By Lynn Goodwin / August 16, 2015
Ayurveda defines health as being balanced in body, mind, and spirit. All physical aliments and emotional imbalances suppress our ability to truly experience life with joy and happiness.
Ayurveda is also focused on addressing the root cause of imbalances rather than simply treating symptoms.
Balanced digestion is key in maintaining health. If we are not eating the right foods and digesting them properly, then we can infer that we are not building healthy tissue or eliminating toxins properly.
A healthy immune system begins with gut health.
Essentially, healthy digestion = healthy body.
When we pay attention to digestive disturbances, we can then make the appropriate food & lifestyle choices to restore health to the gut and in turn to the rest of our body.
Common Symptoms of Poor Digestion
Unfortunately, digestive issues such as heartburn, bloating, and constipation, have become commonplace and we’ve come to simply ignore these alerts or mask the symptom without addressing the cause.
Many food allergies may be perpetuated by a weak digestive fire rather than be caused by sensitivity to the specific food.
Allergies to foods such as gluten and dairy can also be indicators of a compromised digestion. Discomfort digesting these foods may be less about the actual food and more about how your body is assimilating the food and the lack of strong, balanced digestion.
Digestive Fire – Agni
Derived from the classical language of India (Sanskrit), Agni is the term for fire. We can think of digestion as a fire working to breakdown food and assimilate the nutrients from that food.
A balanced digestive fire ensures that we are metabolizing our food into healthy tissues and are releasing toxins.
When the fire burns too high, we experience heartburn or belching.
When it’s too low, we experience sluggish digestion and weight gain.
When it’s variable, we experience bloating and constipation.
A balanced agni is determined by our food and lifestyle choices.
Practices to improve digestion
Most digestive disturbances disappear when we change HOW we eat.
- Eating slowly and chewing your food
- Breathing while you eat, rather than inhaling your food quickly
- Avoid eating when you are stressed or upset
- Eat in a peaceful, calm environment and without distraction of the computer or TV
- Drinking no more than 1/2 cup of water while eating, especially cold water. This will suppress the digestive fire.
- Eating cooked vs. raw food. Warm and moist foods such as roasted vegetables are easier for your body to digest.
- Spicing your food stokes agni. Warming spices such as ginger, black pepper, cinnamon or cooling spices such as cumin, fennel and coriander are healthy and delicious additions to your meals.
- Eating the appropriate foods for your specific mind/body type.
- Eating the appropriate foods for the season. For example, eating lots of heavy, cool, and mucus generating dairy products during the spring when the air is heavy, cool, and moist and you are already feeling congested, will encourage sluggish digestion. Or eating raw, cooling, light, drying greens during the winter when the air is dry and cold, will encourage dryness resulting in constipation and bloating. Or, eating hot spice soup in the summer, when the air is already hot, will create the opportunity for hyper acidity or heartburn. Cleansing, light greens and grains are most appropriate for spring. Cooling vegetables and salads are best for summer. Warming, heavier winter squash, grains, and fats are best for fall/winter.
Ghee & Digestion
Ghee stokes the digestive fire without creating excess heat in the system. Its proprieties are also cooling and cleansing.
As a clean, healthy fat, ghee is able to carry the nutrients from our food, directly into the tissues to provide nourishment and build healthy tissue.
It also alleviates digestive issues such as gas, bloating, and constipation. These problems can arise when there is too much dryness in the colon. Ghee adds moisture to the colon promoting healthy elimination and release of toxins.
Grass-fed ghee is also the best source of butyric acid. We naturally have butyric acid in our digestive tract, its role is to break down food and protect the gut wall. By eating ghee, we are able to promote a healthy gut and healthy gut microbes to improve assimilation of nutrients.
Cumin, Coriander, and Fennel Tea Recipe
This Ayurvedic blend is commonly used to support balanced digestion and metabolism. It is perfect for spring as it stokes digestive fire or agni and promotes detoxification.
Combine equal parts:
1/4-1/2 tsp. of each
Steep in boiling water for 5-10, strain and enjoy!