We’ve all heard the saying “You are what you eat”.   Well as it turns out it goes a lot deeper than that! According to many ancient healing traditions (including Ayurveda) and the new book Happy Belly by Nadya Andreeva, founder of spinachandyoga.com, WHAT we eat is only the beginning…

Happy Belly is a gorgeously comprehensive book that looks under the covers of this familiar old saying and reveals the powerful connection between good digestion, what (and how) we eat and a host of other lifestyle factors including self-confidence, immunity, stress, relationships, cultural conditioning and yes… happiness!

The book kicks off by rejecting the old chestnut with an unambiguous restatement:

You are what you digest, the nutrients you assimilate, and the waste that you eliminate…  [Because] no matter how much high-quality organic produce you eat, if you can’t digest it and assimilate the nutrients while efficiently eliminating the waste, your body will have a hard time building healthy cells, neurotransmitters and good blood.

And from there we’re off and running!

Chock full of information and powerful statements supported by expert views and research, case studies, and Nadya’s own personal journey, Happy Belly  makes the case for the value of taking responsibility for your health and wellness and making friends with your body (and your digestion!).

But why and how?

Here are a few key points that the book makes…

Good mood = Good digestion = Good Mood

Research has shown that our gut has a “brain” of it’s own that controls some of the organs of digestion and is responsible for many of our feelings and emotions!  What this ultimately says about the connection between healthy digestion and happiness is that it’s a two-way street that works from the outside in (i.e.  happiness effects digestion) and from the inside out (i.e. digestion effects happiness).

The beauty of this is that it points to the incredible degree to which we can influence the state of our internal and external happiness!  However the challenge for many exists in their relationship with themselves or as Nadya put’s it:

…digestion is also very closely connected to self-confidence, sexuality, and our relationship with ourselves.  I believe that the quality of our relationship with our bodies is reflected in the health of our digestion.

What’s Eating you? The impacts of diet, stress & bad habits

Turns out our modern lifestyle is what’s causing a good deal of the trouble.  We have only to look at the prevalence of highly processed foods, overeating, stress at home and work, food sensitivities (including gluten and dairy), difficult to digest food combinations and the sheer fact that we’ve lost touch with the sensual pleasures of both growing and eating our food, compounded by the fact that these unhealthy habits have become the new norm, and a clear picture of the driving forces behind our our battle against issues like IBS, constipation, bloating and acid reflux begins to emerge.

Perhaps even more important than that is the idea that we “tend to forget that we are whole living beings” affected by thoughts, emotions, and physical environments.  And instead see ourselves as a collection of independently operating parts (stomach, liver, heart, etc.).  As a result our approach to wellness is often focused on alleviating a specific symptom without consideration for the body-mind as a whole or addressing the potential root of the problem (which may be far from where the pain is actually being felt).  She uses this point to highlight the value of a holistic approach to healing and the multiple options it offers for producing lasting results.

Why you’re the one you’ve been waiting for

In many ways as individuals and as a growing culture of convenience seekers, we’ve allowed the situation to get out of control (the book sites some staggering statistics on the global digestive health situation).  Our love affair with quick fixes and fear of taking our health into our own hands has left us feeling powerless and reliant on doctors and pharmaceutical companies for solutions and relief.  But Nadya asserts that we have lots of options, many of which most of us have never even considered.  So inside the book you’ll find a good deal of Ayurvedic (and western) wisdom,  questions, encouragement, examples, recipes and some inspiration thrown in for good measure.

In my opinion the real value in this book is in it’s empowering message and clear and simple suggestions.  Many of us totally get that life could be better,  but often just don’t know where to begin.

Nadya suggests that this book is for you if, besides suffering from digestive issues you:

  • Feel confused about which nutrition approach/diet is best to follow
  • Want to heal in a holistic way and know that there is more than just food to the total health equation
  • Believe your body is unique and that you deserve a unique approach.

Throughout this book she brings awareness to what’s going on in the body (and the mind) and lays out concrete steps toward simple changes that encourage each of us to create our own wellness vision, and then make it real!

Happy Belly is directed at women, but highlights an issue that affects everyone to some degree. Nadya’s “voice” in the book is supportive and inclusive and I believe the concepts, advice and Ayurvedic principles she highlights can offer insights and inspiration for anyone who wants to feel more vibrant, light and balanced in their body, life and belly!