10 Ways to Improve Digestion

In Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, proper digestion is paramount to health. When digestion is optimal, we say that agni or the digestive fire is balanced. Our metabolic and immunity systems become stronger, we are energetic, we sleep well, we eliminate properly and we maintain a steady weight. When digestion is weak, we can experience any or all of the following:  gas, bloating, mood swings, weight gain, fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, congestion, sleeplessness, low libido, inflammation, emancipation, heart burn and in serious cases, anemia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), crohn’s disease or diabetes.

Here are some tips on how to improve your digestion, increase your metabolism and strengthen your immunity system:

  1. Start your morning with a glass of warm water. It helps to get the system going.
  2. Eat only when you are hungry. If you aren’t hungry,  your body isn’t ready for food and you will have difficulty digesting.
  3. Don’t wait to eat. Hunger is sign that there are enough digestive juices (acid) in the body to assimilate food. The body will hold this acid in the small intestine for approximately 30 minutes, after which it will be transferred to the colon and reabsorbed into the blood stream. Overtime, this can increase our general acidity.
  4. Create a routine for meals. This may seem to contradict #2 & #3, but if you make a point of eating at the same time everyday, your body will adjust and thrive with the regularity. (This is particularly important for Vata & Pitta doshas.)
  5. Take time to digest. Avoid eating until the previous meal has been digested. Allow approximately three to six hours between meals.
  6. Snacking should be reserved for when you are very hungry between meals. Constant ‘mindless munching’ strains the digestive system.
  7. Fruit is best eaten at room temperature and alone. It digests quickly and therefore, eating fruit with other foods slows its assimilation and causes it to ferment in the gut, creating gas and bloating.  (For these reasons, fruit should never be eaten with a meal or for dessert.)
  8. Avoid iced beverages or food. Cold food amd drinks decreases the strength of our agni (digestive fire) and interferes with digestion.
  9. Eat until you are three-quarters full. You don’t want to leave the table very hungry or very full. Too much food overwhelms our agni.
  10. Practice food sadhana or mindfulness when eating. Enjoy your meals in a settled, quiet atmosphere. Always sit to eat and take time for gratitude. This helps you relax and digest better. Working, reading, watching TV or excessive talking during meals create distractions for your mind and body. This hinders your ability to know when your hunger is satisfied.

BONUS:  We are each a unique composition of elements. Understanding what the best foods are for your individual constitution or dosha will help you achieve your specific health goals and stick to your New Year’s resolutions. Whether you want to loose weight, improve digestion or increase your energy level, an ayurvedic practitioner can assist you in addressing your needs.

 

Yasmin_BIOpic_web_squareMy ayurvedic practice
As an ayurvedic practitioner, I work with people simply wanting to enhance their health as well as with doctors and their patients with serious conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. I design tailored food and lifestyle programs for each client. These programs may also include herbs, yoga, breathing, meditation and other exercises. Although my practice is based in Montreal, I have a satellite office in the West Island and I give consultations online via Skype.

Click here for more information about my ayurvedic services.

Contact me: hello @ yasminyoga.com

 

Related Articles

What is Ayurveda?

Green Juices for Vata, Pitta & Kapha

Natural Remedies for Stomach Flu  (Kitchari recipe featured)

 

 

 

Light Dhal Recipe + Pitta Spice Blend

This Dhal (lentil) soup recipe is delicious and easy to make. It’s particularly fabulous for Pitta dosha, which can get all out of whack in the summer heat. Kapha and Vata can also benefit greatly from this dish, as it is light and easy to digest. Good for weight management programs too!

