Improve Digestion, Improve Health—Tips for Healthy Eating

According to Ayurveda, the two most important pillars of good health are diet and digestion. Add proper sleep and you’ve got a very simple template for creating health and vitality. What you eat and how your body processes what you eat are key factors in determining not just your level of health, immunity, but also our emotional mindset.

Did you know that over 90% of our body’s serotonin is located in our digestive tract? And 50% of our body’s dopamine? The enteric nervous systerm (ENS) consists of a mesh-like system of neurons that governs the function of our gastrointestinal system. It manufactures more neurotransmitters than the central nervous system and has been referred to as our second brain. This amazing system alters its response depending on factors such as nutrient composition and bulk. There is no longer any challenge to the statement, “what you are what you eat.”

In addition, according to Ayurveda, if we are not able to properly digest our food, either because of the poor quality of the food we are eating or because of the poor quality of our digestive fire, a sticky toxin (ama) is created that gets absorbed into the body and ends up building up in the joints and tissues, blocking the proper circulation of nutrition and information to those areas. Ama can also trigger an immune response, leading to disorders such as chronic fatigue, asthma, and psoriasis.

Here are some simple Dos and Don’ts for improving your digestion at home:

  1. DO Savor your meals

Don’t divide your attention by reading, working, watching television, and specially driving. Eating mindlessly doesn’t allow you to properly taste and digest your food. You’ll feel unsatisfied and want to eat more, even though you are full

  1. DON’T bolt from the table immediately after finishing your meal.

Sit quietly for a few minutes so that your body can settle into its digestive rhythm.

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  1. DO include all six tastes in a meal

Sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Each taste satisfies a different need. Missing one or more of the tastes can result in cravings.

  1. DO drink plenty of warm or room temperature water throughout the day (although during meals you should only sip water moderately.) Sipping water during the day helps keep the digestive tract flushed of accumulated toxins.
  2. DON’T eat heavy foods

Red meat, leftovers, processed foods and deep-fried foods are either hard to digest or lack energy-giving freshness, and will sit in your digestive tract causing toxins to accumulate.

  1. DO favor light, nutritious foods. Fill up on sweet, juicy fruits and vegetables. The fresher and purer the produce, the better.
  2. DON’T drink cold beverages

Cold drinks and foods douse the digestive fire.

  1. DO eat freshly cooked meals whenever possible
  2. DO visit an Ayurveda expert

An Ayurveda expert can determine your individual mind/body balance and pinpoint any areas of imbalance. An individualized diet and routine will help address imbalances and put you back on the road to health.

10 DO have regular Panchakarma treatments.

Panchakarma, the traditional purification and detoxification treatments of Ayurveda help remove accumulated toxins while nourishing the physiology.

For more information on Panchakarma treatments and programs to improve digestion, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

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Agni vs Ama; the Battle for Good Digestion

In the daily drama of digestion, the two main players are Agni and Ama. -2

Agni, the digestive fire, takes the role of hero in the story. When Agni is burning brightly and steadily, then digestion takes place normally.

When Agni s diminished for any reason, then the villain, Ama, starts to collect in the digestive tract. Ama has opposite qualities of the firey agni. Cold and sticky, a toxic waste product of incomplete digestion, Ama collects in the tissues and creates imbalance wherever it spreads.

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Two other factors are critical to the digestive process: the quality of the food and the way it is eaten. Even if a person had strong Agni, Ama could still be created if the person eats the wrong kind of food or eats in a hurried, unsettled manner.

Good digestion is central to health. Many diseases may arise from poor digestion. When Agni is low and the food is not prepared and eaten properly, then Ama collects in the digestive tract and travels to other areas of the body where it forms the basis for the disease process. Lowered immunity, aching muscles and joints, arthritis, and fatigue may indicate a build-up of Ama. When Agni is at a normal level, it tends to burns up Ama, creating a state of balance throughout the entire system.

And when digestion is functioning flawlessly, Ojas, the final product of digestion, gets created. Ojas is the finest material aspect of the body—the link between consciousness and matter. (We’ll talk more about Ojas next week.) Ojas is responsible for establishing and maintaining balance in the mind/body system. The more Ojas your body produces, the greater your health, immunity, and happiness.

