Digestion and the role of wellbeing
By Dr. Ajit
In an effort to live healthy and to achieve wellness it is good to see at last that every system of medicine, either it is our mainstream medical system or naturopathy, herbal medicine, Chinese medicine, integrated or functional medicine, everyone has started accepting the role of digestion in wellbeing.
Ayurveda, one of the oldest systems of medicine, has given the world this principle of digestion being the key to wellbeing thousands of years ago. Ayurvedic medicine clearly states that every disease starts in the gut. When one’s metabolism is compromised, the body will produce more toxins and less nutrients and those toxins ultimately become the core cause of ailments.
While everyone talks about digestion and its importance, still the majority of people suffer from gut problems, either it is simple digestion problems such as indigestion, gas, gastric reflux or serious ailments such as colitis, chron’s, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis or colon cancer.
The reason of this is very simple. While digestion has become a key component in a practitioner’s approach to health, most of the time their understanding revolves around advising the client to either eat salads or take fruits in the form of smoothies or dairy free, gluten free or nightshade free diets so these can improve digestion. Along with such advice, clients are always advised to take loads of probiotics or digestive enzymes or other vitamins or minerals to improve their digestive wellbeing. While such advice helps those clients, it is only for a short time and within few weeks or months they are back with same problems, and in some cases, even worse.
The reason for this is very clear. Ayurvedic science advises that digestion is not just about what you eat but how food is prepared, how foods are combined and how some foods are incompatible due to one’s body makeup, or season or time of day. For example, if one is advised not to eat gluten and only eats gluten free bread, one will notice the problem is still not solved. The reason is it is not gluten that is causing the problem but the yeast that make the bread incompatible in clients whose digestion is compromised. Hence, unless the client removes all yeast related products, it won’t help.
In the same way, how the food you are eating gets metabolised in our system is very important. Ayurvedic medicine advises one must consider the state of our digestive fire (known commonly as Agni). The principle of digestion in Ayurveda revolves around no matter how good our food or how balanced our diet. if one’s digestive fire is not in an optimum state, it will not metabolise the food properly and will produce more toxins and bring more disease. Ayurveda’s approach to digestive problems is more effective because the ayurvedic practitioner focuses on the digestive fire or what is know as the metabolic intelligence of the client.
Hence while one is able to understand the implication of digestion, you need to seek ayurvedic support to know what foods are good for your constitution and the season, what are compatible breakfast, lunch and dinner options, according to the state of your digestion function (or Agni), so whatever you are eating can provide more nutrition and less toxins (ama).
Ayurveda says digestion is your first and foremost step towards wellbeing. But unless you follow a complete approach to digestion and metabolism, total wellbeing can elude you. Ayurvedic practitioners while dealing with clients who come with digestive problems will create a well balanced programme for them where as a first step the client will be given certain daily and seasonal routines to eliminate the build up of toxins on a daily basis, The client will then be provided with comprehensive list of incompatible foods that are responsible for the build-up of toxins by compromising their digestion. The client will be also given most this important principle – how to make food as medicine. In this the client will be given options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, according to their imbalances and according to their Prakruti or bodily constitution.
Finally, the ayurvedic practitioner will advise some herbs or formulations that help to revive the intelligence of the digestion for their client by correcting the cause of their problem.