Please note: This is the followup to my first post on Ayurveda and Eating, entitled, Ayurveda and the Liveliness of Food: Find Lasting Joie de Vivre!Digestion begins when we see our food. Sensory awareness of the food we are about to eat is the spark that lights up the digestive fire. If digestion is poor we don’t transform the food we eat into nutrients and we become in danger of toxic building up in our physiology. Toxic buildup means blockages and blockages can (if we are vulnerable to depression) cause that malady. Blockages in the physiology will, over time, always cause one type of problem or another. Optimizing digestive capability is an important Ayurvedic guideline.
Additionally, when we study the causes of depression we often find that digestion is implicated. Ayurveda suggests that depressed persons gain awareness of what they eat, why they eat, when they eat, and how they feel after they eat. Optimizing digestion is also a treatment for depression.
Ayurveda does have some general tips about food and eating. They’re helpful suggestions to bring about more liveliness, strength, and energy in your life. Here they are:
1. Eat when you are hungry.
Hunger is Mother Nature’s prompt that it is time to eat. Disregard emotional eating. You probably already have heard that emotional eating is not good for you but did you know that if you eat when you are upset, nervous, or unhappy, the food is not digested efficiently?
2. Eat to only 75% full.
Remember how you felt last Thanksgiving? Nothing works on overload, including your digestive system. If you stop before you are full, you’ll have room to breathe and oxygen works wonders in the metabolic process.
3. Do not eat until the previous meal is digested.
Digesting a meal can take anywhere from three to six hours. Think about an assembly line—digestion works the same way—if you throw something else on the line while the previous items are still in process you’ll create a jam. Give yourself time to thoroughly digest your food before eating again.
4. Avoid large amounts of liquid before, during and after meals.
Large amounts of liquid squelch your digestive fire. Sipping is fine, but keep it at that.
5. Make lunch the biggest meal of the day.
The human being is part of the natural world. Our metabolic processes are at their strongest between 11 and 2. Eat the largest meal at that time. At night the body is shutting down, preparing for rest. Eating large meals late at night turns your body into a tank of toxins.
6. Avoid iced drinks and carbonated beverages.
Your digestive enzymes and other vital factors for digestion were intended to operate at body temperature. Iced drinks hamper this process. Iced water is neither nice nor wise. Enzymes function best within a narrow pH range. Carbonated beverages are, in general, highly acidic. These beverages impair the breakdown of food. Skip the carbonated beverages at mealtime.
7. Chew your food well.
Your teeth play an important role in the digestive process. By breaking food down into smaller pieces, chewing increases the surface area of the food particles. Enzymes and other bio-chemicals then have more area on which to work and the food is broken down into nutrients more efficiently.
8. Avoid large quantities of raw foods.
Raw foods do have a higher nutritional content than cooked foods, but are difficult to digest. We only succeed in taxing our digestive system if we eat raw food in excess
When we realize that we embody the food we eat we begin to realize that eating is a beautiful and sacred ritual. Too often we dive into food in a desire to fulfill an internal emptiness that has nothing to do with hunger, or we may restrict our food intake out of fear that it will increase our waistline, without realizing how this pattern of restriction impacts our emotional life.
Awareness is key to good health. We are faced with an overload of nutritional information that points us in different directions. Awareness of your body, of how you are impacted by different foods is a good place to begin in the New Year. Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way is chock full of good information to help you to develop this necessary awareness!