Healthy Digestion, Elimination and Wellness – An Ayurvedic Perspective

Healthy Digestion, Elimination and Wellness

by Jim Montrose, Ayurvedic Health Consultant October/November 2018

Healthy digestion, elimination and wellness is key for Ayurveda which considers digestion and elimination as a fundamental process that must be preserved and balanced for lasting wellness. The root of all illness stems from poor digestion (weakened agni or digestive power, see box) and Ama (toxins from poor digestion, see box). When the doshas (our natural bodies constitution) become imbalanced or aggravated through improper diet, unhealthy lifestyle choices, negative emotions and other factors it affects our digestive ability (Agni) which is the transformative power that allows us to assimulate food and experience yielding both nutrition and consciousness.. The disturbed Agni causes poor digestion of the food we eat. This in turn if left unchecked allows the undigested and unabsorbed food to accumulate in the Gastro-Intestinal tract and turn toxic. If this continues it will eventually flow out of the place of accumulation and spread throughout the body infiltrating the channels and tissues where it causes disease.

This process provides an early warning if we develop our awareness and recognize the imbalance. The first step is to recognize the potential cause of disease for your constitution so you can avoid them. The next step is to take action to modify the cause so you avoid the imbalance (for instance taking a cooling swim during the hot summer day to remain balanced as a Pitta). If we let it get past these two steps we must restore balance after it is lost; which becomes harder but still easily in the realm of self-care. Beyond that we begin to get sick and it has moved beyond its initial location of origin, we must take more drastic cleansing and purification practice which generally require the assistance of an Ayurvedic health consultant. Let’s explore what digestion and elimination is telling you at this time and reclaim our Healthy Digestion, Elimination and Wellness.

Agni and Ama – the signposts of health and imbalance

Agni, our digestive fire, transforms matter to energy. It is responsible for digestion and assimilation of food – helping us extract minerals, nutrients and energy. It also is responsible for healthy development of blood, plasma, skin, bone, nerves and reproductive functions. When agni is strong; what we eat is digested, assimilated, absorbed and then the impurities and metabolic wastes are eliminated. If the doshas are aggravated by poor diet, unhealthy lifestyle choices, or negative emotions they affect agni and then food is not properly digested and resulting tissue generation is malformed or worse.

When Agni is disturbed, the poorly digested and unabsorbed food accumulates and pollutes the bodily systems creating a toxin called Ama in Ayurveda (Ama can also be formed by bacterial action and cellular metabolic wastes as well). This is a toxic, sticky and foul smelling substance that is the basis of all disease. As it continues to accumulate it will overflow from its site of origin and affect other channels and systems in the body clogging the channels and cell membranes creating isolated and confused cells in which pathological changes occur and major diseases develop. All disease conditions are seen as a crisis of Ama (the internal toxins spilling throughout the body and causing disease manifestation) and this is where the body seeks to then eliminate the accumulated toxicity. Specific cleansing procedures are available from your Ayurvedic Health Consultant to assist the body in its efforts and restore wellness. Regular single food fasts of a few days (Kitchari mono-diet fast) can help you avoid this.

Healthy Digestion, Elimination and Wellness – Root of all disease and secrets to long life.

You are as old as your power of digestion, if it is weak you feel older and become older. When the digestive power is extinguished, you die.  If you maintain your digestive power by good food, proper eating and daily habits you keep your digestive power high, elimination strong and ensure longevity.

When we let digestive power weaken and don’t take action to re-establish its strength we start down the path of accumulation of toxins, development of ama in our sites of accumulation, which then escapes the accumulation sites and spread to other weakened sites in our body where it irritates the tissues and organs causing disease conditions. The earliest signs are the feelings of overeating or discomfort in our stomach. This can lead to nausea or even vomiting. Continuing forward we may experience constipation or diarrhea. Untreated this conditions may develop into ulcers, inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome, irritable bowel disease and so on. Find where you are and choose to make conscious choices for healthy digestion, elimination and wellness.

All these digestive symptoms and diseases are all avoidable by recognizing the initial imbalances when we eat too much, eat the wrong foods, etc. This involves turning inside to our internal guidance, clearing up the debris in mental thought patterns and toxins affecting the brain and learning to trust and follow your internal guidance. A program like Ayurveda is designed to help you balance your food, wake up your body intelligence and get more in tune with your internal guidance. Learning to first turn to your inner knowing and taking action to remain in a state of dynamic balance leads to true health and longevity. It is the path of self correction and healing that will serve you well throughout life with healthy digestion, elimination and wellness.

Healthy Digestion – How is Yours?

Digestion is looked at in Ayurveda as a two step process of first taking food and nutrition into the body and utilizing it efficiently. Secondly, digestion removes and eliminates toxins generated in the process of digesting and assimilating our food as well as eliminating toxins carried along with the food, such as environmental pollutants from the air, environmental contacts, and other sources.  Healthy digestion, elimination and wellness thus consists of being able to absorb your nutrients and properly eliminating the wastes through the digestive system. This flow of wastes out of the elimination channels of the digestive system is a key to the health of your digestion and your body. Many people in the modern world view the bodily elimination as disgusting or distrustful and see infrequent elimination as normal when it is a prime indicator of imbalance that will lead to more serious disease conditions.

Do you have healthy digestion?

  1. Are your stools well formed like a ripe banana?
  2. Do they maintain their shape after elimination?
  3. Are they a light brownish and yellowish color?
  4. Do they float in the toilet bowl containing water?
  5. Are they slightly oily?
  6. Do they come free of the toilet bowl or anus easily (non-sticking)?
  7. Do they have no odor or only a mild odor?
  8. Is your tongue pink and clean?
  9. Do you have 2 bowel movements a day, but not more than three?