How can you tell if your digestion is running smoothly? One of the main ways to tell is how you feel after eating. A feeling of dullness, heaviness, and fatigue after meals, or symptoms such as gas or bloating, usually indicate poor digestion.

On the other hand, if you feel lightness and bliss after eating, you’re probably producing Ojas.

Another way to tell if your digestion is in good shape is by how your tongue looks in the morning. Ama tends to collect on the tongue, and if the tongue is heavily coated, it is a sign that Ama is present elsewhere in the body. If the tongue is pink and clear, then digestion is probably functioning well.

Other signs of improper digestion are bad breath, body odor, constipation, or diarrhea.

Simple Tips for Strengthening Digestion

Eat your main meal at noon

Eat light at night

Try to maintain regular meal times

Don’t snack between meals

Go to bed by 10:00

The most accurate way to tell how your digestion is functioning is through pulse assessment. Experts trained in the sophisticated technique can detect irregularities in digestion even before they manifest into symptoms. They can also pinpoint where Ama has built up on the body and identify imbalances throughout the body. For more information on Ayurveda consultations, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Detox Tips for Spring

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Our bodies were not meant to be toxic dumps. Yet improper digestion, high levels of stress and pollutants such as chemicals in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the foods we eat, continuously create toxins in the body. If not flushed out on a regular basis, this toxic buildup can eventually manifest as disorders. And as we grow older, the body’s built-in mechanisms for eliminating impurities tend to be less efficient, thus stressing the need for periodic internal cleansing therapy.

THREE KINDS OF TOXINS

Ayurveda describes three kinds of toxins. The most common is “ama”, which is the sticky waste-product of poor digestion. Ama builds up in the digestive tract when your digestion is either weak or overloaded with the wrong foods.

If ama is allowed to build up over time, eventually it can leave the digestive tract and start circulating through the body. Once it settles in a specific area, the ama begins to mix with the subdoshas and or the dhatus (body tissues). When it mixes with these parts of the physiology, it becomes “amavisha” — a more reactive and toxic type of ama. This is the kind of ama that underlies many chronic disorders and diseases.

Ama can also block the channels of circulation in the body, preventing the unrestricted flow of nutrients to the cells and organs. Or it can clog the channels that carry waste from the cells and tissues, resulting in a toxic build-up.

The third type of toxin is the category of environmental toxins — or “garavisha”. Environmental toxins come from outside the body and include pesticides and chemical fertilizers that make their way into our foods or get carried by the wind, as well as preservative, additives and genetically engineered foods. These toxins have been associated with hormone disruption, immune system suppression, reproductive disorders, several types of cancer and other disorders such as allergies.

SPRING IS THE IDEAL TIME FOR CLEANSING

The reason many people feel the signs of ama build-up in spring more than at other time of year is because that is when toxins that have built up in the body over the winter start to display their symptoms. If you don’t follow the proper seasonal diet and routine during the first two months of winter (November and December), the toxins you accumulate that time get stuck or “frozen” in the walls of the channels because of the cold weather. By the time spring comes and the temperatures rise, the “frozen” ama starts to melt.  As it flows the channels of the body become flooded with toxins. Because of this yearly phenomena, Spring is the best time to detoxify. By necessity the body goes into a mode of eliminating toxins at this time of the year, so it is the perfect time to support the body in that role.

If you experience a heavy feeling in your body, if your joints are stiff, if your tongue is coated when you wake up in the morning, if you have an unpleasant body odor, if you feel dull and sleepy after eating, and/or if your mind is foggy, you may have a build-up of ama. Diarrhea, constipation, joint pain, sadness, dullness, lowered immunity, and frequent bouts of colds and flu are all health problems that can be caused by ama.

Amavisha and garavisha types of toxins are best handled by an Ayurvedic expert and through the classic Ayurveda purification and detoxification treatments, Panchakarma. There are, however, are a number of things you can do on an ongoing basis to prevent ama from building up in your body. –

TIPS FOR REDUCING AMA

The most important thing is to eat your main meal at noon, when the sun is strongest and the digestive fire reflects that strength. If you eat too much at night, or eat heavy foods such as meat or cheese then, the food will sit in your stomach and create ama. Eat light at night and your food will be easily digested before you go to sleep.

Don’t snack between meals unless you are actually hungry, Wait until the food is digested before eating a meal. If your digestion is already occupied with digesting and you add new food on top of that, the result is ama, the sour, undigested waste product of undigested food.