Ingredients:
• 1 1/2 c split red lentils – soaked for 1 hr first, rinsed & strained
• 1 med size sweet potato – chopped (For Kapha: use 2/3 c chopped cauliflower instead)
• 2 stalks celery – chopped
• 1/3 c asparagus – chopped
• 1/4 c leeks or green onions – chopped
• 1/4 c green peas (Vata may want to omit peas.)
• 3 kale branches – chopped
• 2 tbsp Pitta spice blend*
• 3 c water
• 2 tbsp sunflower oil (or any other cooking oil appropriate for your dosha)

Directions
Soak lentils for a minimum of one hour before using. While lentils are soaking, chop the veggies and prepare the spice blend (see below). Then, in a large pot, sauté celery, asparagus and leeks in sunflower oil for approximately 2 minutes. Then add spice blend and continue to sauté for another two minutes– it will be quite dry. Add about 1/4 cup water and let simmer for another few minutes. Then add lentils, sweet potato (or cauliflower) and the rest of the water. Half cover the pot and let the soup simmer for about 25 minutes or until lentils are soft. Add in the chopped kale and pea and let cook for another 5-10 minutes. Serve over basmati rice or enjoy alone.

 

*Pitta Spice Blend
This fantastic seasoning was inspired by a recipe found in Eat Taste Heal: An Ayurvedic Guidebook and Cookbook for Modern Living by Johnny Brannigan — a great book. It adds flavor and keeps the fires of pitta in-check, especially during the summer.

Ingredients
• 2 tbsp coriander seeds – whole
• 2 tbsp fennel seeds – whole (For Kapha: reduce fennel seeds or replace with 1 tsp fennugreek seeds)
• 2 tbsp cumin seeds – whole
• 2 tbsp mint – dry
• 1 tbsp cardamon seeds – husked, yet whole
• 1 tbsp turmeric – ground

Directions
Grind all the ingredients together in a spice mill or coffee grinder. Place in a clean, dry jar with a lid and shake vigorously to ensure contents are well blended. Store in a dark, cool cupboard. Add to soups, stews, rice dishes, salad dressings and anything else requiring a flavor boost. Use within one month.

Ayurvedic Summer Breakfast Recipes

Here are two amazing ayurvedic summer breakfast recipes.  With the summer on its way, nothing beats a fresh, fruity breakfast that is mostly raw, rich in minerals and protein and 100% gluten-free! Great for kids and adults alike, these recipes are easy to make at home, on vacation, and even while camping. Please note the considerations for vata, pitta, and kapha doshas.

V = Best for Vata
P = Best for Pitta
K = Best for Kapha

 

Delightful Decorated Fruit – Serves 4

Ingredients:

8 cups of your favourite fresh fruit, chopped: pineapple, apples, oranges, mango, berries, bananas, avocado…*

Dressing
2 tbsp almond butter (V/P)
2 tbsp tahini (sesame seed butter) (V)
2 tbsp maple syrup (P/V) or 1 tbsp honey (K/V)
2 tbsp hemp seed oil (V) / coconut oil (P) / sunflower oil (K)
3 tbsp lemon juice
5 tbsp chlorella powder (a rich antioxidant and protein sea algae) or for a lighter taste, use Green Balance by Arbonne
1 1/2 cups orange or apple juice (V)/ pear juice (P/V) / applesauce (K/P)
A sprinkle of shredded coconut (V/P)
Optional: 1-2 pinches cinnamon (V) / mint leaves (P) / fresh grated ginger (K)

Directions:

Chop and toss your selected fruit. In another bowl, blend the first dressing ingredients. Gradually mix in chlorella or Greens Balance with a fork. As the mixture thickens, begin to add juice or applesauce and a dash of water to the desired consistency. Serve fruit in individual bowls and top with dressing. Garnish with coconut or seeds and serve. A great recipe for the whole family.

*Ayurvedic considerations:

Best for Vata: Sweet, warming fruits that are easy to digest (stewed or cooked pears and apples, banana, blueberries, strawberries, papaya, pineapple, mango, peaches, oranges, plums). If vata is high and digestion impaired, it’s best to lightly cook or stew the fruits and eat food warm. Vata can enjoy all sweeteners, nut butters, and juices. You can also add a little cinnamon to help digestion for vata.

