The purpose of food, it is said is not only to increase longevity and bodily strength, but also to purify the mind and consciousness. Food is supposed to nourish the organs, regulate various activities of the body and help the different organs in the body to grow. Eating the right kind of food promotes health and growth, while there are some food items and practices that should be avoided as they lead to health problems. Ayurveda tells us to combine food wisely, eat in a pleasant atmosphere and at fixed times to get maximum benefits from the food that we eat. The choices we make regarding food, either builds up immunity or destroys it.
1. Start the day with warm water
The water that is used by the body overnight for digestion, cleansing, and elimination, needs to be replenished. It is hence, necessary to drink water first thing in the morning, preferably warm. Warm water is said to stimulate digestion and wash out the toxins, thus preparing the body for the day ahead. Adding the juice of half a lemon to warm water, makes it even more healthy. This is because lemon leaves an alkaline residue, which is necessary for good health.
2. Do not Overeat
Ayurveda advises us to eat slightly less than what the appetite demands, because it is not only about the amount of food we ingest, but also how well we digest and absorb the nutrients from the food into our system. The stomach needs working space, and so, it should be filled only half and actually thats how much we need to feed our hunger. We should leave 1/4th space for liquids and 1/4th space for air to help in digestion. Overeating dulls the mind and tires the body.
3. Chew properly
It is said that half the digestion takes place in our mouth. By chewing properly, we can save our intestines a lot of work. The intestines have to work harder to digest half-chewed food. One should eat slowly and chew well. This helps in two ways. It gives the brain enough time to receive the signal from the stomach that it’s full. Therefore, the slower we chew, the lesser we eat. Also, when we chew thoroughly, our digestive system becomes aware of incoming food, and triggers the production of digestive acids which helps the body absorb nutrients.Food that has not been chewed properly, promotes all sorts of problems like intestinal bacteria, flatulence, bloating, constipation, stomach ache, cramps and even diarrhea. That is why we are asked to chew our food at least 32 times before swallowing it.
4. Focus on the Food
Ayurveda asks us to eat with the belief that the food we eat is enhancing the energy, intelligence and health. It advises us to eat mindfully, that is , eating without distraction. How do we do this? We eat mindfully by not doing anything else while eating, like watching television or reading. By eating slowly and savouring the food, one enjoys it more. Above all, when we are aware of every morsel we eat, we know when we are getting full, and can avoid over eating. The environment should be peaceful during meals and we should refrain from emotions like anger, irritation, and negative thinking. The food should be cooked with love and care in order to transfer positive energy to food. Food is considered next to God because it gives us life, and it is said that, eating the food with our hands enables to transfer the warmth of our body to the food, and creates a closeness and a bond with our food.
5. Should you drink water with food?
Our stomach starts releasing digestive juices as soon as we start eating, or even before. When we drink water during meals, what we are essentially doing is diluting the digestive juices that are released to digest the food, thus hindering them from breaking down food. Sipping a little water during meals isn’t a cause for concern but drinking more than that may interfere with digestion. Drinking water before eating leads to loss of appetite and this may be helpful for people who want to lose weight. It is best to drink water about 30 mins before we start eating. We should avoid drinking water for about two hours after meals as this helps in the absorption of nutrients. Eating in a hurry causes us to gulp down our food, thus triggering our need to wash it down with water. If we chew our food well, we will not find the need for water to wash it down.
6. Eat at fixed times
In Ayurveda, an important rule is to maintain at least a gap of three hours between meals. The habit of snacking in between meals, hampers the digestive process and other complex functions of the body. The digestive power is said to be the strongest at mid day, and therefore we should take our main meal at this time. Ayurveda asks us to wait at least three hours after a light meal and five after a heavy meal before eating again.
7. Have fresh and natural food
Eat fresh food to remain healthy. You should try to eat seasonal vegetables and fruits, and whole grain and dried fruits. Food should be as fresh as possible. Natural foods like milk products, grains, fruits, and vegetables are believed to increase longevity, give strength, health and happiness. It also satisfies the body and mind. Ayurveda also tells us to eat different tastes – salty, sweet, bitter, and sour, in one meal. This is because these various tastes stimulate the digestive juices to a great extent. This may explain why a traditional Indian meal (which has a variety of different tastes and flavours), also includes a small sweet dish in the main meal and not as a separate dessert.
Drinks to help digestion
Drinking herbal teas help in digestion of food easily. When our digestive system is working well, we are able to absorb all the necessary nutrients from the food we eat. Good nutrition helps to have a healthy circulation and a robust immunity to diseases.
Ginger herbal tea
Take 2 cups of water in a pan. Crush a 1 inch piece ginger coarsely and add to the water. Bring to a boil and then let it simmer for 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and transfer the water to a cup after sieving it. You can have this as it is or add honey to taste. Drink this tea after meals to improve digestion.
Cumin and coriander seed tea for digestion
1/2 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1/2 tsp coriander seed4
1/2 inch ginger
Boil 2-3 cups of water. Add the seeds and ginger to the water and let it steep for 20 minutes, you can even leave it for an hour. Strain the seeds and have the tea through the day, a little at a time. This is another tea that is very good for digestion.
Lassi may help some people to improve their digestion. Lassi is a probiotic drink which helps digestion. To make lassi, take 1 part fresh homemade yogurt (called curd in India), and blend it with 4 parts water. Add 2 pinches of powder of cumin seed and salt to taste. Enjoy a cup of lassi after a meal.
Does sleeping on the left side enhance digestion?
In Ayurveda, agni is the digestive fire which is the custodian of good health. A balanced agni in the system prevents the undue accumulation of ama (toxins). By following the above guidelines, you can keep the agni strong.
Another way of helping digestion is by lying on your left side for 5–15 minutes after lunch. This position activates the solar energy channel, which is linked to agni, so it is very supportive of good digestion. It is also said that when lying on the left, the chewed food has more room to expand as the curvature of the stomach is enhanced.
Sleeping on your left side allows the gravity to encourage the food waste to move more easily from the small intestine into the large intestine. That’s why when you sleep well, and on the left side, the descending colon is full of waste and ready to get eliminated from the body easily. Know more about sleeping on the left side.
Does Swara Yoga help Digestion
It is said that indigestion can be cured by eating only when the right nostril is dominant. This is because when the right nostril operates, the body chemistry is acidic and heat is produced. This helps in digestion. Knowledge of Swara yoga, helps us to quickly respond to the imbalance in our system and avoid the consequences. Click here to know more about Swara Yoga