In ayurvedic medicine, digestion is the key to maintaining health and longevity. A strong digestion means a strong body. Digestion is a reflection of your mental-emotional-physical state of balance.
Poor dietary habits, stress and environmental pollutants can weaken your digestion. A weak digestion results in the accumulation of toxins (known as ama in ayurveda), which in turn causes disease and aging. Signs of poor digestion and toxins are fatigue, lack of mental clarity, weight gain and recurrent infections.
If you answer “yes” to the majority of the statements below, you may have poor digestion, which is resulting in excessive accumulation of toxins in your body. That means it is time for a holistic health overhaul.
1. I tend to feel obstruction/blockages in my body – constipation, congestion/heaviness in the head area, blocked nose, or a general feeling of non-clarity.
2. When I wake up in the morning, I do not feel clear; it takes me quite some time to feel really awake.
3. I tend to feel tired or exhausted mentally and physically.
4. I get common colds or similar ailments several times a year.
5. I tend to feel heaviness in the body.
6. I tend to feel that something is not functioning properly in the body – breathing, digestion, elimination or other.
7. I tend to feel lazy (i.e., the capacity to work is there, but there is no inclination).
8. I often suffer from indigestion.
9. I tend to spit repeatedly or have a bad taste in my mouth.
10. Often, I have no taste for food and no real appetite.
11. My tongue is often coated with a thick film, especially in the morning.
Detox and Diet
Since your digestive system is the key to health – it absorbs nutrients for all the other organs in the body and removes toxins – begin by improving your digestion.
The fastest way to improve your digestion is by reducing the amount of “junk food” you put in. Less junk in, less junk out – simple. Where can you start?
- Reduce the amount of processed and fast food you are eating by 25%.
- Reduce your use of the microwave by 25%.
- Reduce your soda and coffee intake by 25%.
Taking small steps is the best way to achieve long-term success. Just making a 25% reduction in the above areas will have a huge benefit for the state of your health. Once you see the results, you will be ready to aim for a 50% reduction.
Most people feel that they don’t have the time to make health changes. In reality, if you calculate the amount of time lost each day from feeling fatigued, stressed, and making mistakes due to poor concentration, you’ll realize that being healthier actually gives you time back each day. The next part of your ayurvedic health overhaul will be to take these simple steps to boost your energy:
- Sit in silence or meditation for a few minutes each day, especially after a tough day at work or parenting. This small break from activity allows the mind and body to relax and shut off the “fight-or-flight” response that chronic stress activates.
- Give away a prized possession. Even clinical studies show that living with simplicity creates a greater sense of happiness. Make your life simpler – don’t feel bound by your possessions. Giving something away that you really value fosters generosity in your heart and also a sense of freedom from your material belongings. Don’t allow your possessions to possess you.
- Yoga is well known to help relieve stress. The combination of slow movements, breathing and stretching creates a profound state of relaxation. Certain positions in particular help to “ground” you when you are feeling overwhelmed, such as the downward-facing dog position. The next time you are feeling like you are at your wit’s end, get into the downward-facing dog position for a couple of minutes and you’ll feel the stress begin to melt away.
- Have less sex. Really? Yes, everything should be done in moderation and having excessive amounts of sex can actually deplete your energy stores. According to ayurvedic medicine, ojas, which is the end product of proper digestion and the building block for longevity, is stored in the reproductive tissues. Every time you have sexual intercourse, a small amount of ojas is lost and needs to be regenerated. If you have noticed a lull in your energy levels, try reducing your sexual activities by 25%. Next time you feel the urge, try yoga postures instead to help shift the energy to other parts of your body
Stress has such a negative effect on our health and drains the body of its energy by impairing digestion and causing inflammation. Studies now show that over 90% of all chronic medical conditions are linked to stress. Here are some surprisingly simple ways to reduce your stress:
- Use aromatherapy at home, at work and during your sleep. This is an effortless way to help you reduce stress. The sense of smell has a stronger impact on the brain than all the other senses because it is not modulated by the processing center of the brain, known as the thalamus. All the other senses – sight, touch, taste and hearing – are first processed in the thalamus before they are allowed to have an impact on the rest of the brain. However, smell has a direct link to the brain centers that govern stress. The best essential oils to use to help reduce stress are lavender, sandalwood and rose.
- Start nasya, which is the administration of oil through the nostril. Nasya removes the toxins from the head resulting in more clarity of the mind, reduced stress and prevention of wrinkles in the face. It is regularly used in ayurveda to treat stress, headaches, anxiety, sleep disorders, sinusitis, colds, allergies and depression. The two most common oils used for nasya are sesame oil and ghee (clarified butter). Apply a small amount in the nostrils and then breathe in while intermittently pinching the nose so that the oil goes up into the nasal passages. The ideal times for doing nasya are first thing in the morning and a couple of hours before bedtime
Pain is the result of toxins that accumulate in different parts of the body, like the joints, sinuses, muscles, nerves, etc. According to ayurveda, this is a result of undigested food that accumulates in the stomach overnight due to poor digestion. The key to relieving pain is the removal of these digestive impurities that are embedded in the body. There are two simple teas that remove digestive toxins that you can drink throughout the day to help relieve pain:
- Detox tea is one of my favorite tools for removing toxins. The combination of ingredients helps to improve digestion and “unclog” the channels in our body by removing digestive impurities. The key is to make the tea fresh every morning, place it in a thermos, and take small sips of it throughout the day. It is best to drink it warm or hot.
Directions: Boil 4-5 cups of water in the morning. Add the following ingredients to the water and continue to let it boil for about 5 minutes with the lid on.
- ½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon whole coriander seeds
- ½ teaspoon whole fennel seeds
- One inch of fresh ginger root (if you have a tendency toward acid reflux or a burning sensation in your stomach, exclude the ginger)
Strain out the seeds and ginger and then pour the liquid into a thermos. If the tea is too strong or if you experience some initial discomfort, reduce the amount of seeds to ¼ teaspoon for 2 weeks and then increase it back to ½ teaspoon.
- Tulsi tea is your other option; it is made of dried holy basil leaves. Holy basil is considered to be one of the most important herbs in ayurveda. It is used for many different conditions, but its ability to fight stress has led modern herbalists to label it as an adaptogen.
Adaptogens are a class of herbs that help the body fight stress by reducing the production of “stress hormones” that result in the fight-or-flight response. Adaptogens increase the body’s natural resistance to stress and holy basil is one of the oldest known adaptogens. In addition to being used as a stress buster, tulsi tea has been used for thousands of year to remove toxins from the ears, nose, throat, lungs, joints and stomach. It also helps boost memory and improve the immune system.
To read Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary's blog on DoctorOz.com, click here.