Best for Pitta: Sweet, cooling fruits (sweet pears, sweet apples, blueberries, avocado, fresh figs, soaked dates & apricots). Substitute tahini for more almond butter and choose maple syrup over honey. Coconut oil is better for pitta, and pear or apple juice is also preferable. Some fresh mint leaves are tasty in this recipe and good for calming high pitta. FYI, melons should not be added, as they are best eaten alone.

Best for Kapha: Light and mild fruits that are slightly astringent (apples, pears, berries, cherries, dried figs, prunes). Choose honey over maple syrup for sweetener. For high kapha, substitute 1 1/2 cups applesauce and 1/2 water for almond butter, tahini and juice. For Kapha, sunflower oil is best, as is a little added ginger. Lastly, add use 1/3 less chlorella.

Simply Magnificent Muesli – Serves 2

Ingredients:
1 diced apple, pear or any other fresh fruit*
2 bananas sliced (V) / 2 pears or apples (P/K)
2 handfuls field berries*
1/2 cup chopped dried fruit, such as dates, raisins, cranberries, apricots*
3 handfuls chopped raw almonds, walnuts and/or hazelnuts*
1/4 cup shredded coconut
A sprinkling of seeds*
Optional: 1-2 pinches cinnamon (V) / Mint leaves (P) / Fresh grated Ginger (K)

Directions:

Combine all ingredients and sprinkle with seeds. If you want to add milk, use almond (V/P/K), hemp (V), or soy (K) milk, and enjoy!

*Ayurvedic considerations

Best for Vata: Vata is good with most fruit, especially sweet, warming fruits easy to digest (stewed or cooked pears and apples, banana, papaya, pineapple, mango, peaches, oranges, plums). The best berries for Vata are blueberries and strawberries. As mentioned above, if agni is low and digestion is impaired, lightly stew or cook ingredients making a warm breakfast blend. Nuts and all dried fruit should be soaked overnight. The best seeds for Vata are hemp, chia, sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower– all soaked overnight. Like in the recipe above, add a bit of cinnamon for digestion.

Best for Pitta: Pitta people need to be mindful of sour and acidic tastes, so their fruit chooses limited. Choose sweet pears, sweet apples, avocado and fresh figs. On occasion and only when very ripe, papaya and mango can also be enjoyed by Pitta. Blueberries are the least sour, so they are the only berry that benefits Pitta. All nuts and dried fruit should be soaked overnight. The best seeds for Pitta are pumpkin and sunflower. Almond milk is favourable for Pitta.

Best for Kapha: Kapha people need like fruits that are not too sweet (apples, pears, cherries, pomegranates). They can also enjoy all the berries in moderation. Nuts are heavy for Kapha, so it’s preferable to limit their quantity to 5-8 nuts per person and to dry roast them. Seeds like pumpkin and sunflower are better than nuts for Kapha. These can also be dry roasted. No need to soak dried fruits, but these too should be enjoyed sparingly as they are quite sweet. Freshly grated ginger is also good in this recipe.

Bon Appetit!

 

Related Articles:

 

Green Juices for Vata, Pitta & Kapha

There’s nothing like a great green juice to help purify your body, rejuvenate your energy and refresh your palate. If you need a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, coffee doesn’t stand a chance next to a glass of swamp water like this!

Here are some of the many benefits of green juices:

• Easier to digest and assimilate that whole vegetables, these juices are rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals;
• High in vitamin K, which plays a significant role in blood clotting, cellular structure, absorption of calcium and the formation of healthy bones;*
• High in magnesium, which maintains the nervous system, supports the heart and regulates calcium, copper, zinc, potassium, and vitamin D;
• Pitta balancing, since green juice is alkaline, thus reducing inflammation by lowering acidity in the body;
• Bitter green veggies like bok choi, collard, dandelion and kale, are great for diabetics and Kapha people, because they lower blood sugar and slow sugar cravings;
• Super high in chlorophyll, which detoxifies the liver, stimulates the production of healthy blood, and increases the immunity system;
• Improves skin by clearing acne, rosacea, and redness on skin;
• Powerful source of antioxidants that helps create an oxygen-rich environment in the body, so cancer cells cannot survive.

