10 Simple Considerations For Optimal Digestion

DIGESTION ~ THE CORNERSTONE OF HEALTH
According to ayurveda, digestion is the cornerstone of health. Even further, ayurveda has long recognized the importance of environment to one's health and goes on to explain that what you see, hear, taste, smell, feel and think are all important for your overall well-being and health. Interestingly, it has been estimated that nearly 6 million people in the U.S. experience indigestion annually. Indigestion, heaviness in the body, retention of flatus and constipation, and/or loose bowel movements are the common signs and symptoms of indigestion [ajirna], as described in the classical texts. Below are simple considerations to help improve one's digestion, overall health and well-being.

10 Simple Considerations For Optimal Digestion
1. Eat wholesome food.
2. Eat your meals at regular times.
3.  Do not rush meals.
4.  Appreciate your meals [i.e. the smell, taste, feel and appearance of the food].
5.  Chew your food properly.
6.  Start your meals with an appetizer like soup and end it with a sweet dish [i.e. payasam].
7. Avoid too much liquids just before and during meals.
8. Eat food with a pleasant and positive mind.
9. Consider eating while sitting in a cross-legged position [i.e. sukhasana pose].
10. Walk a few steps after finishing the meal.

*Special gratitude to Dr. A. Rangaprasad Bhat [Ayurvedic Physician]
For the insightful contributions to the above considerations.

Advice From The Experts:
I asked several highly respected individuals in the field of Ayurveda, what are some basic considerations to help improve digestion and this is what they had to say …

"Gratitude and blessings for ancestors, meal contributors and self before mindfully partaking meal."
- Sharon Kapp, Ayurvedic Professional 

"Fill half of the stomach with food, a quarter with water & leave the rest (1/4) empty so that the food can properly 'cook' and be digested."
- Anupama Butani, Ayurvedic Professional 

"Ajeerna [indigestion] is a disturbed agni [digestive] condition so any lifestyle behavior pattern or food/herb(including spices) that improves agni and burns ama will be therapeutic."
- Dr. Bill Dean, Medical Doctor and Ayurvedic Professional 

"Mental attitude plays big role in digestion. Eating is one of the necessities for a happy, healthy and long life. The other main thing is we should eat food according to the right combination of dosha type and spices along with the right mental attitude. Therefore, keep calm before eating."
- Chanchal Khosla, Ayurvedic Professional 

"Consider regular exercise, yoga asanas, and walking to help stoke the agni fire. Likewise, skip unhealthy snacks and take up the habit of drinking warm water - warm water helps to dispels gas."
- Sanghee Chon Davidson, Ayurvedic Professional 

"Eat with gratitude, enjoy your food. Eat with people you love. Eat clean tasty food. Eat in a clean nice atmosphere. Savor the moment."
- Chitra Eder Turley, Ayurvedic Professional 

"Silently say, "thank you" or "OM" to imbue your food with even more prana. Likewise, consider teas such as fennel tea, lemon/ginger/honey teas and/or lassis to help improve digestion. Lastly, eat in a peaceful environment."
- Mary Bruck, Ayurvedic Professional 


Disclaimer:

Educational Purpose Only. Not Medical Advice. 

 


Fasting Therapy ~ An Ayurvedic Perspective

Fasting Therapy ~ An Ayurvedic Perspective
The word fasting though denotes complete abstinence from food, Ayurveda does not advocate complete abstinence in general with certain exceptions to the rule as in the case of post-shodhana therapy. At one instance Chakrapani in his commentary states the following as the meaning of "upavasa" – उपवास:

क्रोधादिपरित्यागः सत्याद्युपादानं , वचनं हि-उपावृत्तस्य पापेभ्यः सहवासो गुणे हि यः|उपवासः  विज्ञेयो शरीरस्य शोषणम् इति; || . दीर्घञ्जीवितीयोऽध्यायः ||

This echoes the disassociation of the krodha [anger], lobha [greed], moha [illusion], iccha [desire], dvesha [hatred] etc. from the mind and following truth is "upavasa". By doing so, one negates his sinful activities. However, for that to happen a well fed physique will not cooperate, and instead a poorly fed physique is considered more suitable. A physique devoid of food gets to an extent tired and the outward thinking centered on one's negative emotional thoughts like krodha [i.e. anger] gets diverted as the focus of attention runs towards the appetite; thereby relieving one from both his physical and mental stress!

