Good health is dependent upon good digestion. This teaching comes from ayurveda: the ancient Indian system of healing that still stands strong today. Derived from this wisdom, these 5 quick and simple tips can help greatly improve your digestion.
What Is Good Digestion?
Some 74% of Americans suffer from digestive imbalances. Most of us have no idea what it means to have good digestion. When issues like bloating and constipation have been present for a long time, we actually start to believe that they’re a normal part of our physiology and digestive process. We grow to live with our imbalances and left ignored, they become seedlings for disease.
So, what is good digestion? It begins with a good appetite. We should be hungry for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and be able to eat the proper amount of food for our own body type. Hunger is a good thing: lack thereof indicates a weak power of digestion, while insatiable, voracious hunger indicates that the digestive fire is too high.
Post-food, we should simply feel satiated: no bloating, no gas, no gurgling, no bubbly feelings, and no acidity. We shouldn’t feel heavy or lethargic, as these are signs that toxins are present. Rather, we should feel light and enthusiastic once digestion is complete.
Our bowel movements are another indicator of our digestive health. Ayurveda teaches that the perfect bowel movement is daily, formed, passed easily, complete, and not abnormally foul smelling.
Supporting digestion actually supports our overall health. Not only will we feel better when we eat, but our food will be converted into healthy tissue, rather than toxic undigested food. We’ll feel more energetic, find it easier to maintain a healthy weight, and all kinds of imbalances—from colds to joint pain and skin problems—will be prevented.
5 Tips For Optimal Daily Digestion
Tip 1: Sit down to eat.
The problem with eating on the go is that while we may have food in our mouth, our mind is elsewhere. Rather than chewing thoroughly and recognizing sensations of fullness, our thoughts are on something else altogether. We half consciously wolf down our food and overeat. What often results is burping, stomach pain, and indigestion.
Simply sitting down encourages a shift toward mindful eating. A good rule of thumb: if there’s food in our hands, our bottom should be in a chair. This healthy habit nixes the bad habit of eating while multitasking, allowing the body to focus on digestion while our tongue can better enjoy our food.
Tip 2: Hold the ice cubes.
The US is one of the few countries that’s obsessed with ice. Ice is almost never used by Asians and Indians; warm food and drink is generally chosen over cold. But in the US, iced drinks are the norm.
The problem? To understand, imagine that digestion is like a fire. Fire’s defining quality is that it transforms. It follows then that the digestive fire transforms food to body tissue and waste. Put something cold and wet on fire and it dies.
This action is expounded by cold food and drink. Have a glass of ice water while feeling hungry, and appetite dissipates. Remember: appetite is a good thing; it signals that the body is ready for food.
We can support our digestive process by quitting ice and avoiding food straight from the fridge and freezer.
Tip 3: Chew, chew, chew.
Our ayurvedic forefathers never specified exactly how many times we need to chew, but they did stress the importance of chewing in general.
Chewing is the first step in good digestion. If we don’t chew enough and instead scarf down big chunks of food, we overtax the stomach with more churning and squeezing than normal. Simply chewing properly eases the burden and prevents stomach pains and improper digestion.
Tip 4: Eat when hungry.
We should eat when we’re hungry; but it’s probably more important to emphasize that we shouldn’t eat when we’re not hungry. The sensation of hunger signifies that digestive enzymes have been secreted and the body is ready to receive food. When the sensation of hunger is absent, the digestive process is compromised.
Grazing is a big ayurvedic NO. Instead, regular meals are encouraged, and a snack is fine if meals are three or more hours apart.
Tip 5: Stay away from weird food combinations.
Interestingly, ayurveda attributes many diseases as an indirect result of strange food combinations. These weird food combinations are commonly practiced in the US, where 74% of us have digestive issues.
While the list of incompatible foods is quite comprehensive, here are the main takeaways:
- Eat one protein at a time (i.e. avoid bacon cheeseburgers, bean and egg burritos, surf and turf)
- Never combine milk with fish (i.e. avoid fish with white sauce)
- Never combine milk with fruit (i.e. avoid banana milkshakes, yogurt parfaits)
- Only eat melons alone (i.e. avoid prosciutto-wrapped melon, watermelon juice with food)
There’s more to this list, but this is a great place to start. If these guidelines seem too illusory, notice the quality of digestion after eating any of these combinations. For example, most of us feel heavy and overly full after a bacon cheeseburger, a yogurt parfait, or a banana milkshake. Digestion is compromised, and the result is a buildup of toxins.
Don’t underestimate the power of these seemingly simple tips. Even these small shifts can make an enormous difference in digestion.
For more foods you should kick to curb to increase your digestive health, check out these tips from nutrition expert, JJ Virgin:
Have you ever struggled to maintain good digestive fire? What foods are on your ‘no’ list? Tell us in the comments below!