Ayurveda explains that your health is dependent not only on what you eat, but on how you digest. The most vitamin-fortified diet of superfood is considered unhealthy if your body isn’t able to properly digest, absorb, and assimilate.
So, how do you strengthen your digestion? Ayurveda has this endless wisdom to improve digestion.
Good digestion is defined by several factors including proper appetite, feeling both satisfied and energized after eating a meal, no feeling of gas or bloating, a daily and complete bowel movement, and passing stools without pain. Anything outside of this list means that the digestive fire is somehow imbalanced and needs work.
Even someone with a balanced digestive fire should take every step to preserve it. It’s believed that 74 percent of the population suffers from digestive imbalances, many of which can’t be explained or cured by western medicine.
Ayurveda believes that there are four states of agni, or digestive fire. And while it’s best to have your agni assessed by an Ayurvedic practitioner, it’s helpful to know how agni operates.
Samagni: This is considered the balanced state of agni and incorporates everything described in the list above.
Teekshna agni: Due to an imbalanced pitta dosha, this state of agni can encompass a voracious and insatiable appetite, burning sensations, acidity, and loose stools.
Manda agni: Manda means slow, and this state of agni is due to an imbalanced kapha dosha. It can include low appetite, heaviness, lethargy, constipation, and stools passed with mucus.
When it comes to correcting agni with diet and herbs, Ayurveda takes a customized approach depending on the dosha or doshas that are imbalanced. However, agni is always addressed in any disease–even in seemingly non-related imbalances such as arthritis, back pain, and acne.
No matter the specific state of agni, certain lifestyle and dietary guidelines apply to everyone. Try not to dismiss the simplicity of these dietary guidelines. Remember, the digestive process is not just about what you eat, it’s also about how you eat.
Ayurveda is based on the belief that the body is a microcosm that mirrors the macrocosm. Your digestive fire is akin to your inner sun. It’s the body’s primary transforming factor as it leads the process in converting food to body tissue.
When you align the rhythm of your digestive fire—the microcosm—with the rhythm of the sun—the macrocosm—you will become more in sync with nature, which will support your body’s natural processes and cycles.
You might be wondering, what does this mean for digestion?
The sun should govern when and how much we eat. For example, in the morning it’s best to eat a light and warm breakfast. In the morning when the sun is low in the sky and emits less heat, the digestive fire has similar qualities. Eating a large, heavy meal can overwhelm the digestive system and leave you feeling full and lethargic.
When the sun is high in the sky around midday, your digestive fire is burning brightly. This is the ideal time for the main meal of the day: a hearty lunch that includes the more difficult to digest foods such as proteins. When the sun starts to fade in the evening, so does the agni, meaning that a light and warm dinner is ideal. On the other hand, no matter what time of day it is, cold foods and drinks should generally be avoided.
Mindful eating is incredibly important. The healthiest food in the world is futile if it’s eaten in a hurry, while angry, or when you’re not hungry.
Ayurveda defines how to eat, and it can be summed up into these 12 principles: Eat warm food, eat freshly cooked food and avoid leftovers, eat only until you’re half full, chew your food properly, digest your previous meal before eating again, eat around the same time each day, don’t eat when you’re angry or upset, eat when you’re hungry, eat in a peaceful atmosphere, sit down to eat, give your food your full attention, and sit for a few minutes after eating.
You’ll notice a big shift in digestion if you start to incorporate some of these habits. It might take a bit of getting used to, but you’ll notice that making the switch to a large meal at lunch and a light meal at dinner will give you more energy when you wake up in the morning. It’s easy to get obsessed with what you eat, but how you digest matters even more.