It’s not only what we eat, it’s how we eat that contributes strongly to keeping digestion fired up and toxins at bay. We must listen to our ‘gut’ and following the simple guidelines below we can ensure we give ourselves the best possible chance to connect the dots to our digestive and other health issues.
Observe good hygiene
We are touching phones, handles, computers and shaking hands constantly these days, and these hidden places are a breeding ground for bacteria and microbes. How germ-free our hands at that before we ‘grab a bite’?
Keep a calm environment
Eat in a calm and relaxed environment - no TV, phones or heated discussions. Take your time and enjoy your meal, preferably around a dining table.
Stay stress free
Your emotions speak directly to your appetite and digestion. Do not eat when you are angry or upset. Keep a peaceful and pleasant mood while eating.
Always take time to sit down to eat. Yes, this actually means that you need to step away from your computer and desk. Ensure that you are not eating while you are standing, driving or walking. Sitting down to eat ensures that our stomach is in a relaxed state.
Focus on your food
Be present and give your full attention to your meal. Engage all your senses in the process of eating. Since food sustains our life, don’t you think it’s worth giving it 100 per cent of your attention? The food is being converted into information and essential energy for the body, so allow your brain to fully register the process of digestion.
Are you really hungry?
Eat to live but don’t live to eat – be mindful of your cravings and indulgences. This does not mean that you shouldn’t enjoy tasty wholesome food, but only eat when you’re hungry. If you’re not feeling genuine hunger, this means that your digestive enzymes are not ready to work and your food will not get digested properly. This is a key rule to eating in Ayurveda. Wait until you feel a genuine hunger.
Eat at a sensible pace. Eating in a hurry will trigger indigestion, bloating and possibly abdominal pain. If you slow down your meal, it gives you a chance to engage your sensory organs and supports the metabolism of nutrients. Chew your food well – this will ensure that your food is mixed with saliva and broken down enough for your stomach to digest it well. Proper chewing can help limit indulgences and help the body and brain to feel sufficiently satisfied. Savour every bite!
Stop eating when you feel satisfied. Portion control is key. Only fill half of your stomach with food. Stop before you feel full. One quarter of your stomach’s capacity should be left free for the liquid portion and the other quarter for space for the digestion to take place. If you cup both of your hands together, the amount of food that fits in your hands is your personalised portion size - one ‘anjali’.
Kindle a strong digestive fire
Kindle your digestive fire by eating warm meals. Cooked foods eaten fresh and hot are easier to digest than cold or raw meals. Favour vegetables and whole grains. Kitchari is an ideal food for a strong agni. Avoid ama-producing foods such as dairy, heavy meats, raw foods, incompatible food combinations.
Timing is everything
Eat regular and timely meals. This helps the agni to stay regulated and fired up to break down and absorb nutrients to sufficiently support your health. Lunch should be the main meal of the day, when your digestive fire is optimal. Eat your evening meal ideally by 6:30 p.m., avoiding heavy foods. Follow the principles of the seasonal and daily rhythms. Avoid exercising bathing and exercising after eating your meals. Your body is focused on digestion and this process is interrupted triggering indigestion.
Avoid drinking too much water before, during and after your meal, as this can weaken your agni. Drinks at mealtimes should be just enough to moisten your food and not douse your digestive fire. Too much water will put your fire out.
More about Ayurvedic digestive health, cleansing, food, dossiers and more in the book - Ayurveda - Ancient Wisdom for Modern Wellbeing.