The healing system of Ayurveda (meaning knowledge or science of life), dates back thousands of years and is still widely practiced in India. A primary focus of Ayurveda is to find and maintain balance of mind, body, and consciousness through lifestyle, including environment, activity, and diet. According to this ancient medicinal system, poor digestion is at the root of all disease, and modern science, widely researching the microbiome of the gut in recent years, is starting to align with that position.
Digestion involves so much more than nutrient breakdown & distribution. The waste products of the gut’s microbes, largely a result of the foods that are digested, play a role in informing the brain of gut health, and the brain responds by altering bodily processes. Research is showing that poor gut health is directly related to brain issues such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and autism. In addition, I’ve shared past posts on the importance of the gut’s microbiome in the processes of weight loss and boosting immune function, both of which are important in maintaining or restoring health. Further, a poorly functioning gut is involved in chronic inflammation, a condition, studies show, that is often found in abundance with diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, liver disease, and autoimmune disorders.
Below, I’m sharing 5 of the precepts of eating based on Ayurveda, which can help you find balance and thrive.
- Eat in a manner that supports your dosha type. In a past post, I shared a very brief write-up on doshas, also called constitutional types. Most of us are primarily vata, pitta, or kapha, and the foods we eat or avoid can have strong effects on our body’s balance. For a more thorough description of the dosha types, check out this guide from the Ayurvedic Institute. And for a good idea of the foods you should eat or avoid based on that info, go to this link.
- Stay mindful of your digestive fire. Make lunch a larger meal than dinner, because agni, or digestive fire, is strongest when the sun is high in the sky. And according to this article from Chopra.com, eating a light dinner at least 3 hours prior to bedtime, when agni is weaker, assists sleep, a time when the body repairs, heals, and restores while the mind digests thoughts, emotions, and experiences from the day. If the body’s energy is diverted into physical digestion, the physical healing and mental digestive processes are halted.
- Hydrate with warm, or room temperature water throughout the day. This helps with lubrication of the digestive system. Dr. Pratik Bhoite, an Ayurvedic physician in Mumbai, says cold drinks should be avoided because the body must first heat it to body temperature before it can digest it.
- Eat fresh foods & avoid prepackaged. Erin Easterly, Ayurvedic Therapist & Educator, writes that the best way to nourish yourself is to increase your prana, or life force. Foods with abundant prana come straight from the Earth. Their prana has been derived through the mingling of sunshine, water, and earth energies, she says. Therefore, seasonal, local veggies are optimal.
- Shoot for getting each of the 6 tastes at every meal. Ayurveda recognizes the tastes of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent, & pungent as distinct informational energies for our cells. Incorporating each taste in meals gives us a full nutritional energy palate and, according to this article from US News & World Reports, boosts overall satisfaction. For sweets, think sweet fruits, nuts, or carrots. Sour fare includes fermented foods & citrus. Seaweed is a good salt source in addition to mineral salts. Bitter foods include kale and spices like turmeric. Beans and dark leafy greens are astringent. And ginger, garlic and onions fall into the pungent category.
Working toward balance in your life can lead to increased health and well-being. Changing up your eating habits can be a super-important aspect of that balance for reversing or preventing disease. I hope the tips above inspire you to thrive by bolstering your body’s digestion based on the science of life.
The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.