Ayurveda and Digestion
By Lissa Coffey
Ayurveda teaches that good digestion leads to good health and poor digestion can bring disease. Each dosha handles digestion differently. It is important to understand your mind/body type, or dosha, and how efficiently you personally digest food when planning your meals.
Vata digestion varies and can be delicate. Vatas should favor warm foods with moderately heavy textures. Foods should include salty, sour, and sweet tastes.
Pitta digestion is usually strong and intense. Pittas should favor cool or warm, rather than hot, foods, with moderately heavy textures. Foods should include bitter, sweet, and astringent tastes.
Kapha digestion is slower and heavier. Kaphas should favor warm, light food. Food should be mostly dry, cooked without much water. Tastes should be pungent, bitter, and astringent. Kaphas prefer spicy food, which gives them the stimulation they crave and promotes better digestion for them.
Agni is an Ayurvedic term meaning “digestive fire.” When agni is burning brightly and in good supply, you feel well, and your digestion is strong. To increase agni, it is best to eat meals at the same time each day. Breakfast should be light, then lunch fairly substantial, and finally dinner light and eaten early. Vatas need to snack between meals. A handful of soaked raw almonds is a good example of an energy-boosting Vata snack.
Some tips for everyone:
- Ghee, or clarified butter, is great for increasing agni and restoring proper digestion.
- Ginger, as a tea or as a spice, is commonly used for poor digestion or to increase appetite.
- Cloves, cinnamon, and black pepper are recommended to aid in digestion.
Ayurveda offers the following guidelines for eating to those who want to improve their digestion:
- Sit down while you eat. Eat in a quiet atmosphere. Focus on the food; do not read, watch TV or answer emails as you eat. Good conversation face to face is welcome!
- Don’t rush through meals or linger over them too long. Think Goldilocks and spend just the right amount of time at the table.
- Eat meals at approximately the same times every day.
- Stop eating before you are completely full. Don’t overeat- the stomach should be 75% full, not stuffed.
- Allow approximately 3 to 6 hours between meals for digestion. This allows food to process all the way through before adding more food into the system.
- Eat when you are hungry, when the stomach is empty. Listen to the cues from your body.
- Sip warm water with meals, add a squeeze of lemon or lime to further enhance digestion. Drink milk separately from meals, either alone or with other sweet foods.
- Avoid ice-cold food and beverages. Always. No ice water at restaurants.
- Sit quietly for a few minutes after eating before transitioning into activity.