In our journey to optimize overall health we need to be aware of all of the systems in our body. Ayurveda speaks a lot about having balance in our digestive system to ensure wellbeing. There are a few important ideas around digestion that we should consider.
Ayurvedic knowledge outlines different mind-body types which have either a strong digestive fire, or a weaker one. More commonly this is known as metabolism, and many things can improve or slow down metabolism. Those with a faster metabolism can generally get away with eating a bit more, eating treats occasionally, and eating at erratic times more so than those with a slower metabolism.
Ayurvedic advice suggests that we should concentrate on enjoyment, balance and quality of meals in order to improve our digestive system functioning. There is a connection between the mind and the gut and therefore we should not feel stressed while we eat.
There are a few simple ways we can help out the digestive system before each meal.
- Eat when you are hungry. Meal times are often dictated by the time of day. We are sometimes not hungry at breakfast time, yet we will force food down in order to avoid hunger later on. It is perfectly okay to skip meals when you are not hungry, as this will give your digestive system time to rest. There is a lot of advice around eating a smaller meal for dinner earlier in the evening so that you are hungry in the morning. You also do not need to feel stuffed to finish eating. Chinese medicine suggests that you should still be 30% hungry after a meal!
- Look at your food. Before you eat, look at and smell your food in order to prepare your body to eat. This will trigger your body to start producing saliva and enzymes to properly digest your food. Allow your mouth time to reproduce more saliva between mouthfuls.
- Make eating a celebration. Consider how to place the meal on the table and make sure it looks attractive. Not only does this allow you to have a mindful moment, but it also creates an anticipatory feeling and a feeling of pleasure. Feeling pleasure will make for an optimised digestion process. On the other hand, feeling negative emotions will also hinder digestion.
- Avoid cold liquids with your food. Cold food and ice water is believed to douse the digestive fire, according to Ayurvedic principles. Your body temperature is naturally warm, and thus cold food and water disrupt the energy flow. Your body has to first work to warm up the body and the digestive system again before it is able to process the food.
- Eat with chopsticks or smaller bowls. This technique allows you to eat more slowly and have smaller portions. We often will dish up too much food ad then feel guilty if we don’t finish it. It is a good habit to rather take less food and then get a second helping if you are truly still hungry. Try and chew more often as well as this will help the food to digest better.
- Create a peaceful environment and mindset before eating. When we are in a stressed state, the muscles tend to tense up. This requires our blood to flow into the muscles. If we are stressed while we are eating then the blood is not readily available in the digestive system. Rather eat when you are more balanced, or try to do some breathing and mindfulness techniques before meals.
If you are looking to optimise your nutrition, it is wise to look at your digestion habits at the same time. While our nutrition choices are important, it is also important to make sure your body has the best possible chance to absorb the nutrients that it needs.
Have a great day.
Lots of light and love xx