Ayurveda is one of the oldest holistic and healing health practice and philosophy. Having healthy digestion is a cornerstone to Ayurveda. Here are some guidelines everyone can follow to improve their digestion of food for optimal health. A few of these guidelines and practices may seem familiar and are often practiced in many other traditional cultures.
Ten Healthy Ayurveda Eating Guidelines (1)
These practices are recommended to follow throughout the day to attain optimal digestion and good health. “It is more important HOW you eat than What you eat”.
1) Eat in a Clean, Beautiful and Calm Environment
A clean environment leads to a calm mind, which allows the body to digest foods easily. When you feel stressed, overwhelmed, nervous, anxious, you may experience indigestion (excess hydrochloric acid is produced with stress).
· Clean off the table. Put away unnecessary papers, mail and other items.
- Add flowers or plant on the table.
- Consider eating outside on the deck, porch, park or other location where you can relax.
- Consider eating in front of a window looking out at green space.
2) Give Thanks or Grace Before You Eat
Offering Thanks or Grace before eating relaxes your body and prepares you to receive your food, improving digestion. Making a connection to the fertile earth, the farmer, to the grocer, to the cook allows us to appreciate the many hands who nourish us.
- Say your prayer of thanks or
- Take three breaths:
o Take one breath for the food.
o Take one Breath for those who brought it to your table.
o Take on breath for your body that will digest it.
3) Chew Your Food Slowly
Digestion begins in your mouth when food is chewed. Enzymes such as Amalase start to break down carbohydrates in your food. Large pieces of food that enter your stomach and intestines make it difficult for your body to completely digest your food.
- This can result in:
o Bloating and gas
o Upset stomach
o Inablility for your intestines to take in all the nutrients and vitamins from ingested food.
4) Eat Without Distraction
When we are distracted at mealtime, our mind and emotions can provoke indigestion. Also you cannot fully taste, chew or enjoy the food being eaten.
- Consider mealtime a time to heal yourself through nourishment.
- Meditation for the mind and body to be mindful of what you eat.
- Avoid TV, reading , using your electronic devices or excessive conversation when eating.
5) Eat till You are 75% Full
Eating until you are 75% full or satisfied helps you to improve digestion and prevent overeating, bloating, feeling uncomfortable, feeling sleepy, and weight gain.
- You should feel energized after eating a meal.
- Mindful eating helps you to listen to your body when it tells you “I’m Satisfied”.
6) Drink Only a Half Cup of Fluid with Meals
Fluid moistens food to make digestion easier. Too much fluid will dilute the acids and other digestive enzymes and weaken their ability to digest food completely. Our power of digestion is like a fire and too much water will put the fire out
(this is a Chinese Medicine practice also).
7) Avoid Cold Liquids
Cold drinks weaken digestion. “Cold beverages are neither healthy nor cooling; in fact, they cause the stomach to create more heat in order to break the foods down, which ultimately damages the entire digestive system….cold beverages are not as cooling as room-temperature ones, because cold causes vessels to contract so that they don’t absorb the liquid. In Chinese Medicine, excess cold fluids deplete our digestive heat. This slows digestion creating sluggish bowel movements characterized by bloating and constipation. For those with excess moisture in their system, weight loss is even more challenging. The stomach-spleen supplies the kidney with the warmth to function optimally. Cold fluids weaken our kidneys and their ability to provide warmth (2)”
- Drink liquid at room temperature .
- Sip liquids and drink when you are thirsty.
- Considering sipping warm liquids.
8) Rest After Meals Before the Next Activity
Physical and mental activity results in decrease enzyme production and moves blood flow away from the digestive system.
- Wait 20 minutes after meals to let your digestive system work optimally.
- Wait 1 hour before engaging in strenuous activity.
9) Wait At Least Three Hours Between Meals
Waiting until you are truly hungry (not the false hunger one feels because of being bored, stressed, or thirsty), helps to improve digestion.
