Did you know that the number of bacteria within your gut is approximately 10 times that of all the cells in your body? Amazing, isn’t it?
In fact, you have hundreds of different species of bacteria in your gut helping you digest your food.
Don’t worry, they are the kind you want to have in your system.1 These good bacteria in your gut can improve your immune system function, reduce symptoms of depression, keep obesity in check, and provide other health benefits.
Until recent years, no one really talked about gut microorganisms in mainstream medicine. However, it’s now recognized that every aspect of your health is influenced by the microorganisms living in your body, especially the ones in your intestines. These microorganisms make up your gut microbiome.
There are many external factors that influence the composition of your gut microbiome. The most important factors are your diet and digestion. Ayurveda and other traditional health systems have, for thousands of years, focused on what you eat and how you digest it.
Let’s go a little deeper to understand the vital role your digestive system plays on your health, and what Ayurveda has to say about it.
Ayurveda’s Take On Your Gut Health, Diet and Digestion
Ayurveda’s foundation lies deep in the way you live your life. Your physical and mental wellness is rooted in the health of your digestive system.
You are what you digest – rather than you are what you eat.
Poor digestion leads to the build-up of “ama” or toxins which are nothing but the by-product of poorly digested food, which collects within pockets throughout your body and creates all sorts of problems.
I say all this with personal experience too. I have a history of emotional eating, overeating, and chronic digestive issues that began after having my children and during a very stressful time in my life. I was looking for answers to my digestive problems and that’s what led me to the Ayurvedic way of living.
Ayurveda, the science of life, recommends compassionate eating.
Compassionate eating is about “eating the right way” but not necessarily about “eating right.”
After I started practicing compassionate eating along with yoga and meditation, I can confidently say that I have healed my digestive issues. Which has greatly reduced the chronic inflammation and discomfort that I suffered.
Now, I would say 90% of the time:
- I eat for nourishment and vitality
- I don’t overeat like I used to
- I eat because I’m hungry
Eating with compassion has made my body strong from within. I now have confidence and peace in my relationship with food. How did I achieve all this? Well, I started listening to my body and followed a checklist to bring about this change.
When you follow this checklist, I promise it will bring about this transformation in you too.
“Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”
~ Louise L. Hay
Compassionate Eating Checklist to Aid Your Digestive System:
You don’t have to be hard on yourself and try to do them all at once. Slow and steady is the name of the game.
Intentionally changing your eating habits and routines is not necessarily easy at first, but with consistency change is absolutely attainable. Plus, the health benefits that compassionate eating brings will keep you coming back for more.
Eat when you are hungry
- Focus on your food while eating it, savour it without distractions like your device or TV.
- Pause and experience gratitude for the person who prepared your food. Love your food and those who prepared it before it becomes your body.
- If you tend to overeat, focus on getting full with all your senses rather than just your tongue.
- Chew your food – drink your solids and chew your liquids.
- Notice the tastes, the flavors, the textures of the food in your mouth, and how they change as they mix with your physiology.
Prepare your own food
- As convenient as it may be to grab something on the go, for a healthier you, you need to invest in preparing your own food. Your body is intelligent and knows specifically how much of which foods it needs. Awaken this intelligence by making your food for yourself.
- Go shopping for your groceries and buy the whole foods your body is craving. If your body craves that colorful fruit you have never had in your life then grab it and give it a try.
- Eat what is local and seasonal. Do some research to find this information. Or join a local gardening group to get involved. Grow some herbs or sprouts in your home to feel the joy of growing your own food.
Don’t confuse your thirst with your hunger.
- Drinking room temperature water between your meals will help you clarify this relationship between your thirst and hunger.
- Fasting on water between your meals might also help you with this.
Eat a healthy breakfast.
- It could be either a simple cereal like oats, a green smoothie with fruits and green veggies, or a source of healthy fats and protein. If you start your day on the right note, then the likelihood of following through the rest of the day is much higher.
Eat during daylight hours.
- Only eat as much and as frequently as your body needs. Be honest with yourself and listen to your body’s hunger cues.
- As a general guideline, your dosha type3 tells you the number of times you eat – if you are a Vata – eat 3-5x a day, Pitta – eat 3x a day, Kapha – 1-2x a day
- Relax after eating. After a big meal, rest for 15 minutes, then go for a light walk.
- Eat a light dinner, leaving time to digest before you hit the bed.
If you notice, the checklist above does not focus so much on “what to eat” and “what not to eat.” It rather focuses on the “how to” and “when to eat” parts. It guides you to bring consciousness into your eating habits; be aware of your body’s food cravings and respond accordingly. It guides you to love your food and the feelings it brings to your senses, allowing you to fall in love with yourself with every bite.
Ayurveda also talks about the “what to eat” part. Let’s take a look at some of the foods it suggests.
One such food is Kitchari
This one-pot dish is a warm bowl of gentle deliciousness for your belly and soul. It is a perfect blend of yellow moong beans and rice with mild spices and ghee. You can have Kitchari as an everyday meal or you can use it for cleansing and balancing purposes. Anytime you need to reset your gut and body, kitchari is a dependable option. It’s nourishing enough to continue to eat it exclusively for several days in a row. Give it a try. You will find the recipe here.
Ayurveda also stresses eating local foods and seasonal menus.
It offers a method for seasonally based routines and food choices, meaning you choose what to eat based on what’s in season, it’s an essential part of maintaining gut and immune health year-round.
With this approach in mind, let’s get your belly happy and build your digestive system.
Autumn and also some parts of winter, are considered a Vata season.
Vata season looks and feels like days of dry, cold, windy and changing weather. Just like these weather patterns affect the natural world and animal kingdom where they occur, they affect humans too, bringing mood swings, erratic energy, disrupted digestion, gas, and bloating. Not to mention, the holiday season encourages unnatural eating, overindulgence in sweets, extra alcohol, crazy food combinations, etc.
This again makes for a very good reason to get on board with your journey towards compassionate eating and healing your gut health by adopting the checklist above, one box at a time.
Try Compassionate Eating
The key steps to compassionate eating to aid your gut health and improve your digestive system are:
- Listening to your gut (your intestine tract and it’s microbial mecca) – it will tell you what works for you and your digestive system
- Eating only when you are hungry – don’t eat because you are bored, feeling low or seeking sensation
- Preparing your own food – it’s therapeutic and rewarding for your senses
- Eating a healthy breakfast – a nourishing start to a balanced day
- Not confusing thirst to hunger – drink room temperature water, often
- Do the bulk of your eating during daylight hours – keeping dinner light and allowing enough time for the food to digest before bed
And most importantly, enjoy your food, feel grateful for the plate of food in front of you, savor the food you are blessed with, and eat with all your senses attuned and delighted.
It’s always an ideal time to immerse yourself in the benefits of compassionate eating. Be it the perfect time to pause (if that ever exists) or during the holidays when food is in abundance your body and gut will benefit when you reset your internal system with a fresh approach.
This time you spend caring for yourself with compassion and consistency, prioritizing the food you eat, will leave you nourished and confident in your body.
I can offer you extra support through my group Reset programs, which are a 14-day interactive online group wellness course. The Reset courses are designed to:
- reduce unfavorable food cravings,
- increase nutrition,
- guide you through yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and gratitude.
Which in turn, will help you relieve stress, sleep better, feel better, and love yourself more.
I also offer 1-1 guidance and coaching.
Click here to sign up up for a free consultation. Let’s have a conversation about what you’re looking for and whether or not I’m the right person to help you.
With High Regards,