As we move into 2017, and the habit is to be thinking about improving health in the New Year, I thought I would share some more healthy eating guidelines as recommended by the California College of Ayurveda. I have been working on these habits for about two months and I can say that these changes don’t come easily. It is a paradigm shift. It is emphasized that it is more important how you eat, than what. I have changed a few of the “what’s”, but for now, and until my understanding of the “why’s” has deepened, I think it’s most important to focus on the “how’s”.
We talked a bit about eating in a clean, welcoming environment in our second post. In our family, we chose to add flowers to the dinner table. I have found this to be more challenging at work, when my tendency is to eat at a crowded desk, before lunch time, and with lots of distractions. I justify this as making time for a lunch time walk, but I am learning that it is important to give yourself time and space to properly digest food, without distractions in order to cultivate the parasympathetic nervous response, as opposed to the fight or flight response.
We also talked about saying Grace, or taking a few breaths, in order to prepare our body for meal time. Our gut is our second brain, and it is very sensitive to whether we are in a parasympathetic nervous response mode (rest and digest mode), or sympathetic nervous response mode (fight or flight mode). If we are stressed, we are telling our body that we do not have time to properly digest our meal because we are in danger. Let us give our bodies a chance.
The next recommendation is that we chew our food slowly. Chewing is the first stage of digestion and chewing properly introduces enzymes into our foods that help to break it down. Without this step we are asking our digestive system to work much harder to absorb the nutrients our body needs. This, for me, is still a work in progress.
Eat until you are ¾ of the way full. This is self-explanatory. It takes time for our stomachs to tell our brains that we are full.
It is suggested we only drink about a half of cup of warm or hot liquid with our meals. It is taught that too much liquid dilutes the stomach acids and enzymes that break down our food. It puts out the digestive fire, or agni. This is why warm and hot liquids are recommended as it is taught that water puts out the digestive fire. It is quite funny because most of the world doesn’t drink ice in their drinks. And most of the world thinks Americans are weird for our obsession with ice. If you have had the opportunity to travel, I’m sure you have encountered this sentiment.
And last but not least, a good night’s sleep. This has many benefits, but specifically it helps the liver to function properly if we go to bed with an empty stomach. The liver has been referred to as the night-time janitor by John Douillard. It is estimated that the liver has over 500 metabolic functions. If your liver is using it’s time to digest a meal, it is unable to detoxify the liver and blood. (See John Douillard’s book, The 3-Season Diet regarding this concept). During the holidays we can use all the help we can get to digest the rich and large amounts of food we ingest, so let’s give our liver a little bit of extra love and support.
Hopefully this information will help us all make a few more small changes in 2017. In eating with mindfulness and awareness we can learn to reach for our larger goals and resolutions while maintaining a bit more harmony in our daily lives.
For more information, please visit the California College of Ayurveda page:
As well as these references from the National Institute of Health:
Gut- Brain relationship:
Importance of Saliva:
I hope to be able to include more modern day research in these blog posts. It does require a bit more time and research. I am still learning the Ayurvedic worldview and how it relates to our Western worldview. Please take everything I write as a guideline. I am mostly reflecting on my experiences with the advice I have been given. I have not followed up on every point with my own research, just yet. Om ❤