The ancient Indian system of medicine Ayurveda recommends a varied number of practical techniques and habits for keeping your digestive fire (termed as agni) strong. There's a part of the brain known as the second brain which controls our digestion, known as the Enteric Nervous System or ENS. It can work both ways, either independently and/ or in unification with the brain in our head. Without going deeper into the details of this very intricate system, we can state that there is a close relationship between our gut and our brain, and our digestive system's proper performance responds to our thoughts and emotions. If we go through a situation that we find stressful, the signals from our brain may alter the nerve function between our stomach and the esophagus, which can and often does result in heartburn. In extremely stressful situations, your brain passes signals to the gut immune cells which release chemicals that lead to inflammation.
Such an inflammation can lead to malabsorption, as well as food sensitivities if the stress gets chronic. You can help your digestive system in working efficiently and naturally by learning how to cope with stress and release emotional disturbances. Incorporating only a few of these tips into your daily life can strengthen and replenish the agni and, as an added benefit, facilitate weight loss, improve your metabolism of food, and help in getting rid of uncomfortable GI symptoms. Here are as many Ayurvedic tips I could find that will help to strengthen your digestive power, but first, let's get to know a little bit about agni - the Sanskrit term for digestive power.
Agni or the digestive power is essential to our entire wellbeing; in fact, maintaining balanced agni could just be the secret for attaining optimal health and longevity. Therefore, it goes without saying that your digestive fire (agni) is incredibly worthy of our attention, understanding, respect, reverence, and care.
A simple way to describe agni is sharp, dry, light, hot, mobile, luminous, subtle, and clear. Generally, substances and experiences which are full of these qualities will provide support to your agni, while substances and experiences which are predominated by qualities which oppose agni will cause disturbance to it. An intake of a wholesome diet of simple, easily digestible, light, and sattvic foods stimulates the agni and enhances natural hunger.
Studies have been continuously confirming the genetic changes that can happen with regular meditation, can help restore your body's homeostasis, including the processes that control digestion. To reap maximum benefits you should meditate for twenty to thirty minutes, at least twice daily - once in the morning and once in the evening.
Meditation is easy if you haven't tried it yet, here's how you can go about it. Start by lying or sitting (whatever you prefer) comfortably and close your eyes. You don't need to make an effort to control your breath, just simply breathe.
Focus your attention on your breath, on how your body moves with every single inhalation and exhalation. Concentrate on the movement of the body as you breathe in and out. Notice hoe your shoulders, rib cage, chest, and belly move along with breathing. All you need to do is focus your attention just on the breathing without trying to control its pace or intensity. If you find your mind wandering, keep returning your focus back to your breathing. Try starting with this meditation practice for about five to seven minutes twice a day, and then try going on for longer periods.
When you consume more food than your stomach can make space for, your stomach cannot break it down properly. Your stomach will produce more acid which in turn will cause reflux and indigestion. Along with that, the regular amount of digestive enzymes produced might not be able to correctly break down the enormous volume of food ingested, which leads to more gas formation, discomfort, or bloating.
Ayurvedic experts state that we should try to leave one- third to one- quarter of our tummy empty, that would allow space for our body to digest our meal easily. A simple way to figure out an ideal portion of food for meals based on the size of your body is to simply cup your hands together with your fingertips touching so that they'd form the shape of a bowl. The suggested amount of food for a proper meal is equal to two of these handfuls of food. It's not necessary to have this much, if you have a smaller appetite you can always eat less than two handfuls - the point here is not to overeat.
Your body is most able to properly digest food at midday when you are active. Many studies have found that that 'digestive juices' which our digestive system secretes are at the highest concentration around noon, this fact makes noon the best time to eat our largest meal of the day. Your body will be at the optimum level of processing food quickly during your lunch time. By the end of the day, or just as evening arrives, your body starts to slow down in preparation for sleep. If you stuff your tummy with all you can eat during dinner, you'll end up feeling heavy and bloated. It will also cause difficulty in sleeping.
As evening approaches, our digestive fire becomes weaker, making the digestion process slow. Your dinner too should be consumed before 8 p.m, late night meals also hinder your sleep. After 10 p.m your body works towards burning out harmful toxins and the food digestion process starts again from the morning. The meal that you consume after 10 o'clock at night causes the toxins to accumulate in your system instead of burning out. It's because of this that sometimes you wake up feeling tired in the morning. So, make a point to avoid having a heavy dinner, have a large lunch instead.
In Ayurveda, Ginger is famous as the 'universal remedy' because of its multitudes of benefits for our body. Ginger has been in use to treat the digestive tissues since over two thousand years. One of its benefits is that it helps in relaxing the smooth muscle of your intestines, in turn, revealing the symptoms of cramping and gas.
