improve Your Digestion System
Focus on eating and sit to eat
How many times have you munched on a sandwich while driving your car? Or grabbed lunch at your desk because you didn't want to take the time to properly eat in a settled environment? The act of eating is life-giving. The process of eating, according to Ayurveda is something sacred and essential for the development of consciousness and physical health. When we sit to eat, our whole focus should be on the taste, texture, and smell of the food. So don't stand, walk or drive. Just sit and be present with your food. This will significantly improve your digestion. (Sometimes it's the most subtle things that have the most significant power.)
Avoid cold drinks at meals and ice cold foods in general
This is likened to putting cold water on burning logs. Iced water extinguishes the digestive fire. Even juice or milk straight from the fridge is too cold for digestion and should be taken at room temperature without ice. Once you get into the habit of drinking beverages at room temp, you will notice a dramatic improvement in your digestion. Cold foods and foods mixed with warm cooked foods can cause gas and bloating and general discomfort in the stomach area.
Eat your main meal at mid-day
Ayurveda follows the rhythms and cycles of nature. Just as the sun is highest and hottest in the sky at mid-day, (between 10 am – 2 pm, so too is your internal fire (agni). Agni is associated with the sun. This is one of the many ways Ayurveda seeks to connect our mind and body with nature. As the sun goes down so too does your digestive fire, so aim to eat 75% of your food before the sun sets each day.
Support your digestion with foods and herbs
Another way to improve digestion is to fire up the digestive fire with ginger. You can make a Ginger Elixir to take just before meals.
Start with 3-4″ piece of fresh ginger. Grate the ginger and add the juice of half a lime and a dab of honey and sprinkle of black pepper. Use your thumb and index finger to pinch and eat.
Chew your food well
Chewing well requires your attention to be on the food in your mouth. There is no magic number of times to chew your food but chew it longer than you usually do. Chewing (breaking the food down) improves digestion and absorption of the food.
Eat at a moderate pace until you are 75% full
Overeating is one of the significant causes of disease. When you eat too much, digestion becomes difficult because there's not enough space inside the gut for the food to churn. When you finish eating, you should not feel heavy or still hungry. You want to feel ‘just right'
Take a rest on your left side
Following your meal, let your food digest some (15-20 minutes) before going on to the next activity. In Ayurveda, it is a common practice to lay down and rest on the left side of the body after a meal. The stomach and pancreas (which make digestive enzymes) hang like a sling on the left side naturally allowing for optimal digestion. Also,for a slow walk can aid digestion greatly.
Eat food prepared with love
The energy of the cook is always in the food, so aim to eat food prepared by someone who loves you. Avoid food prepared with anger or resentment.
Don't eat if you're upset
Your emotions affect your digestion too. Always aim to eat in a comfortable place and don't eat if you're angry or upset. It can sour the food in your stomach.
Allow 3 or more hours between meals
If you eat again before the previous meal has been digested (it takes about 3 hours) it complicates the digestive systems ability to make digestive enzymes for different states of digestion.
Digestion is the single most important principle of health. When food is not digested correctly, toxins build up and begin to invade the body. If you are not digesting well, you can usually see the evidence of a coating on your tongue.
Check Your Tongue For Coating
The best time to check your tongue for coating is in the morning. If you have a coating, it means you're not digesting well…so begin to incorporate the how to improve your digestion guidelines above, and you will soon see your health and energy significantly improve.