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7 Good Digestion Tips for When to Eat

Digestion.


It's a topic with which many people struggle.


Ayurveda tells us that we can eat the perfect organic meal, cooked for our specific constitution, and still not digest it properly because of when and how we eat.



better digestion tips: woman eating half an avocado

This explains why so many people suffer from digestive issues.


This blog post will cover 7 good digestion tips for when to eat.



Keep on the lookout for an upcoming blog on "how" to eat.


Read 6 Food Choice Tips for Better Digestion That You Need to Know to learn general guidelines about what to eat and not eat.


Ayurveda is a forgiving practice


Remember that Ayurveda is a forgiving practice as you go through these good digestion tips for when to eat.


I have been taught an 80/20 rule.


80 percent of the time, these good digestion tips should be followed, and 20 percent of the time we should relax and enjoy life without being caught up in the "rules" of Ayurveda.


Stressing about doing everything perfectly will cause digestive problems and other issues.


One of my favorite teachers, Dr. Rosy Mann always reminds me that Ayurveda is the middle path.


My pitta personality can get caught up on "doing things right" to my detriment, which I think is very common in the West when we try to implement Ayurvedic principles.


See if holding these good digestion tips lightly helps you to live a more balanced life.



better digestion tips: a woman adding parsley to cooked food in a bowl


1. Eat only when you feel hungry


This good digestion tip was a big deal when I began my study of Ayurveda.


I had never really thought about whether or not I was hungry before I ate a meal.


My set mealtimes came around and I ate without considering whether or not I was hungry.


I even posted a note on the cover of my Ayurveda manual while studying at Kripalu so that I would see it before I headed to the next meal.


"Am I hungry?"


This helped me check in with my body and pay attention to how I was feeling.


At that time, I was often ravenous because my digestion was intense, so the answer was often yes.


But there were a few times when I had eaten a heavier lunch, hadn't had much time to move and exercise, and noticed that I wasn't hungry for dinner.


A lack of hunger may indicate the previous meal was too heavy or in excessive quantity, or it can have other reasons.


If ama (toxins) is built up in the tissues and channels of the body, there can be a lack of hunger.



Many common complaints will be eased by this good digestion tip of eating only when hungry.


better digestion tips: a baked sweet potato cut in half with chives

Each of the doshas can affect hunger.


Vata dosha


Vata dosha can make hunger and digestion irregular.


Many people with a predominance of vata dosha in their constitution or with a vata dosha imbalance will forget to eat meals.


See the list of tools below to help follow this good digestion tip for vata dosha.


Pitta dosha


Pitta dosha can make hunger and digestion too intense, resulting in a reduction of nutrient absorption.


Pitta dosha predominant individuals or those with a pitta dosha imbalance are often hungry two hours after eating a full meal.


This overpowerful digestion can burn through food and nutrients may not get absorbed properly.


While hunger before each meal is important, excessive hunger leads to other issues.


To follow this good digestion tip for pitta, check out the recipes and products below.


Kapha dosha


Kapha dosha creates a slow and sluggish digestion.


Kapha dosha individuals and those with a kapha dosha imbalance often do not experience much hunger.


They will tend to eat without feeling hungry, eventually leading to a buildup of ama (toxins).


Look at the tools below for good digestion tips to stimulate hunger for kapha dosha.



Ayurveda has some tools to help stimulate hunger


Most digestive herbs and preparations can be used either as a stimulant for hunger before meals or as a digestive after meals.


Here are some products and recipes you can try before meals to stimulate hunger:


Hingv(w)as(sh)tak churnam (powdered blend)


Athreya Herbs sells a beautiful Hingvastak powder that I like even better than the ones I have tried in India.


The recommendation is to take 1/4 teaspoon of Hingvastak powder before meals to stimulate hunger.


Alternately, 1/2 teaspoon can be taken after meals to aid digestion.



Trikatu


This formula is easy to make at home, but you can also find it prepared online.


Trikatu is an equal blend of powdered dry ginger, black pepper, and pippali, a long pepper.


1/4 teaspoon of the blend can be taken before meals to help stimulate hunger, or 1/2 teaspoon can be taken after meals to enhance digestion.


Trikatu is excellent for vata and pitta doshas, but may aggravate pitta dosha.


Adding Trikatu to ghee, milk, or Takra (recipe below) will aggravate pitta dosha less.


