There’s the phrase “You are what you eat.”  But that’s not entirely correct.  The ancient science of Ayurveda has a huge emphasis on gut health.  So to make that statement more accurate, it should be “You are what you digest.”  Can you see the difference?

We can eat the healthiest of foods – organic this, non-GMO that.  But if your digestion is slow, if your gut health is less-than-optimal, then much of those healthy foods aren’t doing as much good for your body as you think they are.

But not to worry.  There are some simple Ayurvedic strategies you can implement that will help boost your digestion and have you absorbing all of the goodness you’re eating.

Eat fresh and seasonal veggies and fruits

This is a pretty common suggestion that’s gained traction lately, though it’s been an Ayurvedic practice for over five thousand years.  While it’s pretty obvious why you don’t want to eat old fruits and vegetables – or any old food, for that matter – eating seasonally, and locally, helps your body remain in balance easier.  And a balanced body means your digestion is a whole lot happier.

Eat freshly-cooked and warm foods

We’re really trying to give our digestive system a boost from the very beginning stages of digestion.  One way to do that is to eat cooked foods.  This doesn’t mean to overly cook your foods.  We still want to keep as many of the vitamins and minerals inside of them as possible so we can absorb them during digestion.  However, raw foods are more challenging to digest – even the super healthy raw foods.  Things like raw veggies and nuts make our digestive fire have to work all that much more.  And if your digestion is already sluggish – or even overly strong – working too hard to process the foods isn’t optimal for absorption.  Also, eating leftovers isn’t optimal, as they lose all sorts of nutrients and prana (the vital life force) as they sit in the fridge and get reheated.  For a healthy gut, cook each meal as you go whenever possible.  

Eat at consistent times

Eating three meals a day is great for most people.  You can further boost your metabolism by not snacking in between meals, because snacking doesn’t allow the food in your belly to be completely digested before you dump more food on top of it.  Instead, give yourself at least four hours between each meal so all of your food has the ability to be broken down and the nutrients absorbed.

Set the mood

Many cultures create rituals around their mealtimes.  If you’re more used to eating on the run (like in your car or at the sports field) or you watch TV while eating, your digestion is being negatively impacted.  Ways to counteract that is to eat in a specific place – you know, like your dining room – and create a pleasant environment while eating.  Put on some relaxing music, have some flowers around, and remove negative thoughts and feelings swirling around your mind.  Let the eating experience be one of love and happiness.

Take your time, but not too much time

We all know how important it is to completely chew your food before swallowing it.  But how fast do you honestly eat?  Pay attention to the pacing at which you eat the next time you’re munching, maybe even counting how many times your chew before you swallow.  Because digestion begins in the mouth, taking enough time to chew is really important in our overall digestion process.  Also, when we slow down and savor what we’re eating, it automatically reduces the amount of food we eat.  But here’s a caveat to that concept:  Taking *too much* time to eat has the opposite effect, creating further digestion issues.  The solution is to chew your food enough times that it’s basically in liquid form when you swallow.  

Avoid foods that are similar to where you live

Huh??  Here’s what I mean.  If you live in, say, Arizona in the summertime, avoid foods that are heating (think: spicy or acidic).  If you live in, say, Vermont in the wintertime, avoid foods that are cold (think: ice cream or iced drinks).  An easy way to maintain good digestion is to eat in the opposite ways.  So when it’s hot outside, go for more cooling foods.  And when it’s chilly, eat warming foods. 

Quantity is crucial

Even healthy foods in the wrong quantities can negatively impact your digestion.  While lighter foods can be eaten in greater quantities, heavier and sweeter foods should be consumed in lower amounts.  An example is to eat more veggies and less meat.  Lighter foods are easier for the body to digest, so it’s okay for them to take up more stomach space.

Speaking of space, have you ever made a smoothie at home, one with fruits and goodies in it?  Think about your stomach as a blender.  Eat food to about half your stomach’s capacity, then drink water to about a quarter capacity.  The remaining quarter capacity is to be left free so that your food can digest – much as the fruit in your blender needs room to move around so it can be processed.  By eating so much that you’re stuffed, you’re creating all sorts of digestion issues.  

Signs that you’ve eaten the right quantity of food

You feel satisfied and not stuffed to the gills.  You still feel light and not bogged down.  You’re able to breathe easily and able to go for a gentle walk after your meal.  While overeating is really taxing to your digestion, undereating brings its own issues like loss of strength and even intelligence.  Find that happy middle ground in your portions so that your digestive system is fully functioning.

You can see that, in addition to what we eat, it’s equally important how we eat, where we eat, and when we eat.  When we zoom out and look at the whole picture, it’s easy to see how our total lives impact our digestion.