Today might *officially* be World Digestive Health day but, for Ayurveda junkies like us, taking care of your digestive health is an everyday pursuit.
That’s because Ayurveda teaches us that your digestive fire (powered by the ever-burning Pitta dosha) fuels the goings-on in your entire mind and body, including your immune system. Think of it as your inner furnace, but one that’s a little temperamental and prone to chopping, changing and throwing tantrums.
Ayurvedic doctors trace the root cause of many illnesses, ailments and imbalances back to problems in the gut - and, even if you’re eating ‘healthily’, you might not be giving your unique gut what it needs at that moment in time.
Like everything else in the universe, it’s in a constant state of change as it reacts to the world around it. The trick is to tune in, listen to what it’s telling you, and feed it accordingly. Needy? Yes. Powerful? Also yes. But don’t worry, we’re here to help you with these Ayurvedic digestion tips. We even have a specialist all-natural supplement - Rest and Digest - which is designed to give your gut a helping hand.
Doshas & Digestion
First, let’s look at some common digestive upsets for each dosha. To self-diagnose, try using a tongue scraper first thing in the morning to tune into the messages that your gut is sending around the body. Tongue scraping also has the added benefit of preparing the gastrointestinal tract for breakfast because, as we know, digestion starts in the mouth.
With breezy Vata, digestive imbalance can manifest as gas, bloating, abdominal cramps, constipation, and even a brownish coating over the tongue. To bring Vata back into balance, choose sweet, sour, or salty flavours and avoid pungent, bitter or astringent ones (think dry or ‘chalky’ fruit and vegetables, like an unripe banana or pomegranate).
If you’re a fiery Pitta, you’ll have extra digestive fire. Imbalances may make you prone to feeling ‘hangry’ or digestive problems like having acid reflux, heartburn, an upset stomach, abdominal pain, or a yellowish coating over your tongue. To balance these uncomfortable conditions, Pitta should favour sweet, bitter and astringent foods but avoid sour, salty or pungent ones.
For grounded Kapha, an unhappy gut can leave you with a low or non-existent appetite, heaviness and sleepiness after eating, mucous congestion, or a whitish coating on the tongue. To balance these ailments out, opt for bitter, pungent and astringent flavours, but avoid anything sweet, sour or salty.
The most important Ayurvedic lesson to remember is that for a healthy gut and good bacteria, you need to bring balance to your digestive system by adapting your diet for your dosha. However, there are some things that all of us, whatever our individual body type, can do to help achieve a healthier and more balanced gut.
1. Follow the sun
Whoever said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day had never met an Ayurvedic doctor. Each of our brains houses our own internal body clock (called the ‘suprachiasmatic nucleus’) which controls all of our functional rhythms. The more we stick to these rhythms, the more in-balance we feel.
This internal clock is influenced by light, which is why both sleep and digestion have peaks and troughs along with the sun’s rise and fall. When the sun is at its highest, our digestion is at its strongest so Ayurveda recommends that lunch should be your biggest meal, and breakfast and dinner should be as close to sunrise and sunset as possible.
2. Eat bigger, better meals and fewer snacks
When it comes to avoiding the temptation to snack, the struggle is real. But are you really hungry, or is there something else (like boredom or stress) that’s driving your desire to eat?
Centuries of Ayurvedic wisdom says true hunger only generally occurs at least 3 to 4 hours after our last meal and, when we snack through the day, the digestive fire is constantly being awakened - disrupting our natural daily rhythms. By sticking to a routine, our bodies know when to prepare themselves for digestion and can do a better job of it. Avoiding the temptation to snack will go a long way towards maintaining a healthy digestive system as well as proper absorption, and assimilation of nutrients.
3. Make mealtimes a sacred ritual
Ayurvedic science teaches us that digestion is an all-body experience, and not just something that’s isolated to our gut. All of our senses are involved in processing food, so practicing mindfulness when we eat can help our digestive system to do its job. This includes everything from choosing a variety of spices and food combinations to delight your eyes, nose and taste buds as well as focusing your whole attention on the cooked food in front of you (so avoid phones at the dinner table!) and taking your time to properly chew each mouthful.
If you want to level-up your Ayurvedic practice around mealtimes, you can introduce breathing techniques to activate the ‘rest and digest’ mode that your body enters to process food. Before you begin to eat, take five deep breaths with the tips of your middle fingers pressing the tips of your thumbs - also known as ‘agni mudra’ or ‘fire gesture’.
4. Focus on the super herbs
Of course, in Ayurveda, it’s not just about how you eat but also what you eat. In fact, according to Ayurveda, there’s a whole host of super herbs you should be including in your diet if you want to regain balance and restore harmony in your mind, body and gut.
For example, for the gut, we should be eating a diet that’s rich in ingredients like Triphala, Ginger, Fennel and Carom Seed - all of which can be found in our Rest and Digest capsules, thanks to their digestive boosting, anti-inflammatory and naturally cleansing properties.
5. Iced drinks aren’t cool
Remember: whatever your dosha, your digestive system is governed by Pitta’s fire. And what happens when you add ice to fire? You dampen it. It might be tempting to reach for a refreshing iced drink, but the imbalances caused as a result can lead to malabsorption (when the small intestine is unable to absorb enough nutrients) and incomplete digestion of food, clogging the gastrointestinal tract.
Eventually, this food waste can build up throughout the body, wreaking havoc in the form of weakened muscles, aches and pains, fatigue and sluggishness, insomnia, brain fog and low moods. If your primary dosha is Pitta, drinking cool water is ok to tame your inner heat, but for Vata and Kaphas we recommend room temperature or even warm water and drinks. Ginger tea and hot water with lemon and honey can be used both in the evening and morning as a natural cleanse for your insides.
6. Try not to eat before bedtime
Yep, that means an earlier dinner and avoiding late snacks. Eating too soon before you go to bed can be a direct cause of insomnia or other sleep troubles. You see, our bodies do all sorts of amazing things to rejuvenate and replenish while we’re asleep. But, they can only do that well when they’re not distracted by directing energy to digest food.
If you’re having a day when life just doesn’t allow you to stick to your ideal mealtimes, and you end up eating later than planned, try to leave at least 30 minutes between eating and bedtime. Plus, make sure you avoid dairy, frozen, oily, fatty, or sugary foods.
The digestive system, like everything else in the world, is complex and ever-changing, and extremely volatile. Trying to bring it into balance is like taming a wild beast, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you find it difficult to manage. The key, as always, is to remember that Ayurvedic wisdom teaches us to strive for balance, and not perfection. More importantly, try to listen to and adapt along with your body - it always knows best.
One way in which you can give your gut a little helping hand is by taking a daily supplement. At Deja, we’ve combined all-natural ingredients and years of experience to create our Rest & Digest capsules. Boasting a blend of super herbs, they help your body and gut to feel good from the inside-out. Shop them via our website and start living the Ayurveda way today.