According to Ayurveda, digestive problems are the basis of almost all diseases. If the digestive system works well and properly, many of the diseases can be prevented and the problems that have already occurred are eliminated.
Principles for good digestion in Ayurveda
Agni, Ojas and Ama
Agni is the biological, digestive fire of the body which is responsible for all the digestive processes that take place in our body. If Agni is functioning properly, our body can effectively digest the food, absorb all the substances necessary for its maintenance and get rid of the waste regularly and without any problems.
The Vedic healers call Ojas the sap of life, the most purified product of the food we consume. In other words, if the Agni cycle of “digestion – absorption – assimilation” is balanced and correct, it increases Ojas (vitality, energy and immunity).
In Ayurveda, Ojas is the highest form of energy in our body, and it connects the physiology with the consciousness and helps for better immunity and well-being.
Ama: the incorrect digestion, on the other hand leads to the formation of Ama (toxins). In Vedic medicine, all disease states occur as a result of Ama, and Ama is the result of Agni’s incorrect functioning (the biological fire of the body).
Whenever the mind or body goes out of rhythm, Ama begins to accumulate in the body and in the long run causes physical or mental problems that we all know as “illnesses”.
Ayurvedic eating rules
Drink water immediately after waking up
The habit of drinking a glass of water right after waking up can solve many of the problems with digestion. During sleep, our body balances our hormonal background. This means that together with our recovery, our body accumulates toxins and wastes that should be thrown out as quickly as possible to prevent their accumulation in the body.
Drinking water immediately after awakening stimulates the work of the intestine and helps to remove toxins and free the body from the waste.
Ayurveda recommends that you place the water in a copper container from the evening before and drink it immediately after waking up. If you do not like this option, you can drink warm water in which to add a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice or a little honey.
Eat freshly prepared food
One of the important principles of good digestion in Ayurveda is to consume freshly prepared food. Homemade food is consumed immediately, it is not reheated. It is also important that while preparing food you are in a good mood and think of nice, pleasant things. Eating warm and freshly cooked food allows food enzymes to work better.
Eat only “live” food
To be energetic, our body needs fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They contain enzymes necessary for good digestion and assimilation of food, as well as nutrients that take care of the normal cellular construction.
Eat when you are really hungry
Although there are rules for meal times (6 four-hour zones), Ayurveda recommends eating when you feel hunger because your body knows best when it is supposed to eat.
Of course, this principle is not applied in cases where there are eating disorders or if you are tired, distracted or depressed. It is important to note that, according to Ayurveda, one should not eat as a habit, because of stress or emotional deficiencies.
Chew your food well
When you start eating, do not hurry, but chew your food slowly and well. Slow eating allows gastric receptors to send a signal to our brains about what we eat, how much we eat and when we are sated. In addition, slow and proper chewing of food allows the stomach and other digestive organs to “prepare” and digest the food properly.
These signals help to distribute the right amount and the right type of digestive juices in our stomach to facilitate the process of digestion. The more you chew your food, the more nutrients will be consumed by the body.
Follow the water rules
According to Ayurveda, it is not beneficial for good digestion to drink plenty of water before eating. One to two sips of water can be drunk before a meal to clear the oral cavity and esophagus to ensure optimal digestive tract function (Agni). Drinking plenty of water before and during meals is not advisable as it slows down the digestion process. Ayurveda therefore recommends that you wait at least half an hour after eating and then drink more water.
Vedic rules on water
- Do not drink cold water, just water at room temperature, as cold water slows down the digestion.
- Water is to be drunk in small sips and slowly. When we drink the water sip by sip, it has time to mix better with the saliva from our oral cavity and until it reaches the stomach it becomes alkaline water. Alkaline water creates a neutral environment in the stomach and facilitates and supports the whole process of digestion.
Follow the principles of product compatibility
According to Ayurveda, some nutritional combinations disturb normal digestion and unbalance doshas. Incorrect combination of foods can cause indigestion, fermentation, rotting, gas formation, and others. In other words, the wrong combination of foods leads to the accumulation of Ama (toxins), and hence the appearance of illnesses.
