Ayurveda and Digestion

Ayurveda and Digestion

The study of Ayurveda is empowering. It helps us to reclaim our sovereignty when it comes to our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Ayurveda places great importance on preventing disease by maintaining our health with a balanced lifestyle. It gives us the tools of self-care to bring our body back into balance when needed. 

According to Ayurveda, we are each born with a specific constitution, a particular composition of physical and psychological traits that never changes from the time of our conception to our death. It is our true nature and in Sanskrit is called Prakriti

Prakriti consists of three substances, Vata, Pitta and Kapha, called the tridoshas (three doshas).  The tridoshas are made up of five elements: Vata is composed of the elements air and space, Pitta of the elements fire and water, and Kapha of the elements water and earth. 

All living and nonliving beings in the universe are interconnected and made up of these five elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth. The five elements within our body can be affected by the five elements in our environment. We need to be in sync with the natural cycles of nature. The doshas can also be influenced by the way we eat, exercise, and relate to others. When the body is imbalanced, this is called, in Sanskrit, Vikriti

Ayurveda addresses the root cause of an illness rather than just soothing the symptoms as allopathic medicine very often does. When creating a protocol for treatment, it takes into consideration the uniqueness of each individual by studying that person’s Prakriti (constitution) and Vikriti (imbalance).

Many people suffer from illnesses related to the digestive system. The three doshas control all parts of the body and also our Agni, our digestive fire, which is responsible for all digestive and metabolic processes.   

Agni is the force behind the digestion, absorption and assimilation of food as well as all types of transformation, including digested thoughts and emotions. It also coordinates many other physiological processes. Our digestive system processes the nutrients in the food so that the body can absorb them. The digestive process consists of four parts: ingestion, digestion, absorption and elimination. Each step of the digestive process can be out of balance. 

Agni is essential to good health. A balanced Agni everywhere in the system prevents the excessive accumulation of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha as well as toxins called Ama. Ama is the undigested food residue that remains within the inner organs and channels of our body. When Agni is balanced, it supports healthy immunity. Pitta is the burning power, Vata maintains the fire and the separation of waste, and Kapha is lubrication.

According to Ayurveda, the heat generated from cooked food partly digests the food and frees nutrients for easier assimilation. Therefore, processing raw food requires more Agni, or digestive fire. Too much raw food may make us feel tired and ungrounded. 

Each type of food has unique qualities. The food we eat can create gas, bloating, stomach discomfort, constipation, heartburn, and fatigue after we consume it. Ayurveda teaches us to understand our own body so we can intuitively adjust our food intake according to our daily condition.

 

How to bring the tridoshas into balance?

 

The properties in the food we eat increase or decrease our dosha. The six tastes ─ sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent ─ affect our doshas. Certain foods aggravate each dosha while other foods pacify each dosha. Sweet, sour, and salty foods pacify Vata. Sweet, pungent, and bitter foods decrease Pitta. Pungent, bitter, and astringent foods pacify Kapha.

 

Vata (composed of the elements air and space)

Recommended foods:

Warm, nourishing foods with a moderately heavy texture 

Butter and fat

Salty, sour and sweet tastes

Warm milk, cream, butter 

Warm soups, stews, hot cereals 

Fresh-baked bread, raw nuts 

 

Sweet fruits (must be extra-ripe)

Spices: cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, ginger, cloves, garlic

Warm drinks or hot water 

Hot or herbal tea with snacks in the late afternoon

 

Avoid: 

Cold foods such as salads

Raw vegetables, greens 

Drinks with too much caffeine

Iced drinks

Candies 

Unripe fruits, as they are too astringent.

 

Pitta (composed of the elements fire and water)

 

Recommended food:

Cool or warm, with moderately heavy textures

Bitter, sweet and astringent tastes are ideal 

Cool, refreshing food in summer or hot weather, like salads, milk, and ice cream 

Cold cereal, cinnamon toast 

Vegetarian foods,

Milk, grains, and vegetables

Herbal tea, specifically mint or liquorice root tea

Apple tea 

 

Avoid:

Oily, hot, salty, and heavy food 

Fried food

Butter and added fat

Steaming hot foods

Pickles, sour cream, and cheese

Egg yolks 

Vinegar in salad dressing ─ use lemon juice instead 

Nuts, hot spices, honey, and hot drinks

Alcoholic and fermented foods 

Reduce coffee

 

Kapha (composed of the elements water and earth.)

 

Recommended food:

Warm, light, and dry food 

Cooked light meals

Dry cooking methods 

Raw fruits and vegetables 

Any spicy food 

Foods such as romaine lettuce and endive

Tonic water 

Cumin, fenugreek, sesame seed and turmeric

 

Avoid:

Sweet and fatty foods  

Sugar, fats, and dairy products

Deep-fried foods  

Salt

Chilled foods and drinks

Use ghee and oils in small amounts only

 

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