I spend a very large part of my working day talking to people about food - what to eat but even more importantly, how to eat in order to really heal, strengthen and protect the body. In the Ayurvedic understanding, our dietary lifestyle is one of the key sources in disease prevention but also, it is the centre of all healing.
There are 10 very simple, easy to follow and remember key Ayurvedic rules in eating well for life. These guidelines are designed for everyone, no matter what your constitution or current health need.
In Australia, and in many countries around the world, this is one of our biggest downfalls. Overeating puts enormous strain on our visceral system, getting it to work much harder than it has to. We should never eat past 70-80% full. I would like you to imagine that the stomach is divided into three equal parts when you have finished eating - there should be a third food, a third liquid (warm water preferably) and a third air or space. This allows the digestive process to function at its most optimum.
DON'T EAT UNLESS YOU'RE HUNGRY
I hear it often from clients that they "eat because they think they should". Either this is because the kids are eating, the food is right there and looks delicious, it's out of habit or it's your designated break to eat. Either way, for many, this does not coincide with the bodies natural rhythms. Eating without hunger means that the digestive fire isn't ready to take on new food - it might still be digesting from the meal before or it isn't functioning as strongly as it should. Piling in new food on an unprepared stomach is bad news. Most of us won't fade away if we wait a little longer to eat, and trust me, food always tastes better when you have a hunger and the body will absorb the nutrients far better.
Eating when emotional or feeling under pressure is very toxic for our digestion. When we are in an emotional state the body tends to constrict and partially slow down in order to process what we are experiencing. Eating in this state causes the gut great strain and results often in a poor metabolism and side effects like gas build up, cramps, nausea, heaviness and bloating. It is best advised to wait until the acute response has subsided and then eat when slightly calmer if at all possible.
DRINKING ANYTHING BUT WATER WHILE EATING
And please make that warm, pre-boiled water preferably. A small amount of warm water throughout a meal can actually increase digestive capacity. However, anything else but water slows everything down but often causing incompatibility in the gut. For example, a soft drink with food (especially diet soda - don't get me started) actually causes high levels of acidity in the stomach and therefore can lead to heartburn, reflux and in the long term, malabsorption of nutrients. Wine, beer, soft drink, coffee and probably the worst of the lot - fruit juice is an absolute no go while you are eating. These other drinks all have their place, and can be a delicious addition to your diet - just have them either side of food whenever you can.
AVOID COLD AND REFRIGERATED DRINKS
we are warm blooded creatures and like increases like. If you throw a cold substance on a warm environment it sizzles it out. In the case of your GIT, consuming ice cold drinks causes it to be suddenly shocked by the sudden change in temp and slow down. Even on a hot day, room temperature drinks are plenty cool enough and hydrate the body just as well. In fact, even better than that ice cold drink you feel you need.
DON'T EAT WHEN YOU ARE CONSTIPATED
In general, a healthy and flourishing body should eliminate all waste at least one time a day. In Ayurvedic terms, your body is constipated if hasn't had a bowel movement on a particular day. Eating while constipated puts great pressure on the digestive system that is already blocked and slow. Thereby increasing levels of toxicity and inflammation in the body. It is important to clear the bowels daily and if this is not the case for you, please don't hesitate to be in touch for some further support if you need.
TRY NOT TO EAT BEFORE 7 AM OR AFTER 7 PM
Before 7am in the morning, no ones gut is prepared for food. It is still waking up and won't digest anything well. The same being said for after 7pm - eating late at night means that by the time you go to bed, your stomach is still digesting when the body should be resting. That is generally a one way ticket to a poor metabolism, a blocked or aggravated bowel and higher levels of toxicity in the system.
EAT A MODERATE DIET OF HEAVY AND LIGHT FOODS
This seems obvious, but often not considered in our modern diets. Eating a diet that is full of only light salads, light proteins and raw fruit without any density of oils, grains/legumes or proteins agitates the lighter elements of the body. Therefore making your prone to nervous system agitation, constipation, dryness etc. In opposition, if you are way too on the heavy side with food choices, you will experience sluggishness, weight gain and a heavy or depressed mind. All meals should have a balance of taste and food groups. Moderation, diversity and balance in what you eat really is the key to longevity.
AVOID CONSTANT SNACKING
Again, most times we snack it is generally out of social norm or habit. For many of us, snacking is dietetically unnecessary. If you are going to snack, fruit is the way to go. Because of its unique digestive constitution, fruit is best received by the body when eaten alone and away from other meals. It also will give you the energy and nutrient boost you need to get you through that mid morning or afternoon slump.
AVOID INCOMPATIBLE FOOD COMBINATIONS
This is key in Ayurveda food preparation principles. Many foods are terrific in isolation, but sometimes eaten together can be unbelievably toxic. Some classics are to avoid for example are fruit and diary, meat and diary, mixed proteins (i.e. eggs and bacon), cold and hot food together, raw and cooked foods together and leftovers put with a fresh meal. The above combinations cause side effects from your food such as hyper acidity, inflammation, gut irritation, bowel problems - the list really can go on. However, we can't eat always to this is our modern world, but it is worth considering when ordering something off the menu or preparing a meal at home.
Like all Ayurvedic principles, these rules are to be taken into consideration and gently practised wherever possible. Keep in mind, it is rarely the one off take away meal, coffee and cake or soft drink that causes imbalance or disease, it is the continual routines we implement daily. If you are strong in your practices day to day, the body will digest and eliminate the sneaky treat quickly and with ease.
Happy eating, may you get the most from your fuel!
With love and light,
Reference: Textbook of Ayurveda: Volume 1 Fundamental Principles, Vasant Lad. The Ayurvedic Press, New Mexico, 2002.