The first and foremost strategy for digesting all the food you like to eat, as well as losing weight, is to simply change how you eat. While eating and drinking quickly, while walking or driving in the car, while standing up or while being distracted by your electronic devices or TV, may all seem benign and harmless, the microbiome that live inside of your gut cannot perform its duty correctly under these conditions. Poor digestion, anxiety, and weight gain are the results of these poor habits, which too many of us have adopted in recent years.
Relaxing, or simply sitting for 10-15 minutes, while you eat activates the “rest-and-digest” parasympathetic nervous system and is a key strategy for healthy digestion. During your meals, turn off technologies and other distractions: relax, chew slowly, and enjoy your meal.
Is this what your day looks like: breakfast – snack – lunch – snack – dinner – maybe another snack? If so, when will your body get a chance to process and complete a digestion cycle? When can it burn its own fat? Burning fat is a very slow process. With five, six meals a day, your body is being fed constantly. Why would it bother to metabolize its fat?
Three meals a day, including a light dinner, or two meals a day if you want to burn more fat, show significant improvements in energy, lower body weight, liver fat content reduction, decreased insulin resistance, and better pancreatic blood sugar regulation. Following this guideline and avoiding snacks in between meals, your body will be forced to burn fat during the day, and throughout the night, which is when the elimination part of the digestive process is happening.
Ayurveda teaches that the body is best able to digest a large amount of food during the middle of the day when the sun is the highest in the sky. Eating big at lunchtime will curb afternoon sugar cravings and reduce the risk of overeating at dinner. If you wish to lose weight, studies have showed that eating more calories at night will predispose the body to greater risk of obesity. Also, newly published circadian medicine research has now confirmed that our cell’s biological clocks are tuned to digest best at breakfast and lunch (not dinner!) and rejuvenate during the evening and night.
Another wholesome digestion strategy is to eat more fibre. Ancient humans ate five times as much fibre as we do! Fibre is crucial to escorting your bile, which carries bad fats and toxins, to the toilet. If you do not have enough fibre in your diet, most of the toxic bile and bad fats are reabsorbed back into the liver, entangling the body with unwanted toxic fat. Remember to add fibre to your meals, every day.
To help boost digestive strength, drink a large glass of lemon water 15-30 minutes before meals. If you have difficulty with wheat (gluten) and dairy, instead of tossing these food groups out the window, have a pinch of salt and ginger root about 10-15 minutes before a meal.
This last tip is an excellent way to not only get rid of ‘ama’ (food that hasn’t been digested by the fire element), while keeping your digestive system working optimally. Sip warm or room temperature water throughout the day, from the moment you wake up until late afternoon. If you spend a lot of sitting time at a desk, use your favourite cup and keep the water warm—it will make you get up once in a while to move a bit, and refill.
Note: Ama is a residual substance that remains in the system and can accumulate, ferment and eventually cause disease. There are numerous symptoms of too much ama. You may experience—poor appetite, indigestion and bowel problems, bloating; allergic reactions (asthma, hives, psoriasis and eczema); mental and physical fatigue, sleepiness and heaviness after eating; bad breath and body odor, lethargy and depression; low enthusiasm and motivation; waking up tired, even after a good night’s sleep; white/cream coating on the tongue, particularly noticeable in the morning; aches and pains; headaches and migraine; recurrent infections; congestion causing constipation.
On days you feel you need more support, prepare the following tridoshic herbal tea: Prepare ¾ of a teaspoon of an equal proportion of cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and fennel seeds. Steep in 1.5 litre of water, for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove the seeds, sip throughout the morning and/or afternoon, and enjoy!
The content of this article is part of the Ayurveda: From Theory to Daily Practice course I offer twice a year through the Semperviva College. The next course is October 1st to 5th. It is designed for all! You can also contact me directly to make an appointment for a private consultation (Vancouver, Sunshine Coast, or on Skype).