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Green juice Recipe for Vata
Handful of Spinach
3-4 branches of rainbow swiss chard
1-2 Lebanese cucumber (without seeds)
Wedge of lemon with peel
1/2″ piece of ginger
1-2 apple or pear
pinch of cinnamon

Vata, being the dosha with the most temperamental digestion, needs to add a few warming ingredients, like ginger and cinnamon, to their green juice. It’s also highly recommended, for vata people especially, to skim the foam off (foam causes gas), and dilute the juice with warm or hot water– 50% juice and 50% water. Only one cup of this blend should be taken at a time. Preserve the rest of the juice in a sealed container in the fridge.

Green juice Recipe for Pitta
3-5 branches of kale, swiss chard or collard
1/2 English cucumber or 2 Lebanese cucumbers
1-2 celery stalks
Fresh mint leaves to taste
Wedge of lemon with peel
1 apple or pear or 1/2 beet
1 tbsp of aloe vera gel (optional)

Pitta people are prone to inflammation, skin irritations and high acidity, so this cooling green juice is amazing for them. Kale, swiss chard, collard and bok choi are better greens than broccoli and spinach, which are slightly warming. Mint and aloe vera are also cooling in nature and are beneficial for pitta as well. Although it changes the color of this recipe from green to murky brown, half a beet is a good alternative to apple or pear, as beets promote the flow of bile, which, in pitta, can get thick and sluggish. Dilute this recipe half juice, half room temperature water. Foam should be discarded.

Green juice Recipe for Kapha
3-4 branches of kale
2-3 branches of swiss chard or dandelion (for the brave)
1-2 celery stalks
1/2″ piece of ginger
1/2 apple
pinch of cayenne

Kapha people benefit from green juice, because its bitter quality reduces their tendency for sugar cravings, lowers blood sugar and can help them with weight management. Kapha has the slowest metabolism of the three doshas, so to help them digest this beverage, we’re adding ginger and a pinch of cayenne. Dilute the juice with a third warm or room temperature water. Only have a small glass at time. Too many liquids aren’t receommeded for kapha.

Notes:
There are many other wonderful green ingredients that can be juiced. Let your creativity flow. Broccoli, parsley, sprouts, lettuce, fennel and wheat grass are also great options. For dosha specific vegetables or fruits, you can ask me or consult your ayurvedic practitioner. There are also lots of online resources you can use. Here’s a good guideline from Vasant Lad: www.ayurveda.com/pdf/food_guidelines.pdf

*Considerations:
People with arteriosclerosis, atherosclerosis and atheroma (conditions that can lead to coronary heart disease and stroke) must be cautious of taking too many vegetables high in vitamin K, as vitamin K promotes blood clotting.

Sources for more information on this topic:
http://www.hungryforchange.tv/sugar-is-a-drug
http://www.livestrong.com/article/271987-what-are-the-benefits-of-green-juice/#ixzz1ulsmzuDG
Crazy Sexy Diet, by Kris Carr

Recipe: Tri-Dosha Veg Quinoa Soup

With the weather wavering, nothing beats a hearty, high-protein, easy to digest vegan power soup. Great for all three Ayurvedic doshas and also delicious.

Makes 6 servings
1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ fennel head, chopped
2 medium parsnips, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1 tsp turmeric
1/3 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cumin
8 cups water
2 cups quinoa
1 head chopped bok choy
1/3 cup dried or fresh mint leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the onions, garlic, fennel, parsnip and carrots, mixing in the turmeric, ginger, and cumin.
2. When all is tender, add water and quinoa. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Let simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Add mint leaves and bokchoy and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes.
4. Add salt & pepper to taste, then serve while hot.

PS For pitta, only use white quinoa, as the red and black quinoa is too heat producing.

Stomach Flu Natural Remedies

Oh, the stomach flu! What a nasty bug. And one I got to know quite well in the last few days. Yes, that’s right, after my emotional and material purging over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to physically purge the toxins out of my body. I feel much better today, albeit still a little weak from the torment of vomiting my guts out on Wednesday night and wrestling with fever yesterday.

