Everyday Boosts to Your Gut Health
By Rippan Sandhu
In the health philosophies of the east, the gut is called ‘the seat of the queen’ — and for good reason! Ayurveda has long considered all diseases of the body to originate with some disturbance in the gut. Not only is it a delicate organ and your body’s first stop when it comes to waste management, the gut is also host to a wide range of bacterial flora. Think of your body like an ecosystem: when each element lives in harmony with each other, plants bloom and animals flourish; when there is overpopulation or underpopulation, that harmony is disrupted and the entire ecosystem suffers. The gut is the same, and should be as important on your health checklist as your lungs, your heart, and your bones.
If you suffer from frequent bloating, indigestion, irregular bowel movements, and even acid reflux and heartburn, then the ecosystem of the gut is out of balance and must be corrected to return you to your full, blooming health. The gut after all, is the seat of the queen and the source of your bread-and-butter every day problems. So here are some bread-and-butter, every day solutions!
REST, REPAIR, REDISCOVER
Your digestion is both the processing and waste management system of your entire body. Everything foreign that goes inside you must pass through your gut, and so in many ways it’s your first line of defence. When something is wrong with your digestion and the delicate flora of your intestines, then that will affect your entire body — leading to bloating, indigestion, irregular bowel movements, and even long term disease. Rather than pop pills to treat surface symptoms, address the root cause by putting your gut on a total detox. This warmer, spring weather is the perfect time to begin, as Ayurveda recognises that Ama, or bodily toxins, build up during the cold weather and should be dispelled once the season turns. To reset your gut, try a simple detox diet by cutting down on — or even better, eliminating all together — certain elements from your food:
Week one: Gluten
Week two: Dairy
Week three: Red meat
Week four: Sugar
Remember to keep a handy and simple food diary to track how your body feels at each stage! At this point, your gut will begin the process of healing itself and rebalancing its delicate bacteria. After a month, slowly reintroduce these ingredients back into your diet — one at a time, making sure to note any positive or adverse effects you feel, both physically and mentally. Not only does this reset your digestive system, it also gives you valuable lessons on how best to fuel your body.
FUEL FOR THE FIRE
The flip side of Ama in Ayurveda is Agni: your digestive fire. This is the flame that keeps you going — mentally, and physically. This is also the flame that, if it’s not properly nourished, becomes the basis for all physical disease. A healthy digestive fire nourishes every organ in your body, extracts the necessary nutrients from the food you consume, and leaves behind minimal undigested food — the stuff that eventually turns into Ama, toxins.
When your fire is burning brightly, your body will be in optimal condition: mental clarity, energy and vitality, naturally warm, and of course — efficient digestion. When your fire is burning low, you get the exact opposite: a confused mind, lethargy and fatigue, bad circulation, and bouts of indigestion and bloating. To stoke your fire — especially before meals, when you’ll need it in full force! — try chewing on a slice of ginger and sipping on some fresh squeezed lemon juice with just a dash of salt. This will awaken your digestion and tell it that it’s time to work.
GO NATURAL ON PROBIOTICS
What did our ancestors do in the days before supplements? They just got what they needed from their diets! Probiotics in 2020 is one of those ‘hot’ new supplements that everyone seems to be taking, for the simple reason that it’s an easy shot of the nutrients they’re not getting in with their meals. Rather than run to the store for an expensive bottle of probiotics, try out the Ayurvedic way of getting valuable bacteria into your gut, which has been time tested for centuries: the lassi.
This is the perfect digestive aid to keep away bloating and gas. Yoghurt itself can some times hurt your digestion, but thinning it out with water and spices/herbs like ginger, cumin, and coriander, and drinking it at room temperature helps smooth the inflammation and excessive heat in your gut. Simply combine yoghurt, room temperature water, ginger, cumin, and coriander to a drinkable consistency and enjoy after your lunch!
HERB & SPICE DETOX
Cumin isn’t the only spice guaranteed to liven up your digestive fire — along with coriander seeds, ginger, and fennel, these four spices combine to create a powerful spice tonic that can do wonders for a sluggish digestive system. If your gut isn’t adequately absorbing the nutrients you need, it can lead to an excessive build up of Ama, which can have negative consequences on the rest of your body. To get your daily dose of spice fuel, there’s no simpler way than boiling cumin, fennel, and coriander seeds with a slice of ginger to make a tea. Not only will this simple tea help awaken your digestion, it’s also helpful in flushing toxins through urine and stimulating your lymphatic system.
Now that the weather is warming up (and lockdown is easing up…) it’s the perfect time to come out of our winter cocoons into the warm spring sun. Believe it or not, getting your body up and moving is actually going to do your gut a world of good, especially now when we can actually stand to come outside.
In Ayurvedic tradition, getting out and about during the mornings is actually linked to the overall health of your gut — as your mind, in Ayurveda, is connected to your gut. Morning walks, according to Ayurveda, are a rasayana — rejuvenative, for good reason. Not only does it help soothe and stimulate your digestive fire, but it also helps maintain your metabolism and in the long term — your weight. Take a turn about your garden tomorrow morning — just for ten minutes as the sun is still rising in the sky. Breathe in, breathe out. Feel the difference.