A Simple Guide to Ayurveda | Gut Health
If you're in the health world, this term may be familiar. For most, well... not so much.
What the heck is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is an Indian methodology of medicine that dates as far back as 6,000 BCE, it's pretty darn ancient.
"Ayur" means life and "veda" means science, which translates to "the science of life." With Ayurveda, the mind and body are absolutely connected and intertwined; you simply can't have health in one area without health in the other.
The main Ayurvedic principle explains that all diseases we experience, begin with an imbalance in the body.
Ayurveda is made up of 5 elements including: earth, air, fire, water, and ether (space/emptiness). From those five elements, we end up with 3 doshas, or substances, which are the mind-body types.
Vata - is linked with air and ether. It controls our circulation and nervous system.
Pitta - resonates with fire and water and controls our digestion. I'd like to think Beyonce is overflowing with this one.
Kapha - is connected with earth and water. It controls our overall immunity and build or structure.
Everyone, including you and me have different levels of these doshas. Some can be weaker or stronger and more dominant than others, dependent on their individual internal and external surroundings.
According to Ayurvedic principles, the key to true health lies in our ability to digest.
There are two parts to this digestion.
1) Agni, is the digestive fire which aids us in breaking and burning down everything we consume. Your T-Bone Steak and fries thankfully doesn't come out the same way it went in, right? TMI, but it's true. You need that fire to break it all down so it can exit. Bye, flush!
2). Ama, is the poisonous growth which may create what we know as "disease" in the body. If our digestive fires are frail, they won't be able to burn to the degree needed to remove this dangerous, poisonous growth. When this happens, we are polluting our bellies and bodies. Luckily if our fire is strong, we can easily push out those yucky toxins and most importantly, we can keep the nutrition we need from the foods we eat.
Tips to ignite that belly fire
First off, are you sure you're hungry? Sometimes we open the fridge or pull out our salty, sugary snacks out of pure boredom. Perhaps all those times you thought you needed a bite, you weren't really hungry after all. Maybe you just needed company and someone to talk to. Or maybe you were dehydrated. Have you had enough water today? More often times than not, our stomach rumbling is a sign that we're not properly replenishing the necessary liquids into our body. Remember our bodies are approximately 60% water. Set reminders to stay hydrated throughout the day so you can feel better and keep those unnecessary pounds off. Of course, if you're fully hydrated and definitely hungry - please eat!
Replace cold drinks with warm water or tea. It's simple and free/inexpensive. Sipping on warm water will help improve digestion, kick out "ama" aka that poisonous growth, and keep you healthy. Drinking cold drinks with meals is the exact opposite of what you want to do. Stick to warm drinks and your belly bloat will thank you for it! Remember your body can't build a fire to help you digest if you're chugging ice cold beer after dinner. If you really want the beer, go for it. No need to torture yourself, just balance out the rest of your week and try to drink more warm liquids than not. All in moderation..not misery!
Slow down, chew and enjoy your food. Picture your favorite food being plated. Can you smell it? Is your mouth watering? This is your body's signal that it's getting ready to eat. Your body creates saliva and with it important enzymes that help you digest your meal. If you're eating too quickly and not chewing your food till it's liquidized in your mouth, your brain won't get the hint from your intestinal tract saying it's "hey man, time to stop!" which causes overeating and unnecessary weight gain.
By slowing down, sitting down, and really chewing your food, you can focus all your energy on your digestive system to absorb the good stuff your body needs to thrive and evict the bad stuff. Chew each bite and be grateful for the ability to eat what not only sustains and nourishes you, but what makes you, oh so happy!
What time are you eating? Ayurveda states that we be mindful of when we eat and suggests the biggest meal be lunchtime. By eating this way, we allow for our bodies to have sufficient time to digest and rest after dinner. Your belly should not be not working overtime while you try to sleep. Less late night, heavy food = a more restful sleep full of zzz's!
Walk after meals. This will help your body with digestion and improve blood sugar levels. For those of you who enjoy an espresso after meals, like my hubby, try swapping it out with a brief walk. It'll do your body and belly good, probably more than it would with caffeine.
Sleep on your left side. This will help gravity to do it's work to help ease your bowel movements. As you sleep, your body will easily allow for your ahem.. "poop" to move from your smaller intestine to your larger one, ultimately ending up in your colon. When you wake up in the morning, your "call to nature" will come a bit more easily.
Spice it up! Add more ginger, mint, turmeric, black pepper, cumin, fennel and coriander to your dishes. I personally love ginger, mint and black pepper, but it's always good to explore new spices to see what suits your palate. When you add these specific spices to your foods, they help with digestion and studies show that they create more good-for-you enzymes AND bile (an alkaline fluid that helps with digestion, released by the liver and stored in the gallbladder). Experiment and see what spices you might like.
Consume, consciously. When following the Ayurvedic principles of eating, it's suggested that certain foods only be consumed with other specific foods. Each food type is digested in it's very own way. Some foods are quickly digested, while others take much longer to break down. Some should not be mixed with others, or you may suffer from similar IBS-related consequences including: bloating, gas, constipation, and other fun after-affects. For example, raw foods and cooked foods, dairy and beans or watery fruits and solids should not be eaten together.
Personally speaking, be your own judge here. If you love warm, healing, cooked foods served over chilled salads for ex, and this doesn't affect your digestion, then toss this advice out the window. Not everything applies to everyone. I'm a firm believer in our bio-individuality. Take what what works for you and leave the rest! No need to be strict when it comes to trying new things. Test things out yourself and see how your body behaves. Some things may work well and we'll swear by them, and others may not benefit us they way we hoped they would, and thats okay! We all have to listen to what our bodies are individually saying, so consume.. and then listen!
With so much love + belly fire,