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Stoke Your Digestive Fire 

October 23rd, 2015 | no comments

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When ever I feel boated, heavy or like my gut just isn’t processing well I know it’s a sign that I need to cleanse — and that simply means taking pressure off of my digestion.

Giving a break to the digestive tract underpins all cleanses or detoxes — because when we stop putting pressure on the digestive system we give it time to process what’s been accumulate and naturally come back into balance and strength.

In Ayurveda we look at metabolism as a fire called Agni — a digestive fire.

Using this metaphor we can think about:

  1. What puts the digestive fire out? — A heavy damp log / too much and too heavy food.
  2. What stokes it only fleetingly? — Kindling / coffee, sugar, snacking, or
  3. What sustains it? — A nice sized dry log / regular, well proportioned whole foods.

The Ayurvedic system recognises another simple and basic truth — what ever we don’t digest becomes toxic.

We call this toxicity Ama, and it shows up in how we feel and look, on our tongue and skin, in our elimination and so much more.

Keep and Eye on Ama and Agni

Signs of poor digestion and Ama:

  • wake up stiff, grumpy, tired
  • coating on tongue
  • getting hungry sporadically without rhythm
  • farting, burping, bloating, acidity
  • crave unhealthy foods
  • wish we had more energy, drowsiness or weakness, heavy/tired after eating
  • lots of mucus, snotty nose
  • constipation, really loose stool, presence of mucus in stool, cloudy urin
  • bad breath
  • dull skin and eyes

Signs of good digestion and strong Agni: 

  • great energy consistency throughout the day without use of stimulants
  • poop every morning after drinking water with balanced stool
  • few digestive disturbances like bloating, gas, acidity, mucus, snot
  • feel energised and satisfied after eating
  • crave nourishing food
  • eat when hungry, don’t eat when not hungry
  • hydrated

Common Ways We Dampen Digestive Fire

The most common issue with digestive fire is often overloading it. Putting on huge, damp logs in the form of over eating, too much processed foods, heavy foods and alcohol and expecting the body to be able to keep up.

The second most common issue is expecting your fire to be consistent and strong when you’re only feeding it kindly, short burst fixes of sugar, caffein, snacks or low nutrient foods.

What’s your digestive fire like?  

To create good balanced digestive fire, first you need to know what kind of digestive fire you have and how it tends to go out of balance — then you can regulate the fire appropriately.

There are three typical types of digestion:

  1. Irregular (Vishama) — Alternating too fast/too slow, inconsistent, variable digestion, constipation, gas, tires easily, tongue coating brownish black, scalloped teeth marks on tongue.
  2. Sharp (Tikshan) — too fast, sharp, strong, unbearable hunger, hypoglycaemic appetite, always thirsty and hungry, burning loose stool, acid reflux, tongue coating yellow/green, tires when hungry.
  3. Slow (Manda) — slow and heavy, drowsy after eating, dairy allergies, doesn’t need much food, white on whole tongue.

Those with irregular digestion need to pay attentions to creating a hunger rhythm by eating at regular times, rather than over eating and putting the fire out then under eating and letting it get too sharp.

Those with sharp digestion should focus on reducing hot spices like chilli and curry, relax their mind before eating, eat more slowly and focus on eating alkaline foods.

Those with slow digestion should add more spices to their food to increase digestive fire, reduce dairy, heavy foods and portion size and allow more time between meals to let the digestive enzymes and bile (fire) regenerate before eating again.

General Tips for Stoking Digestive Fire

  • Drink ginger or fennel tea before and after meals
  • Take a breath before eating and be ready to receive, not mentally/emotionally distracted
  • Allow at least 2-3 hours between eating so that bile and enzymes replenish.
  • Do a cleanse for a day and eat simply or just liquids.
  • Eat mostly during daylight hours, biggest meal lunch because all primates (that’s us) produce the most digestive bile in the middle of the day.
  • Eat only as much and as frequently as your body needs (General guidelines: Vatas 3-5x per day, Pittas 3x per day, Kaphas 1-2x per day)
  • Drink room temp, warm or hot water water between meals (cold water puts out the fire).
  • Notice your food, the life-force in it, texture, taste, smell — this stimulates your body to produce more digestive enzymes and signals your GI tract to start working.

If you want to learn more about digestive health and cleansing keep space in your calendar for my annual New Years Detox starts Jan 31.  (find out more).

Stay tuned for my next blog about how to stoke your emotional metabolism!

Share in the comments your favourite ways to stoke digestion.

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