During one of my first trips from Prague to the States many years ago, I remember two things that drew my attention which I had not prior experienced while living in Europe.

First, immediately after sitting down in a restaurant, a glass of ice water landed on the table in front of me.  Second, busy streets were packed with fast walking people sipping to-go drinks from Starbucks or snacking on sandwiches.

You might ask, what’s wrong with ice water and drinking or eating on the go??  Well, a few ideas for you to consider…

According to Ayurveda, a 5,000 year old holistic healing system, drinking pure water provides the simplest solution to many health issues. However, the healing benefits of water depend on how we drink it.

How to combine food and drinking to support your health?

What You Need To Know About Water & Your DigestionA few sips of warm water with your meal is optimal to soften and prepare the food before it is digested.  However, on the contrary, excessive water consumption, especially cold water, shortly before and after meals interferes with proper digestive processes.  In fact, too much liquid intake slows down digestion, making it lazy and sluggish.  Healthy balanced digestion — not too weak and not too strong — is the foundation of good health, longevity and is a major focus of Ayurveda.

Low agni, or digestive fire, results in improper food digestion, which causes a build-up of toxins in the body that is the root cause of many health issues. In long-term, untreated toxin build-up, known as ama, can create aggravated doshas.  This imbalance in the body ultimately leads to fatigue, tumors, cysts, high cholesterol, and more.  If vata dosha is too high, bones and nervous system may be affected.  Aggravated pitta dosha may cause inflammations of all sorts and heart issues.  And, too high kapha dosha may manifest as mucus, coughs, asthma and obesity.

Why is ice cold water bad for you???

Ayurveda teaches that drinking ice cold water is like pouring cold water on fire.  Cold water extinguishes the digestive fire that is necessary to keep strong and balanced in order to maintain good health.  This rule also applies to all cold drinks and foods, which should not be consumed straight from the fridge.  Drinks and foods are much better digested by the body at room temperature rather than cold.

What is mindful eating?

Further, our bodies require a peaceful, relaxing atmosphere to process food properly.  That means, we should sit down to eat without watching TV, reading newspapers, working at the computer or doing any other distracting activities.

Eating while sitting and without distractions allows the stomach to settle into a relaxed posture and enables the mind to focus on the design, ingredients, taste, texture, and smell of the meal. Mindful eating like this greatly benefits digestion and nutrition absorption.

Six top ways to support your digestion

1. Avoid drinking ice cold water and eating cold foods.

It causes stagnation of the Agni, digestive fire.

2. Don’t combine cold drinks and cold foods with warm cooked foods.

It can cause indigestion such as bloating, cramps and other digestive discomfort symptoms.

3. Drink one hour before and after your meal.  Not earlier.

If you fill your stomach with too much fluid before or after a meal, you literally extinguish your digestive fire.

4. Sit down for your meal.

Don’t eat or drink on the go. And you guessed it, eating in the car while driving is also a bad idea.

5. Rest laying on your left side for 10 minutes after each meal.

This simple practice allows the stomach and pancreas to hang naturally, allowing for healthy digestion through proper production of digestive enzymes. If laying is not a possibility, you can alternatively opt to take a short, moderate “digestive” walk.  Such movement, which is not too vigorous, is highly supportive for digestion.

6. Chew fennel seeds or drink fennel tea after your meal.

Fennel will beat the bad breath, soothe the digestive tract, prevent the formation of gas, and boost metabolism.  Doesn’t that sound great?

Now that you know the secrets of enhancing your digestion, you might ask yourself, ‘Do I drink enough and how much is right amount for me?’  Good question!

How Much Water Should I drink?

In Ayurveda, the concept of “8 glasses of water a day” does not exist.  We all are different and have unique bodies and needs; therefore, even the water intake depends on the individual body constitution.  With this in mind, make sure to follow the signals from your body and make sure to drink when thirsty.

Seasonal ‘Mocktails’ ~ Spice up your water!

Ayurveda teaches us to live in alignment with nature and its seasons.  Here are few tips to deliciously enhance your water consumption while supporting your well-being throughout the year:

Spring

Spring is a cold, heavy season where there is an increased level of kapha dosha.  In comparison with winter, physical strength and appetite is reduced in the spring. Therefore, you’ll want to add warming spices such as fresh or dried ginger, cumin seeds, or honey with lemon, to your water to lighten the heaviness.

Summer

What You Need To Know About Water Consumption & Your DigestionSummer is the hot, fiery, sunny season.  You’ll want to balance the increased pitta with the cooling properties of fresh mint or fennel seeds in your water.  While also freshening the breath, fennel seeds taste great after a meal and reduce acidity in the body. Chewing fennel seeds is also highly beneficial in treating indigestion, bloating, flatulence, constipation, colic, intestinal gas, heartburn, and even irritable bowel.

Autumn

Autumn is a windy, dry season of change when increased vata requires a grounding, warming regimen.  During this time, you’ll enjoy squeezing fresh lemon juice and adding little bit of honey to your warm water.

Winter

What You Need To Know About Water Consumption & Your DigestionWinter is an inward season of short days and longer nights.  It brings cool weather with less day light, during which you’ll want to add fresh or dried ginger, tulsi, cinnamon, or star anise to your warm water to keep your agni balanced.

Photos: Morguefile.com