digestion

NOT DIGGING YOUR DIGESTION?

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I don’t know about you, but mealtime is a sacred part of my day. Whether I eat in, dine out, or pack a brown paper bag, feeding my body is a special experience I savor every time.  And so there’s nothing worse than enjoying your favorite meal only for it to be spoiled by the subsequent discomfort of bloating—or gas, stomach pain, constipation, heartburn, fatigue, etc. And bon appetite soon becomes just blah. Been there? We all have.

Deep breath, don’t panic—there’s a solution to this suffering.  But first—literally take a deep breath! Next time you sit down to eat, make sure your stomach is in a relaxed posture and your awareness is focused on the taste, texture, and smell of the food. This simple form of mealtime meditation can greatly improve you digestion. Now that’s some food for thought 😊

According to Ayurveda, agni is the "digestive fire” in charge of breaking down food and other things we ingest from the environment, absorbing what is useful and eliminating the rest. Think: your body's tool for "cooking" your food. Without this fire, our system cannot digest anything we consume. The goal is to keep your agni burning gradually throughout the day.

To maintain a resilient digestive fire, Ayurveda recommends incorporating a variety of practices into your daily life that can strengthen agni—while also facilitating weight loss, improve the metabolism of food, and minimize those unpleasant GI symptoms.

So without further adieu, try these simple, natural, medicine-free Ayurvedic remedies to help your belly feel flat, calm, and balanced:

Upon waking, drink apple cider vinegar: add warm water, some good maple syrup or honey

When we wake up in the morning, our digestive fire is naturally low. Hot water mixed with ACV gives agni a jumpstart, both preparing it for food and stimulating the bowels. Do this every day if you can, not only when you’re feeling bloated or gassy. And then chug a huge glass of warm water with 1/2 a lemon.

Be mindful when you eat!

In other words—slow down! Sticking to a regular eating in a relaxed environment where you can focus on your food prepares your body for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. Think: your yoga practice to your plate.

Don't drink a lot of liquid during meals—take small sips

Many people like to drink tea after dinner but this still disrupts digestion. Wait 30-60 minutes before drinking your tea. Ginger is best if you want to help your belly out (more on that below).

Avoid gas producing foods.

Cabbage, peas, potatoes, cauliflower, beans, broccoli and brussell sprouts are all foods most likely to give you gas. If you’re having issues, try cutting them out of your diet, and then reintroducing them one at a time. Notice how you feel afterward. If they make you bloated or gassy, either cook them with lots of digestive spices (see below!) or avoid them completely. Soda water is also full of gas (see: bubbles) and is not the best choice if you need extra help digesting your foods. Go for flat water with lemon.

Don't snack

The truth is it takes your body 3–4 hours to properly digest food—so grazing throughout the day tends to overload your system. By allowing between meals, your food can fully digest, giving proving you with more energy. Note: it is not true that you need to eat 6 smalls meals to increase your metabolism.

Eat raw fruit alone

Raw fruit in its whole goodness digests more quickly than other food. If eaten with other food, it starts to ferment in your belly. Note: cooked fruit is okay, especially when cooked and combined with other foods. That way it has time to assimilate.

Take magnesium supplement before bed (CALM is my fave)

Drink 1-3 tbsp in 6oz of warm water about an hour before bed. Don't chug right before bed if you have a small bladder or you'll be running to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Been there, done that. Magnesium not only helps your digestion but it also relaxes your muscles and gives your body a chance to recoop after a hard workout.

Drink ginger tea or juiced ginger

Ginger can help to counteract your food’s gas forming tendencies, Ginger can relax the smooth muscle of the intestines, thereby relieving symptoms of gas and cramping. Ginger, garlic, turmeric, cinnamon, and cayenne are renowned  favorites for nurturing your digestive fire, while also boosting your immune system. Side note: Ginger is known in Ayurveda as the universal remedy due to its many benefits for the body. It’s been used for over 2,000 years to treat digestive issues. To make: steep ginger in boiling water for about 10 minutes. If you don't have fresh ginger root at home, ginger tea will work too. (My favorite is Rishi Tumeric Ginger or Yogi Ginger tea.) Viola. PS: wait 30 minutes to drink tea after meal so there's time for your body to focus on food digestion (drinking lots of liquid dilutes).

Do some form of daily movement

Whether it’s a bit of yoga each morning, a daily walk, or light stretching before bed. A recent study published in Diabetes Care showed that a short 15-minute walk after each meal helped to control sugar spikes after eating. These short post-meal walks were more effective than taking a longer, 45-minute walk once daily.

When our digestive system is strong, we create healthy tissues and produce a subtle essence called ojas. In relation to Ayurveda, ojas is the innermost vital essence; the basis for clarity of perception, physical strength, and immunity. In contrast, if our agni is weakened by improper eating, lack of activity, negative emotional energy or unhealthy daily routine, our digestion will be weakened and prone to producing toxins that get stored in the body. In the world of Ayurveda, this toxic residue, known as ama, is known as the root cause of disease.

To learn more about how you can get good with your gut, reach out to me for a free consultation @ www.natashawellness.com/appointment

WHAT'S YOUR DOSHA?

