Ayurveda is the sister science of yoga and the world’s oldest healing system. It stems from two roots words: ayush, which means “life,” and veda, which means “the study of.” It is the study of life. Ayurveda teaches you a healthy lifestyle wherein you take your yoga practice off the mat and adapt it to your daily living to experience good health with natural methods.
Digestion is considered the foundation of great health in Ayurveda. When your digestive state is in balance, you will experience great benefits in all aspects of your life and health. Optimal digestion naturally leads to sound sleep; radiant, glowing skin; less emotional stress; and so much more.
In Ayurveda, digestion is imagined to be like a fire in your body. This fire gets strengthened or weakened by certain substances you put into it. So, Ayurveda provides information on the kinds of foods and spices that benefit or harm you. Based on this, here are a few simple practices you can incorporate from Ayurveda into your life to boost your digestive fire:
1. Eat Warm, Cooked Foods With Less Oil
When you are unable to cook, because of traveling, lack of time, or the absence of a kitchen, simply selecting warm foods instead of cold foods will make a huge impact on your digestion and overall health. This may be surprising since salads are often given credit for being an amazing health food. But cold, raw, uncooked foods are hard for your digestive system to process. Because Ayurveda compares digestion to a physical fire, it is easy to understand how eating a lot of cold foods “extinguishes” your digestive fire, just as how cold substances would put out an actual fire.
Cooking your food “pre-digests” the food for you, so your digestive fire doesn’t have to work that hard.
In physics, we learn that heat expands, while cold constricts. In Ayurveda, the body is imagined to possess channels or pipe-like pathways, called srota. These pathways are responsible for moving and circulating nutrients to their destinations in your body. All of these channels need to remain open for your digestion to be optimal. And warm foods keep all of your channels open and flowing, which greatly helps to kindle your digestive fire.
2. Avoid Incompatible Food Combinations
There are some foods that just don’t go well together. Ayurvedic texts like Charaka Samhita discuss how these incompatible food combinations can block your bodily channels and create issues like toxicity, skin problems, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), fever, indigestion, and anemia. Oftentimes, the root of most people’s health issues – whether respiratory, skin-related, or even obesity – is eating incompatible foods. Here are some specific incompatibilities you should avoid as much as possible.
Meat should not be combined with:
- Sprouted grains
- Black gram lentils
Milk should not be mixed with:
- Any kind of fruits (except mangos, figs, raisins, and dates)
- Any meat or fish
- Any type of alcohol
- Sour-tasting foods
- Any vegetables (stay away from creamy soups made with cream or milk)
- Lentils, beans, and millet (except finger millet, also known as ragi)
3. Sprinkle Cumin On Any Savory Food
There is hardly a savory Ayurvedic dish that doesn’t have cumin seeds in it. Cumin is a pungent spice that heats up your body and boosts digestion. Its subtle taste makes it easy to add to anything – from fajitas, pizza, and pasta to fried rice. This spice can be used throughout the year.
Here’s how you can use cumin seeds:
- Roast the cumin seeds in a skillet and then grind them into a powdered form with either a mortar and pestle or a blender.
- Store this powder in a small bag or a tiny plastic box.
- You can then easily sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon of it on your savory foods, whether you are cooking or traveling with food options that may be harder to digest.
You can also cook with cumin. Simply add them to your skillet after you have added ghee (clarified butter) or oil into your pan. Your digestive system will thank you.
4. Say Hello To Ajwain Seeds
Ajwain seeds or bishop’s weed seeds look like cumin seeds but smell and taste more like thyme. They increase the heat in the body, which makes them an excellent spice to add to savory dishes in case you need more digestive support. Like cumin, you can grind these seeds in a mortar and pestle or blender to create a powder that can be added to dishes. Powdering the seeds will make them a little less intense than the raw seed form.
Ajwain seeds are particularly great to add to heavy food items like meat. They reduce gas buildup in the body and bloating and also relieve pain. You can boil the seeds in water and drink the infused water once it has cooled down. This is extremely helpful for stomachaches and to relieve menstrual cramps.
Because ajwain seeds can heat up your body, have smaller dosages or none at all in summer. Also, avoid them in case you have any heat-related conditions such as hyperacidity and hemorrhoids.
5. Eat On Time
Ayurveda recommends eating breakfast between 7 and 9 am, lunch between 12 and 1:30 pm, and dinner between 5 and 7 pm. According to Ayurveda, lunch should be your largest meal. This is because the sun is the strongest at this time, and your inner digestive fire is like a “mini sun” inside your body that is deeply synchronized with the actual sun.
Give at least a 3-hour break between meals and a 3-hour break between eating and sleeping to optimally digest your food. The latter break ensures that you have enough time to digest your food so that it doesn’t become a liability once you sleep.
Follow these practices and experience wonderful digestion and health throughout your life.