Digestion is a process wherein food and drink are broken down into small parts popularly known as nutrients. These small parts are something that the body can absorb and use as energy and building blocks for cells.
Given its importance in maintaining human health, issues pertaining to digestion can be extremely crucial as well. With rising costs of treatment, patients have valid reasons to worry when they suffer from ailments pertaining to digestion.
That said, there are a number of natural remedies to keep your digestive fire burning.
Many of those methods have been prescribed in Ayurveda and have been in use since millennia. Commonly known as ‘Agni’, digestion is not only an important subject in Ayurveda, but also among the founding pillars of diagnosis in this ancient method of treatment.
Here we bring you some of those techniques.
Meditation: Studies increasingly point to the fact that genetic changes that occur with regular meditation can help restore the body’s means to control digestion. To attain maximum benefit, meditate for 20 to 30 minutes twice a day – once in the morning and the other in the evening. Alternatively, try doing Yoga or consider going for a morning walk every morning. A recent study published in ‘Diabetes Care’ showed that a short 15-minute walk after each meal helped to control sugar spikes after eating. These short post-meal walks were more effective than taking a longer, 45-minute walk once daily.
Control your food intake: Don’t just go on an eating spree as and when you get a chance. When we eat more than our stomach can accommodate, we simply cannot properly break it down. We also tend to produce more acid, thus causing reflux and indigestion. In addition, the amount of digestive enzymes produced may not be able to completely break down the volume of food ingested, which leads to more gas formation, discomfort or bloating. Ayurveda recommends that we leave one-third to one-quarter of our stomach empty to allow space for our body to easily digest our meal.
Ayurvedic way to know how much to eat: Here is a simple way to measure an ideal amount of food for a meal based on your body size. Cup your hands together with your fingertips touching, forming the shape of a bowl. The recommended amount of food for a meal is the equivalent of two of these handfuls of food. Of course, you can eat less than two handfuls if your appetite is smaller.
Sip ginger tea throughout the day, and with meals. Ginger is known in Ayurveda as the ‘universal remedy’ due to its many benefits for the body, and it has been used for more than 2,000 years to treat digestive issues. Ginger can relax the smooth muscle of the intestines, thereby relieving symptoms of gas and cramping. The ginger-and-lemon-juice recommendation helps to increase the digestive power. If, however, you suffer from an overactive agni, because of which there is too much internal heat and acid, then Pomegranate Chutney may be more suitable for you.
A recent study in the ‘European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology’ found that ginger stimulates digestion by speeding up the movement of food from the stomach into the small intestine, and helps eliminates digestive discomfort after eating. In addition, ginger can stimulate saliva, bile, and gastric enzymes to aid in digestion of the food that has been ingested.
Eat your largest meal early: Our bodies are most able to digest food at midday, when we are active. As studies have found, our digestive system secretes the highest concentration of ‘digestive juices’ around noon, making this the best time to eat our largest meal. In the evening, our bodies are slowing down and preparing for sleep. If we eat our biggest meal at dinner, when our digestive fire is weaker, we will feel heavy and bloated and will be more likely to have difficulty falling asleep.
Dinner should be lighter than lunch and should ideally be eaten before 8:00pm. Late-night meals interfere with sleep, and after 10:00pm the body is working to burn off toxins and continues to digest food from the day. If you eat after 10:00pm, the food may cause toxins to accumulate in the system, and as a result the next day you wake up tired. If you are not able to wake up fresh and clear, then it’s important to analyze the quantity of food and the time of night you are eating dinner.