Having spoke to a few friends and colleagues, I hear I’m not the only one recovering from this aliment, so I thought I’d share some ayurvedic remedies should you also be affected by Viral Gastroenteritis (a.k.a the stomach flu).

First, how do you know the difference between the stomach flu and food poisoning?
Although the stomach flu and food poisoning have similar symptoms (vomiting, headaches, fever, loose stools, etc.) and are both an inflammation of the stomach and intestines, their cause differs. Food poisoning is a bacterial infection resulting from eating something disagreeable, whereas the stomach flu or viral gastroenteritis is a viral infection contracting by contact with an infected person. Both conditions usually last one to three days, but it may take two weeks or longer for the digestive system to regain its full strength. However, if you are affected by either food poisoning or the stomach flu, your immunity and digestive system was probably weakened to begin with. This is why in the same family, one or two people may get sick and the others not, even if everyone was exposed to the same food or virus.

So, how do you get over it? 

  • Rest is top priority. Stay warm and cozy in bed and just sleep and/or breathe deeply.
  • Avoid dehydration by taking small sips of room temperature water once vomiting has ceased. (Small sips are important, as big gulps with may further aggravate the system.)
  • Re-hydrating with electrolytes is important. I used the new Vega Sport Electrolyte blend in water and it helped a lot. But, you can also make your own: 1 c water  + 1 tsp agave nectar (or maple syrup) + 2 tbps lemon juice + a pinch of salt
  • Rice water is also soothing. To make it, simply boil brown rice (organic is best) with double or triple the usual amount of water. When the rice is ready, strain it and drink the water.
  • Clear broths or other clear, non-acidic beverages are beneficial.
  • Fennel and coriander tea is good too. Just put about 1/2 tsp of freshly ground fennel and coriander seeds (equal parts) in a cup of hot water and let steep for five minutes before drinking.
  • When you are ready to start eating again, I highly recommend plain rice with maybe a little yogurt or ghee + a Kitchari diet for a few days. (“Kitchari” means “mixture” or “stew” and is a staple food in India). Below is a recipe for Kitchari.
  • Go see a doctor or health care professional, if you have blood in your stool or if your symptoms get worse after a couple of days.
  • There are many wonderful ayurvedic herbs that can also help rebalance the digestive system, but these can only be recommended on an individual basis, as not all herbs are appropriate for all people. I should be up and running in a few days, so if ever you want to set up an ayurvedic appointment you are welcome to contact me: yfgow@yasminyoga.com

KITCHARI RECIPE: The best comfort food to get the digestive system back on track…
1 c split mung beans (soak for 1 hr before using)
2 c brown rice
4 1/2 c water
3/4 tsp sea salt & black pepper
1 tbsp freshly ground cumin
1 tbsp freshly ground coriander seeds
1 tbsp freshly ground fennel seeds
1 tbsp turmeric
Small pinch of Hing or asafoetida (It helps prevent gas and can be found at an Indian store.)
About 1/2 – 1 c easily digestible veggies (zucchini, sweet potato, carrot, turnip and/or squash)

Put everything into a pot & bring to a boil. Then cover & let simmer for on Low for ~45mins. Enjoy with 1-2tsp of ghee (clarified butter) or coconut butter or oilve oil. For a little pro-biotic boost, adding a table spoon or two of plain yogurt is good with this dish.  (Tip: avoiding adding the veggies, if your digestive system is very weak.)

Don’t know how to make ghee? It’s really simple.

GHEE RECIPE
Melt 1 pound of unsalted butter (organic butter is best for therapeutic applications and if you can find grass fed cow butter all the better) on stove and let simmer for 15-20 mins on low heat. Stir continuously. Scrape foam off the top and discard. After about 15-20 mins, it with stop boiling and become clear. At this point, turn off heat. Let cool for 5-10 mins. Then strain (with cheese cloth) into clean, dry container. Cover and store in cool, dry place like pantry.

* Please feel free to also post your own suggestions for stomach flu or food poisoning cures!