PRACTICAL ASPECT OF FASTING:
That being a spiritual explanation, now coming to the Ayurvedic perspective. “Upavasa” [i.e. langhana] gets defined as यत् किञ्चिल्लाघवकरं देहे तल्लङ्घनं स्मृतम्. In essence, “that which causes lightness to the physique is Langhanam”. Now divulging into the qualities of Langhanam includes that which is light for digestion; sharp in potency; dry, rough & hard in consistency; subtle in its form; and is moving with relation to its kinetics [1] While in commentary of the above verse,  Chakrapani says that which causes dryness to the body is essentially absent of the oily quality and devoid of heaviness is to be considered langhana. [2]

INDICATIONS:
Upavasa is one amongst the 4 types of modalities of Langhana followed in ayurveda.The other 3 being pipAsA (thirst); marutAtapa (exposure to breeze); pAcana (digestive compounds).[3]

Who should consider langhanam [i.e. fasting]?
1. aggravated combination of kapha, pitta, rakta and mala associated with vata
2. one with high tolerance or extreme physical strength

In these two contexts Langhana (i.e. fasting) follow-up Shodhana is advised. The pAcana type of Langhanam has its jurisdiction over persons with moderate strength; kapha & pittaja diseases; nausea; vomiting; diarrhea; cardiac patients; visUcika; alasaka; fever; constipation; heaviness of the body & body parts; and the of appetite. In addition, individuals with poor physical strength and mild diseases; not feeling thirsty, etc. then upavAsa (easily digesting foods) are advocated. [4]

Benefits of langhana [i.e. fasting] [5]:
– brings about lightness to the body
– enhances unhindered elimination of flatus; urine and feces
– belching devoid of odor and taste of previous meal
– wards off the stupor & debility

Last but not least, the condition for which the langhana management addressed ... soon becomes asymptomatic.

 

Adverse effects of excessive indulgence in Langhana: [6]
When indulged in excess the langhana certainly gets harmful and causes the following conditions. Suppression of hunger; thirst resulting in loss of appetite. Debilitated functioning of hearing and visual apparatuses. Confusion of mind (stupor) due to the vata moving upwards and getting stagnated in the precordial region. Exhaustion of physical strength; agni & bala (contextually refers to the mucosal lining). Pain in parvas (small joints like carpals; tarsals; metacarpals and metatarsals). Malaise. Cough. Dryness in oral cavity.

 

DISCLAIMER:
This is for educational purposes only; NOT Medical advice.
Always consult your primary care physician before considering any new management.
Always consult with a professional ayurvedic provider before considering any new management

