Digestion Questions and Answers
Proper diet and good digestion are considered by Ayurveda to be of prime importance for good health
Answers to the following questions about good dietary practice have been provided by two experienced Maharishi AyurVeda physicians.
Q. Why is eating at right time of day important?
Our body has an innate rhythm and this includes its capacity for digestion. Digestion awakens slowly in the morning, while in the evening it is slowing down ready for sleep. It is best to eat lightly at these times – a small breakfast and a light evening meal. At midday, digestive power is at its maximum, so this is the time for your main meal of the day.
Q. Why should the main meal be at lunchtime?
If you have taken a small breakfast according to hunger, and not overeaten, then you will be hungry for a good lunch, which should be your main meal of the day. Satisfying hunger at lunch without overeating will allow appetite to return for your evening meal, which should be light. Between meals have drinks, unless you are physically hungry in which case eat very lightly so as not to rob the hunger from the next meal.
Q. Why is it important to include the 6 tastes, and what are they?
The body doesn’t feel completely fulfilled unless it has the six tastes in a meal sweet, sour, salty, pungent (pepper), bitter (lemon or leafy greens) and astringent (the dry feeling of an apple or lentil dhal). Spices like fennel, cumin, coriander and turmeric also help to provide these tastes. If you do not supply the six tastes you will suffer cravings as the body recognises some basic foods are missing. Ideally the six tastes are used in every meal, but at least every day. Sour taste with lemon juice, citrus fruit or lassi. Use some spices use some cardamom, turmeric in porridge, astringent with nuts.
Q. Why is eating fresh, unprocessed food recommended?
Ayurveda explains that food is digested in a sequence into seven tissue elements called dhatus. Each of these dhatus nourishes particular body tissues. If you eat healthier foods and start to live a better lifestyle you start to create better nourishment immediately. The food you eat also brings mental benefits, or not. Pure foods increase purity in the mind. Stale, old, greasy, processed foods create dullness. Also fresh food has more prana, more life energy. Stale foods have less. So, do not microwave, as it destroys 98% of vitamins, makes the food Vata aggravating and can cause carcinogens.
Q. Why is it advised to sip warm water regularly?
It helps to remove ama. Its also vata reducing. It also helps the bowel contents fluid, also helps to treat constipation as well.
Q. What is the value of eating in a settled atmosphere?
When we sit down to eat our stomach is in a relaxed posture and our awareness is on the taste, texture, and smell of the food. This will greatly improve the digestion. The state of mind will have an effect on the digestive fire. So if you are in an anxious state, or a stressed state, that will cause a vata disturbance in digestion, so you won’t process the food properly, and you will end up with toxic residues from the food which then lodge in the body. Eating in a disturbed state creates Ama.
Q. What about listening to the radio or watching TV?
Its distracting. So if you are listening to the football results your intellect is occupied, and its a Pitta type function so the body is distracted and you want Pitta to be working well in your digestive area when you are eating.
TIP. Why is eating according to your hunger recommended?
Hunger is really a natural expression of the strength of the digestion. If there is no hunger, the digestive fire (agni) will be weak and you’ll only be able to eat a little, or process a little, or digest a little. But if you have a great, roaring hunger its telling you your tummy is ready for a good meal. If you eat when your digestion is functioning poorly you will create more ama (toxic by-product of incorrect digestion), and ama causes chronic problems.
Q. How do you eat according to your constitution?
If you are a very Pitta person and very hot-headed, you don’t want things that will heat you up more because they will make you more irritable. So, as a Pitta person you wouldn’t want to have a lot of chillies or other very Pitta things. Again, as a Kapha person you wouldn’t want a lot of heavy food or fatty food because that would tend to aggravate your Kapha. You could say as a general principle that the constitutional doshas are the doshas that would tend to go out of balance most easily with most people.
Q. Why is sitting for 5-10 minutes after eating advised?
That’s to allow the process of digesting the food to get well underway. It allows a muscular movement of the stomach to churn the chewed up food and the digestive juices so they are well mixed.
Q. Why is a walk after lunch recommended?
A gentle stroll on the flat for 5 or 10 minutes will generally enliven Pitta in a person, so it will actually aid digestion. Once the food has been well mixed in the stomach with the digestive juices then a bit of activity is quite useful, but it should be gentle, just a stroll, and usually the stroll is taken a quarter of an hour after eating. So you would sit for a quarter of an hour.
Q. Why is eating a light meal 3 hrs before bed advisable?
The process of digestion does take up to three hours, or even more, depending on the type of constitution and the activity of that persons digestive fire. You really want the digestive process to be over prior to trying to sleep, otherwise you will find there’s that activity going on in the body that makes it more difficult to sleep or will create interrupted sleep.
