Most of us don’t pay attention to or understand the concept of digestion unless we have a digestive disease. According to Ayurveda, the world’s oldest natural medicine system, good digestion is a foundation for our mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
While there’s interest today in eating healthy food, that is not enough! We can eat the freshest organic food available and still be nutrient deficient – if we do not digest our food well.
Our cells are built from the nutrients in the food we consume and digest.
Digestion 101 and Beyond
Here’s a simple illustration to aid our understanding. Picture a fireplace with a weak flame; throw two or three large pieces of firewood on it. The fire would go out and smoke. Like that, when our digestion is weak, food does not digest well and becomes toxic. Ayurveda calls the byproduct of poor digestion “ama.” It weakens the body and mind and leads to disease.
Now, imagine building an intense flame cultivated with dry, kindling wood. Feed the fire slowly with progressively more significant pieces of wood, and the heat grows. In a short time, the fire is roaring hot. Now, put big chunks of firewood in the fire, and they burn quickly. Substantial pieces of wood in a hot fireplace provide us with the heat we desire.
Similarly, with good digestion, our food’s nutrients are converted into energy that our bodies need. Herein is a fundamental concept of Ayurveda – It’s not what you eat; it’s what you digest! Sure, what we eat is important. However, at a deeper level of truth, we need to take steps to enhance our digestive power.
Since digestion is so significant to our overall health, what can we do to increase our digestive fire? Here is an excellent place to start.
Six helpful tips to aid digestion:
- Eat your meals in a settled environment.
- Sit to eat, and do not divide your attention—TV watching, reading, or working when eating weakens digestion.
- Chew your food well, do not rush your meals.
- Avoid drinking ice-cold beverages with your meal.
- Digestion is most robust around lunch; eat the largest meal of your day then. It’s also the ideal time to eat heavy, difficult-to-digest foods.
- Spend some time in meditation daily.
If this list seems unworkable, start from where you are. Pick one item that seems doable and begin there. Try it for two weeks and see if you notice a difference in the way you feel. The goal is not perfection; Lean toward progress.
Another valuable insight from natural medicine is that we also metabolize or digest all our experiences and emotions. Can you see why Ayurveda places such importance on the importance of good digestion? Few physicians would argue that how we absorb the events and news of the day influences our health.
Our minds and bodies are intimately connected. When the mind is overwhelmed or anxious, it has a direct impact on our bodies and emotions. Spend some time reading or watching the national news and notice if it affects your mood, heart rate, conversations, or food and beverage choices.
Meditation makes a difference
Herein lies the importance of meditation for improving digestion. In the early ’90s, I worked and taught meditation at the Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center in Lancaster, MA, under the clinical direction of Deepak Chopra, M.D. We told our guests that it was an essential element of self-care that would accelerate their healing.
Meditation calms and heals the mind. It is a catalyst that integrates all aspects of our health – mental, physical, and emotional. When the mind is calm, the digestive power of the mind and body is enhanced. Whereas when the mind is overwhelmed, it drains us of vital energy and weakens digestion.
Greg Schweitzer is a certified Ayurvedic Counselor and teacher of Effortless Meditation™.
Perfect Health: The Complete Mind/Body Guide by Deepak Chopra, M.D.
The Prime: Prepare and Repair Your Body for Spontaneous Weight Loss by Kulreet Chaudhary, M.D. (Integrative Neurologist)