Can A “Raw Food” Diet Become Depleting?
It’s no surprise that many people feel more energetic and more healthy when they initially shift from a diet consisting of heavily processed food to a raw diet. However, many raw food enthusiast have attested that over a period of time there is often a sense of ungroundedness that develops along with symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation, insomnia, and eventually decreased vitality and even low libido. According to Ayurveda, digestion is the cornerstone of health and our health is determined not only by the foods we eat but more importantly our health is primarily determined by how well we digest, absorb, and assimilate our food. Even further, Ayurveda states that “ama” which is the by-products of poor digestion is considered the root cause of most diseases and the whole aim of Ayurveda is to balance this digestive fire so that we can digest our meals efficiently and smoothly. However, foods which are raw and uncooked often adds additional strain upon the digestive fire which explains the symptoms of indigestion common to raw food enthusiast.
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The Digestive Fire – “Agni”
The process of eating, according to Ayurveda, is metaphorically similar to a burning fire. In Ayurveda, this digestive fire [“agni”] illustrates the body’s ability to digest food; almost equivalent to digestive enzymes. In fact, when managing most health concerns, correcting digestion is often the very first line of management. Digestion is said to be the work of the fire element in the body and it is this fire element which produces the glow of good health and vitality. Our digestive fire may not have any problems digesting a few veggies. However, the dense, rough, and heavy qualities of raw food [in large amounts] is generally considered difficult to digest and as a result can lead to symptoms of indigestion.
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Raw Food & Indigestion
According to the wisdom of Ayurveda “vata” is made primarily of the air element and has the qualities of cold, dry, and rough. When vata is aggravated it can cause certain qualitative changes within the body such as increased dryness, roughness, coldness, mobility and variability within the body/mind. Very simply – this can be experienced as variable appetite; gas or pain after eating; dry constipation or loose motions (increased mobility); and dry/rough skin and hair.
Due to the dry quality, vata often leads to dry skin, dehydration and even that annoying cracking and popping of the joints.
The light quality, if increased, can result in the feeling of being ungrounded, light-headed and even lead to insomnia if this quality persists.
If you ever shake the hands of a vata type, you will take notice of cold hands. Vata makes one sensitive to cold weather and will often experience pain and stiffness in muscles and joints, specifically in cold weather.
Vata creates vulnerability to developing dry, rough, and scaly skin. Likewise, the inner lining of the body [i.e. mucosal lining] can also become dry and rough and according to these principles is the underlying cause of fissures along the mucosal lining.
As mentioned above, the air element of vata types is always moving, resembling the wind. If this mobile quality is increased, this can lead to abnormal movements of the body such as tics, spasms, tremors and even agitation within the mind giving rise to uncertainty and anxiety.
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Can Raw Foods Eventually Become Depleting?
Many raw food enthusiasts would argue that cooking food destroys vital nutrients and enzymes. However, research reveals that plant enzymes obtained by consuming raw foods are mostly digested and broken down by our own digestive enzymes and therefore do not significantly contribute to the actual process of digestion. Furthermore, consuming a large amount of raw food can actually strain our digestive fire and decrease our ability to properly digest the meal – thereby creating symptoms of indigestion. Instead, Ayurveda recommends lightly steaming, sautéing, and/or simmering our food at a low temperature which will make food easier to digest. Ayurveda talks a great deal about “Ojas” as being the end result of healthy digestion and balance of all bodily tissues. In fact, it is ojas which gives vitality to the body and clarity to the mind. As mentioned above – raw uncooked vegetables tends to increase vata. Vata can be likened to the modern understanding of catabolism or the breaking down of tissues. This may be great for shedding off a few extra pounds initially. However, in the long term this is considered to be depleting and as a result may prevent the formation of ojas – the quintessence vitality of life.
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Healthy Tips For Improving Digestion
– Avoid cold food and cold drinks.
– Sip warm water throughout the day.
– enjoy fresh ginger root, lime or lemon juice prior to your meal
– Eat mindfully and take your time to fully enjoy your food.
– Eat according to your primary constitution: Vata, Pitta, or Kapha.
– Eat mostly warm, cooked foods
– Incorporate healthy fats
– Include spices that enhance digestion [i.e. coriander, cumin, and fennel]
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The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.