How to Optimize Digestion in the Winter

Guest Post by Ayurvedic Consultant, Emmie Stamell

Ayurveda, India’s traditional medical system and a sister science to Yoga, has taught for thousands of years that food is medicine for the body, mind and spirit. What we eat gets absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract, is assimilated and provides nourishment to the bodily tissues, mind, and emotions. While what we eat is important, Ayurveda highlights that how we eat is even more important.

Here are some simple tips to help you digest what you’re eating well:

  • Bless or express gratitude for your food before eating
  • Sit down to eat in a calm environment
  • Chew thoroughly, paying attention to the taste of each bite
  • Eat until you are 75% full
  • Stay seated restfully after you’re done eating for 5-20 minutes
  • Take a gentle walk to encourage good digestion after meals

In terms of what to eat in the colder months, Ayurveda understands that our internal metabolic fire, or agni in Sanskrit, increases in the colder months to allow us to digest heavier foods. When agni is strong we are able to digest fats, complex carbohydrates and protein which are more prevalent in winter foods (like root vegetables, nuts, meat, grains, dairy products). These foods help us sleep longer, move more slowly and gain a few pounds for a bit more insulation, which are all natural wintertime occurrences.

That said, be careful to avoid too many sweets or too much dairy, which tend to dampen agni, thus weakening our digestion and causing imbalances such as lethargy, indigestion, poor circulation, congestion, low energy or depression, even achy joints. Any of these symptoms are an indication that digestion is impaired to some extent.

One easy (and tasty!) way to keep agni robust during the cold months is to use warming spices. Many spices from the mint family like thyme, rosemary, oregano and basil are wonderful for stoking the digestive fire. Other great choices include mustard seeds, pepper, and all of the “chai” spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and clove.  Turmeric is also warming internally has myriad health benefits including boosting immunity!

Charlotte and I are looking forward to our upcoming workshop December 16th 2-4pm at The Arlington Center when we will be talking in depth about right diet, lifestyle practices, yoga and breathing techniques for strong digestion and immunity during the cold season.

For further reading, here are some recommended books on Ayurvedic diet, recipes and more digestion info:

May your agni be strong this season, and grace you with all the benefits of a healthy metabolism: mental clarity, physical stamina, and strong immunity!

Image credit: Hans Pama on Flickr.com

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