By Danielle, Rottenberg, LMBT & Ayurvedic Practitioner
“We should eat to live, not live to eat.” ~ Light Miller
As Americans, we tend to live in a fast paced go get ʻem world. We get up first thing in the morning toast in hand, coffee in a to-go mug and off we go to start our hectic day. From there, we may have a “power lunch” where we eat while we work. Symptoms related to improper digestion is becoming a major issue in our country and in our health. Such symptoms of gas, bloating, indigestion, heartburn, the feeling of heaviness after a meal are all indications of foods not being absorbed and assimilated to the best of its ability. In Ayurveda and other holistic systems, disease starts with digestion. It is essential to our health to slow down and eat our meals mindfully, to revere our food, to pay homage to the earth, to be thankful for what we have and for its abundance. It is time for us to make the time to eat. We also need to be aware of the physical importance of sitting down to eat our meal. When we sit down to eat, our stomach is in a relaxed posture. This makes assimilating food much easier. Here are 10 helpful hints to aid in a better absorption of our food.
- Do not drink cold or iced water. Drinking cold water or juices can dilute your digestive juices and make it harder to break down the food. If you can, try not to drink water or liquids at least 1/2 hour after a meal. This will allow for the fire (agni) to stay heated to allow for optimal digestion and metabolic productivity. If you need to drink during your meals, just take a few sips of warm water. Also note, drinking a glass of warm water 20 minutes before your meal with lemon juice can help stimulate your digestion.
- Eat your biggest/bigger meal at lunch time between 12 to 2pm. Due to the time of the day, our fire or “agni” is at its best during these hours and has the ability to break down food optimally. It is also the time when we need our most fuel. Lighter foods should be eaten in morning and night time. Eat 3 meals a day. If you are not taking in the proper foods as needed then you can throw off your digestive rhythm. If you can picture our metabolism like a wave, the digestive fire builds up in the morning, peaks in the afternoon and then ebbs in the evening. Dinner should be eaten before 8pm, preferably 6:30 to allow for time for optimal digestion and absorption.
- Sit while eating your food. Practice food sadhana, honor your food, make a small ceremony around it, bless the food and eat in a calm and peaceful environment, no tv, loud music or distracting conversation, allow the food to be your main focus. Donʼt eat on the run, or while driving or talking on phone. Prepare your room with fresh flowers if you can, allow for a pleasant environment and try to have all the things you need on the table so you donʼt have to get up and disturb your meal time. This is your time to enjoy, celebrate and be a part of what great things our earth has to offer.
- Eat slowly and do not eat while you are upset or emotional. Digestion is key to great health, if it is not in good running order than the indigested food will collect in the intestines and cause bacteria (or ama). Indigested food can also be responsible for sluggishness and imbalance, which in turn can effect our immunity and health.
- Eat at scheduled times during the day, your body likes to be on a schedule. Depending on your doshic type,Vata people may need to eat more frequently and enjoy warmer foods to keep them grounded and their blood sugar balanced . Pitta people have stronger appetites and may need to eat more often throughout the day Pitta people should eat cooler foods to not “over heat” or have acid reflux. Kapha people tend to have a more sluggish digestive system so they may need to eat less frequently.
- Eat fresh, in season organic foods. We are in synch with the earth and with what are bodies need at that time related to nutrients and vitamins.
- Drink a warm glass of water with some fresh lemon or a tablespoon of lemon juice first thing in the morning. This helps with elimination and gets the digestive juices flowing and cleans out the digestive tract before starting your day.
- Avoid incompatible food combining: milk and cream should not be combined with salty or sour. Eat fruits by themselves and preferably in the morning, that is when they are best digested. Do not combine proteins with starches as that is harder to digest. Sandwiches are not necessarily the best food combination, nor cheeseburger (meat, starches and dairy), yogurt with fruit, pizza (mixing wheat with cheese and tomatoes), apples with peanut butter.
- Donʼt over eat: you should stop eating by 75% of fullness, allow at-least 3 to 4 hours between meals, wait until you are hungry. If you want to have a dessert it is best as a snack but not after a meal, as too much sweetness interferes with protein digestion.
- Chew your food. Chewing is the beginning of the process. Digestion occurs as soon as we begin chewing. If you can chew your food extremely well it makes the stomach and intestines not have to work so hard. Chewing causes secretions of saliva which helps prevent over eating. Take small bites.