How to improve digestion naturally and why it’s so important.
Did you know that 60 to 70 million people in the U.S. are affected by digestive diseases?
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a whopping 63 million people report chronic constipation.
Let’s end these crazy statistics with some simple habit changes!
Your body is designed to process not only your food in digestion but also your thoughts and emotions.
It’s important to pay attention to how well your body is digesting because you need to keep your channels clear for optimal energy and creative capacity.
While the physical channel for digestion runs from mouth to anus, you are also made of more subtle energetic channels and layers, known as the chakras and koshas.
Unprocessed mental and emotional baggage may seem subtle, but it can literally slow you down.
You might think of it like defragging a computer.
From time to time even machines need to be cleaned and cleared. Your body is even more precious and requires daily cleaning and clearing.
Your digestive tract is the channel that can literally get blocked with physical food that has not been digested properly.
How do you know if your digestion is off?
You may experience:
- Fatigue, low energy or weakness
- Over-active or poor appetite
- Signs of indigestion: constipation, gas, bloating, nausea, hyperacidity, loose stools
According to HealthGuidance.org, a leading distributor of health-related studies, “Digestive diseases are the second leading cause of disability due to illness in The U.S., with more than 2 million Americans impaired to some degree.”
Sounds like we all need a little more Agni in our lives.
What is Agni?
Agni is the term used in Ayurveda to refer to fire, your digestive fire in particular.
It is of primary importance for your overall health. Agni is the fire you use to process, not only your food but also your thoughts, emotions and the events of a given day.
A central indicator of health in Ayurveda is the strength of your Agni. If your Agni is not strong enough you may suffer from poor digestion physically, mentally and emotionally. Weak Agni results in a rather sluggish disposition and health problems.
What you can do today to improve your digestion
Improve your digestion naturally by making lunch your largest meal of the day and eat an earlier, lighter dinner.
This works in sync with your endocrine and digestive system, which is strongest at midday (pitta time) and slows down toward the evening.
To align yourself with this cycle you want to eat lighter in the evenings. Allow your body to fast for 12 to 13 hours between dinner and breakfast.
Eating a heavy or late dinner is not in sync with the natural slow down that takes place in your body, mind, and energy levels at the end of the day.
Your body has less digestive enzymes to break down food at in the evening. This means you risk clogging your digestive tract with food that it cannot process when you eat a heavy or late dinner.
Heavy or late meals are also likely to interfere with your ability to sleep soundly through the night. Digesting food at night takes energy away from the pitta time of night (10 pm to 2 am) when your body is designed to repair itself.
In turn, your mind should also be lighter in the evening because your mental capacities are slower. Kapha qualities, the slow and heavy elements of earth and water, are higher between 6 and 10 pm.
Lighten your load after 6 PM
You want to lighten your load in all areas during the Kapha evening hours. If you have eaten a heavy dinner you will be less likely to digest the mental thoughts of the day and will carry them into the following day. It’s not uncommon to hear people report a sense of “brain fog” when they aren’t eliminating physical, as well as mental waste regularly.
As for your spirit, the early morning hours of vata time (2 am to 6 am) are primed to connect us to that which is not tangible.
However, if your physical and mental channels are clogged because of overeating or eating late the night before, you will not have a clear connection with the etheric part of your nature.
Improve digestion – Avoid snacking
Finally, avoid snacking.
Yep, I know it can be especially hard if you’re an American. We have products marketed just for snacking. Some of us have also been taught to eat five to six small meals a day in some cases.
Snacking is one of my most challenging habits to break, but I see the benefits in my digestion and energy when I avoid snacking between meals.
Nature is built on rhythm and pulsation. The Sanskrit term for this is spanda.
We are supposed to experience both the sensation of hunger and the sensation of being satiated.
If we constantly snack and don’t allow enough time between meals to truly reignite our digestive fire, we are inhibiting our body’s ability to digest smoothly.
Snacking can get us into trouble with acid build up, constipation, gas and bloating because we aren’t allowing our digestive tract to clear itself before we add more to the pipeline.
Eventually something has to give and it usually doesn’t feel good.
Mayo Clinic researchers found that “the average transit time through just the large intestine (colon) was 40 hours, with significant difference between men and women: 33 hours for men, 47 hours for women.”
That’s a really long time!
Do your body a favor with these digestion-friendly habits:
- Eat the most during pitta time (10 am to 2 pm) when your digestive fire is strongest
- Pause between bites, chew your food thoroughly, enjoy each bite and the company you are with during meal times
- Make lunch your largest meal of the day
- Eat an earlier, lighter dinner
- Increase your intake of local vegetables and greens
- Avoid snacking between meals
- Sip warm or room temperature water, avoid cold drinks to keep your digestive fire strong
- Fast 12 to 13 hours between dinner and breakfast
Photo Credit: Travis Yewell