The Wisdom of Ayurveda: Beating the Indigestion Blues
by Shama Sara Palmer
It’s November, and at this time of year my family and I start to look ahead to the festive season, as perhaps we all do these days, with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Winter walks, log fires, spending time with loved ones, sharing gifts, eating our favourite foods – all things we look forward to.
However, it’s also a time when the pressures on our health increase. We become even more stressed, with more to fit into our already-busy days, and our digestives systems suffer – not only from the mental-emotional stresses, but also from the seemingly unavoidable digestive indulgence that the festive season brings. My father looks at the foods we bring into the house in the run up to Christmas with a mix of delight and trepidation. Like most of us, he loves the festive fare that we will enjoy. However, he is also fast-forwarding to sitting in the armchair on Christmas day in discomfort after some well-meaning family member or friend has faced him with a delicious, but very rich and over-sized plate of food.
Sound familiar? How many of us experience some kind of digestive discomfort not only at Christmas, but any time we go off track and enjoy some extra tasty delicacies that we don’t usually include in our diet? Hippocrates has claimed that the root of all disease is in the digestive tract. Ayurveda agrees. In fact, from an ayurvedic perspective, indigestion is not just a temporary discomfort, but an indication of our digestive system’s inability to work at metabolic efficiency. Few of us as adults digest and eliminate well, and this is having critical consequences on our long-term health and capacity to keep chronic and degenerative diseases at bay.
Ayurveda teaches us that when our lifestyles and dietary habits challenge our metabolic make up, our digestive system is unable to properly break down the food that we eat and to assimilate all the nutrients from our food for healthy tissues and good immunity. Moreover, the undigested food particles sit in the digest tract and become toxic. We can be eating the best, highest quality organic whole foods and yet if our lifestyles and eating patterns challenge our natural metabolic capacity, we still will not be able to break down the foods nor assimilate nutrients properly.
If the digestive system remains challenged over a period of time, toxins build and start to fill up the digestive tract, further weakening the digestive system. Ultimately they will be carried to deeper tissues in the body, lodging there and triggering aches and pains, sub-optimal functioning of constitutionally weaker body systems, and ultimately leading to chronic degenerative illness. This is how autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis can start, as the body’s intelligence recognises the toxin-laden tissues as foreign bodies and begins to attack them. The system becomes clogged.
With impaired assimilation of nutrients and elimination of waste materials, at best we will feel tired, sluggish and a general feeling of malaise that we just can’t put a finger on. Ultimately as we age and the situation compounds itself over the years, we become susceptible to any number of the life-changing conditions so prevalent in our times. In fact, it can get to the point where assimilation is so challenged that we cannot even absorb the nutritional and/or medicinal remedies that may be prescribed to us as part of a healing programme.
However, nil disparandum! If you suffer from a digestive disorder, ayurveda has a fantastic system of diagnosis and treatment according to your individual metabolic type to allow your body to digest and eliminate optimally. Once we have reclaimed a healthy balanced digestive system, we should be able to slacken the reins during celebratory times of year and enjoy a little indulgence with too much payback from our digestive tracts.
I’d like to invite you to try out these ten ayurvedic tips to help relieve or even prevent some of the digestive discomforts you may be prone to whilst the season lasts, such as bloating, cramping, or burning in the gut. Who knows, they may even let you sail through the celebrations with digestive ease!
Try a ginger infusion
Take a digestive infusion of grated fresh root ginger with cumin seeds and coriander seeds about 15 minutes before you eat. You can carry a mix with you and add a level teaspoon to hot water, then let it steep to drink before eating.
Alternatively, carry some ‘ginger pizzas’ with you: thin slices of fresh organic ginger root with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a sprinkle of rock salt or Himalayan salt. Avoid the salt if you tend towards inflammatory gut conditions like peptic ulcers or gastritis. Take one slice of ginger pizza about 15 minutes before a meal to get the digestive juices working.
Keep it ice-free
Avoid iced drinks before, during and after the meal.
Leave the chill to the weather
Sip room temperature water, or if you tend toward sluggish digestion or constipation and gas, see if you can get a glass of warm water to sip.
Eat fruit before meals
If there is fruit, eat it before the meal but not afterwards…. you will likely bloat. Avoid melons at meal times.
Minimise raw foods
At this time of year opt out of cold, raw foods or at least keep salads to about 10% of your meal and eat them after the cooked foods.
Avoid animal products
If you eat animal products, try to opt for smaller portions. Again 10-20% of your whole meal is enough. If the meal is unavoidably heavily biased towards animal products then give your digestion a total break from them over the next few days. These foods, especially the heavier red meats, sit in the digestive tract for some time whilst your body tries to break them down. This creates fermentation and a toxic environment in the gut which brings a host of accompanying problems.
Know your limits
Eat in one sitting only as much as would fill your two cupped hands. This is the size of your stomach.
Try to eat mindfully, chewing each mouthful really well and engaging in only pleasant relaxed conversations. Stressful environments will impede your digestion.
Moving after a meal helps to move the food through the first stages of the digestive process. Encourage others to go for a gentle stroll with you after eating and then, after moving find a way to sit back and rest, saving energy for the digestive process.
Stay tuned next time for some ayurvedic festive season recipes.
About the author
Help to get your digestion on track in 2020 by joining Shama for a Digestive Reboot Programme and Retreat in January 2020 in the beautiful North Cotswolds. Visit www.
loveyogahealing for details.
Based in Warwickshire, UK, Shama Sara Palmer has travelled around the world, living in various ashrams to immerse in and live fully the teachings of ayurveda and yoga. She has been teaching traditional hatha yoga for nearly 15 years, and has been studying and implementing the teachings of ayurveda into her yoga teaching and daily life for 10 years. More recently, she qualified as an ayurveda practitioner and now offers 1-1 consultations. She teach Ayurveda-Hatha Yoga retreats and Ayurveda Living courses.