Are you one of more than 95 million Americans that suffer from poor digestion? Maybe you get an upset stomach after a meal or suffer from other types of mild digestive discomfort, i.e. gas, bloating, diarrhea, acid reflux, weight issues, constipation to name a few. Stress, poor diet, lack of sleep and regular exercise can all attribute to digestive distress.
Important Roles in Digestion:
-Portion size is important. During a meal eat only what would fit in your two hands cupped together. The idea is to have a 1/3 food, 1/3 liquid (warm spring water is ideal) and 1/3 empty so this mixture can assimilate.
-Increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables to 9-13 servings a day and if this is difficult consider taking JP+.
-If you eat meat make sure it is grass fed, hormone free and locally raised.
-Consider a daily yoga practice - the combination of postures, heat, hydration, and breathing supports a healthy digestive system. Yoga encourages peristalsis, which moves waste and toxins through the colon and can help to strengthen abdominal muscles and all of this contributes to a healthier gut. The breathing (pranayama) helps to oxygenate the entire body, including the digestive tract, while decreasing stress and balancing hormones.
-Increase your enzyme intake. Enzymes, biologically active proteins found throughout the body, play an important role in digestion. Many enzymes are produced in the digestive tract. Enzymes decline as we age so eating plenty of whole food fruits and vegetables is key. Again, consider JP+ if you aren’t able to eat the recommended variety on a daily basis. JP+ provides 24 different fruits and vegetable that are picked when ripe and full of nutrient dense vitamins, minerals and enzymes. The fruits and vegetables are grown without herbicides, pesticides and are nonGMO.
-Do you have a daily routine that cleanses your senses and calms the nervous system to handle stress and to aid in sleeping?
Whole Healing Ayurveda offers many options for optimizing your overall health and the most important system, our digestion.
Kapha dosha is water and earth. It has the qualities of heavy, slow, cold, damp, soft. It is the season of spring.
In spring the elements of water and earth are increased. We can feel these qualities of heavy, cool, oily, moist in nature and in our bodies. All around us the snow is melting, the rivers are running, ponds are forming, color on the trees and grasses is emerging. Mother Earth is waking up in the form of growth and upward energy. We all feel this in the air and within us. The presence of these qualities in the environment can influence the same qualities in our bodies - especially for people who have more earth and water elements in their bodies. This is known as the constitution of kapha. Due to this emergence of warm air and melting snow there is also a predominance of kapha in nature. You may be noticing an accumulated or stagnated kapha in our constitution in the form of liquids running out of the body. Maybe you have a spring cold, sinus congestion, allergies, or hay fever.
What can you do to avoid these seasonal imbalances? Avoid foods that are heavy and oily and minimize sweet, sour and salty. Anything that can cause mucous should be avoided. Instead, consume more pungent, bitter, astringent foods & herbs to dry up the mucous. There is an abundance of food that nature provides us this time of year.
Along with certain foods also be aware of how much you are eating, when you are eating, temperature of food and drinks so digestion is stimulated and not weakened or slowed down.
Understanding Food Combining
Food Combining in Ayurveda is a huge key to your digestion. It is important to take into account the food and how it is prepared and combined. Always look at qualitiesof foods, herbs, seasons, etc. when it comes to balancing your system. Certain food combinations can disturb the normal functions of digestion and upset the balance of the doshas. This can produce indigestion, fermentation, putrefacation and gas. Ama is the end result and the root of most disease.
Foods that are light are easiest to digest and foods that are heavy are more difficult to digest. You can eat more of the light foods and they tend to stimulate appetite and digestion. The heavy foods are great for grounding, strengthening, nourishment but it takes more energy to digest (this can suppress appetite), so eat heavy foods in small quantities.
Foods are also either hot or cold. Hot foods stimulate digestion and cold foods calm or slow digestion. Foods can also be either oily (used in moderation promotes lubrication of the digestive tract but in excess can overwork the liver and gallbladder) or dry (can inhibit digestion and cause dehydration), smooth (can soothe digestion) or rough (move digestion and elimination along). The list goes on and on but hopefully these few examples start to paint a picture for you.
Remember climate (NW CO), lifestyle (stress, for example), pesticides/herbicides and environmental pollutants also influence the effect of food on our digestive systems.
When two or more foods having different taste, energy, or post digestive effects are combined, digestion can become overloaded, slow down or inhibit the enzyme system and result in ama. These same foods though, eaten alone, might stimulate digestion, be quickly digested and might help to burn ama.
Milk (heavy, cold, sweet) is incompatible with bananas (heavy, heating, sour) and causes confusion to our digestive system and often results in diminished digestion and upsetting the balance of intestinal flora, which could result in congestion, cold, cough, allergies, hives, rash.
Now, you have a ton of information but how to apply it all? Here are few rules to eat by:
Hing or Asafoetida
Hing aka Asafoetida, Silphium, Devli's Dung to name a few; latin name Ferula assafoetida, dates back to eighth century BC. It is a hard resinous gum that is ground and used in many Indian dishes as a replacement for onions or garlic and for preventing gas. It's strong smell is likened to stinky feet but it's health promoting benefits out-way the awful smell and (thank goodness) the smell dissipates as it cooks. Primarily it is used in dishes that cause gas, bloating and constipation so a wonderful addition to any bean, legume or cruciferous dish. Only a pinch is needed and can be added to oil, water or broth. Besides it's benefits for digestion and curtailing flatulence it has many medicinal benefits. It is useful for bronchitis, asthma, whooping cough and respiratory ailments, as well as toothaches, colick (in India a newborn's first taste is asafoetida to prevent colick and digestive disorders), a contraceptive, flu prevention, and reduces vata. When buying Asafoetida you will usually find it is mixed with wheat and other anti-caking agents but a wheat-free reliable source, mixed with the herb fenugreek is found at www.ayurveda.com and comes in a 1 oz. glass jar with a metal lid for $3.50. What is fenugreek - that will be another blog!
Whole Healing Ayurveda
The teachings of Ayurveda are as pertinent today as they were thousands of years ago.