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Digestion - The Foundation of what you are

"You've heard the saying, you are what you eat." Actually, "you are how you digest" is more precise and informative.


Digestion is not just converting food into energy and nutrients but more fundamentally it is absorbing the intelligence in the food. If digestion is weak then even good food will be converted into low-grade nutrition and low-grade health.


The How and When


Poor digestion can lead to gas, a heavy feeling and a build up of digestive impurities. Some people have no appetite, while others can't fully taste their food. Cravings are also a sign of imbalanced digestion. Maharishi AyurVeda provides simple solutions to these common complaints by considering not only what we eat but when and how we consume our meals.


When a meal is really savoured and enjoyed, it helps the body prepare for properly digesting and assimilating the nutrients in the food. An uplifting and settled environment is best for digestion. If such conditions are not available then we should at least be sitting down to eat -- not standing, walking, driving or watching television. When we sit down to eat our stomach is in a relaxed posture and our awareness can be focused on the taste, texture, and smell of the food. This will greatly improve the digestion.


Agni – The digestive fire


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 that the nutrients in the food are easily absorbed by the body.


Ayurveda recommends a number of general practices for better digestion


Balancing your digestive agni is a key principle in Ayurveda. That's why Ayurveda recommends a number of general practices for better digestion. Digestive agni can be compared to a burning fire. If the flame is very low then it will take a long time to cook the food. In the same way if the fire is too big it can burn the food too quickly. If we put a huge log on a low fire it will extinguish it. Our digestive fires should be balanced so that we can digest our meals efficiently and smoothly.


The ginger and lemon juice recommendation helps to increase the digestive power but do not use it if you suffer from an over-active agni, because of which there is too much internal heat and acid do not. In these circumstances use of cooling spices such as coriander, cardamom and turmeric (Pitta Spice mix) and lassi (see below) are very helpful.


Don’t put out the fire


Ayurveda recommends avoiding cold drinks at meals and ice-cold foods in general. Their effect is like putting cold water on the burning logs. Iced water, normally served at restaurants, extinguishes the digestive fire. Even juice or milk right out of the refrigerator is too cold for the digestion. Juice should be taken at room temperature and water without ice. Once you get into this habit of drinking beverages at room temperature you will notice a dramatic improvement in your digestion and the way your body feels while eating and after the meal. Cold drinks and foods mixed with warm cooked foods can cause stomach cramps, bloating and general discomfort in the stomach area.


If you have a Pitta imbalance you can take cool drinks in-between meals. Cold or frozen foods are not recommended for Pitta either because even though they may temporarily cool down the heat, the agni is still being over stimulated and the imbalance will continue. Try slightly cool drinks made with rose water, or milk blended with dates or fresh mangos.


The sun and agni


The next recommendation has to with the time of the day that you eat your meals. Have you ever gone out for a late dinner and found that it was a strain to wake up the next morning or that it was difficult to be efficient during the following day? These are often the side effects of improperly digested food. The best way to avoid these problems is to follow nature's prescription of suitable times to eat. When the sun is strongest between 12 and 2 p.m. is when the digestive fire is also strongest. Agni is associated with the Sun. This is one of the ways Ayurveda seeks to connect our mind and body with the environment. Ayurveda recommends that lunch be the largest meal of the day since that is the time the digestive agni is working at its maximum potency. As the sun goes down so does our agni.


Dinner should be lighter than lunch and should ideally be eaten before 8:00 p.m. Late night meals interfere with sleep and after 10:00 p.m. the body is working to burn off toxins and continue to digest food from the day. If you eat after 10:00 p.m., the food may cause toxins to accumulate in the system, and as a result the next day you wake up tired. If you are not able to wake up fresh and clear, then it is important to consider what for and when at you are eating dinner.


Ingredients for mango Lassi




Another ayurvedic tip for digestion is to drink a fresh yoghurt drink called Lassi at lunchtime. Lassi consists of 1/4 cup fresh homemade yoghurt, 1 cup room temperature water to which various sweet or savoury flavourings can be added. Blend it for one minute in the blender. Lassi is light and contains lactobacilli, necessary bacteria that support healthy digestion. 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, and drink after lunch


Try our Yoghurt Box– a simple, non-electrical kit for making fresh yoghurt for your lassi.


Food supplements to support digestion


Because of the importance of digestion in Ayurveda Maharishi AyurVeda Products offers a large range of products to balance and support various aspects of the digestive process.


Herbal Digest tablets support digestion and balances gas production and comfort after meals. Because it contains all 6 tastes it helps to balance cravings. You'll enjoy a renewed sense of vitality because you'll be digesting your food, not just ingesting it.


Digest Plus tablets are hotter than Herbal Digest tablets and help to support and enliven a slow digestive system and elimination.


Aci-Balance tablets balance stomach acidity. This blend of 17 cooling herbs will help balance your digestion, regulate acid and soothe the stomach.


Trikatu with Clove powder is a strong appetizer and digestive that particularly supports the respiratory system.


Triphala with Rose tablets have a gentle balancing and purifying effect on the whole digestive system.


Spices Blends not only add flavour but also have many health beneficial effects on digestion. Select from our range of spice blends according to your body type or health goal.


Digest Plus Tea and Stimulating Kapha tea are appetizers and digestives that can be sipped after meals or throughout the day.


Copper Cup - leave water in a copper cup overnight, and then drink in the morning to purify digestion and help assimilation of nutrients.


Favour fresh foods


Other Diet & Lifestyle Recommendations


To balance digestion:


  • favour fresh foods and don't eat leftovers
  • eat only when hungry, after the previous meal is digested
  • maintain regular meal times
  • take your time, chew slowly, and sit quietly for five minutes after each meal
  • eat only until you're about three-quarters full
  • boil milk with ginger or cinnamon, drink it warm or cool


To balance stomach acid:


  • cut down on dry, spicy and salty foods
  • drink a little cool milk, but not with meals
  • eat sweet, juicy fruits, such as plums and pears
  • minimize alcohol consumption
  • eat promptly when you're hungry, don't skip meals
  • get proper rest, try to go to bed before 10 p.m. when digestion becomes active again


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.


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