Going to sleep before 10 p.m. is essential, because then during the Pitta time of night (10 p.m.-2 a.m.) your digestion has a chance to cleanse and rejuvenate itself. If you stay up, you’ll probably feel hungry about midnight and will want to eat, which will tax the digestion and create ama.

Waking up before 6 a.m. is recommended, because if you sleep late into the Kapha time of the morning (6-10 a.m.), the channels of your body will become clogged with ama and you’ll feel dull and tired.

Daily exercise that is suitable for your body type will stimulate digestion and help cleanse the body of toxins.

It’s also important to manage your stress. Everyone can benefit from spending time each day practicing the Transcendental Meditation program to remove mental, emotional and physical stress.

Spring is the ideal time to visit an Ayurvedic expert to determine if you are dealing with ama, and, if so, what type of ama it is. An Ayurvedic expert can then recommend an individualized approach to clearing your system of impurities. For more information on consultations and on the detoxifying programs of Panchakarma, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website.

www.theraj.com

Stimulating Tips for Kapha Season

As the weather changes from winter (Vata season) to spring (Kapha season) you may notice changes in your mind and body. During the wet and cool Kapha season, which lasts from March to June, you may feel the onset of spring fever or the need to take more exercise—and you also may be more likely to catch a cold or flu.

Lifestyle Tips

Here are some lifestyle tips to help you stay balanced, warm and dry during spring:

Eat hot food—hot in temperature and in spices as well.

Drink hot, stimulating drinks, such as teas with ginger.

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Cut down on refined sugars. Substitute raw, unheated honey instead. Honey is the only sweetener that is also astringent and has the ability to reduce Kapha. Be sure not to heat your honey and only add it to hot drinks when they are at “sipping temperature”.

Favor foods that with the following tastes: astringent (such as beans), spicy (chili peppers or curry powder, for example) and bitter (bitter greens and spinach). While you may find yourself tempted to start eatting more salads, be careful about avoiding cold foods.

Early to bed, early to rise. As Kapha season progresses, the sun rises earlier and earlier. If we are constantly waking up after the sun rises, we will feel sluggish and tired. This habit can result in the build-up of impurities (ama) which predisposes us to allergies and congestion.

Try to exercise in every morning. Getting some good, brisk exercise during the Kapha time of the morning (6:00 – 10:00) will help you maintain a healthy balance during this wet and cold season. Just as sleep is the number one took in balancing Vata, and diet the number one tool in balancing Pitta, exercise is the number one tool for balancing Kapha.

Get the Most from Your Food

Digestion tends to be sluggish during Kapha season. Here are some ways to help you perk up your digestive fires:

Try eating a ginger pickle before lunch or dinner. To make a ginger pickle, slice a thin piece of fresh ginger root (peeled). Sprinkle the slice with lemon juice and salt and eat it about 15 minutes before a meal.

Be sure to remain seated for 5 to 10 minutes after you finish eating in order to give your digestion a chance start processing the meal.

Sore Throat Relief

If you feel a sore throat coming on, try taking 3/4 teaspoon of raw honey mixed with 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric. The astringent tastes of turmeric and honey help to dry up congestion and prevent a sore throat. Of course, if the symptoms last more than two days, be sure to see your doctor.

This is also the perfect time to check in with an Ayurveda expert or to schedule Ayurvedic detoxification and purification treatments (Panchakarma). For more information, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa web site:

www.theraj.com

Ayurveda Tips for Holiday Eating

images-2Here are a few guidelines for everyone during the holidays, whether you have a tendency to overeat or just want to maintain a healthy digestion.