References:
[1] लघूष्णतीक्ष्णविशदं रूक्षं सूक्ष्मं खरं सरम्||कठिनं चैव यद्द्रव्यं प्रायस्तल्लङ्घनं स्मृतम्|
[2] विरूक्षणस्य हि मुख्यः स्नेहाभावः साध्यः, लङ्घनस्य तु गौरवाभाव इति स्फुट एव भेदः प्रतिभाति ||
[3] चतुष्प्रकारा संशुद्धिः पिपासा मारुतातपौ| पाचनान्युपवासश्च व्यायामश्चेति लङ्घनम्||१८||
[4] प्रभूतश्लेष्मपित्तास्रमलाः संसृष्टमारुताः| बृहच्छरीरा बलिनो लङ्घनीया विशुद्धिभिः||१९||
येषां मध्यबला रोगाः कफपित्तसमुत्थिताः| वम्यतीसारहृद्रोगविसूच्यलसकज्वराः||२०|| विबन्धगौरवोद्गारहृल्लासारोचकादयः| पाचनैस्तान् भिषक् प्राज्ञः प्रायेणादावुपाचरेत्||२१||
[5]  वातमूत्रपुरीषाणां विसर्गे गात्रलाघवे| हृदयोद्गारकण्ठास्यशुद्धौ तन्द्राक्लमे गते||३४||
स्वेदे जाते रुचौ चैव क्षुत्पिपासासहोदये| कृतं लङ्घनमादेश्यं निर्व्यथे चान्तरात्मनि||३५||
[6] क्षुत्प्रणाशोऽरुचिस्तृष्णा दौर्बल्यं श्रोत्रनेत्रयोः||३६|| मनसःसम्भ्रमोऽभीक्ष्णमूर्ध्ववातस्तमो हृदि|
देहाग्निबलनाशश्च लङ्घनेऽतिकृते भवेत्||३७|| पर्वभेदोऽङ्गमर्दश्च कासः शोषो मुखस्य च|

 


The Concept of Food in Ayurveda

WHAT IS AHARA?
Ahara is one of the important pillars of Ayurveda. It means that it is one of the basic principles upon which health, happiness and harmony rests. It is concerned with diet and lifestyle and is essentially preventive in nature.  It is not only the food that we consume, but also what each of the 5 senses (eyes-sight, nose-smell, ears-hearing, tongue-taste, skin-touch) absorb from all that they come into contact with.

Our life revolves around food.
We begin each day and end each day with some intake of food!   Some of us live to eat and yet some eat to live! The first cry of a newborn is for nourishment from his/her mothers milk and touch. From the first moment of our lives, food is one of the most important ingredient for a healthy body and mind. In todays time, restaurants are totally packed. Take out food centers are overflowing with orders. Grocery stores have long lines. When we see a beggar on the streets, he is begging for money so as to feed himself & his family. Food is his primary thought.

In our fast paced life today, fast foods are on the rise.  We eat quickly, foods that are prepared with shortcuts and we find relief in filling the stomach and senses rather than nourishing and energizing the body. Protein shakes are taken as ‘fillers’ and nutrition. There is a complete lack of attention to the process of eating. There are several gadgets in the kitchen today for cooking aid but eating out or taking food out is the latest fad of this century. New and old diseases are rapidly on the rise and some are uncontrollable or incurable.

Finding Our Balance:
Ayurveda teaches us how to go back to nature and find our balance. Each individual has a unique blueprint. Each human being knowing their unique design can prevent imbalances and diseases in their body and mind. Slowing down is the first step in life.

 

Food has a relationship with the three doshas:

  • VATA (air and ether)
  • PITTA (fire and water)
  • KAPHA (earth and water)

 

… and the three gunas:

  • Sattwa (Harmony)
  • Rajas (Overactive)
  • Tamas (Underactive)

For a lot of people, time is of essence, in todays hurried pace and even if there exists a deeper knowledge of the Science of Ayurveda in them, they are still not able to follow the simple rules of nature. It is a constant struggle in the body and mind. But we, as human beings are responsible for everything that happens to us. Self study is the first step to making changes and bringing balance.

As a child growing up in India, I was taught to offer the food to the Higher Spirit (God) before eating the first morsel, so that it was purified, blessed and removed from toxins. The offering was always done silently even if the meal was consumed outside of home, at a restaurant etc. With the passage of time, I was taught the 24th verse from the 4th chapter of the Bhagawad Gita, which is as following:


FOOD PRAYER

Brahmaarpanam Brahma Havir
Brahmaagnau Brahmanaa Hutam
Brahmaiva Tena Gantavyam
Brahma Karma Samaadhinaha 


Translation:
[This is 24th verse from the 4th chapter of Bhagavad Geeta]
The act of offering is Brahman (Supreme God). The offering itself is Brahman.
The offering is done by Brahman in the sacred fire which is Brahman.
He alone attains Brahman who, in all actions, is fully absorbed in Brahman.
(As we chant this prayer we are offering the different types of food to Brahman).