Give yourself 1 point for each yes, if you have a score of six or more you have pretty good digestion. If you have a score of lower than 6, review to the signs of poor digestion box (below).  For a score of 1-3 consider seeing your Ayurvedic consultant to determine what type of agni (digestive fire) issue you really have (each type requires a slightly different approach for optimal results). Consider starting a fast or detox to reset your digestion (a good practice each year for most of us).  In the range of 4-5 follow the steps to improve. For a score of  6 and above you are doing pretty good, monitor and stay here or above. To improve your healthy digestion, elimination and wellness at whatever score you have follow the steps to improve digestive and increase longevity (below).

Signs  of poor digestion

The number of bowel movements a day is a very telling indicator of your general health. Modern society thinks it’s OK to go a day or two without a bowel movement and encourages laxatives to handle the issue. Ayurveda believes it is one of the most significant indicators and means to self-correct and heal yourself. One to two bowel movements per day is what you want to achieve (by increasing high liquid foods like vegetables and fruits, and reduce high density dry or drying foods).

Ama on the tongue is seen as a film, color white (kapha), yellow (pitta), grey (vata), is another important indicator that is reduced by following an anti kapha, pitta or vata diets.

Strategies for healthy elimination and maintaining Agni (not extinquishing or accelerating)

Simple strategies for healthy digestion, elimination and wellness aim to improve  your digestion power, Agni, and develop regular elimination through lifestyle changes that include:

Eating

Eating primarily light, easily digestible and sattvic foods. These are the plant based foods including  fruits, vegetables,  beans, nuts and seeds. These foods should be in season and mostly locally grown. Limit processed foods and refined sugars or eliminate entirely. Full attention on what we are eating increases the act of being nourished and fostering this presence with what we eat improves our digestive capacity.

Eat appropriate quantity (about two handfuls).

Eat only when hungry (careful to distinquish the similar feeling of thirst from true hunger).  hunger has a lightness, satisfaction from eating, pleasant anticipation; whereas false hunger carries with it – boredom, emotional upset, exhaustion or other disturbance.

At least three hours between meals (more if not hungry)

Sip water throughout day

Kindle Agni prior to eating by drinking some water, walking or take some ginger, lime and salt or bitters.

Stoking the fires of digestion can be accomplished with a dietary cleanse or detox program that includes a short fast which will support proper elimination and improve overall health. Giving the digestion and body a momentary rest from continual eating allows the system to reset and prepare for increased activity from a rejuvenated and restarted prospective. It not only provides a break from the toxins we eat , allow a freeing up of energy for tissue repair and rejuvenation for optimal performance. {see our Kitchiri monodiet or visit your Ayurvedic consultant for assistance}

Morning Routine

Tongue scrapping (removing the film with a flexible metal scraper that also stimulates healthy digestion, elimination and wellness) and monitoring Ama accumulation. If you find AMA, the film on your tongue follow an anti-Kapha, Pitta or Vata diet based on the film color (Kapha – white, Pitta – yellow and Vata – grey).

Live in harmony with the seasons so eating, sleeping, meals and work are regulated daily events.

Do a little daily Pranayama – Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril breathing) for Vata, Shitali for Pitta, Bhastriki for Kapha

Develop and follow a daily routine include: waking before sunrise to enjoy energy of this time and glorious sunrise which will energize you all day.

Meditate first and last events of day to reduce stress [quick meditation].

Avoid

Old lifeless foods (any food cooked, juiced over three hours ago).

Cold drinks and foods (ice cream, etc.) that can diminish the fire

Overeating, emotional eating and stress eating (drink water and then see if still hungry).

Reduce or eliminate caffeine it tends to upset the balance of digestive power.

After and during eating

After eating take a full breath.

Eat with mindfulness, to savor and digest the food best.

A short walk helps digestion.

Exercise

Exercise to your bodies needs to keep digestion strong and eliminate toxins. If you are under-active it  leads to sluggish bowels, slower metabolic activity;  exercise 3-4 days a week helps increase metabolism keeps bowels moving.

Hydration

Hydrate, especially if urine is dark, pungent, scanty, infrequent , bowels are constipated or skin is dry.

Avoid caffeine and sugar loaded drinks

Balance

Balance Vata, Pitta, and Kapha and keep it balanced

Consider practicing yoga which helps align and balances the systems of the body and organs.

Mental

Meditation morning and evening to reduce stress and improve health

Pranayama to keep the system moving and energized.

Yoga is a great practice in body aware when done with mind, body, spirit awareness.

Triphala is an excellent mild laxative that can help the process run smoothly if you are having trouble.

Get Help if all else fails

Consider a dietary cleanse like a periodic intermittent fast, mono-diet fast or seasonal change routine to help reset your digestion and improve Agni; ask your Ayurvedic consultant for a plan that matches your dosha.

May you have perfect digestion and long life the result of your healthy digestion, elimination and wellness,

Jim Montrose

www.drzaidarivene.co.za/jimmontrose

071 959 0786

P.S. Check out the website for other articles and resources.

Have you seen our exciting “Empowering the Youth (of all ages) Program.”

Copyright November 2018

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(Coming from George to Cape Town) Take the third exit (R60) right. Proceed (1km+) through the 4 way stop and continue approximately 2-3 km and look for a sign for the Hermitage. Make a hard right (270 degrees). After the turn continue about 200 meters and turn left at first road (dirt).  Proceed 300 meters and turn left into Red Roan Ranch and go to bottom of hill (the main house).

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