  1. Sit at a table when you eat or drink.
  2. Don’t do anything else while you eat. This includes watching TV, listening to music, reading or discussing business. Eating mindlessly does not allow you to properly taste and digest your food. You are more apt to feel unsatisfied and want to eat more, even though you are full.
  3. Avoid eating heavy meals in the evening when our digestion is naturally weaker. Try to schedule heavy holiday meals at lunchtime and favor light nutritious foods such as vegetable soups or steamed vegetables and couscous in the evening.
  4. Include all six tastes in each meal—sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent. Each taste satisfies a different need. Missing one or more can result in cravings.
  5. Perk up your digestion with a slice of fresh ginger sprinkled with a bit of salt and lemon before your meal. This helps get the digestive fires stimulated and ready for the job of breaking down your food to their essential nutrients in a form that can be easily absorbed and utilized by the body.
  6. Do not overeat. According to Ayurveda, ideal digestion takes place when your stomach is no more than three-fourths full, which for most people measures about two cupped handfuls of food. If you still feel hungry, eat a little more. You should feel refreshed and energized after eating, not dull. Remember that overeating impairs digestion. When you eat more than you need, your body actually assimilates less. This can result in nutritional cravings and a habit of overeating. This can also result in being more susceptible to colds and flues. This is because a weak digestion results in the accumulation of undigested food or ama in the physiology. This can weaken the immune system, making it easier for viruses and bacteria to attack. If we can put attention on keeping our digestion strong, we can reduce or avoid the accumulation of toxins, and thereby throw off any bugs more easily. If you are interested in weight loss, maintaining strong digestion is essential.
  7. Avoid cold drinks and beverages. Avoid cold, raw or frozen foods.
  8. Sip warm water throughout the day to help cleanse the body. As soon as you arrive at a holiday festivity, ask for a cup of hot water or herbal tea. This will help you to avoid snacking.

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Ayurveda #1 Health Tip: Digestion, Digestion, Digestion!

Once again, I am writing about digestion. The reason this topic comes up over and over again is because, according to Ayurveda, it is vital to maintaining good health. If you aren’t digesting your food properly, 1) you aren’t getting needed nutrients and 2) you are creating toxins, or ama, as a result of partially digested food.

Lets look at these consequences a bit more closely:

1) Remember that even the best diet will not provide proper nutrition if our digestion is not doing its job. Not getting needed nutrients out of your food can result in a lack of strength, fatigue, slower problem solving ability and muscle response time, hypertension and more.

Poor nutrition can also set off a vicious cycle of poor eating habits. When the body is not getting what it needs to function properly, it gets “cravings”. It is easy for the intellect to mistakenly interpret these cravings and turn to a “quick fix”. Feeling lethargic, many opt for caffeine or sugar or carbohydrates (or a combination of all three.) These foods fail to give the body what it really needs, are difficult to digest and lead to more cravings.

2) Ayurveda believes that most disease and disorders stem from blockages to the free flow in intelligence in the body. When impurities build up in the various channels of the body (blood vessels, lymph circulation, cellular pores, etc),

These areas become cut off from biological intelligence and can become weak or diseased.

Improving Digestion with Ayurveda

So let’s get down to basics. How to restart a sluggish digestion?

Breakfast:

Digestion is no as strong early in the morning, so breakfast should be light and according to hunger. Avoid meat or eggs. Favor cooked cereal, fruit and fresh juice.Korean_abalone_porridge-Jeonbokjuk-02

Remember if you are taking milk not to combine it with anything other than sweet tastes (like cereal). Milk should be boiled. If you are eating fruit, do not have milk, even in coffee.

Lunch:

This should be your main meal of the day because digestion is strongest at mid-day.

Lunch should be a warm, cooked meal containing all six tastes. Ideally you should have at least a half hour for lunch, including 10 to 15 minutes to sit quietly after you are finished eating. This will allow the digestive process to get well under way.

 Dinner:

The later dinner is served, the lighter you should eat. Avoid heavy foods like cheese, yogurt, meats, oils and fried foods. If you like these foods, these should be eaten at lunch when digestion is stronger.

 Other General Principles:

Eat according to your hunger levels. Do not eat if you are not hungry.

Eat in a settled environment. Business lunches, eating in front of the TV and eating while walking or driving (or standing up) can disturb our digestive process.

Sip hot water during the meal. This enlivens digestion and helps the food be better digested and absorbed. Never drink cold beverages (or iced foods) either during the meal or right after a meal.

Chew your food well. Digestion starts in the mouth.

Avoid heated honey. Read your labels carefully and only buy unheated honey. Do not use honey in baking or add to beverages that are too hot to sip comfortably.

Eat freshly prepared foods. Avoid packaged foods and leftovers. Cooked food is easier to digest than raw.

Foods that are especially nourishing (and are quickly converted into ojas) include boiled milk, ghee (clarified butter), ripe fruits, freshly made fruit juices, almonds (pre-soaked in water — be sure to throw out the water), and dates.

