The human body is an intricate machine that works on its own towards the maintenance of its various body cells and tissues. All the body tissues, including the smallest of cells work day and night as part of a rigorous cycle that keeps the body alive and working.
This work cycle provides a continuous source of energy that a person requires to sustain himself. For all of this to happen, this machine demands fuel which is complimented by our total daily intake of food.
The Normal Process of Digestion
Our body has a fully dedicated system for digestion. It involves many organs, starting right from the mouth to the anus which work in a well synchronized manner at all times to provide the basic supply of nutrients to the body. The entire digestive system assists in the digestion, absorption and assimilation of food. This is what makes our body run and without which it is impossible to sustain any of its functions.
It is important to know what kind of food our body needs to sustain itself. Nowadays, there aren’t many people who eat according to what is right for their body. Most of us are driven by our taste buds when it comes to our individual eating habits.
When the demand and supply chain of the body for food is altered due to faulty intake of food products our digestive system is the first thing that gets affected.
According to Ayurveda, for a healthy body it is of utmost importance that our digestive system is in good shape.
All diseases according to Ayurveda, arise from the disturbances of the abdominal processes which are largely governed by the digestive system.
How Can Ayurveda Improve Digestion?
Improper digestion leads to the formation of toxins which are then accumulated in various parts of the body causing disease. This is why all Ayurveda prescriptions are aimed at bringing back an erring digestive system to normal. This is achieved with a set of processes that help relieve and normalize the digestive system.
- LANGHANA (Taking light/less food) Langhana implies taking food in less quantity or avoiding it totally to provide rest to the digestive system. Langhana does not always means starving or food deprivation. It implies that the food products be easily digestible to allow the normal digestive fire to rekindle. Once the digestive or metabolic fire is rekindled, the process of digestion becomes normal. Some easily digestible foods include Moong dal and Khichdi.
- DEEPANA (Rekindling the digestive fire, Jatharagni) This involves eating food that is aimed at balancing the Pitta body energy that drives the Jatharagni, the main digestive fire in the body. This helps reignite the low digestive fire which is commonly found in patients having digestive problems. Other than food, there are other treatment processes like Yoga and Panchakarma, which can also influence the proper working of the digestive system. Deepana is one of the major treatment processes mentioned in the ancient texts of Ayurveda. Asfoetida and Chitraka are some of the many herbs available for balancing Jatharagni.
- PACHANA – (Digesting the food that is not digested) This is aimed at digesting the food and it’s by products that lead to the formation of gas, flatulence and constipation in the alimentary canal. It involves use of medicated herbs that help in digesting the Ama (toxins), thereby rendering the body free of toxins and unwanted waste accumulation which leads to the blockage of channels in the body. This is also a major cause of disease in adults. Herbal medicines like Triphala and Trikatu are very effective as pachana medicines.
- SHODHANA – (Body cleansing) Shodhana is a basic step towards the treatment of any disease in the human body, according to Ayurveda. If the body is not detoxified and cleansed properly, any medicine administered will also not be properly digested and the treatment will not give the desired results. Shodhana can simply be done by giving a mild laxative like psyllium seed husk or Triphala powder to the patient to clear out his bowel. Other panchakarma procedures can also be followed as per the need.
Ama (toxins) + The Cause of Indigestion
“Ama” is the end product of the faulty digestion of food.
The food we eat has to be digested properly to supply energy to the body for maintaining its vital functions. Whenever there is an alteration in this normal process of digestion, the food in the alimentary canal is left partly digested and as a result, this complex mixture starts fermenting, producing harmful toxins inside the body.
We can however prevent all this by knowing what leads to the production of this fermenting mass of undigested food.
Our digestion may get affected due to the following ways in which we consume food:
- No fixed time for eating
- Eating food that is harmful to your health: junk food, saturated fats, excess salt, sugar and spices, etc.
- Faulty digestive fire
How To Improve Digestion
Now that we know what all leads to a disturbed digestive system, let’s have a look at the basic steps that should be taken to avoid any kind of digestive disorder in your body. Not only this, the following simple modifications in the lifestyle can help prevent other harmful abdominal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, gastric or duodenal ulcers and many other abdominal diseases.
The first and foremost thing to remember is to know what to eat and what to avoid. It should also be remembered that food recommendations and preferences are different for different people and vary according to age, weight, physical and mental health. One has to be aware of his body type (Prakriti) and accordingly formulate a list of food products that can be consumed along with the ones that are to be avoided.
Other than this there are certain products which are harmful universally to most people irrespective of age, weight, physical and mental health. These include high calorie food products like colas, fast foods, etc. These products have very low nutrition value but cause a great deal of damage to our system.
In today’s fast paced world, people are so busy that it is impossible for them to take time out for themselves to maintain their fitness levels. We come across a lot of people today who are struggling to get proper sleep and are spending long hours at the work place ignoring the health hazards that they are exposed to by ignoring themselves. A simple check on the daily routine can work wonders, and help them live a healthy and disease free life.
Our mental well-being is closely linked to our normal digestive processes. Anxiety and stress due to excessive work load are a common problem today. When the mind is under stress, the blood supply to the brain increases and as a result the digestive processes are affected because they are no longer getting the adequate supply of blood. Raised stress levels are also linked to hyper-acidity, constipation and irritable bowel disease.
People who have a regulated body weight and exercise regularly are less likely to have digestive problems as compared to the sedentary ones. Lack of physical activity causes stasis of body fluids in the dependent and slows down the metabolism. As a result, the food we eat is not digested properly.
Quick Tips To Improve Digestion Naturally
- Try to wake up early in the morning and avoid working late into the night.
- Eat healthy food rich in fibers, vitamins and minerals. Cut down on excessive sugar, salts and fats in the diet.
- Maintain a healthy ratio of carbohydrates, proteins and fats in the diet.
- Always eat only when you are feeling hungry.
- Make it a point to eat a little less than your appetite wants you too. Keep some part of the stomach empty for digestion to occur normally.
- Dinner should be the lightest meal of the day. You can satisfy your appetite during lunch time.
- Do Exercise regularly like walking, jogging, yoga, aerobics, etc.
- Maintain an adequate water intake.
- Avoid fast food.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks, colas and high sugar drinks.
- Follow a timetable for eating also. Do not eat at odd hours.
- Always eat in a calm environment with full concentration. Chew the food properly so that it gets properly digested by the enzymes secreted in the stomach.
- Eat more of yoghurt and other natural probiotics that help maintain the intestinal flora.
- Manage stress at work by reorganizing yourself.
- Practice breathing exercises like Pranayama. Sit in Vajra asana for five minutes after lunch and dinner.
In this way, Ayurveda helps to improve digestion by providing ways to inculcate healthy eating habits as well as a healthy lifestyle.