Aham Vaishvaanaro Bhutva
Praaninaam Dehamaashritha
Praanaapaana Samaa Yuktaha
Pachaamyannam Chatur Vidam 

Translation: [This is 14th verse from the 15th chapter of Bhagavad Geeta]
This sloka is an acknowledgement and assurance to us from Brahman (Supreme God):
“I am Vaishnavara, existing as fire God in the bodies of living beings.  Being associated with ingoing (prana) and outgoing (apana) life breaths, I will digest all the four different types of food (that which we bite and chew; that which we masticate with the tongue; those which we gulp; that which we swallow) and purify them.”

Harir Daatha Harir Bhoktha
Harir Annam Prajaapatih
Harir Vipra Shareerastu
Bhoonkte Bhojayathe Harih.

Translation:
Oh Lord Hari, You are the food
You are the enjoyer of the food
You are the giver of food
Therefore, I offer all that I consume at Thy Lotus Feet

We should partake food with a Sathwic mind. Our ancestors recommended the offering of food to God before partaking. Food so partaken becomes “Prasad” (consecrated offering).

Prayer cleanses the food of the three impurities;
1. Absence of cleanliness of the vessel
2. Absence of cleanliness of the food ingredients
3. Absence of cleanliness in the process of cooking.

It is necessary to get rid of these three impurities to purify the food, for pure food goes into the making of a pure mind. It is not possible to ensure the purity of the cooking process, since we do not know what thoughts rage in the mind of the person who prepares the food.  We unknowingly may absorb the ‘rage’ of the cheff preparing the food. Also, when we consume meat of any kind, we are not aware of the emotion going through the animal before its slaughter, and we may absorb it. Similarly, we cannot ensure the cleanliness of the food ingredients as we have no knowledge if they were acquired in a righteous way by the seller.  It is essential on our part to offer food to God in the form of prayer, so that these three impurities do not afflict our mind.

Simple Rules To Follow:
– at least one meal a day, sit quietly
– observe the food on the plate
– say a prayer consciously and
– eat with full attention to the process.

In Conclusion:
Mantras are very powerful to cleanse the vibrations and purify the Food we take in daily.  Even if we are not able to eat a Sattwic meal, due to the present time pressures of the day, to chant the food prayer mantra or to say a prayer of offering the food to the Supreme God will certainly change the vibrations of it. Good health will prevail in the body and mind and the SPIRIT will soar!

 


Maintaining Good Digestion With Ayurveda - A Pillar of Good Health

Maintaining Good Digestion With Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda, one of the main causes of all diseases is rooted in the impairment of the body's main principle called Agni, the fire of digestion. A faulty fire leads to improper functioning of the tissue fires and can lead to poor synthesis of tissues.

Visualize your digestion as a fire in the stomach; you need to provide the proper fuel and conditions so that it can burn optimally. If you dampen the fire or do not feed it, it will burn out. If you feed it too much or with the wrong fuel, it will burn too hot and be out of control.

When Agni (fire of digestion) is strong, we are free from symptoms such as:

  • Irregular appetite
  • Bloating
  • Loud or smelly gas
  • Constipation
  • Excessive burping
  • Intense and unbearable hunger
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Acidity
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Loose stool or diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Heaviness and/or sluggishness
  • Lethargy

Because some of these symptoms are so common, they are often considered normal; however, each and every symptom is a sign of imbalance occurring in the bodily system.

If we pay attention to these signs, we can correct the imbalance in the early stage before it begins the disease process, leading to more serious issues.

