The Secret for Optimal Digestion

{15 min read}

When your digestive system is running smoothly, you're probably not thinking about it. Oh yeah — keeping it real here from the start. Lets talk about how when the trouble begins, your gut — like a squeaky wheel — suddenly demands your attention.

Digestion and eating styles may be a touchy subject. I gotta say, I believe there's nothing wrong with pleasure and indulgence. But where's the right balance point?

Your digestion is so important because it impacts your overall health and really makes a difference in how we feel.

And the secret is {drum roll please!}...It's all about that FIRE.

One system in particular is built around a profound understanding of our biological fires.

This is ‘Ayurveda’, the healing branch of Yoga and Vedic science going back thousands of years. Ayurveda means the wisdom {Veda} of life and longevity {Ayur}
— Dr. David Frawley

Let me explain.

Agni — fire, light, life, and intelligence, represents our power of will, motivation and aspiration. Cultivating agni allows us to develop optimal energization and digestion. It's brings vitality and transformation.

It's metaphorical in it's meaning and it's literal.

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{The ring of fire...the ring of fire}

Good.

Now let's look at the fire together - and how we kindle it, stoke it and keep it alive within ourselves.

We'll get specific in a moment, but first — Ama.

Kindling agni everyday means burning away toxins called ama. It's generated from imperfect digestion, environmental toxins that are in our atmosphere {xeno-estrogens} like exhaust fumes, and pharmaceutical meds that we take. When your food is digested too slowly or too quickly, elimination isn't properly happening, or you have a repressed emotion - all this causes ama build-up.

Signs and symptoms, here we go:

Coated tongue, fatigue, insomnia, sense of heaviness, lack of appetite, gas, bloating, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, bad taste in mouth, body odor, aches and pains, unresolved feelings, headaches, brain fog.

 

Sound familiar? Probably. We've all experienced this, and it originates in the digestive tract.

 

Kindle and nourish agni on a regular basis

Ayurvedic doctors have said, "If the digestive fire is kept burning in a consistent and clean manner, then health is guaranteed." As for me — I don't know yet — I'll let you know about that guarantee.

I think the riddle is that we DON'T keep our digestive fire burning clean and healthy ALL of the time. That's okay, we're not meant to be perfect. The best thing is to know our tendencies and how to nourish and balance ourselves both through diet and lifestyle.

What, when, why and how you eat all matters. 

 

1. When you eat

Full disclosure — I LOVE TO EAT and I can pretty much always find room for some food pleasure. At the same time, my pleasure of the thing is directly tied into it's effects on my health. So, I've experimented quite a bit with this one — not without my superpower of 'will'.

What I found first hand was this simple strategy that didn't ask me to give up any kind of food. 

Just leaving four hours in between eating works magic. It'll you time to fully digest without interruption. It's like this—you give the machine a job to do and let it do the job all the way through before loading more work in. Fair enough. Ideally, there's a little pause in there too so that you can feel the call of real hunger and pre-digestive juices get secreted before eating again.

Fasting overnight for twelve hours is important too, because that's when the digestive organs have their nighttime processing to do, they have a second job. When doing it this way, I feel cleaner and lighter — which I find naturally motivates me to step down my late night popcorn intake anyways.

It's not actually a bummer, just redistributing, simplifying.

 

2. What you eat

What does eating well mean to you? Because it's going to mean something different for each of us. We each have different constitutions — therefore different needs.

I love Ayurveda because it sees you as an individual and then keeps it simple.

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There are a lot of free online tests for your Ayurvedic dosha/constitution, and it can be found, confirmed and demystified through working with an Ayurvedic practitioner or a yoga therapist. 

Generally, eating well means as much as possible eating warm, freshly cooked food. Simple is good, not combining too many foods. If you're cooking, add spices like ginger, cumin, coriander and garlic to support and kindle agni — it's easier to digest that way.

My go-to base for cooking warm food like vegetables and rice is ghee {clarified butter}.

Eating this kind of meal sets you up nicely and will help with any uncontrolled reaching for whatever is there. 

 

3. How you eat.

Sit down. Eat at a moderate pace and chew your food well, duh. It's not like we don't know that, it's just that things come up! Recently, it's my Good Earth chai and chocolate croissant to-go — I'M LOVING IT.

And at the same time, for optimal digestion, I wouldn't eat on the run or while driving my car. It's good to intentionally avoid huge distractions while eating — including iphones and intense conversations.

Focusing on eating, but specifically noticing subtle qualities that certain foods have for you — does it feel light or heavy? Warming or cooling?

Lots of us overdo it all year round - I'll admit to you, dear reader, that mine is popcorn and ghee in case you haven't guessed it — t yeah. So, when we eat, there should be 50% solids in the stomach, 25% fluids, and 25% space - so it can all be mixed well.

In other words, when you bring both hands together to form a bowl— the recommendation is that you have that much for breakfast and dinner and two of those for lunch.

 

4. Drinking

Ayurveda recommends to avoid drinking a lot with meals, especially icy cold drinks. Drink just enough to moisten the food. It should be warm or at least at room temperature. I make strong ginger tea by hand grating some ginger and that works really well to sip on around mealtimes.

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My go-to is to sip warm water upon waking and throughout the day to kindle agni and digest ama.
— Lauren

 

5. Self care breaks as needed

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I know, it sounds fluffy — but of course your digestion is effected by your stress levels. In fact, Harvard has reviewed the gut-brain connection and documented the body-mind connection in that way. 

Trying to digest everything that you're exposed to in this world means that infusing your day with relaxation techniques has become a necessary part of health maintenance — I know. It's our bodies and minds that need some nourishment and release.

My go-to is a self-massage with warm oil {a shower promptly} and then reclined restorative twists for digestion.

For a personal recommendation you can reach out to a meditation or yoga instructor that you know and trust. Otherwise, I recommend Aura, the meditation app.

As a recap, Ama is the cause of disease and Scientists agree that the disease process starts on a cellular level with imbalances before the symptoms fully develop. Disease may be around the corner. So yeah — it's serious.

And there are little things that help big time. We know that digestion is the place to go.

So you have some things to be considering. Notice when you eat, what, how and why, and when — it all matters.

Keep it simple.

And if you're interested in diving deeper into this, definitely leave a comment and I'll share some resources with you!

 

With Love,

Lauren