You’ve probably heard the word “dosha” in relation to Ayurveda being thrown around a bunch. I’m going to dive into the doshas a little bit as they relate to food (lifestyle, and exercise will come later).

As an ancient system of healing, Ayurveda (the sister science to Yoga) examines ways to preserve our health by maintaining a balanced mind-body state, centering its philosophy on five elements: earth, fire, water, air and space. It’s very similar to Traditional Chinese Medicine, just in another language. Ayurveda bases its practice on the principles of three doshas—vata (air and space), pitta (fire) and kapha (earth and water). Doshas are energies that perform different physiological functions in the body, which, in turn, influence our overall personal well-being.

You may want to go take this dosha (prakriti) quiz and then come back and read the rest of this post - https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/prakriti-quiz/

According to Ayurveda, when we’re balanced, we crave foods that are good for us. However, if our mind, body or spirit is out of sync, our connection to our body’s inner intelligence goes haywire. You may notice after taking the quiz that you are drawn to foods that throw you out of balance. Like increases like! As we move through life, the proportion of each of the three doshas constantly fluctuates due to things like our environment, diet, age and the climate. As they move in and out of balance, the doshas can affect our health, energy level and general mood. I like to retake this quiz about once a year to see if there are changes.

Foods are linked to doshas both in their composition and in the types of biological reactions they cause in the body. If you are high in a dosha, avoid the foods related to it. For example, if you are predominantly pitta, it might be best for you to decrease spicy burrito’s and jalapeno margaritas and drink more aloe juice. If you are predominantly kapha, increase light crunchy vegetables and decrease heavy foods such as rice and grains. If you are predominantly vata, increase ginger tea and decrease crackers, chips, and cold smoothies.

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Pitta: Food/drinks that are spicy and cause fire-based, energy-consuming reactions. If your Pitta is high, avoid Pitta foods, such as caffeine, spicy food, garlic and ginger.

Kapha: Foods that are heavier in nature and earth-based. Kapha foods come from the earth, like grains, rice, flour and starchy vegetables.

Vata:  Foods have an airy nature and cause air-based reactions, such as belching. Includes: popcorn, crackers, nuts, raw vegetables, fruits, melons, milk, yogurt and coconut water.

Food should provide energy and clarity. A "good" diet may appear very different from person to person. However, determining if a certain diet is working well for you can be proven by a simple universal truth: when you feel energized, sleep well and have strong digestion supported rather than depleted as you go through everyday life. It’s all about experimenting with what works best for you and BALANCE.

The truth is that most people are not solely one type of dosha, but in fact are a blend of at least two types. I’m actually equally all 3! Knowing your dosha(s) can help you maintain balance for lasting health and peace of mind. That being said, it's important we find a personal balance of foods to suit our own unique constitution. As you learn about and apply the foods that fit your personal dosha(s), you’ll craft a food system that best supports your mind-body balance.

Each dosha body type thrives on different kinds of foods to support its overall function. Focus on adding these foods to bring yourself back into balance:

Vata types need grounding foods like oils and grains.

Pitta types are supported by cooling foods, such as salads and sweet fruits.

Kapha types benefit from heating and invigorating foods, such as cayenne and other hot peppers.

In the practice of Ayurveda, diet and lifestyle routines are the most important medicines for fostering our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Start by choosing foods that help you balance your doshas, and then see what feels good in your body both as you eat them and long after the meal is over. Pay attention to patterns in your digestion, sleep cycle, breathing and energy level after eating. A food diary can be helpful tool for tracking these patterns. If you're feeling unhealthy or unbalanced at any time, review your diary and consider what you've been eating that could be triggering the problems. Next, adjust your eating habits until you begin to feel improvements.

There is SO much information about Ayurveda and doshas so I’m just skimming the surface here. I wanted to share a few basics to help you get started on your path, if that’s something you’re interested in doing. I offer nutritional, physical, spiritual support through one-on-one coaching with your dosha in mind. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have! Just leave a comment below or send me a private message at info@natashawellness.com. Click here to set up a free consultation to see if health coaching is right for you.

If you want to get yourself dosha-specific massage oils check out my shop page. You can also find a link on there to purchase a Kitchari kit on Amazon. A great value so you don't have to go searching for all the ingredients separately!


Sources:
Image borrowed from http://www.ayurvedanice.com/en/the-doshas/ 

TWIST AND KRAUT WORKSHOP RECAP

The fermentation crew showing off their creations!

The fermentation crew showing off their creations!

Wow. I am still beaming from yesterday's Twist & 'Kraut workshop! This was Kindred Spirits Collective's first local workshop and it was a total success. Maren Bhagat and I led a one hour twisty detoxifying vinyasa yoga flow followed by a 90 minute sauerkraut making workshop over at Acorn Yoga in Brighton, MA. We had an absolute blast teaching everyone the benefits of yoga and how it ties into the benefits of fermented foods! Thanks to everyone who came out. If you missed the workshop and want to make it to our next one, register for our March 25th Yoga and Tea Making event and sign up for our Maine Spring Awakening Retreat. I wanted to share some of the info we taught at the workshop. Check it out:

Ayurveda and digestion

There are 5 elements: earth, air, ether, wind, and fire. According to Ayurveda, fire, or agni, is the most important element in the human body.

