Dear Beautiful Human,
Digestion is the center of our heath according to Ayurveda (the science of life). Ayurveda suggests that more than 90% of our diseases originate from an imbalance in the gut. Therefore, this holistic life science focuses quite a bit on maintaining healthy digestion.
Not only does the gut signal the brain and house most of our serotonin (neurotransmitter/mood hormone), it also houses most of our immunity! It makes total sense that Ayurveda would emphasize gut health. Isn’t it amazing that this system dating back thousands of years understood this so long ago?
Digestion begins in the mouth where our taste buds encounter what we eat. A complicated chemical process is initiated which turns our food into energy and then we eliminate the waste. Depending on what we are eating, when we are eating and how much we are eating, we are positively or negatively supporting this process.
Here are a few very simple ways to approach your diet to quickly support your gut and digestion:
- Make dinners light and eat early. In our culture we tend to eat the biggest meal of the day at dinner time. Unfortunately, this overloads our digestive process at nighttime. When we sleep, our body goes into deep cleaning mode, processing waste, and clearing and cleaning internally. If we also have to digest a huge meal it bogs the process down and disturbs sleep. Instead, eat your bigger meal at lunchtime when your digestive fire (agni) is stronger and keep dinners light. I try to either eat a simple one pot meal like soup or lentils, or protein and veggies rather than heavier foods. I often eat at 5pm! By the time I go to bed, I don’t still feel full.
- Get good bacteria. Our gut bacteria directly impacts digestion and elimination as well as brain function. Research shows that probiotics taken in the form of food rather than a pill are integrated and sustained longer in the gut. Incorporate fermented foods into your diet on a daily basis. Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, are all good ways to get in the good bacteria. Lately, I add a scoop of yogurt to my morning oatmeal.
- Resist the snacking. I know this is HARD. I am a huge snacker. It takes will power for me to pass the kitchen between meals and not grab crackers or nuts or something crunchy. But I feel better when I don’t. Why? Because our bodies go to work when we eat and they need a break to complete the digestive process between meals. We want our metabolic fire (agni) to be strong so it needs some time after one meal to do its transformative work from start to finish. Then we get really hungry again, our digestive fire builds in strength and is ready for the next meal.
- Sit down and eat calmly. As a mom I have a bad habit carried over from the early days of parenting when it was literally hard to sit down for a meal. I catch myself all the time eating as I cook or in a hurried fashion. Stress inhibits digestion. Sitting down to peacefully and presently enjoy a meal prepares your mind and body to take in the nourishment you are giving yourself. By eating in a calm emotional state your digestive system is poised to function well and you will enjoy your food more fully.
- Eat until you are about 3/4 full. Have you ever noticed that when you are really hungry you eat until you are totally full and then about 20 minutes later you feel too full? It’s because you’ve eaten too much. Practice eating until you are almost full but still have a little room left, about 1/4. Then notice afterwards, once digestion has started, you feel completely full. This is a way to be mindful of how much you intake and to not overload your agni.
There are even more tools that Ayurveda offers for maintaining good digestive health. Start with these simple eating adjustments and feel the difference in your energy and even your weight.
love & yoga,