What makes Ayurveda’s approach to diet unique is that rather than promoting one diet to suit all, it recognises us all as individuals. Understanding your dosha, or mind body type, can be helpful in working out which foods agree with you.
There’s increasing awareness of the important connection between the gut and the brain. Clearly our guts do more than just digest food; being responsible for most of our immunity and recent research also indicates that most of the body’s serotonin is found in the gut.
Ayurveda agrees that a healthy digestion is at the heart of health and healing. It also thinks of our digestive system as being stoked by a fire and if that fire gets too hot or is too cold then we get immediate symptoms of indigestion like bloating, acidity/ heart burn or even diarrhoea and constipation. You may be blessed with a strong, balanced digestion, with regular hunger and well digested food. Or you may suffer from:
An irregular digestion: Erratic appetite with bloating and indigestion, common in vata types
An intense digestion: Intense hunger but a poor digestion with acidity and strong thirst, common in pitta types
A weak digestion: Low appetite and slow digestion with heaviness after a meal, persistent sweet cravings and need for stimulants, common in kapha types
We all want to eat a diet that is best for us. However, there are currently so many different diets and dietary guidelines it’s often hard to know where to begin. Some nutritionists say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but there are some people, predominantly kapha types, who just aren’t hungry first thing in the morning. While we know they aren't always easy to do, perhaps you could try a couple of these tips throughout your week to help balance your digestion:
Try having your main meal between 12 and 2pm, when the digestive fire is stronger. When it comes to the evening, a big meal will not only tax your digestive system but can disrupt your sleep if eaten too late in the evening
Try to eat only when genuinely hungry as this is a sign that your previous meal has been digested
Try to stop eating before you feel really full. Ayurveda advises to only fill our stomach to half or three quarters to allow room for our digestion to work optimally. The key to this is to chew each mouthful mindfully and listen to our bodies
It’s great to drink lots of hot herbal teas between meals but try to limit liquids taken with food, as this can dilute the digestive enzymes. A cup of hot ginger tea 45 minutes after a meal can be very helpful for digestion
Keep to regular mealtimes and try to avoid skipping meals which can weaken digestion
Avoid foods which are seen as hard to digest such as excessively cold, damp, heavy, spicy, oil and fried foods. Freshly prepared food is key, when times allows
Favour organic food that is in season for yourself and for the environment
Season your food with common digestive spices, such as ginger, cumin, fennel, coriander, cardamom and turmeric
Get moving! Regular exercise, such as brisk after lunch walk through the fields or town can help maintain a good digestion
Ayurveda offers a wealth of suggestions on how to nurture our digestive fire, known as ‘Agni’. It might be a challenge to take in all the suggestions we offer for your dosha, so why not adopt one or two each week and see if they have an impact on your digestion and general wellbeing? Even a small improvement in your feelings can be enough of an incentive to make gradual changes. Ayurveda recognises that there is no one size fits all when it comes to how and what we eat.
Delve deeper into your dosha and diet by reading the articles below.
As a BSc qualified Ayurvedic practitioner and yoga teacher, Jo is passionate about bringing these two ancient sciences together to help people feel empowered about their health. Jo has put her post-graduate certificate in education to good use, co-founding the Ayurveda academy to help others learn of the wonders of Ayurveda. Jo has also earned a Masters degree in human sciences from Oxford University and has taught in several schools
BSc qualified Ayurvedic practitioner and yoga teacher
20 years as a Hatha yoga teacher/ayurvedic practitioner
Member of the Ayurvedic Practitioners Association