“Good Digestion, Good Sleep, Good Prognosis.”
–Old Chinese Medical Adage:
The digestive tract is the inner core of the body. Good digestion is one of the foundations of health. Our body’s very cells are built from the food that we eat and the oxygen that our lungs extract from the air around us. If our digestion is weak, incomplete, or damaged, our bodies do a poor job of assimilating the nutritive elements found in our foods. Poor digestion can be a function of several factors: an inborn weakness in the digestive tract due to bodymind type; the effects of stress, frustration and other emotional factors on the digestive tract (see the gut-brain connection), and, finally, poor food choices and eating habits. Of course if our food choices are poor, then there are less nutritive elements to be extracted in the first place.
Effective Digestion/ Good Food Choices
*A pleasant taste in your mouth and fragrant breath.
*A light, thin, non-greasy white coat on the tongue.
*Feeling satisfied after meals, without lingering hunger or craving.
*Feeling alert and clear-headed after eating, rather than lethargic or spacy.
*No discomfort, bloating, or pain in your stomach or intestines before, during or after food.
*Regular easy elimination, feeling better after elimination than before.
*Only Occasional belching or flatulence, generally related to specific foods.
Ineffective Digestion/ Poor Food Choices
*An unpleasant sour or bitter taste in your mouth, or foul breath.
*A thick, heavy, or greasy coating on the tongue, either white, grey, or yellow.
*Frequent belching or flatulence no matter what you eat.
*Craving for cold beverages during or after meals.
*Fatigue, depression, irritability, or fuzzy-headedness after meals.
*Discomfort or pain in stomach or intestines.
*Heartburn before or after eating; burning pain in the stomach when empty, GERD.
*Consistent unusual unpleasant odor in the urine and/or feces.
*Irregular, difficult dry hard bowel movements, or frequent loose stools.
*Frequent frontal headaches, nausea, nasal and sinus congestion, sudden perspiration,sores in the mouth, skin eruptions, acne, unusual hot or cold sensation.
Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic dietary consultations draw upon the ancient wisdom of the world’s two oldest surviving civilizations, in which respect for food and the digestive process are the cornerstones of a highly evolved medical art. For the past three thousand years in India and China, physicians and laypersons have carefully observed the relationship between the qualities of specific foods and food preparations, the ways in which we eat them, and our individual constitutional types. Out of these observations has come specific knowledge about which type of persons should eat what foods when and how in order to optimize their digestive processes, build good health, and even treat existing patterns of disharmony. This is the information I would like to share with you.
Basic Guidelines for Good Digestion Everyone Can Follow
1. Eat in a settled, quiet, pleasant atmosphere, or surrounded by friends having fun.
Taciturn, intense Pitta types might try the latter, while frenetic Vata types will benefit from the former. The idea is to be in a relaxed, happy, non-stressed state while eating.
2. Do not work or study while eating. And don’t ride the life cycle either.Your stomach needs your blood while you are eating, not your brain or leg muscles. Give a few hours before hard exercise. If you exercise at lunch, do it first and then have your meal. If you have to rush, stay calm inside.
3. Chew your food well! Your grandmother was right. Chewing food well starts the process of digestion. Your brain has more time to absorb the flavors of foods which stimulates the secretion of digestive enzymes in the gut. The enzymes in your saliva begin the process of breaking down carbs. You food is moistened torn into small bits, increasing its surface area and consequent susceptibility to break down by the enzymes and acids waiting for it in the stomach. You can even practice counting silently 20-30 times for each mouthful.
4. So, don’t eat too quickly, but don’t interrupt your meal either, to take a phone call for example. Then your digestive process slows down and its harder to get it going again.
5. Eat when you are hungry. Genuinely physically hungry, not emotionally. Avoid taking a meal until the previous one has been fully digested.
6. Eat to about three-fourths your capacity. Food expands and also it takes some time for your brain to get the message that you have eaten enough. Give your brain a chance to do its job.
7. Drink milk and eat fruits on their own, not with other foods. The exception with fruit would be papaya or banana. If you have fruit for desert, have it more as a palate cleanser, another words, small amount.
8. Avoid eating large meals or heavy foods like yogurt or meat at night, unless you work the graveyard shift. Your digestive fire is strongest between noon and four in the afternoon.
9. Avoid ice-cold beverages, especially with meals. Drinking iced beverages is like putting an ice-pack on the lining of your stomach. It restricts the flow of blood to your stomach lining just when you need it most. This weakens digestion and causes food stagnation. When food stagnates in the stomach the body creates extra heat in response. This becomes pathological heat which manifests in bad breath, belching, acne, and a greasy tongue coat. In Ayurveda this is called Ama/Digestive toxin which is seen as one of the bases for disease. See more here
10. Sip some hot water, soup, or tea before or after your meal. This relaxes the stomach and prepares it for food. Digestion is a warm process, aided by the drinking of warm liquids. Save the drinking of large amounts of liquids for between meals.
copyright eyton j. shalom, m.s., l.ac., oct 2013 san diego ca usa, all rights reserved, use with permission