A study published in a European Journal (of Gastroenterology and Hepatology) uncovered the fact that ginger kindles digestion by escalating the movement of food from the stomach into the small intestine, and assists in eliminating any digestive discomfort after eating. In addition to that, ginger can also stimulate bile, saliva, and gastric enzymes to help in digestion of the food that has been consumed. The researchers came to a conclusion that these beneficial effects are a result of phenolic compounds, primarily shogaol and gingerol, and various other volatile oils that are present in ginger.
So, even with all these benefits, I won't suggest you to munch on some ginger all day because I know it's an impossible thing to do with its peculiar taste. What I do suggest is that drink a couple of cups of ginger tea instead. It is easy to make - barely a ten-minute task - and tea is always refreshing. All you have to do is add a teaspoon of sliced or grated (preferably grated) ginger to your tea. If you're not a tea person, then infusing some ginger in warm water can also do the job.
Your body needs some form of movement on a daily basis, be it a little bit of yoga every morning, or an exercise routine or a daily walk. A study published in Diabetes Care stated that a short, merely fifteen-minute walk after each meal aided in controlling sugar spikes after eating. These post- meal short walks were more useful than taking a walk for a longer period (say forty-five minutes) but only once a day. To put it simply, a fifteen-minute walk after each meal will be beneficial for you if you're someone who despises exercise and can't make time for yoga.
By now you must've noticed how your emotional state of mind distresses your digestion. If you still haven't then try to keep in mind your food habits the next time you're angry or sad or flustered. You'll notice that your food habits will get affected, you may tend to eat more (also known as stress eating) or you might lose your appetite, you may even find that your meal timing has changed and become out of order. Some people feel nauseated and even throw up when they're under stressful situations, while some experience heartburn.
A number of researchers have found that stress that is associated with unprocessed emotion (which is negative most of the times) can hinder the natural digestive process of your body and lead to chronic digestive tissue. So, your job here is not only focus on negative emotions but also to process them out of your system. A release of negative and unprocessed emotions will also prove to be beneficial.
There are various simple things to do to kindle your agni (or the digestive fire) immediately before you eat so that it can effectively process your meal and get rid of any toxins that had been previously accumulated. One option is to go for a short walk right before you start to eat. Doing this can actually help to clarify whether the hunger that you're feeling is genuine or not. If it's an emotional craving then it will dissipate after you take a walk, while real hunger will get enhanced.
Another simple way to spark your digestive fire is to drink more water but at appropriate times. Try this by drinking a cup (or two) of warm water upon waking, you can also have a large glass (approx. two cups) of warm or room temperature water about twenty or thirty minutes before your meals. These little techniques can not only help in cleansing and hydrating the tissues, they also enhance your digestive capacity and can dramatically improve digestion.
'Tri' which means three and 'phala' means fruit, this age-old Ayurvedic formula is therefore comprised of three fruits. It helps in balancing your Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. It is valued for its unique quality to gently detoxify and cleanse the digestive tract while nourishing, replenishing and rejuvenating the tissues.
In this way, Triphala tends to support the agni throughout your body. Triphala is easily available in markets, especially in Ayurvedic stores (or online stores), you can get it in the form of capsules, tablets or powder. Take two Triphala tablets with a glass of slightly warm water about half an hour before you go to bed - you can also use the powder if that's what you have. Steep half a teaspoon of Triphala powder for ten minutes in a cup of boiled water, let it cool for a while then drink it up.
Aloe Vera helps in the proper functioning of your digestive system. Drinking Aloe Vera juice can cure irritable bowel syndrome and keep piles, constipation, and other gastrointestinal conditions from causing damage to your system.
Aloe Vera consists of compounds known as polysaccharides. These have the ability to cure ulcers and a host of other digestive disorders. Ulcers are one of the most prominent results of digestive problems that are successfully cured by this plant's extract. If you are suffering from ulcers then consume Aloe Vera extract for about a month, you will surely notice positive results.
Another beneficial ayurvedic tip for digestion is to have a glass of Lassi with your lunch. This drink contains 'lacttobacilli' which is a necessary bacteria that helps in lubricating the intestines which in turn helps the digestion process to take place smoothly. If you often feel like your tummy is uncomfortable and bloated after having a meal then a glass of lassi will surely help in reducing bloating and gas.
Don't know how to make lassi? It's simple - take a cup of room temperature water, one-fourth cup of yogurt (home-made would be the best choice), a pinch of ground ginger, a pinch of cumin and coriander and most importantly a pinch of salt (you can also add a pinch of black salt). Blend all the ingredients and you'll get a perfect glass of lassi.
Hi! I’m Gunjan, a self-proclaimed tea fanatic and intrigued with alternative ways to lead a healthy life. I firmly believe that we should take care of our bodies because it’s the only place we live in.