Tips for Healthy Ayurvedic Digestion

In Ayurveda, digestion is the foundation where health develops and diseases mainly begins. Digestion is physical (taking in food which converted into nutrition and cellular information), and mental (state of mind coming in through the five primary senses – eyes, ears, nose, mouth and touch- and emotional). These create a somato-emotional relationship responsible for either our well-being or our potential towards ill health.

Ayurveda has what is called Samprapti, which translates to the “six stages of disease” – Accumulation, Aggravation, Overflow, Relocation, Manifestation, and Diversification. Accumulation and Aggravation present symptoms that tend to go unnoticed, such as dry stools, gas, and a decreased ability or mild manifestation of constipation, burning indigestion, and sluggish digestion. When any of these symptoms present themselves it is clear that there is a digestive disturbance that can slowly progress and produce more intense symptoms, enter into the circulatory system and eventually making their way into a new home.

It is strongly and repetitively emphasized in Ayurvedic Medicine that healthcare begins by managing our health, disease and overall digestion in the first two phases of Accumulation/Aggravation.

Luckily, Ayurveda has noted “15 General Guidelines for Healthy Eating” and have been clearly pointed out in the first text of California College of Ayurveda.

These 15 guidelines are:

  1. Food should be taken in the proper place. Meaning, that the environment that one eats in affects digestion. Calm, peaceful and pleasant environment is optimal.
  2. Eat food prepared by loving hands in a loving way.
  3. Say grace before meals. Grace is an opportunity for meditation, chanting or saying a blessing before taking food.
  4. Food should be eaten without distraction. When the mind is distracted, food is not chewed properly and emotions that disturb digestion enter the mind.
  5. Food should be taken with a proper frame of mind. When consuming food, the mind should be peaceful.
  6. Food should be chewed until it is an even consistency. According to Charak Samhita, “One should not take food too hurriedly. If it is taken to hurriedly it enters into the wrong passage, it gets depressed and it does not enter the stomach properly.” Digestion begins in the mouth.
  7. Food should be warm. Warm food is digested more easily than cold food. Cold food weakens digestion, is digested slowly and more likely to produce toxins.
  8. Food should be taken that is oily or moist. Oily and moist foods are more nourishing than dry foods. Dry foods are difficult to digest and to eliminate. Still, food that is too oily is also hard to digest, as it is very heavy.
  9. Food should not have opposite potencies. This is the essence of Ayurvedic food combining. Hot and cold foods taken together will be neither purifying nor toxifying.
  10. Only a small amount of liquid should be taken with meals. When too much liquid is taken with food, the liquid reduces the strength of agni (digestive fire.)
  11. One should avoid cold drinks. Cold drinks weakens agni. Drinks should be at room temperature or a little warm.
  12. Food should be taken with self-confidence. When taking food, it is important for a person to feel good about what they are consuming. Self-confidence motivates the internal forces of nature to support good digestion.
  13. Eat until you are 75 percent full. Overeating suppresses the agni, increases the kapha dosha and increases ama. The body and mind should feel light and awake following a meal.
  14. Take some time to rest after meals. It is best to rest for some time. Ideally one hour. This allows the first stage of digestion to be completed. At the very least, a person should close their eyes and take several slow breaths before rising from the table.
  15. Allow three hours between meals for food to digest. Three hours is the minimum time it takes to completely digest food

Whether for disease prevention (healthcare) or disease management (sick-care), Ayurveda addresses both at the basic level of working with diet and lifestyle. In both cases, diet and lifestyle is where it all starts. What you put into your body, including sensory interaction, determines what comes out of the body. What is your digestion telling you?

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Dr. Vishnu Aragona AD, LMT, is one of Philadelphia's leading experts in Ayurveda, with over 20 years of experience in holistic training. He has been recognized by NAMA (National Ayurveda Medical Association) as meeting the requirements as a Doctor of Ayurveda. Vishnu has a Master's Degree in Ayurveda and a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology. Vishnu is also a licensed massage therapist, practicing various other modalities. He has been practicing for 22 years and teaching classical yoga rooted in Ayurveda for over 15 years. His Ayurveda, Yoga, and Massage center, Still Point Ayurveda is the leading Ayurvedic Center in Philadelphia. Visit www.stillpointayurveda.com to find out more and to schedule appointments.