In Ayurveda, it is believed that what we are is what we digest. So digestive fire plays a vital role in our health and many health problems are due to imbalanced digestion. Digestive fire (Agni) is compared with the cycle of the Sun. Here are some simple Ayurvedic tips and advice on how to improve your digestion.
In the morning when the sun first rises, the weather is still relatively cool and so is our digestive system as we have been sleeping and fasting all night. Now we need to stoke the digestive fire and get the body warmed up. A warm cup of freshly grated ginger tea with lemon and honey is the perfect option. The amount of water in the tea may vary for different people depending on their constitution and how much their digestive system needs stoking. We can then follow this warm cup of tea with a light breakfast.
At midday the sun is at its hottest, and our Agni is at its strongest and burning well enough to take a good-sized meal. So it is best to make lunch the main meal of the day.
During the evening as the sun sets, our energy and digestion begin to slow down again and our Agni is lower. This is the time to eat another light meal and then rest and relax. We don’t need so much food for the evening activities, and if we put heavy logs on the fire they will not burn properly and could disturb our digestion or our sleep. Our bodies do not need the energy or fuel that they did earlier.
Don’t eat more than you need: Smaller, lighter, frequent meals are better than large, heavy ones, which can overload the fire and put it out! According to Ayurveda, we should eat until our stomach feels three-quarters full and then leave one-quarter of the space to enable our digestive juices to mix properly with our food and optimize digestion.
Taste and enjoy your food: Eating food you dislike will inhibit the flow of digestive enzymes. Eating with awareness will promote good digestion.
Eat slowly and in relaxed fashion, sitting down: Digestive enzymes flow when the parasympathetic nervous system is in operation. When adrenaline flows, our digestive enzymes don’t. So it is important to be relaxed and not to eat on the run.
When you eat, only eat: When you eat consciously, and taste your food, your body is more likely to secrete the appropriate digestive juices to digest the food being eaten. If your are watching TV, working at your computer or discussing something inflammatory it is likely to disturb your digestion. Light, relaxed conversation with friends or family is fine.
Sit quietly before eating to let go of any stress: A few minutes of pranayam, meditation or saying grace is a good way to do this. Another good way to reduce stress and quiet the mind is to say the Mantra Gaur-a-ang-ga within your mind, just focusing one pointedly on the Mantra.
Drink some hot water with fresh lemon or lime juice, or freshly grated ginger to kindle your digestion before a meal
Don’t drink too much with your meals. A few sips of warm water are fine. Have at least half an hour gap in between meals and drink.
Go for a gentle walk after you eat: To promote digestion and settle your food.
Add mild spices to your cooking: Such as turmeric, ginger, cumin, coriander, and fennel. You can also drink them as a tea or add them to your tea.
Eat when you feel hungry and once your previous meals have been digested, preferably allowing at least three hours between meals. Grazing or snacking is not great for the digestion. However if you have high Agni, you may need to eat more often to prevent low blood sugar.
Don’t eat late: Allow two to three hours after your evening meal before going to bed. Sleeping on full stomach is not advisable. You will feel much better in the morning if you eat a light meal around at around 6 or 7 p.m.
Don’t fast or skip meals unless you are undergoing a detoxification program.
Eat regularly and at the same time everyday: So that your Agni can prepare for the meal.
Hot Water: The Best Digestive Medicine
Toxins (ama) that enter the body from external factors such as food, environment, stress, etc. are sticky and greasy by nature. Hot water will dissolve ama from your system, gradually and comfortably just as it dissolves grease from dirty dishes.
Just as you boil/cook food in hot water to make it easier to assimilate and to kill the food’s impurities, drinking hot water does the same in your body. It assists in the digestive process by further cooking food you are having trouble digesting in your gut, and dissolves ama so that it can be easily eliminated.
Cold water (and any cold drinks) hamper digestion.
Cold drinks freeze the digestive enzymes and fluids in your G.I. tract, disabling your body from effectively digesting any substance. This has many implications on your body and can contribute to disease in any of the systems in your body.
For stimulating the bowel motion in the morning have a cup of warm water first thing.
This flushes out the impurities from the previous day. If you want to make it more detoxifying, you can add fresh lemon juice, freshly grated ginger and honey or any of the detox juices recommended by your practitioner.
Consuming cold drinks is a bad habit adopted by most people in the west and it is a habit we should make an effort to avoid. Habits can be changed over time and if you get into the good habit of drinking hot instead of cold water, your body will reap the benefits. Why not put hot water in an insulated thermos for the day or always have a kettle nearby.
Enjoy this nourishing and purifying source of hydration.
Dr Pradeep – Vibrant Ayurveda