Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Awareness on eating....AYURVEDA perspective....!!

Our health is sum of what eat and how we eat… and this all depends on the process of digestion and absorption. Ayurveda invites us to look more deeply into this…!!! Let’s have a look on qualities of food what we are eating and how it affects or digestion.

Digestion: - digestion is the process by which we break down what is coming in from our outer environment in order to make it an integral part of our inner environment. Absorption is the process by which we integrate these digested elements into our cells. Elimination is the process by which we integrate these digested elements into our cells. Elimination is the means by which we let go of any unneeded elements, digested & not. How well the balance between these three processes is working dictates to great extent how well-nourished we are, and how good we feel.

In Ayurveda the keys to fine digestion are good health, strength, and agni or digestive fire. Agni translates in Western terms into that ability of all the digestive organs to be lively, effective and coordinated in function when given an appropriate amount of food. This “appropriate amount of food” is an important part of the effective digestive process. Too much food can act like sand on fire, dousing agni, and demanding more work of it than it can realistically deliver. Too little food can starve agni, like expecting fire to burn brightly with but a few twigs to fuel it. In these days of intense focus on dieting, obesity and anorexia, determining what is too much and what is too little can be loaded question. Yet the reality is that your body, when balanced can tell you how much you need through the simple messages of hunger and satiation. You can trust these messages. The thing is that it can sometimes take a long while- weeks, months or years – to create the inner balance, depending on your particular circumstances. The important thing is to know that it can be done.

The power of digestion always depends upon bodily strength. And the maintenance of strength is dependent upon good digestion. If you are having trouble with either your health or digestion, do not be discouraged. Know that each need is important and suggest something. Now question how can you know if your digestion is good? The well greased machine moves smoothly with little sound and commotion. If you are experiencing gas, bloating, irritation, burping, belching, or what not….now you need attention and some assistance.

In ayurveda, one takes into account both the food and how it is prepared and combined. In general food that are light ( laghu) by Ayurvedic standards are easiest to digest, while heavier(guru) are more difficult to digest. There is wide variety of food which are light, including lettuce, munga, etc also there are variety of food are heavy as cheese, banana, black lentils lentils. These heavier foods are useful for strengthening, grounding and nourishing, take more energy in digestion so best use in smaller quantities. Light foods can be taken in greater quantities and tend to stimulate appetite and digestion. Heavy foods by nature suppress appetite.

Foods are also classified as hot (ushna) or cold (shita) in Ayurveda. Foods considered hot by Ayurvedic standards stimulate digestive fire. These include most spices, chillis, garlic, yoghurt, red lentils and honey among others. Cold foods will tend to calm/or slow down digestion; these include milk, coconut, dill, and coriander, to name a few. A balance of cooling and heating foods and spices is optimal for best digestion. The concept of heating and cooling is widespread in many cultures. And yet there is much disagreement between cultures.

In these days extensive use of pesticides & other chemicals, it is possible that given food may have unexpected effects based on contamination. For ex. over exposure to some pesticides stimulates fever, diarrhea & other burning symptoms in people. These exposures can be & are mistaken for common flues, & viruses, when they are responses by the body to chemical overdose. For ex. Grape treated with heavy dose of insecticides may cause such a feverish reaction. It is no longer cooling at all. Or it could be more cooling than normal, depending on the contaminating agent & response. How modern toxicology integrates with ancient Ayurveda is yet to be explored.

In ayurveda concepts oiliness & moistness (snigdha) and dryness (ruksha) also effect digestion. Oily foods in general will promote lubrication of the digestive tract and secretions of digestive elements, when used in moderation. In excess, they can be inhibiting by overworking of the liver and gallbladder. Fodds which are slimy(slakshana) like okra tend to support lubrication and hence digestion. Soft (mrudu) foods will soothe digestion yet mildly inhibit agni. Tapioca is example ofthis. Rough (khara) foods tend to move digestion and eliminating along, as demonstrated by oat & wheat bran. And yet rough food can be too harsh for some people. Sharp (tiksha) foods like chillis stimulate digestion, on occasion too abruptly. Hards(kathina) and dense(Sandra) foods behave much like heavy foods, putting more of demand on agni, while building the body. Nuts are example of these. Foods which are liquid (drava) enhance lubrication and salivation, especially aiding digestion of carbohydrates in the mouth. Static (sthira), gross(sthula) and cloudy(avila) attributes inhibit agni and digestion; a fast- food meal with milk shake would be a good example. Whereas mobile (chala), subtle (sukshma) and clear ( vishada) attributes stimulate the digestive process of mind and body. Herb gotukola would be an ex for this.

What is important is the beginning of awareness: being aware in a relaxed fashion of what you are eating and how it feels to be eating eat. Realize that this will bring new data in the form of experience and observation for you to integrate, and that today’s experiences are not the last word in your learning.

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