"The digestive fire in the intestines (jataragni) is the root of all the digestive fires in the body. As it causes the increase or decrease of the elemental and tissue digestive fires it should be treated with great care."
- Ashtanga Hridaya Samhita

Ayurveda says that if you have a healthy digestive system then you are properly able to assimilate experiences, emotions, and physical matter. Have you ever eaten something that didn't sit well in your belly, making you feel heavy, bloated, and grumpy? It happens all the time, especially in our over-sugared over-fed country. That's why following Ayurvedic teachings about improving digestion can be so beneficial. It takes a little attention but once you discover the benefits of improving your digestive fire you'll be ALL IN. 

Agni: Meaning fire, spark, digestive fire. Both "ignite" & "agni" have the same linguistic root.
Qualities: Hot, Light, Dry, Sharp, Penetrating, Pungent, Luminous, Transforming.
Functions: Absorption, assimilation, metabolism, digestion, perception, taste, touch, hearing, vitality, clarity, alertness, regular appetite, combustion.

It includes the digestive function, sense perception, cellular metabolism and mental assimilation, linking mental well being and digestive health.

It gives immunity, a sparkle in the eyes and luster to the skin.

When agni is balanced, it causes emotions that are beneficial to health: courage, cheerfulness, lucid, intelligence. When agni is out of balance it causes emotions that are destructive to health: fear, anger, confusion, idiocy."

Yoga and fermented food both increase agni in the body. In yoga, the squeeze and soak action of the body (especially in twists) are like a sponge for your gut. Each twist squeezes out old blood allowing new blood in wringing out toxins, heavy metals, sadness, depression, and anxiety. Fermented foods re-kindle agni due to the good bacteria in them digesting ama and replenishing enzymes and nutrients. If you’re not digesting well, you’ll develop ama, or gut inflammation and toxic residues from undigested, unabsorbed foods that slow you down.

 

Benefits of eating sauerkraut

Massage your kraut... really get to know it.

Massage your kraut... really get to know it.

Indian food is traditionally full of fermented foods. Think idli – a fermented lentil and rice cake, chutney, yogurt sauces, dosa. Not only are these fermented foods delicious and nutritionally dense, they are easier to digest as well. This takes a lot of pressure off of you to do all of the work, since the food is partially broken down already. Many other cultures consume fermented foods regularly. Various Asian cultures eat pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash, and carrots, such as kimchi. Eastern Europeans consume many versions of sauerkraut and fermented dairy products. Even Romans valued sauerkraut!

Sauerkraut is a lacto-fermented food that is full of not only probiotics, but prebiotics as well. The fiber in the cabbage feeds the bacteria, allowing them to thrive. Similar to the physical practice of asana in yoga, eating small amounts of fermented foods throughout your day is quite cleansing. The good bacteria slowly replace the “bad” bacteria, revitalizing you! The wide variety of bacteria found in fermented food is incredible important – a diverse ecosystem is more resilient – and diversity in the Western gut tends to be significantly lower than in other, less-industrialized populations. Eating fermented foods allows your system to be more ready for dealing with illness and resisting it in the first place. Your body contains 100 trillion microbes (making up a pound or two of you!), the majority of which are in your gut where 80% of your immune system is located. For every human cell that is intrinsic to our body, there are about 10 microbes. Quite humbling, isn’t it? The increase in chronic illnesses we are seeing may be due in part to the decrease in beneficial bacteria we are consuming. Let’s ensure that the types of bacteria we are made of are those that are supportive of our health and longevity, rather than inflammatory types!

Not only do fermented foods create health in the body, but they actually play a large role in our emotional well-being. Our gut is literally our second brain, and the bacteria contained in it can alter our thoughts! They control cravings – if you are eating junk food, the bacteria that enjoy it will begin to take over and will actually cause you to crave it in order to keep themselves alive! It sounds far-fetched, but you really are a result of what you are eating. They produce signaling chemicals that control immune cells, appetite, satiety, and digestion. A healthy gut may even help to decrease Alzheimer’s risk! Fermented foods are full of nutrients that are harder to get in the Western diet, and are full of bacteria that produce and help unlock nutrients, such as K2 and vitamin B. The physical, mental, and emotional benefits of eating fermented foods go on and on!!

Other types of fermented foods include kombucha, kefir, miso, kimchi, yogurt, natto… Just make sure you are consuming raw versions! Probiotic supplements are extremely pricey, and contain 100x fewer bacteria than fermented foods that you can make yourself!

Moral of the story: Do yoga and eat fermented foods, even if it's just a bite a day! Your body will thank you.

 

Sources:
https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/blog-banyan-vine/details/the-digestive-fire
http://yogahealer.com/ayurveda-and-fermented-foods/

http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-homemade-sauerkraut-in-a-mason-jar-193124
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/magazine/say-hello-to-the-100-trillion-bacteria-that-make-up-your-microbiome.html?pagewanted=3&_r=2&src=me
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/gut-bacteria-alzheimers_us_589e0e09e4b03df370d628be?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063