While a great deal of thought is often put into choosing healthy foods, less thought is given to our ability to actually digest the food we eat. Ayurveda considers good digestion to be central to good health. The only way to take advantage of the the health-promoting benefits of the food we eat is make sure our digestive power is at its peak.
How do we know if our digestion is working well?
One of the easiest ways to judge the strength of our digestion is to notice how we feel after eating. If we feel light and comfortable after eating a full meal, the chances are good that we are processing our food well.
If we feel dull, heavy, fatigued, or have an uncomfortable feeling in the abdomen, this could mean that our agni, or digestive fire, is weak
Why does Ayurveda consider a strong digestion to be so important?
A strong agni, or digestive power, means that we are able to metabolize our food properly. This means that the the body can process food efficiently, distribute the necessary nutrients to every cell, and burn off and eliminate waste products without leaving any toxins behind.
If our agni is weak, we can’t completely metabolize the food that we take in. The end product of partially digested food is a sticky, noxious residue that Ayurveda calls ama (impurities). When ama is absorbed into our body it blocks the various channels of the body, inhibiting the normal functioning of Vata, Pitta and Kapha — the three governing principles of the physiology. One example of ama is the cellular debris that has been observed by Western medicine to build up over time in our body’s cells. This waste material impairs cellular functions and accelerates aging. It could even be a factor in causing the DNA to make mistakes, an etiological component in most cancers.
Because ama contributes to the early stages of many diseases, Ayurveda considers on of the most essential components of prevention to be: on keeping our agni strong and our digestion healthy.
If you wake up in the morning with a white coating on your tongue, you need to start attending to your digestion. (And buy a tongue scraper to remove the build-up of toxins on your tongue on a daily basis.)
Other signs that your agni needs attention include bad breath and digestive complaints such as constipation or diarrhea.
Tips for Strengthening Agni
- Eat a “ginger pickle” before meals. Slice thin pieces of fresh ginger root, then sprinkle with lemon juice and salt. Eat a few pieces several minutes before your meal.
- Sip hot water throughout the day. Avoid cold or (worse) iced beverages.
- Get regular exercise. If you feel sleeping during the day, it is better to take a brisk, 30-minute walk rather than indulge in a daytime nap.
- Always eat sitting down and remain sitting for 10 minutes after you have finished your meal.
The traditional Ayurveda detoxification treatments, Panchakarma, which are at the heart of The Raj programs, help dislodge accumulated toxins from the cells and flush out ama that has become lodged in the system. The recommendations for diet and daily routine given by our Ayurveda experts will help prevent future accumulation of ama.