If you or someone you love suffers from digestive issues, you may be searching for a lasting solution to the problem. Rather than being satisfied with a bandaid approach, you likely want to get to the root of it. Antacids and other over-the-counter digestive remedies provide short-term relief, but you are not alone if you crave a big-picture, holistic solution to digestive woes such as GERD and acid reflux.
Ayurveda: A Time-Tested Holistic Practice
This is where Ayurveda comes in. If you want to understand and correct health issues at the root, this ancient, profound tradition offers a wealth of wisdom and practical guidance. This post will explore how Ayurveda can support digestive wellness from a holistic standpoint.
Though Ayurveda is slowly making its way into the mainstream, most Americans don’t know much about this traditional medicine practice. Ayurveda has been around for thousands of years and may be the oldest form of medicine that is still alive today. It is often considered a sister science to yoga, and originated in India.
Rather than being a one-size-fits-all system, Ayurveda is based on an understanding of different constitutional types, called doshas. Furthermore, Ayurveda teaches that what is right for me may not be ideal for you—and vice versa. For instance, Ayurveda looks at the qualities in an individual and the qualities of foods, herbs, colors, and smells—everything you take in through your five senses. So if a person has a light, dry, cool constitution (or body type), they will want to emphasize foods that are heavy, moist, and warm. On the other hand, if someone has a heavy, moist, warm constitution, they will want to focus on foods that are light, dry, and cool.
There are many examples as to how these principles apply (more than can be fully explained here), but if you want to understand more about Ayurveda and constitutional types, you may want to read my article Introduction to Ayurveda: What’s My Dosha?
Understanding your unique constitutional type can go a long way when it comes to attaining and maintaining optimal digestive health. However, regardless of your dosha (constitutional type), to say that Ayurveda supports digestive wellness is an understatement. In fact, Ayurveda teaches that good digestion is the foundation on which radiant health stands—and digestive imbalance is the root cause of most physical illnesses. This means that even if you don’t have digestive issues, any health issues you do have may have stemmed from a digestive imbalance—if you look deep enough.
You Are How You Eat
Once you understand your constitution and have a sense of the ideal food choices for you, you are half way there. However, in addition to choosing the best foods for your body type, Ayurveda places a great deal of emphasis on lifestyle. Essentially, how you eat is as important as what you eat. Also, improving eating habits is a great place to begin—especially if you don’t know your constitutional type. For those who suffer from acid reflux and GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease), paying attention to eating habits can make a huge difference.
Here are three ayurvedic guidelines for healthy eating to get your started!
- Eat in a calm, peaceful environment. Stress can be a major driver in acid reflux, GERD, and other digestive imbalances. Therefore, communicating to your body that it is rest-and-digest time can do wonders in improving digestion. Ayurveda suggests that you sit to eat and avoid stressors and distractions. Chew your food, savor the colors and aromas, and enjoy! This way your nervous system relaxes and your blood supply will be shunted to your gut rather than your periphery. When you calm down, slow down, and enjoy your food, you are more likely to effectively chew your food. Thus, digestion will be more complete and efficient. Also, meals will be much more enjoyable!
- Wait until you have digested your previous meal. Listen to the wisdom of your body. It is best to eat when you are truly hungry—not too little and not too much. Eating before your previous meal has been digested is one cause for acid reflux. At the same time, those who experience acid reflux on a regular basis may be able to manage symptoms by eating several small meals throughout the day. However, it is always wise to listen to your body’s signals. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied but not stuffed. In fact, this brings us to the next guideline…
- Eat until you are 75% full. This guideline can be especially helpful for soothing acid reflux. Ayurveda teaches that acid reflux is caused by a weak digestive fire. When food does not move an an efficient, timely way through the gastrointestinal tract, it may come up the other way, causing acid reflux. Stress and certain food triggers (such as greasy, spicy, acidic foods) can also play a major role. Therefore, not overloading the stomach with too much food at once can be helpful. On the other hand, eating very infrequently can also make matters worse. So, best to take the middle road and give the body just what it needs—no more and no less. By eating until you feel like your stomach is about 2/3 full, you help optimize your body’s ability to digest the food you have consumed.
These are just a few simple ideas to put you on the path to digestive superstardom. Although these principles seems simple, putting them into practice on a regular basis is often easier said than done. However, when incorporated on a regular basis, the effects can be profound.
Herbal Allies for Digestive Support
In addition to smart food choices and healthy eating habits, special herbs and spices can support digestive health and ease acid reflux. One important factor to consider is regular bowel movements. If you have acid reflux and experience constipation or any trouble eliminating, you may want to consider the famous ayurvedic herbal compound, Triphala. Triphala, meaning “three fruits” is a combination of three very astringent, sour-tasting fruits. This time-tested herbal compound can be taken as a capsule or powder. It is famous for its ability to gently regulate bowel movements without causing dependency.
In addition, there is a special herbal formula just for acid reflux. It is called Avipattikar Churna and can be purchased from special ayurvedic product suppliers. This herbal compound soothes hyperacidity, and I have personally witnessed it calm esophageal spasms.
Lastly, consider common kitchen spices for soothing acid reflux. Ginger, turmeric, citrus peel, and bitter salad greens can all be helpful. You may have to do some experimentation to see what works best for you.
Digestive Health Wisdom
I really can’t say enough about how Ayurveda supports digestive wellness. This article has provided a handful of tips to get you started. Above all, tune in, listen to the wisdom of your body, and be curious to learn more! Small changes can have a huge impact.