5 Simple Digestion Principles according to Ayurveda…

Ayurveda believes all disease starts in the gut and that healthy digestion is critical to all other areas of health. Healthy skin, healthy weight, healthy mind — they all depend on us eating, digesting and absorbing nutrients optimally. Whether we are coping with weight issues or uncomfortable GI symptoms such as bloating, gas, or indigestion, the underlying root problem is often poor digestion. Unfortunately, in the West, we are not trained to think about our digestion “power” but instead, we concentrate solely on the foods going in and then reach for medicine when we have a problem. In Ayurveda there is a host of advice on how to keep your “digestive fire” (the power and quality of our digestive enzymes) at an optimal level and ensure we digest everything we need, and eliminate the rest.

In South Africa, Ayurveda is still pretty new so I hope it will be useful to start sharing some of the healthy eating and digestion principles that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine. There are many more but these 5 simple principles will give you a really good intro, and by making these easy changes you will be one step closer to a healthier gut and body! We’ve all heard the phrase “you are what you eat” but in Ayurveda we believe “you are what you digest”….

1. Avoid mixing cold and hot substances together — ever — as it makes it difficult for the gut to digest such extremes. Eat either a hot meal or a cold meal, but don’t mix. Keep salad as a meal unto itself not a side dish! A big change for many of you I know but give it a go and notice how your digestion improves.

2. Whilst we are talking about hot and cold, avoid drinking cold drinks or cold water while eating. In the West we do this so habitually this is often a hard one to get your head around, but in the East they would be horrified at the amount of ice cold water we drink at mealtimes. If you look at the Chinese, Indian and South East Asian cultures they all drink hot teas with meals. Cold water/liquids “put out the digestive fire” in your gut and stop the juices and enzymes working properly. Think of a burning fireplace — if you add cold water to the flames, what happens?! The same happens when you drink cold liquid with meals, you put out your digestive fire and then it cannot “burn” up the food you are consuming. Little by little, in the next few weeks, work towards having tea or warm drinks with meals. Ginger tea is particularly good to support digestion (a recent study in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that ginger stimulates digestion by speeding up the movement of food from the stomach into the small intestine, and helps eliminates digestive discomfort after eating) and doesn’t interfere with the flavours of your food.

3. Banana and milk never go together during the same mealtime!! Again, we don’t know this in the West but both banana and milk are both very heavy to digest and when brought together they become very hard for the stomach to handle. They end up hanging around in there and “curdling” — never good!

4. Contrary to public media opinion putting honey in hot drinks is not a good solution — in fact heating honey in any way makes the honey become toxic. Raw honey straight out the jar is a nectar for the body and incredibly good for you but please, don’t put it in your tea!

5. Eat mindfully. Sounds like a fad I know, but eating while distracted by television, your colleagues in the office (!) or your cellphone prevents you from chewing properly and therefore hinders proper digestion and absorption. In fact when food isn’t chewed properly, and broken down into small enough particles, food enters the stomach in an “unrecognizable format” which causes a host of issues such as inflammation and sends your immune system into a panic. The impact of this affects our mood, the quality of our skin and our metabolism.

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