Want To Learn More About Agni
CLICK HERE: http://healthyayurved.wpengine.com/agni-the-fire-of-digestion/


Importance of Being Mindful While Eating

Avoid multitasking.
We can only focus on one thing at a time. Charak Samhita , the ancient Ayurvedic text containing the conversation between the medical sage Atreya and his disciple Agnivesa, states that there is no multiplicity of the mind. The mind is only one and therefore only one sense faculty is motivated at a time; all sense organs are not active simultaneously. It may appear as if we can taste the food and at the same time watch television, however, this is not correct. In reality the various sense faculties are active in a consecutive order, and can be observed when attending to the subtleties of what happens while taking food.

Food for Thought ~We are what we think.
The importance of positive thinking is well-known and while eating we should pay attention to what thoughts and feelings are moving through us. The energy and vibration of our thoughts manifest in the foods we eat. Thus, maintaining a state of prayer and positive attitude when taking food reflects outwardly in our lives.

 


Agni: The Fire of Digestion

Agni: The Fire of Digestion
In Ayurveda we place a strong emphasis on digestion. In fact, when treating illness, correcting the digestion is almost always the first line of treatment. Digestion is said to be the work of fire element in the body (called agni in Sanskrit). It is this fire that digests our food, provides us with warmth and produces the glow of good health. A properly nourished body with a balanced digestive fire aligns itself with nature and self-adjusts to weather the small shifts and ups and downs of daily life. In fact, sometimes just by improving digestion we can clear up stubborn health problems without any further treatment.

On a bigger scale though, agni is the agent of all transformation. Agni provides our actual capacity to transform the food—and situations, thoughts and emotions—that we take in so that it becomes nourishment. It is also our passion and enthusiasm for life. In a very real way, agni helps us "take a bite out of life." Agni resides anywhere in the body where transformation takes place. However, the main digestive fire resides in the navel center and it determines the health of the agni everywhere else in our body. We can imagine it as the central fire in a village from which each household lights its own hearth. Encouraged by a gentle breeze within each of these spacious hearths, agni glows under an earthen clay pot filled with water. The meals cooked in that pot, nourish each inhabitant of the home.

When agni is healthy even “improper” food, thoughts, emotions and situations can occasionally be digested without too much difficulty. Conversely, we could eat the most nutrient-packed, health-promoting food and not receive its benefits, if our agni is not healthy enough to break the nutrients down into usable pieces. (This is one of the reasons that Ayurveda doesn't really promote raw food diets. Raw foods haven't undergone the transformation that makes its nutrients more available.)
If agni is either too weak or too strong it causes problems in the body and mind over time. However, even healthy agni fluctuates somewhat over time, responding to changes in its environment. For example, in the summer agni tends to burn with less intensity than in the winter, when the heat of the body is driven into the core to maintain the warmth of the organs.

Agni and Food Preparation
Essentially, digestion is a cooking process, so properly prepared food means less work for the body and better assimilation. Cooking with fire is, of course, recommended, but techniques like pickling with salt, acid or spices and fermentation are often used as well. However, it is important not to overuse these techniques, because they carry fire element into the body. The agents used in these processes (salt, vinegar, alcohol, citrus, pungent spices, etc.) can increase heat in the body and should be used in moderation by someone with a lot of fire in their constitution. The very best way to support your agni is to give it the proper time and space to do it’s job.

This means:

  • Wait at least 4 hours between meals (with no snacking in between).
  • Drink very little liquid with meals—or even within 1 hour of eating. Small sips of warm soup or tea may aid digestion, but a big glass of icy drink will smother the flame of agni.
  • Eat only during daylight hours. Give the body at least a full 12 hours of night to perform the more subtle aspects of digestion—clearing out the organs and allowing them to rest.
  • Eat only when you feel real hunger. If you don’t know what real hunger feels like, you should experiment a little bit with it (those with irregular or excess agni may often experience “false hunger”).
  • Base your meal frequency and size on your level of activity on a given day. It could be as simple as this: the more physical or mental effort you put out, the more food you need.
  • People with clearly slow agni may choose to fast or to eat very lightly one day a week so that undigested food which is clogging the system may be digested.