Use spices to stimulate digestion when preparing food
Such spices are ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin, and others. The use of such spices strengthens digestion, removes toxins and helps to absorb the nutrients in the food.
Include in your diet all six tastes
In Ayurveda, the taste of food is important for its effect on the doshas and therefore on the whole psycho-physiological system of a person. For balanced nutrition, each day in your diet you must include all six tastes (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, spicy, tart). Every taste is an important stimulant for the doshas and the absence of just one of them leads to an imbalance in the body.
- Sweet – sweet taste is necessary for the maintenance and growth of tissues;
- Sour – maintains the acidity and reduces thirst;
- Salty – supplies the body with minerals and helps to retain water;
- Bitter – has the smallest nutritional value but is important because it is necessary for the removal of toxins from the body;
- Spicy – increases appetite, supports metabolism and improves digestion;
- Tart – helps to retain minerals in the body.
Follow the “100 Steps After Dinner” rule
After dinner, it is good to go out for a walk to give time for the food to be digested. Ayurveda believes that if you go at least 100 steps after dinner, this improves digestion and balances the level of sugar in the blood that appears after a meal.
Indian medicine recommends that the walk is slow and relaces and is done regularly. Exercises after dinner except Vajrasana are not recommended.
Do Vajrasana after dinner
Vajrasana is the only asana that is recommended to be practiced after eating and helps to improve digestion. Vajrasana increases the blood flow to the digestive organs, which helps to increase the digestive system’s efficiency.
Foods that provide balance to the doshas
Each constitution (Pitta, Vata, Kapha) needs a different type of food to take care of Agni’s balance.
Foods beneficial for digestion in Vata dosha
For people with Vata Constitution, beans and grain-cereal foods are very useful, but they should be consumed after heat-treating or as a mess. Also, very useful are the wheat and all kinds of vegetables (excluding cabbage, celery, spinach, tomatoes, and broccoli).
Fruits recommended for Vata Dosa are lemons, grapes, sour cherries, cherries, strawberries, plums, pineapple, and less beneficial are apples, bananas, pomegranates and oranges.
Vegetable oils with warming properties are beneficial for the digestion of the Vata Constitution while soybean and corn oil should be avoided.
Dairy products are no issue for Vata dosha as they are well absorbed by the body.
Sweet foods that can be consumed without problems are maple syrup, honey, even sugar candies but they consumption of refined sugar and chocolate should be limited.
Foods appropriate for the Pitta Constitution
The foods that help people with Pita dosha digest are:
- grain and cereal foods – wheat, rice, oats. Buckwheat, millet, lentils, corn are not recommended.
- Beneficial from the vegetables are cauliflower, celery, broccoli, potatoes, cabbage, peas, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes. It is not recommended to eat onions, spinach, radishes, carrots, and beet.
- Fruits – people with Pitta dosha can eat an unlimited amount of apples, melons, plums, pomegranate, and grapes. They should be careful with the consumption of pears, pineapples, raspberries and avoid bananas, peaches, grapefruit, lemons, apricots.
- Vegetable oils are also not recommended for the Pitta’s diet.
Beneficial foods for Kapha dosha
Everything cereal – cereal foods that stimulate kidney function are beneficial for Kapha dosha.
Vegetables are also beneficial but should not be consumed in a raw state. Most beneficial for the good digestion of Kapha constitution are celery, broccoli, carrots and cabbage. Cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, aubergines and peas are not recommended.
Fruits are not recommended, but since we cannot do without fruit at all, the most beneficial for Kapha constitution are pears and apples, and the most harmful are bananas.
Dairy products are also inappropriate, so their consumption should be avoided. These products can be replaced with soy milk and cheese.
Spicy foods such as chili, hot peppers, garlic, pepper and others are very beneficial for Kapha dosha.
Sweet foods destabilize Kapha’s digestion the most, so any sugary foods (excluding honey) should be avoided.