Good digestion is the key to health. According to Ayurveda and many other medicinal practices this is true, but we don't need a doctorate to notice and feel the negative affects of poor digestion. It impacts our mood, our sleep, our energy, and even how we interact with the people around us. (bad digestion = cranky) What if I told you there are EASY ways to unlock great digestion right now? Oh and they're totally free and you don't need to change your diet at all. Yes, what we eat is important but so is HOW we eat it. How we chose to take in our nutrients is a crucial component in our overall health and wellness. No single diet is right for everyone, and that's one of the reasons why I love Ayurveda, it's meant to mold for each individual (that means YOU). So, if you like eating bread, enjoy cooked foods and even dairy; before you throw away your stove in the name of Raw Veganism, (if that's your thing, more power to ya!) or swear off swear off gluten forever...Try these 3 SIMPLE tips to enjoy your food more and feel awesome.
1. Eat in good company
Ever lose your appetite when you're in an argument? What about when other people are arguing at the table? Stress of any kind? We may be stressing our digestive system while eating and not even know by watching the news or a violent movie, sending our nervous system into a flurry (fight or flight). Stress is an involuntary response, when we are stressed our nervous system goes into flight or flight, blood goes to the brain and other major muscles and away from our digestive process. Stress can also change our gut flora, and cause irritation in the large intestine. When we relax, we drop into our parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for digestion and repair. Our heart rate slows, our sphincter muscles relax, and we can change our food into energy. So why should I eat in good company? Our gut is often referred to as our "second brain", when we are over stimulated or uncomfortable, our digestive system will get the message, panic, and move us into the sympathetic nervous system. When we feel at ease, enjoying time with loved ones, or having a nice relaxed conversation with friends, we can remain in our relax response and digest our food properly, to avoid indigestion, bloating, or build up of toxins. So enjoy some solo time with your plate (uninvite that annoying third wheel television) and calmly take in your meal, or grab some friends and enjoy some quality time and awesome digestion.
2. Take your time
Food is anything we take in through any of our sense organs, not just the mouth. So let your digestive juices start flowing early, by preparing your meals yourself, enjoy the feeling of cutting up your vegetables and connect with you food. Absorb the delicious aroma, listen to the oil sizzling in the pan, and gaze at all the colors and shapes on your plate before you dig in. If you're up for it, induldge in a silent meal so you can more deeply practice this mindful eating technique and appreciate everything about your food. Once you're eating, take your time so you can chew your food slowly, taste each flavor, and feel each texture, by putting your fork down in between bites. Sip small amounts of warm water during your meal, instead of gulping down tons of ice water. Hydrate throughout the day with warm water to keep your digestive fire burning strong. After you're finished, take a moment before running off to do the dishes, or to your next appointment. When we eat mindfully we nourish the body more fully by feeding all of our senses. We will be less likely to over eat, feel more satisfied overall, and allow the stomach space to process and digest our foods.
3. Enjoy a nap
OK, THIS IS MY FAVORITE. You know the feeling after a big meal when you just want to unbutton your pants and lay down? Well, you're not too far off. Ayurvedic practices recommend taking time to lay down on your left side after your meal. A few minutes will do the trick, I suggest 10 minutes to avoid feeling too sluggish. Laying on the left side allows the stomach and the pancreas to hang naturally and food to move and empty in a more relaxed fashion. Have extra time? Take a 15 minute walk after your left side lie, to feel more energized. Have to get back to work right after lunch? Try a left side lean instead! You can even slide to the side from the comfort of your desk. Try it, you'll like it.