Here's the recipe for Trikatu:





Takra


Takra is an amazing stimulant for hunger.


Many countries have similar yogurt-based beverages that may be referred to as "buttermilk."


Please know this is not even close to the buttermilk sold in the US in cartons.


Takra is light, refreshing, and excellent for digestion.


Takra can be taken 1/2 hour before meals to stimulate hunger, sipped with the meal, or enjoyed after meals.


Takra can even be consumed between meals because it is hydrating and soothing for the digestive system.


This must be made with plain, non-homogenized, full-fat yogurt to be effective.


Starting with organic yogurt is preferable because studies show that animal fats may hold more toxins than plant fats.


Blending the yogurt and water and scraping the fat off the top transforms the yogurt from sour to astringent.


The two herb blends, Hingvastak and Trikatu, above can be added to the takra to make it even more supportive of digestion.


Alternatively, fresh mint or cilantro leaves can be added with roasted cumin and a pinch of salt.


Takra is an elixir for pitta dosha, and also benefits vata and kapha doshas.


Here's the recipe for takra:




Ginger Slices to Stimulate Digestion


When I first started studying Ayurveda, I used these ginger slices often to stimulate hunger.


Just a note, these can be a little overstimulating for people with a lot of pitta in their constitution or a pitta imbalance.


If you are constantly hungry, these ginger slices will exacerbate that hunger.


When taking this regularly, I would cut 3 slices of ginger, put them in a small sealable container with the lemon or lime and salt, and carry them with me for the day to eat 1/2 hour before meals.


This combination will ferment if you keep them together for several days, so I suggest making them fresh daily.


Here's the recipe for Ginger Slices:






Lemon Ginger Honey Elixir


This blend was always too intense for me, but it is fabulous for a slow, sluggish digestion and lack of hunger.


Vata and kapha doshas respond well to this elixir.


Just like the ginger slices, this elixir will ferment if stored too long, so making it fresh daily is best if possible.


Also like the ginger slices, if you are constantly hungry, this elixir will make you even hungrier.


People with a pitta-predominant constitution or a pitta imbalance should avoid this, especially during the summer.


The recommendation is to take Lemon Ginger Honey Elixir 1/2 hour before meals to stimulate hunger.




Anti-Ama Formula


This Anti-Ama Formula is a good choice for pitta dosha, as well as vata and kapha doshas.


This formula contains:

  • ginger powder

  • cumin powder

  • coriander powder

  • fennel powder

  • mint powder


The coriander, fennel, and mint powders cool the effects of the ginger and cumin powder without taking away their digestive benefits.


This dry powder can be prepared and stored in a sealed glass or metal container to be added to hot water.


Consume this 1/2 hour before meals to stimulate hunger.


It can also be sipped during meals, or drunk 1/2 hour after meals.


Here's the simple recipe:



Digestive Tea


Digestive tea, also known as Cumin Coriander Fennel Teas, is a simpler version of the Anti-Ama formula.


It is beneficial for all three doshas.


I drink this tea after a heavy meal or when I eat something difficult to digest, like pizza, but it can also be used before meals to help stimulate hunger.


The whole seeds can be thrown in the pot with water and boiled.


Drink a cup of this 1/2 hour before meals to increase hunger, or it can also be sipped during meals or consumed after meals to aid digestion.




2. Eat only after the previous meal is digested


Eating before the previous meal is digested can create digestive disorders (CS, CS, 15/235-236).


This is another one of the good digestion tips.


Ayurveda tells us we should leave 4-5 hours between meals to finish the first two stages of digestion.


I remember Dr. Vasant Lad teaching about the Ayurvedic view of digestion being similar to a pot of rice cooking on the stove.


better digestion tips: pot of rice cooking on the stove

If the rice is already on the stove cooking, and you find out that more people are coming to dinner, and you just add more rice to the pot, what do you get?


You get a mess.


Some of the rice will be undercooked while the rest is overcooked, and none will be palatable or digestible.


The same situation happens when we eat before the previous meal has been digested.


The beautiful food consumed will not end up properly digested.


Poor quality nutrition (ama, mentioned above) will pass out into the tissues, lodge in weak spots, and create illness.


Allowing the previous meal to digest before putting more food in the mouth is one of the good digestion tips.




3. Avoid eating when there is indigestion


Eating when there is indigestion will affect digestion (CS, CS, 15/42-43).


Avoiding eating when there is indigestion is another of the good digestion tips.


