Tips for Healthy Digestion

I'm not sure that catchy title is going to get anyone to read! Ha!  Digestion is really important so I thought it worth a post.  I mentioned that my current module at school is Ayurveda which is an ancient medical/lifestyle tradition, centuries old, that started in India.  You can read more about it here.  More than treating illness, it is about how to live your healthiest life, to your fullest potential. Having integration and balance of mind, body, spirit, and environment.  Below is a little excerpt from a website that helps explain it all a bit….

Recognizing that human beings are part of nature, Ayurveda describes three fundamental energies that govern our inner and outer environments: movement, transformation, and structure. Known in Sanskrit as Vata (Wind), Pitta (Fire), and Kapha (Earth), these primary forces are responsible for the characteristics of our mind and body. Each of us has a unique proportion of these three forces that shapes our nature. If Vata is dominant in our system, we tend to be thin, light, enthusiastic, energetic, and changeable. If Pitta predominates in our nature, we tend to be intense, intelligent, and goal-oriented and we have a strong appetite for life. When Kapha prevails, we tend to be easy-going, methodical, and nurturing. Although each of us has all three forces, most people have one or two elements that predominate.

For each element, there is a balanced and imbalance expression. When Vata is balanced, a person is lively and creative, but when there is too much movement in the system, a person tends to experience anxiety, insomnia, dry skin, constipation, and difficulty focusing. When Pitta is functioning in a balanced manner, a person is warm, friendly, disciplined, a good leader, and a good speaker. When Pitta is out of balance, a person tends to be compulsive and irritable and may suffer from indigestion or an inflammatory condition. When Kapha is balanced, a person is sweet, supportive, and stable but when Kapha is out of balance, a person may experience sluggishness, weight gain, and sinus congestion.
An important goal of Ayurveda is to identify a person’s ideal state of balance, determine where they are out of balance, and offer interventions using diet, herbs, aromatherapy, massage treatments, music, and meditation to reestablish balance.
— Chopra Center
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It is all really fascinating and the more I learn the more it all rings true.  There are a few things that everyone can and should do without having to learn a single thing about Ayurveda.  One is to eat with the seasons and what intuitively is right for the weather.  Mother nature naturally gives you food that helps balance these energies.  For example, winter is a time of cold, dry, windy weather.  Eating warm, comforting, nourishing foods provides the right counterbalance.  Sweet winter squashes and root vegetables, hot tea, soups and stews, bitter greens are the right things to eat in winter.  They warm you up and are in season. In summer, when it is hot, humid, bright, we eat cooling foods like watermelon, juicy peaches, ice cream, cooling things like yogurt.  Seems natural doesn't it? 

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In Ayurveda digestion is an important component.  Since food provides the nourishment for our body, how well you can process and absord needed nutrients and eliminate waste is critical.  Your digestion is a sign of your health.  Heart burn, indigestion, bloating, cramps, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hiccups, burping, gas…..all are signs of problems with digestion.  Here are suggestions that everyone can use to help improve your digestive fire.  Some seem so obvious and simple but may actually be hard for us to put into practice. 

  • Eat when you are hungry
  • Eat regularly, and eat at about the same times each day
  • Limit ice, especially at meals
  • Sip room temperature or warm water with meals
  • Focus on your food while you are eating
  • Leave enough time between meals for you to digest what you have eaten, usually three hours
  • Eat your main meal at noon, or sometime between 10 am and 2 pm, which the digestion is at is strongest point of the day
  • Use spices and condiments with food:  pungent (hot) and sour tastes like ginger, mustard, chili pepper, black pepper, salas, pickles, all stimulate digestion
  • Chose fresh foods (not processed foods)
  • Chew thoroughly
  • Take a short brisk walk after eating

Simple and hard at the same time, right?  It is amazing how much better you feel when you don't have all those GI symptoms and everything is processing along smoothly.  Definitely something to work on every day! 

So I am off to a meditation workshop this afternoon. Although it is not my first meditation instruction,  I hope this one might be the ones that strikes the right chord that I can find a meditation practice!  Enjoy your Saturday!