The Art of Digestion: Ayurveda’s Key to Perfect Health

Ayurvedic spices - star anise, ginger, black peper, on a wooden background

In a world of advancing discovery and development, one eye-opening statistic is that Americans today use more medications than in any other country in the world. With all of our progress and evolution, the luxury of health still eludes us.

While this cultural situation spirals in an “out of control” fashion, many individuals seek to expand their awareness and quality of life with knowledge, health regimens, diets, Eastern spiritual practices, herbal medicine, and more. The natural desire is to experience more well-being physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually while we pursue a successful life.

More people in the West are discovering the mother of all health care systems in Ayurveda, whose origins are said to be more than 5,000 years old, and from which all healing systems can trace their roots.

Ayurveda—much more than just herbal remedies—identifies each person’s unique mind-body type, explaining in detail the effects of all foods, weather, daily habits, toxins, and emotions for our unique constitution. According to Ayurveda, the most significant factor in our overall health is the quality of digestion.

Good digestion will not only ensure prevention of disease, but ultimately lead to the creation of healthy tissues with feelings of lightness and energy. In fact Ayurveda goes further in defining the ultimate product of digestion produces an essence known as Soma, a particle which is described as bliss. This particle becomes a wave of consciousness itself. Therefore the end product of food and healthy digestion is the consciousness of bliss, known in Sanskrit as Sat Chit Ananda.

So how do you find your way to healthy digestion and feelings of lightness, energy, and bliss?

14 Tips to Improve Your Digestion

  1. Practice meditation, quiet time, or deep prayer on a daily basis. Stress inhibits proper digestion and can be dissolved through deep and regular meditation.
  2. Exercise regularly or do yoga. Exercise strengthens the muscles, joints, and spine, tones the organs, increases blood flow, and improves mood. All of these benefits will improve digestion, absorption, and elimination.
  3. Eat at regular times of day, allowing time to fully digest the previous meal before you begin the next one.
  4. Eat the largest meal at lunchtime before 2:00 p.m. and avoid eating late at night. Finish eating by 7:00 p.m. Eating before sleep will tend to produce toxins and dullness in the system.
  5. Eat slowly, observing with awareness what you are feeling, and avoiding distractions such as TV or computers while you eat.
  6. Eat foods that balance your mind-body constitution, or dosha type.
  7. Use spices that kindle Agni, the digestive fire, like ginger, black pepper, and cumin.
  8. Consume whole, chemical-free, and organic foods that are fresh and vibrant whenever possible.
  9. Avoid preservatives, canned food, genetically modified foods, leftovers, and cold, iced drinks.
  10. Sip hot water throughout the day.
  11. Eat less meat, cheese, and fried food, as they are more difficult to digest.
  12. Occasionally rest your digestion with either a short fast where you consume only liquids (like soup, juice or water) for one day. After the fast, gently transition back to eating whole foods, starting with soup.
  13. Process and release trapped emotions regularly.
  14. Aim to eat foods cooked by someone who loves you! Love is the most important ingredient in food. Every good chef knows this.

If you're interested in cooking for healthy digestion, check out these three recipes from Chef Johnny, great for balancing the doshas and improving digestion. Also, buy his cookbook, Eat-Taste-Heal.

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About the Author

Chef Johnny Brannigan

Ayurvedic Chef
Chef Johnny Brannigan is an international Ayurvedic vegetarian and vegan chef with a deep knowledge base in Vedic wisdom and holistic medicine, and a lifelong love of food and cooking. Trained in Ayurveda and as a teacher of meditation by the Maharishi in Switzerland and Thailand, he has cooked and taught in over 33 countries, writing new recipes along the way. He co-founded The Organic Snack Company in 1998 in the U.K. and then travelled to the United States, where he cooked at The Raj, the top Ayurvedic spa in the country, and wrote The Global Vegetarian , his first cookbook. He’s also the chef/co-author of the seven-award-winning cookbook,...Read more