Agni or the digestive fire is the source of life according to Ayurveda. It is the basic process that converts the food into nutrition absorbable by the body. A vitiated digestive process is like bad cooking. You cannot consume badly cooked food, and even if you do, you will fall sick. Likewise, the body parts are not able to consume the low-grade nutritional juice prepared by a bad digestion. This leaves the sequential body physiology (building up or repair of the body tissues etc) either weak or distorted.
Improper digestion is the root cause of all evil in the body. However, it is also the most common problem today. It is so common that most of us have stopped considering it as a problem. But if ignored for a long time, improper digestion hordes the body with toxins weakens the natural immunity and puts up a big invitation board for all kinds of diseases!
Today, nutritional supplements are a routine for most of us. This is so because the food alone fails to provide adequate nutrition to the body. However, Ayurveda believes that most of the times, the body is not able to digest the food that we eat. Such digestion is like a bad student. No matter what all resources(health supplements) you provide to him, a bad student will not absorb anything! Therefore if you do not have a good digestion, no amount of nutritional supplements will be able to help you keep yourself healthy!
Therefore, it is indispensable to have a good digestion in order to prevent diseases. And, obviously, the key to ultimate health is a Great Digestion!
So in this post, we are going to discuss some of the most basic dietary and lifestyle habits that preserve and strengthen our digestive system –
A Healthy Start
- The right start for the day is waking up early in the morning. For more details please visit Ideal Time to Wake Up: Brahma Muhurat
- Usha paan – the time of union between the night and the day. This time is called Brahma muhurat. We should drink 2-4 glasses of warm/ normal water right after waking up.
- Drinking water early morning helps to cleanse the intestines and stimulate digestion.
Ideal Dietary Habits
- Have meals at one fixed time or a fixed range of time every day. It helps the body to adjust its bio clock accordingly and prepare more efficiently for the expected digestion.
- 10 am to 4 pm is the ideal range of time to consume heavy food (Grains, Fats, Oils, Non-Vegetarian Food, Spicy Food)
- Before 10 am and after 4 pm, ideally an average adult (25 years+) should have light meals (milk, soups, fruits, vegetables, puffed grains)
- Avoid eating heavy food immediately after a heavy workout or after a long exposure to the sun.
- Avoid eating at all, when in extreme grief, happiness, fright, anger, anxiety or stress.
- Avoid eating in between the meals. This habit disperses the digestive juices and hinders effective digestion.
- Avoid having heavy, oily, spicy meals, grains after sunset if possible. Sun has incredible influence on the rate of metabolism and thus on digestion.
- Avoid eating without proper hunger.
- Avoid eating will walking or standing. Try always to sit and eat. Being in a stationary position helps you to focus better on the food, the flavours and the aroma!
Ideal Meal Protocol
- Start a meal with an appetizer if you have to eat without hunger. Avoid eating the heavy, oily and large amount of food, when eating without hunger.
- If you don’t have a handy appetizer, consume a tsp of black pepper with honey/ jaggery/ plain or raw/ dried ginger flakes with salt right before the meals.
- If you are very hungry, follow this sequence to eat food- sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, astringent.
- When you are extremely hungry, sweet (oily/heavy)food will provide immediate energy.
- Besides sweet food will get a good amount of digestive juices for proper digestion.
- After that sour food will restimulate the taste buds and hunger.
- Next salty food will promote digestion when the stomach is full of sweet and sour food.
- All other taste(bitter and pungent) also promote digestion by increasing the blood supply to the stomach.
- At the end of the meal, astringent helps to suppress hunger.
- Astringent taste also helps to clean the mouth and prevent tooth decay, mouth ulcers, bleeding or weak gums.
- Normally people tend to eat sweets at the end of the meal. The sweetness that lingers in the mouth after a meal promotes tooth decay and foul smell.
- This sequence is a normal guideline and not a strict rule.
- Always try to consume local seasonal produce like fruits and vegetables. This helps the body to adjust better to the local climate.
Ideal Fluid Consumption During the Meal
- Avoid drinking water just before the meal.
- If you have to drink water before the meal, also consume a tsp of black pepper along with it (only if you have chronic indigestion).
- Drinking a small amount of water (50-100 ml) in the middle of the meal is ideal for digestion. It helps to soften and dilute the food particles.
- Avoid drinking an excess amount of water after the meals. It brings down the optimal temperature required for digestion and retards the digestive process.
- If you have chronic acidity, you can switch water with buttermilk.
- Drinking buttermilk during or after the meal helps to relieve acidity, bloating and constipation.
- Please ensure that the buttermilk is always normal temperature and not chilled.
- If you have sluggish digestion (Kapha dominant Prakriti), you can try a small amount of alcohol or Ayurvedic Asava/Arishta preparations (10 ml diluted with water) before the meals.
- If you have sluggish digestion (Vata dominant Prakriti), avoid alcohol without medical advice, as it might cause bloating and flatulence.
- If you have chronic indigestion (Vata dominant Prakriti), swallow 2-3 whole garlic buds after the meals.
Ideal Sleep Protocol
- Proper sleep is indispensable for good digestion. Therefore avoid excessively sugary food after sunset. Excess sugar in the blood restimulates the body and delays the sleep.
- Avoid tea or coffee consumption after sunset.
- Avoid eating immediately after waking up from a sleep(10-15 mins), unless truly hungry.
- Do not go to sleep immediately after any meal.
- According to Ayurveda, sleep slows the rate of metabolism and lowers the body temperature. This impedes the rate and quality of digestion as the ideal temperature required for perfect digestion is lost!
- After dinner, walk for 100 steps before going to sleep or rest.
- Walking helps to increase blood circulation and provides some extra body heat to stimulate nighttime digestion.
- Avoid mid-night snacks. If hungry in the middle of the night, consume milk/ soups.
This is the indicative sleep protocol for daily sleep. However, sleep patterns should change according to the seasons for a healthy digestion!