You Are What You Digest | Ayurveda

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You are not what you eat; You are what you digest.

Having used foods to help heal my ulcerative colitis since a young age, I am no stranger to health foods like raw kale salads and green smoothies. And while no doubt these foods are packed with vitamins and minerals, I've learned that you are not necessarily able to absorb those nutrients just because you chew these foods. In order to fully utilize the foods we eat, we must fully digest them.

One concept that is central to Ayurvedic medicine is the concept of Agni, or digestive fire.  Imagine that there is a small fire burning within your lower stomach and small intestine. The goal is to keep this fire stoked without letting it get too big or smothering it to death. We all digest food differently. If someone drinks a raw green smoothie, for some it can be like throwing a huge wet log on top of the fire and extinguishing it. This can cause all sorts of problems in the body. Meanwhile others, who have a very strong agni, drink the smoothie and are able to digest it just fine.

So how can you tell if you are digesting your food properly? After eating, one should feel content, satisfied and energized. Your bowel movements will be well formed and timely, and you will feel hungry shortly after waking up in the morning. If you are experiencing lethargy, exhaustion, or pain and discomfort after eating, you are not digesting your food properly. Other indications that your food may not be digesting well can be: constipation, diarrhea, lack of appetite and an overall feeling of sluggishness.

Along with determining how to eat properly for one's unique constitution or dosha, agni is the most important factor in determining how and what we should be eating. One's agni can become compromised by overeating, under-eating, eating the same foods year round regardless of season change, drinking too much water with meals, staying up late, eating at irregular times, and lack of exercise.
 
Here are a few tips and tricks to help keep your agni balanced:

  • Follow your body's own signals. If you are not hungry, don't eat. 
  • Resist the urge to snack throughout the day if you are not hungry. Your body needs time to digest your previous meal before you feed it again.
  • It is best to wait at least two hours after you eat to exercise, otherwise your food doesn't have time to fully digest. 
  • Try to eat in a relaxed, quiet atmosphere. This includes away from computers and phones! Make it a mini-vacation by unplugging while you eat.
  • It is important to eat the foods that are balancing for your body type, seasonally appropriate, and in proper proportions.
  • And don't forget, is also important to enjoy the taste of what you are eating!

Sachi Doctor

Elemental Alchemy, 90 Rio Vista Avenue, Oakland, CA, 94611

Sachi Doctor is an Ayurvedic practitioner and holistic health coach who founded Elemental Alchemy with the mission to provide a resource for those navigating their way towards optimal mind-body health.

Diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at a young age, Sachi has spent over twenty years exploring different health modalities, treatment plans, diets and mindfulness practices to help alleviate chronic pain and restore balance.

After years of looking to others for a model of health with no relief, Sachi realized that the answers she sought were not hidden in someone else’s prescription for wellness but unique to her, and that the first step towards discovery was actually tuning out what was right for others and tuning into herself.

As she tapped into the wisdom of her own body, she discovered that the elements foundational for health  — the blueprint she so fervently sought — was within her, within each of us. Since then Sachi has been passionate about helping others also cultivate clarity and inner wisdom for vibrant health.

In addition to her Ayurvedic and nutrition education, Sachi has completed over 800 hours of yoga teacher training and continues to study with her mother, her first yoga teacher, for whom these practices are a way of life.

Sachi is a board member of the Prison Yoga Project at San Quentin State Prison and serves as an ambassador for Yoga Gives Back, a non-profit that raises funds within the US yoga community to support microcredit programs for women in India. She holds a Msc in Development from the London School of Economics.