It may be tempting to think that eating something else will help to settle indigestion, but it will only lead to more indigestion similar to what we discussed about eating before the previous meal is digested.


Signs of indigestion include (Lad, 86):

  • constipation

  • diarrhea

  • bloating

  • confusion

  • repression of emotions


Follow the good digestion tips and avoid eating when there is indigestion.



4. Eat at regular times


better digestion tips: a clock set at 8 am

One of the good digestion tips is eating at regular times.


Eating at irregular times will disturb the digestive fire (agni) (CS, CS, 15/42-43).


You may notice difficulty digesting when waiting too long to eat a meal.


In Ayurveda, the digestion is likened to a "fire."


Agni, meaning "fire" in Sanskrit is also used to mean "digestion."


This leads to another nice metaphor for digestion--think about a fire in a fireplace.


If too many logs are added to the fire (similar to overeating) it can dampen the fire (slow the digestive "fire").


If the fire is allowed to diminish (similar to waiting too long to eat) then putting new logs on the fire will snuff out the small embers left (akin to dampening the digestive "fire").


Ayurveda recommends eating the largest meal at lunch and lighter meals for breakfast and dinner.


Eating at regular times is another of the tips for good digestion.


5. Avoid snacking


better digestion tips: a tray of snacks

One of the good digestion tips is to avoid snacking.


Snacking, which seems so innocuous, is the same as eating before the previous meal is digested with the same effect of disturbing digestion and creating ama (toxins mentioned above).


Enough food should be consumed at each meal so snacking between meals isn't necessary.


If you are hungry two hours after eating a meal and feel that you need to snack, you may want to investigate the possibility of having a pitta dosha imbalance.


Using these recipes mentioned above can help calm the pitta digestion without dampening it:


Hibiscus Mint Tea is also a great recipe to soothe pitta digestion.



Avoiding snacking between meals is one of the tips for good digestion.



6. Eat three meals per day


better digestion tips: the number 3 painted on a road

Ayurveda recommends eating three meals per day, at regular times, as one of the good digestion tips.


As mentioned above, enough food should be eaten at each meal (without overeating) to prevent hunger between meals.


There are exceptions to this rule, some people may benefit from eating just two meals some may benefit from more than three meals depending on the constitution and the current state of balance.


As a general rule, one of the good digestion tips is to eat three meals each day.




7. Cleansing during the transitions between seasons



better digestion tips: stacked red apples

The time between seasons is when cleansing is recommended in Ayurveda as one of the good digestion tips.


These transitions between seasons add an increased burden to the digestion and if cleansing doesn't happen during this time an illness may ensue.


In India, major fasting holidays happen during these transition times, known as a "sandi" in Sanskrit.


Cleansing during these times between seasons rarely means not eating or drinking anything.


In Ayurveda, vata dosha benefits from a mono-diet fast of kitchari (Kripalu, 7.41) and generally suffers when attempting strict no-food or water fasts.


Pitta dosha benefits from a fruit fast (Kripalu, 7.41) or a mono-diet of kitchari and also suffers from a strict no-food or water fast because their digestion is too strong.


Kapha dosha may benefit from fasting one day a week (Kripalu, 7.41) or they may also benefit from a fruit or mono-diet fast of kitchari once a week.


The West has become obsessed with cleansing in recent years.


Ayurveda offers a middle path view and discourages over-fasting.


If one fasts too intensely, the digestive fire can diminish creating more digestive problems when the fast is completed.


Learn more about cleansing and get a recipe for kitchari.



Cleansing between seasons is one of the good digestion tips offered by Ayurveda.


7 Good Digestion Tips for When to Eat



Following these good digestion tips for when to eat can transform digestion in the same way food choices can.


If you would like to learn more about your digestion and receive personalized recommendations, you can schedule a consultation with me:







 

Lad, Vasant M.A.Sc. Textbook of Ayurveda: Principles of Practice. 1st ed., vol. 1, The Ayurvedic Press, 2012.



Kripalu Center. "Foundations of Āyurveda." 2019. PDF.


Patwardhan K., Ojha S.N.,Upadhyaya W., Samant A.. "Grahani Chikitsa Adhyaya". Charak Samhita New Edition, edited by Singh G., Goyal M., Deole Y.S., Basisht G., eds., 1st edition, CSRTSDC, 2020, pp. 88, Doi:10.47468/CSNE.2020.e01.s06.016

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