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Fueling the Digestive Fire

Ayurveda regards digestion as the very cornerstone of health. Our digestive Agni (fire) is the key to our health and immunity. According to Ayurvedic principles, what, how and when you eat are all utmost importance to keep the digestive flame healthy and balanced; this includes drinking plenty of plain and pure water throughout each day.

A core part of the digestion, that is often overlooked in Western Medicine is elimination, which is very direct feedback from our bodies on food and fluid intake. Regular, soft, well-formed stools that have minimal odor, are easily wiped, (and ideally even float) indicate healthy digestion and bowel function. If you observe whole foods in your stool, it a clear indication that your digestive enzymes are unable to process and seek the nutritional values from those foods; similarly clear and copious urine indicates well-hydrated bodies, which is essential to the proper functioning of their tissues.

Further support for the digestive fire has to do with aligning diet and lifestyle habits in sync with the rhythms of the natural world. This means incorporating as many seasonally-appropriate foods, know that our bodies will naturally tend to crave heavier, denser foods in the fall and winter months, and will appreciate lighter fare with more watery fruits and vegetables in the spring and summer months.

In order to function at its best, the digestive fire needs to be hot, sharp, dry, light, mobile, subtle, luminous, and clear. Here are some ways we can continue to feed our digestive fires:

• Drink a glass or two of room temperature or warm water 20–30 minutes ahead of meals, while reducing the intake of fluids during the meals themselves.
• Practice gratitude before receiving a meal and eat mindfully (i.e. not while multitasking, on the go, or engaging with screen time). Remember how and when we eat are equally important to what we eat.
• Eat a “ginger pickle” (a nickel-sized slice of fresh ginger, with 1/4 teaspoon honey, a squeeze of lime juice, and a pinch of salt) 15–30 minutes before lunch and dinner; this will support food breakdown in the stomach.
• Enjoy plenty of digestive herbs and spices (garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, pepper, trikatu).
• Leave plenty of space between meals for proper digestion without snacking in between (ideally, at least three hours; optimally four hours).
• Take a deep breath before transitioning from a meal to the next activity. Invite a connection with the sensations of being full and satisfied.

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