Indigestion/ Digestion

Indigestion is a pharmaceutical company’s dream, which is a travesty when so many of the problems are treatable by taking responsibility for our diet and emotional balance.

The inability to correctly process food goes under a myriad of names, complaints, and degrees of difficulty including: IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, colitis, heartburn, lactose intolerance, diverticulitis, colic, Crohn’s disease, ulcer, celiac disease.

Stress is often a trigger for upset digestion because the digestive tract is supplied with a family of nerves that sense what’s been eaten so that they can then trigger correct secretions and their reflexes to send waves that affect the entire digestive process.

Consider the issue from a meta standpoint. Ask the question, “What is it I can’t stomach?”   “What in my day am I not digesting properly?” “Why can I not understand, or assimilate this emotionally?”

Clearly any serious issues must be addressed by a physician, and will not be addressed here. But the following are practical suggestions that vastly improve digestion.

Balance Alkaline with acid producing foods.  Here is a short basic list to help:

The following promote Alkalinity:

Lemons, Watermelon, Limes, Grapefruit, Mangoes, Papayas

Most greens, especially leafy greens: Asparagus, Onions, Vegetable Juices, Parsley, Raw Spinach, Broccoli, Garlic

Lemon Water, Herb Teas, green teas

Maple Syrup, Rice Syrup, stevia

Dates, figs, Melons, Grapes, Kiwi, Berries, Apples, Pears, Raisins

Okra, Squash, Green Beans, Beets, Celery, Lettuce, Zucchini, Sweet Potato

Almonds, Olive Oil

Cut the fat.Fatty foods disrupt the normal movement of the digestive tract, as well as clog arteries, cause cholesterol, slow the metabolic fires, and make us heavy and depressed.  Is that chocolate cake or fatty burger really worth it?  If it is, then relish every morsel.  Become conscious of its cost V.S. its delish-iss-ness.

Avoid or cut back on meats, fatty or otherwise.  It is acidic, difficult to digest, and has protein but very little fiber, therefore promotes constipation. “Oh boy!”

Cut out potato chips, French fries, onion rings, fried fish, yes, even fried ice cream, and whatever else is divinely hot, crisp, greasy, and divine.  Seek divinity elsewhere.

Remove sour cream, butter, margarine, and cheeses to the Siberia of the fridge. This includes dressings loaded in hidden fats such as Roquefort. Ranch, and Thousand Island.

There are oils that soothe the digestive tract and fight inflammation, especially good for arthritic bones; Omega-3’s, or fish oils, Vitamin E,  Flaxseed oil, black currant oil, evening primrose oil, and hemp oil are all helpful.  These oils also assist in juicing joints and soothing the skin, both bone & skin are Saturn ruled.

Foods that soothe the digestive tract include: rice, especially brown rice, oat products such as oatmeal and oat bran.  These also known to lower cholesterol.  If you have celiac disease, clearly grain products are not digestible and need to be avoided.

Eat more vegetables.  Is there anyone who doesn’t say that? But I mean it.  Stuff yourself with their colorful beauty, for they are low in calories, ( unless cooked with lots of butter) and rich in soluble fiber.

Drink lots of water, but not with meals, and not ice cold. An hour before is best.

Cut down on late afternoon coffee and tea

Ginger greatly helps all manner of digestive ills, and is also recommended Ayurvedically.

Peppermint oil soothes digestive ailments.  Take on an empty stomach, but do not use if you have gallbladder or bile-duct problems.

“Foods That Fight Pain” by Neal Barnard. M.D.
“Prescription For Nutritional Healing” by  Dr. James and Phyllis Balch (This is especially good in addressing specific issues with herbs, vitamins, and minerals.)
“The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies” by Vasant Lad, BAMS, MASc

Basic Ayurvedic Tips for Indigestion

The Ayurvedic system puts a strong digestive system at the top of its list for good health.  This is goverened by Agni, the body’s biological fire governing metabolism.  Agni maintains nutrition in the tissues, therefore supplying strength for the immune system.  If digestion is poor, the entire system is weak.  Ayurvedically, if your Agni is strong, life is long.  When it grows imbalanced, or weak, the lack of resistance affects mind and spirit, as well as body. Remember that the mind and body are never considered separately in Ayurveda.  It brings home how important our feelings around food are, especially when sitting at the table.  Stress, fatigue, anger and depression disturb the calm balance necessary for proper assimilation, and agni.

Dis-ease develops when the body is out of relationship, with self, with others, with food, and stress disrupts the biochemistry of balance among the three energies of pitta, kapha and vata.  Each of the doshas accumulates beginnings of dis-ease, or imbalance, in their respective areas: pitta in the intestines, kapha in the stomach, and vata in the colon.  If the problem can be cared for here, before entering more deeply into the body, it is the easiest solution.

Pitta build up may be felt as acraving for sweets, or you might feel hungry all the time.  There may be extra heat in the belly button area, a darker urine, or a darker, yellowish white of the eye. Kapha build up will make the body lethargic, un-responsive, with a loss of appetite.  Vata dosha (imbalances) may express as gas, constipation, or abdominal distension.  If we are paying attention, the body will begin to crave what it needs, the opposite of what it’s been binging on.  Remember like increases like leading to imbalances.  (Link to Ayurvedic doshas foods)

If symptoms of indigestion persists more than a few days, see a good doctor, Ayurvedic, or otherwise.  But try practical, simple rules first.

Chew food well and consume slowly, give saliva a chance to aid in the digestion.

Don’t eat when upset, Agni is affected adversely.

Try to stop eating before you are full.  Not only does this aid digestion, but promotes mental clarity.

Avoid cold drinks, especially during and right after meals, they cool digestive fires when you need them most.

Learn to love ginger. It kindles agni.  Add it to foods, make teas, chew on it.

Garlic is another helpful digestif.  Before dinner, make a herbal cocktail of 1 chopped clove garlic, ¼ tsp cumin, pinch of salt, add ginger if you wish, along with lime juice and water.  I see you turning up your nose.  Try it, it might surprise you.

Make a tea with Bay Leaf, add a pinch of cardamom, drink after eating.

If you know the Yoga-Ayurvedic procedure known as nauli, do that.

Do the Bhastrika Pranayama, or ‘Breath of Fire’ to promote digestive juice, heat the body and also help with allergies and asthma.

Short fasts, particularly in spring and fall, benefit the system.  Do this to re-tone and re-boot the body, whether you have indigestion or not.  It makes your skin look fabulous.

A good fasting juice is: drink pineapple juice cut with water, a pinch or two of ginger and black pepper.  If you can get fresh juice, so much the better.

Selected Yoga Poses to aid in digestion

Many poses aid in digestion.  Primarily they are ones stretching the torso, and or twists around.  These lengthening stretches give the intestines room to move and relax, and wring impurities out.

If you are unsure how to do these poses, link to Yoga, scroll down to Poses, write in the following: (Note that many of these are the same poses that relieve stress and anxiety.)

Ardha Matsyendrasana – Half lord of the fish Pose
Adho Mukha Svanasana- Downward Facing Dog
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana – Bridge Pose
Paripurna Navasana – Full Boat Pose
Ardha Chandrasana – Half Moon Pose
Sarvangasana – Shoulder Stand Pose
Parivritta Parsvakonasana – Revolved Side Angle Pose
Pasasana – Noose Pose
Marichyasana III – The Sage’s Pose
Virasana – Hero’s Pose
Sphinx Pose