Rules of the Stomach
1. Eat until ¾ full. The digestive fire requires space to function and overeating smothers it. Think for a moment about the size of the stomach. It is about the size of our fist together. Eating three-quarters of a fistful is all we really need but that will take some getting used to. Our stomach expands to 1 quart or 1.3 liters which is about 4 cups. If you eat to three-quarters full that would be 3 cups of food or about 3 fistfuls. That is an easy, quantifiable way to gage how much to eat. It was shocking for my Japanese friends to see the humungous amount of food served on a plate at a restaurant when they travelled in Canada with me. Try contrasting that with the tiny little bento lunch boxes one gets in Japan. If we are used to overeating it will take a little time to find out how much food we actually need. The Ashram where I stayed for yoga instructor training served 2 meals a day and because the food was delicious, and I was afraid of being hungry and running out of energy for the intensive study and yoga classes, I would find myself overeating. It took several weeks to learn how much was enough. Our cravings are running us, and because we might not be getting all the nutrients our bodies require, we end up feeling unsatisfied and eating more than we need. At the ashram and at Ayurvedic retreats, eating in silence and using our fingers so we can really get a sense of and an appreciation for the food is common. Eating slowly with intention so we can notice when we are getting full is a great start.
2. Eat fruits alone. Avoid mixing a variety of fruitsHave fruits at least 20 minutes before a main meal, and not for at least 2 hours after other foods. Fruits digest faster and will be sitting and fermenting in your gut instead of passing through the system to provide quick energy. This is of course contrary to the idea of fruit salad for dessert : ( Sorry!
3. Minimize liquids with food.Stop drinking any type of liquid from about 30 minutes to 1 hour before a meal, have only a small (4 oz.) amount of liquid such as a warm herbal tea with your meal. Soups will count as a liquid so you won’t need a drink if you are having soup with your meal. Wait for 2 hours after completing your meal before having something to drink. There are several reasons for this. First the way the digestive system works with liquids and solids is different. Liquids taken in gulps will pass through the stomach and on to the small intestine directly by means of the sphincter mechanism. Liquids you ingest with your meal will dilute digestive enzymes making them less effective. Again sorry! This means not having that big glass of coke or juice – both have far too much sugar anyway - with your meal or a large coffee right after it.
4. Digestion starts in the mouth. Try chewing each bite 40 times so the food is completely broken down or until you feel that the morsel has given up its life force to you. Digestion actually begins with the salivary glands creating enzymes to break down the food and alerting the stomach to start creating its digestive juices in anticipation. After each bite put down your fork or chopsticks : ) and just chew.
5. Digestion is strongest at midday when the sun is highest in the sky. Pitta forces are peaking between 10 am and 2 pm. This is the best time to consume heavier and more difficult to digest foods such as meats, and raw vegetables such as salad. Having heavier harder to digest foods in the evening means the restorative time your body is getting ready for using on repair while you go to sleep will now need to be spent on the digestive process. The a.m. and p.m. hours from 6 to 10 are the more sedentary kapha part of the day and best suited to lighter meals and doing some physical activity.
6. Night shades are inflammatory and heating to the body and aggravate all 3 dosha types so they are best eaten in moderation or avoided by those with inflammatory conditions. Nightshades include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and tobacco.
7. Include 6 tastes at each meal. Ayurveda describes food as belonging to these categories; sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. It is important to have a variety of nutrients by eating something from each taste category but the majority of tastes within one meal should come from those foods that pacify our type. Pacifying foods for Vata, are sweet, sour and salty; for Pitta sweet, bitter and astringent; and for Kapha pungent, bitter and astringent. Please see angelkisswellness.com for
8. Avoid eating between meals. *Eat only after your last meal has been digested. The body spends enormous amounts of energy on digestion and eating between meals keeps the body in constant work mode. If you start to feel hungry between meals it is most likely not actual hunger but rather thirst – or an emotional need – so this is a chance to fit in those glasses of water to keep hydrated, a green juice or cup of herbal tea – and a hug or some time with your pet. If you get the urge to snack, or that craving for something sweet, try having a drink first instead. Also try a few slow squats or a minute of hula hips. It is always more effective to replace one thing with another so there is no sense of deprivation and to take action quickly before succumbing to the cravings and habits we are working on reprogramming. If after 20 minutes you are still hungry a piece of fruit is a good choice as it digests quickly and easily.*If your health is in a compromised state the above will not apply to you and it may be important to structure eating more frequently.
9. Eat while sitting down in a peaceful environment. How often have I found myself eating mindlessly, eating while standing, or even on the move … yikes! Respect the food you eat by blessing it for the sustenance it is bringing you through the giving up of its life. Bless all who have been part of the process of bringing it to you. Bless it that it be exactly what your body needs and can utilize, and then give the food your full attention as you eat it and receive its life force.
10. Give your digestion a rest by having a day of only liquids once a week for Kapha, once every 2 weeks for Pitta or once every four to six weeks for Wata. While Kapha will manage easily without food for a day, Wata types should include some easily digestible kitchiri – an Indian dish of rice and dahl - in order to keep grounded.
Some final thoughts about food combinations. A true Ayurvedic diet is vegetarian in nature, so this applies more to our western-type food combining. High carbohydrate foods such as grains do not combine well with proteins and will inevitably cause digestive distress. This means our most common meals of meat and potatoes, sandwiches of bread made with meats, eggs, salmon or tuna, fish and chips or fish and rice, and even lasagne – oh no say it isn’t so - are not health promoting options. Meat/fish and vegetables are fine, grains and vegetables are fine, but never the 3 shall meet. If you have any kind of digestive trouble such as bloating after meals just try a few days of avoiding these combinations and see what happens..