7 Ayurvedic Digestive Secrets
Healthy Digestion, Rejuvenation and Elimination is the key to living life ALIVE!
Being regularly gassy and dealing with indigestion is NOT normal, it’s your body asking for your attention. In modern times there is an increasing array of digestive challenges and disorders. It seems that as a culture we have lost our inner compass and have little understanding of our internal cycles as-well as natures cycles. I notice this especially when I travel to “lesser developed” countries where the locals seem to be intimately in-touch with the land and seasons.
As Westerners we love statistics and they reveal the severity of just how prevalent digestive disorders are, in fact everyday millions suffer from heartburn, indigestion, acid reflux, constipation, diarrhea, GERD (gastro esophageal reflex disorder), IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and more. The body is clearly speaking loudly and seeking our immediate attention. The undeniable message is that something is wrong with our current dietary and lifestyle choices.
When we eat, how we eat, what we eat, what portions and combinations of food we eat and how we process and eliminate all have MAJOR influences on the overall digestive, absorption, assimilation, and elimination process. The simple act of chewing your food consciously and not rushing a meal can dramatically change the post meal effects on digestion. Chewing food throughly allows for the build of proper saliva, stimulates digestive juices and awakens the digestive organs. These are all players in the collective process of digestion which includes absorption, assimilation, and evacuation.
“As above, So Below” reminds us that Natures intelligence is a universal force on a Macro and Micro level. When it comes to Nature there is no design flaw, BUT we do posses free choice and can override our inner intelligence. In Ayurveda this is considered the root of all disease, the Sanskrit word for this is Prajnaparadha, which translates to a crime against wisdom or willfully ignoring ones inner knowing.
In a world that is increasingly getting busier it’s no surprise the mind and the senses are outwardly focused. If you spend any amount of time with young children you can notice this dramatically different orientation toward outward things such as phones, iPads and TV etc.
The practices of Yoga, Meditation and Ayurveda are our antidotal tools to counter the external pull and nurture the relationship with our inner intelligence, this is the practice of Pratyahara. The turning of the senses in fosters deep communion with the Self and it’s here we feel most at home and most alive!
To fully understand this brilliance of our bodies build and reduce, let’s take a closer look at our digestive system!
Digestion, How it Works:
Digestion begins in the nose. Imagine strolling through your local farmers market, spotting a ripe mango and taking in a big whiff! Or walking into a house where the fragrant smell of coconut curry is being prepared, it’s that initial smell that provokes a subtle desire for tasting even when we are not necessarily hungry. The reason why is the simple act of smelling releases saliva in the mouth which stimulates the digestive juices. When we partake in food we employ the teeth to chew which then furthers the process of digestion by preparing partially processed food to then be more easily swallowed by coating it with saliva.
The mouth is where the breaking down of sugars starts and if we don’t chew our food efficiently, it will enter the stomach unprepared for the next phase in process of digestion. This is unfortunately very common and essentially we giving the stomach the task of that should have happened in the mouth. At this point the natural digestion process is already a-strayed. It’s recommended that we chew our food until it turns to liquid, in my experience this takes intention and practice. You can imagine this can be more of a challenge if we are not present and distracted with conversation, TV or other activities that pull us away from one pointed focus.
Once food is properly chewed and coated with saliva, it moves to the stomach cavity where digestive enzymes then step in to help and further break down of food. The stomach is the organ responsible for “cooking” the food so the body can then transform and assimilate the nutrients into new cells, tissues, and organs. Digestions ultimate function is to provide to the cells, tissues, and organs of the body nourishment and to also be the building blocks for future growth.
Many factors including proportion play a pivotal role in healthy digestion. A simple example is a pot on the stove, we know not to over fill the pot as the content will overflow. Similarly we need space in the belly for proper digestion to occur. Excess food (liquid or solid) can stagnate the digestive Agni, also called fire. A good post meal read is your belly should contain roughly 2/4 solid food, 1/4 liquid, and 1/4 space for proper digestion. A common measure for solid food is roughly the volume you can hold in your two open hands.
Next comes the transition from the stomach into the intestines where we find the production and movement of chyme, this is the pulpy acidic fluid made of gastric juices and partly digested food. As chyme moves from the stomach into the small intestine, it furthers the break down process into micro-nutrients: peptones, chyle, and glucose. These are then absorbed and moved by the blood throughout the body, delivering nutrition to all the tissues, organs and systems along the way.
Colon Care, How it Works:
Digested food is then passes out of the small intestine into the the colon (the large intestine). The colon is the body’s sewage system, it is likened to a temporary holding tank. When we feel the urge to dispose of waste it’s not unusual in our action packed-fast pace life to postpone nature’s call, but it must be headed. Dehydration (especially for Vata Dosha) can often be the culprit in the disruption of the natural waste removal process.
We have all had constipation and understand experientially that it is highly uncomfortable, but even more concerning is when this becomes the norm. If the colon is not regularly emptying it can result in the walls of the colon becoming encrusted with waste, resulting in more intense constipation, and eventually disrupting the entire system as a whole. It’s natural and should be expected for each Dosha type to evacuate the bowels daily, ideal is morning time prior to your first meal. Pitta Dosha types often go more than once per day, Kapha Dosha types are know for having one a day in the morning, and as mentioned above it’s not unusual for Vata Dosha types to suffer from chronic constipation.
Perfect Position, How it Works:
Anyone who has traveled to Eastern Asian countries has likely seen with their own eyes how much squatting is going on by the locals. It is highly functional to support the bodies natural elimination process. When we squat, the torso presses against the thighs and compresses the colon, this eases any feeling of strain or need to force the elimination process. This can expedientally regulate the elimination process and leave us feeling light and clear!
The 7 Ayurvedic Digestive secrets will help YOU optimize healthy Digestion, Rejuvenation and Elimination.
Live with them and see the results for yourself when practiced regularly. They are quite simple, highly effective and cost little to nothing. However, one thing that is recommended is to study the results of your efforts and make these daily practices your lifestyle routines!
- Sip on warm water (with lemon ideally) throughout your day and with meals. This helps us to stay hydrated without putting out our digestive fire. This also helps to reduce cravings which sometimes falsely manifested as hunger.
- Sit in a peaceful environment as you eat. Just as important as what we eat and how much is the energy and environment in which we take food in. Make it intentional, it matters!
- Eat a fresh piece of ginger and or lemon prior to eating a meal. This helps to stimulate the digestive juices and prepares the body for the process of digestion.
- Avoid ice cold drinks, cold food, smoothies with ice. Cold food dramatically slows down digestion and can put out your digestive fire, making digestion sluggish, causing gas and bloating etc.
- Make lunch the biggest meal of the day and enjoy a light dinner before 7 PM. Our digestive fire is at it’s hight between 12-2 (Pitta time of day) it happens to also be when the sun is also at it’s most powerful. This is the best time for a generous meal as your body is most equipped to assimilate the nutrient.
- Take time post meal to relax, breath or take a walk. This is an important time for the body to do the post eating work and we don’t want to disrupt that by being overly active. We also don’t want to divert energy from he digestive process.
- Space out meals with 4-5 hour gap minimum in-between and try not to snacking between meals. This gives the body the time to fully digest, absorb assimilate and possibly eliminate before you enjoy the next meal. Otherwise we have partially digested food being mixed with fresh food and it creates digestive discord.