Digestion and well-being at the heart of Ayurveda Part 2: the stomach & small intestine
Ayurveda, diet and digestion are at the heart of health. A slow or suboptimal digestive fire (mandagni) would be the cause of more than 60% of the diseases. Why not? We eat 3 meals a day, not always aware of what we swallow, more or less aware of the ingredients or combinations that are a source of discomfort and often strongly influenced by the latest research, fad, advertising or marketing not necessarily oriented toward health and disease prevention.
The mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine and colon are key organs to our well-being (see text on the colon – elimination). New research is supporting the connection between the digestive organs and the environment. Ingested food is a source of physical information that connects internally with the doshas, and is able to alter perceptions making the central nervous system intimately connected to the digestive system. What we eat affects our mental, emotional and spiritual functions and vice versa!
In Ayurveda, each individual is unique – any food can be good but not for everyone or all the time (season, age …) . This is common sense! To respect one’s nature (prakruti) is therefore essential.
Ayurveda divides the digestive tract (mahavaha srota) into digestion (annavaha srota) dominated by pitta and kapha doshas. The doshas (trends) will combine with the organas in relation to their qualities. The first digestive stage is the Sweet stage-(Madhura) with kapha connected to the mouth and stomach, liver and pancreas; it is a stage of liquefefaction. The second stage is the Acid stage (Amla) with pitta connected to the small intestine, liver / gall bladder, and spleen; it is a stage of acidification. The third stage is the Pungent stage (Katu) connected to Vata and the large intestine (colon); it is the stage of the alkalization of food.
Ayurveda tells us about the effects of food and their journey through the digestive tract in direct relation with our unique personality and environment. The ingredients we eat have 3 qualities, rasa, virya and vipaka. Rasa is the taste perceived by the tongue and its taste receptors. Virya is the energy we get from food, cold or hot and vipaka is the post-digestive flavor that affects the stomach and intestine.
Ayurveda teaches us when, what and how to eat to maintain our digestive fires (indriya & jathar agni) in balance. Although the digestive fires are managed by pitta dosha, 5 sub-doshas are involved in the digestive processes. The integral physiological approach of ayurveda is a guide for balance and well-being between the body, the 5 senses, the energy (prana), the mind and the consciousness (atman).
For a digestive well-being:
Food – quality / freshness, choice and mix of foods, judicious use of spices to modulate / balance digestive fires, hydration, detox / cleansing and clarified butter (ghee) to pacify the digestive fires
Environment – a positive physical, mental, emotional and spiritual atmosphere during the meals
Daily Routine – balancing work, exercise, relaxation, meditation, sleep, body care
New Ayurvedic cooking workshops (see workshops) are offered to introduce a balanced, basic vegetarian cuisine that adapts as well to non-vegetarian, and which, without a doubt, will satisfy your taste buds and digestive tract. An excellent occasion to learn more about the 6 tastes and their value in health care!