Visit an Ayurvedic expert and find out what your body needs. Vata, pitta and kapha types may receive different recommendations on creating a healthy and strong digestive fire. They will also take into consideration any imbalances that you have. If you have a pitta imbalance, for example, you might be encouraged to avoid ginger and other heating spices. Remember that, unlike Western medicine, Ayurveda always looks at the whole. Your digestive problems may simply be one symptom of a larger imbalance.

Next week we’ll look at Panchakarma, the ulitmate approach to restarting digestion, getting rid of years of accumulated ama and restoring balance to the body.

For more information on Ayurveda consultations and Panchakarma treatments, go to The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

The Ayurveda Key to Health: Good Digestion

Doshas are the fun part of Ayurveda. Everyone likes to talk about doshas—or, more to the point, everyone likes finding out about their individual doshic balance. Because this information gives you clues to how you, specifically, interact with the universe around you. Some people do well with coffee, others shouldn’t touch it. Some people get enlivened by running at 6:00 in the morning, others do better with a leisurely walk or a nice swim. Understanding your constitution allows you to make informed choices and gives you a degree of control over your health and happiness.

The topic of good digestion doesn’t have the same charm, even though it is considered foundational to good health. The truth of the matter is that of all the action steps that you can take to stay healthy, maintaining good digestion and avoiding the accumulation of ama are at the top of the list­—above balancing the doshas.

Ideally, all the food we eat should be fully digested so that it can either be absorbed into the body as nutrients or expelled as waste. Unfortunately, due to various influences (e.g. irregular life style, stress, weather, inappropriate food, and bad eating habits) not all the food we eat gets fully digested. When this happens the half-digested or not-fully-metabolized food gets circulated in the body as toxins. Ayurveda has named this kind of toxin “ama”.

Ama is heavy, oily, and sticky and can interfere with the normal functioning of both the body and mind.

Negative impact of ama and a poor digestion

1. Even if we are eating fresh, healthy foods we are not able to get the needed nutrients from our food.

2. Ama clogs the channels of the body’s cells, organs and tissues. In the digestive tract poorly digested food can create a slimy material that lines the bowels, interfering with the absorption and assimilation of nutrients. Ama in the blood vessels can result in the accumulation of lipids and other substances, leading to the formation of plaque and a restriction of the blood flow. Ama in the joints can lead to arthritis. Ama in the cell membranes can hinder the exchange of nutrients. Ama within cells can hinder the action of hormones and other biochemicals.

3. Undigested food particles are looked upon as ‘foreign invaders’ by our immune system, triggering an antibody and histamine response.  This negative immune response in the body’s tissues can lead to serious disorders and disease.

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How do I know if I have ama?

Common signs of ama in the body are:

Thick, white coating on the tongue

Sluggish, bloated and sleepy feelings, after a meal or in the mornings, even though you have slept well

Strong cravings for fast foods or junk foods

Bad breath, skin breakouts, sweat, gas and bad-smelling stools

Dull skin and/or whites of the eyes, or yellow teeth.

Clouded thoughts, lack of focus, or feeling unmotivated in life

Weight gain

Frequent colds, flue, infections

Constipation

How do I reduce ama?

Eat warm, freshly cooked foods that are easy to digest and are suitable for your body time and for the season

Eat slowly. Chew your food well. Put you full focus on your meal (and not on the TV or computer)

Eat your main meal at noon when the digestion fire is at its peak

Maintain a regular routine. Eat at regular times, three times a day. Go to bed on time, rise early in the morning.

Sip hot water throughout the day. Heat helps melt the ama and water helps to flush the ama out of the body.

Use spices such as ginger, cayenne, cardamom, cinnamon and fresh ground pepper as recommended by an Ayurvedic expert

Undertake seasonal panchakarma treatments (the traditional detoxification treatments of Ayurveda.

Panchakarma Treatments

Spring is the ideal time to detoxify our bodies. As the warm weather begins to melt away the snow a similar process takes place in our bodies. The ama that has accumulated all winter begins to melt and enters into our circulatory system. This sudden influx of ama can clog the shrotas, the microcirculatory channels of the body and can cause the body to over-react to pollen and other allergens. Supporting you body’s natural detoxification with Panchakarma treatments can help avoid spring colds, flus and allergies.

For more information on panchakarma, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com