As referenced in my previous article, here are ten Ayurvedic guidelines to optimize your digestion:
1) Eat in a clean, beautiful, and calm environment
Have a clean space to eat in. Remove anything that isn’t necessary for your eating or that fails to provide calmness (papers, clutter, junk, dead plants, etc). If you are in a cluttered space you will become distracted, and it will create a cluttered mind. Devoting your mind to the act of eating will prevent indigestion as your whole body will be working in harmony to digest the food.
2) Say Grace Before Eating
Some of us believe in god, some of us don’t. You do not need to thank god before you eat if you don’t want to. The idea is to express gratitude. Gratitude is a great way to ground ones self and reduce drama. My professor recommends taking three breaths before eating: One is for the food and all those involved in getting it to your table. Two is for your body for taking the time to digest and to be healthy. Three is to connect you to the divine, the universe, or to life itself. Whatever works for you. You do not need to be a theist in order to express gratitude.
3) Chew your food slowly
Digestion begins in the mouth. If it is not chewed properly, large chunks will not be digested correctly and will cause gas and bloating (amongst other things). Take your time. Chew food until it is an even consistency and then swallow. This is a very important step.
4) Eat without distraction
Being distracted has many bad side effects. Our mind will drag us into drama, emotion, the past, the future, and more. It will move our focus off eating and we will forget to follow other steps, like chewing slowly. Also, when the mind is focused solely on the purpose of digestion, you will increase the effectiveness of your digestion. Digestion is much better as a thoughtful process than a passive function. Avoid TV, talking too much, reading, or straying into thoughts. Eat as a form of meditation and your experience will become more profound and efficient.
5) Eat until you are satisfied, not full
There is a difference between being satisfied and being full. One should not feel heavy or weighed down after eating. Overeating causes these symptoms, and it impairs digestion, creating accumulation of toxins in the body along with gas and bloating. Part of being mindful when eating will be that you will be able to listen to your body and know when you are satisfied. Eating too much or too little is not optimal. A good rule of thumb is to eat until 75% full.
6) Take only half a cup of fluid with meals
Fluid helps us to digest our food. A small amount can lubricate our throats. But if we have too much, it dilutes important enzymes and acids that aid us in our digestion. It is best just to have a little water before hand. If the meal is already moist enough, no water at all may be necessary. Water is great, but it has it’s time and place and is best between meals. Make sure to give some time before drinking water after a meal is complete.
7) Avoid cold liquids
Room Temperature is best for liquids. Cold drinks weaken digestion.
8) Rest after meals before the next activity
Perhaps the old adage of “wait 30 minutes before swimming” was on the right track. The enzymes that are secreted that aid in digestion and the blood that flows to the digestive system after we eat need rest in order to function properly. Physical and mental activity will result in a decrease of enzyme production and cause blood to flow away from our digestive system. We won’t be able to absorb nutrients properly or as efficiently. Wait at least 20 minutes before engaging in other activities.
9) Wait at least three hours between meals
We should eat only when we have an appetite. There is no need to eat exactly 3 meals a day. It vastly depends on the person. When your appetite is diminished, forcing yourself to eat just because it’s “dinner time” isn’t necessary. Your appetite will return when it returns. Similarly, eating too much between meals because we desire them is also not healthy. We must try to notice the natural rhythm of our appetite to avoid eating too much or too little. Waiting between meals helps prevent us from being too full or from upsetting this natural rhythm.
10) Eat your largest meal at noon
Eating larger meals when we awake or when we are about to sleep contribute to indigestion. Smaller meals at breakfast and dinner (if you are hungry) will keep your appetite most strong at midday, allowing it to coincide with biologically when your digestion is at it’s strongest.
Most of these guidelines are easy to follow and take place before or after eating with little to no effort. You may find some guidelines more difficult than others. I find it difficult personally not to get distracted or to chew more slowly. Be patient and the practice will turn into a routine. I wish you well on your path to healthy digestion!
reference of these guidelines is credit to “An Introduction to Ayurvedic Lifestyle” by Dr. Marc Halpern