Eating well is more than just about nutrition, it’s about making sure you are giving yourself enough time to break down and absorb what you are taking in — otherwise known as digestion. According to Ayurveda (India’s medical system), the accumulation of undigested food in the bodily tissues known as “ama” is the sign of disease and a strong digestive fire “agni” is the sign of health. By optimizing digestion you have a far greater chance of being in perfect health.
Science has proven that 80% of our immune system and a great deal neurotransmitters are produced in your gut — which means that:
OUR RELATIONSHIP TO FOOD IS A DIRECT WAY FOR US TO EXPERIENCE AND CREATE OUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS ABOUT LIFE!
Do you ever wonder why you crave chocolate when you’re sad or have weird dreams when you eat spicy food?
Get to know your gut and you will discover the answers that lay deep within (your intestines). Here we’re going to focus on five essential steps for optimizing gut health.
NOTE: This idea of proper digestion applies to our experiences as well — the better we are at reflecting and thinking about the information we take in, the more use it has in our lives. Right now, get out a piece of paper and start taking notes!
The Five Steps for Optimal Digestion
The first step to optimize digestion is to eliminate all foods which aggravate your individual body (food allergies and sensitivities): common food sensitivities include eggs, nuts, shellfish, caffeine, fermented foods/drinks, grains and dairy products. All synthetic food additives (preservatives + food dyes) are problematic for most people. Cold foods also slow your digestive fire. By cutting out all the foods your body does not enjoy and replacing it with real food straight from the earth, you do your body a huge favor and give yourself a leg up wherever you are on your health journey.
The second step to optimize digestion is to keep a simple diet that’s centered around fresh, whole foods (ideally local and organic). Whether you are a meat-eater or vegetarian, you want your food sources to come from the freshest source possible so that you are getting foods in their living state. Raw foods contain vital digestive enzymes and vitamins (specifically Vitamin C) which cannot withstand cooking temperatures. Some people have trouble digesting raw foods, and in those cases fresh cooked foods work best. Keep it light (smaller portions), eat your last bite before sunset and…
Remember to “eat from the rainbow”!!
The third step to optimize digestion is to get your digestive fire burning with breathing and exercise. Kapalbhati breathing “breath of fire” is a an ancient Yogic method for improving digestion. Yoga poses in general (especially backbends and hip opening poses) aim to get your digestive fire burning by using the core muscles so that you can burn up all your foods, leaving you feeling light and full of energy. All exercise, even walking, helps with digestion.
The fourth step to optimize digestion is to get some herbal tonics (source 100% organic when possible — see Mountain Rose Herbs):
- ginger, turmeric and black pepper increase digestive fire
- citrus, apple cider vinegar and leafy greens cleanse the intestinal walls
- slippery elm, marshmallow bark and MSM heal damaged intestinal lining (leaky gut)
- coconut oil, oregano oil, black cumin seed oil and reishi mushroom remove yeast and parasitic infections
The fifth step to optimize digestion is to practice mindfulness by paying attention to how you respond to food, what works best for you, how people can influence your food decisions and by practicing the The Mindful Mealtime Exercise:
The Mindful Mealtime Exercise
For this exercise, you can practice this before each and every meal.
- First, take 2 minutes to focus on sitting still and listening to your body.
- Second, take 2 minutes to imagine the meal that makes you feel the most healthy, happy and relaxed.
- Next, write down what foods that meal includes, who you are spending the mealtime with with and where you are.
- Finally, decide what foods you are going to eat for that meal based on this exercise.
What’s Next For You:
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