Q. Why is bed by 10 pm important?
While you are asleep during the Pitta time of night, which is between 10pm and 2am, your tissue agnis (digestive fires) are active, and they are taking the building blocks of the food you’ve eaten during the day, and digested, and then structuring the tissues of the body out of those building blocks. If you are trying to digest food and to break food down at the same time as trying to structure new tissues, you create a confusion and neither job gets done well and you create ama (toxic by-product of incorrect digestion).
Ayurveda suggests that up to 90% of all disease is linked to poor digestion. Even eating wholesome, natural food does not assure good nutrition. Poor digestion renders even the healthier diet ineffective.
The body has to able to absorb the nutrients before it can use them to create health. Maharishi AyurVeda Digest products help improve digestion at every step, from good appetite to improved health.
Q. Why are dietary supplements recommended?
The primary thing is to enhance those processes in the body not functioning properly. So, for example, you would take a digestive supplement to increase the agni (digestive fire) in the stomach and in the small bowel, if someone had a poor digestion. Dietary supplements are also taken to balance the doshas. So, if you have accumulated too much Vata in your mind and you’re suffering from anxiety, then you can take dietary supplements to help to get to bring that Vata under control, back to normal.
Q. Why is it recommended to consult an Ayurvedic practitioner?
The more you use Ayurvedic principles, the more you automatically know what the right thing is to do for yourself and the more it becomes common sense. But I think everybody benefits from an unattached opinion of their problem. Sometimes when we have imbalances, those imbalances will affect our discrimination and well want things that are not healthy for us. It makes sense to get a second opinion. But also if you are going to spend a lot of money on herbal preparations, you want take the preparations which will be best for you, so you’ll put the money to best use. Its also good to see somebody to enthuse you, to motivate you. So the motivation of seeing a practitioner is very helpful. And also to encourage you and to praise you for doing the right things.
Q. Why is stimulating your digestive fire important?
Another way to improve the digestion is to stimulate the agni or digestive fire before we begin eating. Weak digestive agni may result in fatigue after eating so Ayurveda recommends eating a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger with a few drops of lemon juice and a few pinches of salt on it before a full meal. This starts to activate the salivary glands, producing the necessary enzymes so nutrients in the food are easily absorbed by the body.
Tip: Drink Lassi after lunch
Another Ayurvedic tip for digestion is to drink a fresh yoghurt drink called Lassi either during or after the meal. This drink consists of 1/4 cup fresh homemade yoghurt, 1 cup room temperature water and sugar to taste. Blend it for one minute in the blender. Lassi is light and contains lactobacilli, necessary bacteria that lubricate the intestines to help digestion go smoothly. Lassi drinks help to reduce gas and bloating. They also taste delicious and can make a meal more satisfying and nutritious.
There are many recipes for Lassi. The following one is good for warding off gas and bloating:
- 1 cup room temperature water
- 1/4 fresh homemade yoghurt
- 1 pinch ground ginger
- 1 pinch ground cumin
- 1 pinch ground coriander
- 1 pinch salt
- Blend for one minute
- Drink after lunch.
A Note on Doshas
According to Ayurveda, our body, mind, emotions, and even the worlds around us, are governed by a mixture of three fundamental energies or forces that we call Doshas.
These Doshas govern all the activities of your mind and body and are called Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Yet, in every person, they will be found in different proportions. In most of us, one or two Doshas tend to dominate.
- Vata governs movement within the body. It governs the movement of thoughts in our mind, the movement of air when it is windy and every movement imaginable.
- Pitta governs the transformation of food when it is digested and assimilated into the body. The assimilation of new knowledge is governed by Pitta, as is any transformation we see around us.
- Kapha structures our body and gives us our physical strength. It manifests as the relative power of the mind and is the force that holds together each atom and structure we see around us.
If you are ill or have a medical condition we recommend that you have a personal health evaluation with a practitioner trained in Maharishi AyurVeda. The practitioner will identify any imbalance that is giving rise to your condition and will recommend specific changes in diet and routine and herbal AyurVeda products that will help you. Even if you are not ill you will find that a personal health evaluation is the ideal introduction to AyurVeda.
For further information about our products, Maharishi AyurVeda Health Centres or how to order or call 01695 51015.
DISCLAIMER: The information in this document is presented for the sole purpose of imparting education on Maharishi AyurVeda and neither the information nor the products are intended to diagnose, treat, mitigate, cure or prevent any disease. If you have a medical condition, or are pregnant or lactating, please consult a health professional and it is recommended that you speak with your physician before making significant changes to your diet or routine.