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Written by Tera on April 8, 2012 – -
- by Heather
In my previous post “Are prescriptions the only answer”, I had shared my background with infertility and my decision to take my health into my own hands instead of relying on drugs and fertility treatments. My road to health started with a consultation with an Ayurvedic nutritionist.
Ayurveda has been described as the science of life or wisdom of life, and is based on three constitutions which can be determined from different characteristics in your body. Practices in your life (i.e. foods appropriate for the body) are then recommended based on this constitution. Ayurveda focuses on removing any imbalances and finding the cause of problems being experienced.
After filling out a questionnaire (from exercise and sleep patterns to what I eat and how often I eliminate) and meeting with the Ayurvedic nutritionist; the main take away was that I had significant digestive issues. I was always experiencing some form of indigestion, whether it was bloating and gassiness, diarrhea or constipation.
Most nutritionists, raw foodies, etc, will indicate that it’s recommended to have bowel movements 2-3 times per day. What? This sounded crazy!I was lucky if I had that many bowel movements each week! I had talked to my doctor about this in the past, and it was passed off as “my normal”. Little did I know that I was basically in a chronic state of constipation. You can only imagine how I felt about this; after all, everyone knows how good it feels after a good poop!
In came the teachings of Ayurveda: The Ayurvedic nutritionist explained that there are seven layers of tissues in the body. The outermost layer relates to the digestive system and the innermost layer relates to the reproductive system. Since my digestive system was in a constant state of imbalance, there was no way the deeper layer of tissues could be nourished.
Finally, my “ah-hah” moment. The state of my digestive system and elimination cycle shouldn’t be considered “my normal”. I knew that I had to work towards the ideal. I set out to poop at least once a day! Here are some of the strategies I used to regulate my digestive system and eliminate the toxins that undoubtedly built up in my system from years of chronic constipation:
My first practice to improve my digestion was becoming more mindful while eating. Ayurveda focuses on building the digestive fire to help absorb nutrition and facilitate the elimination of waste material.
If the body is not properly digesting and eliminating, many conditions can arise such as dull hair, weak fingernails, skin blemishes, strong body odor and constipation. Even if you’re not constipated, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have optimal digestion.
I had developed a habit of eating on the go and multi-tasking during meal times. I would often check emails, pay bills, drive (gasp!) while eating. By multi-tasking, I was taking out not only the pleasure of eating but compromising my digestive capacity and creating indigestion.
Before I go on, I must tell you that what I’m about to say is my very simplified understanding of the digestive system:
Digestion starts in the mouth. Our mouths are filled with digestive enzymes which kick-start the digestion process. Thus, it is so important to be mindful of what we put in our mouths, and how well we chew our food so these digestive enzymes can go to work. The Ayurvedic nutritionist indicated that it was best to chew each bite 15-20 times and focus only on my meal.
Wow! Good bye multi-tasking!
When I incorporated this, it seemed like an incredibly long time to eat a meal. However, with practice, I found that I started to enjoy meals more. Eating this way ensured that I didn’t over-eat and it set up my digestive system for success.
Chewing food thoroughly helps with indigestion as the digestive system can effectively break down juices as opposed to chunks of food. Just recently, after listening to one of the WISH Interviews, it was recommended to chew each bite 40 times – bring on the challenge! The stomach doesn’t have teeth so it’s much harder to break down solids (have you ever heard how long it takes to eliminate a steak from your digestive system…I’ll let you research that one!)
Since, I had already determined that my digestive system was weak; it was especially hard to break down meat. I had never really enjoyed meat, eating it or cooking it. This spurred my decision to eliminate meat, become a vegetarian and focus mostly on cooked foods. I focused on foods that would be easier to break down to allow my digestive fire to rebuild.
I have noticed incredible benefits from choosing the right foods for me and slowing down while I eat. My digestion had improved greatly and it only took a week to start noticing changes. Vegetarianism may not be for everyone but chewing each bite 15, 20 or 40 times is…so take the challenge and notice the changes!
Give yourself time to enjoy a meal instead of always multi-tasking. Set down your utensil between bites and truly experience and enjoy the food that nourishes you. When you can be in the present moment, meal times will mean so much more when the focus is on appreciating the foods we eat. When we are focusing on how much we’re chewing, we give our minds a break from all that mental chatter. This can bring a calming effect which allows our bodies to do the work they are meant to do and properly digest our food.
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Have you noticed that you rush through meals? If so, how do you feel afterwards? Have you ever sat down with someone and thought “do they even chew”? Could our state of poor digestion be linked to something as simple as chewing our food? What else have you noticed affects digestion? I’m always learning so if you have any tips, please share by posting a comment below!
This is a wonderful article. Thank you for the clear and easy to understand explanation. I rush through all my meals as well because I am so busy, I work through my lunch, eating at my desk in front of my computer. Breakfast is standing up shoveling it in my mouth as I glance anxiously at the clock and rush out the door. I will commit to chewing each bite 20 times and focusing just on my meal for the next week. I am excited to see the changes this brings about.