- Helps to maintain hormones such as leptin, gherelin and insulin that regulate hunger, and metabolism of glucose optimally. Eating frequently and large meals can lead leptin resistance, where one’s brain can not register a sense of satiety (3,4).
10) Eat Your Largest Meal at Noon
One’s digestion is stronger and at peak during 12 pm to 3pm. Larger meals at breakfast and dinner often contributes to indigestion.
- Eat smaller meals for breakfast and dinner.
- Eat largest meal of the day during the mid-day.
Avoiding Cold Beverages – Why?
(1) California College of Ayurveda “ An Introduction to Ayurvedic Lifestyle” by Dr. Marc Halpern
(2): AVOIDING COLD BEVERAGES –WHY?
Ni’s Chinese Medical Center
Chinese Medicine recommends avoiding cold beverages. Since this is new advice for Westerners, the wisdom may escape us. Sometimes not understanding “why” makes it more difficult to comply with unfamiliar instructions. Let us share the “why” in order to better understand the benefits.
Summer – the heat in can be oppressive. Many prefer drinking cold beverages in order to cool off. Cool water tastes better. Iced drinks seemingly, even more refreshing. However; before you think of adding a few ice cubes to beat the heat, consider wisdom passed down through the ages.
The Chinese have long understood the thermal nature of foods. Food as medicine is used to heal imbalances. To cool down, it is better to consume foods that have a cooling nature like watermelon or mint tea versus frozen, chilled, or iced drinks. “Cold beverages are neither healthy nor cooling; in fact, they cause the stomach to create more heat in order to break the foods down, which ultimately damages the entire digestive system. Even in Western nutritional theory, cold beverages are not as cooling as room-temperature ones, because cold causes vessels to contract so that they don’t absorb the liquid” according to Gail Reichstein, author of “Chinese Medicine in Everyday Life”.
Dr. Bo recommends patients to stop drinking cold beverages. Room temperature or heated is better, with sipping preferred. In Chinese Medicine, excess cold fluids deplete our digestive heat. This slows digestion creating sluggish bowel movements characterized by bloating and constipation. For those with excess moisture in their system, weight loss is even more challenging. The stomach-spleen supplies the kidney with the warmth to function optimally. Cold fluids weaken our kidneys and their ability to provide warmth.
Dr. Bo is often heard saying “Kidney’s don’t like cold”. Kidney’s, in Chinese Medicine, go way beyond that of Western physiology functioning. Cold weakens the bladder causing frequent urination and getting up to urinate in the middle of the night. Kidney imbalance affects all bone problems especially, knees, low back and teeth. Arthritis and joint pain are worsened in cold weather for this reason. Kidney’s also control hearing, the entire endocrine system, and even sexual function. On the emotional level, those with kidney imbalances experience excessive fears, insecurity, and lack of will power. Weak kidney conditions contribute to a tendency to be inactive and unproductive.
The first time I went to China in 1996, only warm tea was served at meals. Iced drinks were available only at MacDonald’s. Even Coca Cola sold on the street was room temperature. Suffice it to say, one never saw any Chinese walking around with 10 oz. cold drinks or even cold plastic water bottles. For those who are in the habit of guzzling many glasses of water per day, drinking fluids heated is a good way to slow it down. Listening to our bodies by drinking only when thirsty is always good medicine, too.
Bottom line, long-term consumption of cold drinks significantly influences long-term health. Kidneys represent the roots of the body, our foundation, and our batteries. Why rock our core for the short-lived pleasure of a cold drink? Seemingly small choices, in the aggregate, are of utmost importance for longevity. It is wise to follow wisdom passed down from countless generations. Enjoy drinks at room temperature to do your body good.
(3). M. D. Klok, S. Jakobsdottir andM. L. Drent. The role of leptin and ghrelin in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans: a review. Obesity Reviews [Internet]. 2007 Jan. [cited 2015 Jul 14]; 8 (1) 21-34.
(4).You and Your Hormones, Society for Endocrinology. Leptin [Interent]. 2104 Dec [cited 2015 Jul, 14]. Availalble from: http://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/leptin.aspx