Something I’ve struggled with since my diagnosis is digestion. In fact, before my diagnosis I was already sensitive to a variety of foods. No matter how many different kinds of treatments and doctors I saw nobody could actually tell me what was wrong. Once I knew that I had diabetes it all made sense. Higher blood sugars had contributed to yeast overgrowth and leaky gut. Luckily my knowledge of Ayurveda was a great starting point to rebalance and reboot my digestion. That’s why I am super excited to share with you a guest blog today by Nicole Young the founder of Three Harmony on how to recognise when your digestive system is dangerously compromised and how to rebalance it. Take it away Nicole
Proper digestion is key to a healthy life and maintaining a strong Agni (digestive fire) is essential. It is not only the way we digest food, but our emotions and thoughts as well, how we process stress, our lifestyle and environment. Ayurveda believes that the root cause of every imbalance and disease starts with improper digestion.
When the body is under stress, the soft tissues and channels are affected or constricted creating narrower passageways for the body to function normally and allow nutrients to become available to every part of the body. This creates blockages and Ama can build up in weaker areas. Over time this Ama could be a contributory factor to causing many serious illnesses.
The difference between Ama and toxins is that Ama is the undigested food residue and waste that forms a sticky sludge which is toxic and difficult to remove from the body, whereas toxins can be anything from the chemicals found in our food and environment to the stress responses in our body which can also create harmful chemical reactions.
Here are some signs and symptoms that you may notice when your digestion is not working properly:
- feeling of tightness or discomfort in the abdomen
- indigestion/pain in the stomach after eating
- suffering from gas and bloating
- abnormal bowel motion (diarrhoea and constipation etc.)
- blood/mucus or undigested food in stool
- haemorrhoids and anal bleeding
- inflammation in the body
- restless sleep, fatigue, general heaviness
- headaches or migraines
- skin conditions
- thick coating on tongue
So what can done before this gets any worse and it becomes the possible cause of a more serious illness like an autoimmune disorder such as ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes.
A one to three-day digestive reset is a good place to start – this is where you will eat a mono-diet of a food like Kitchari (dish made with rice, mung dal and spices) or a bone/vegetable broth to cleanse the bowel and allow the body to start to heal itself. After the specified number of days, you can slowly introduce foods that are easy to digest making sure to reduce pitta aggravating foods for a while, especially nightshades, spicy/hot/sweet/sugary foods etc. and increasing those that are cooling and calming in nature.
I personally have suffered from UC (ulcerative colitis) an IBD (inflammatory bowel disorder), but have been able to self-manage this IBD and self-heal naturally without having to take harmful pharmaceuticals for the rest of my life. A disease my gastroenterologist told me was incurable.
So after many years of suffering and not wanting to take any more drugs/products or try different health practitioners and diets/tests/treatments, I did my own extensive research. You should be sure to check that what you are reading is in fact true as there is so much conflicting information on the internet from people who are not really qualified to give it. Question everything, even your doctor’s advice because they may not be of the belief that healing is possible, even when it is, and they may only be able to offer specific advice and related drugs/products that are in their area of expertise or beneficial to their practice. You may find that this is just not enough to heal the body, especially if you want to do it naturally, and that things will work for some people but not for others – genetics and location certainly play a part too.
This is what has generally worked for me:
- dietary changes
- specific herbs and foods such as:
- stress and anti-inflammatory support – magnesium, ashwagandha, curcumin, chyavanprash, herbal teas etc.
- gut healing remedies – bone/vegetable broth, aloe vera juice, coconut oil/water, kefir, probiotics, fermented vegetables, digestive enzymes, clay, psyllium husk, liquorice root etc.
- keeping to a routine
- extra sleep when my body is digestively challenged
- practising regular yoga for digestion
- practising meditation to keep my state of mind balanced
I have also found this book very useful in relation to better understanding the digestive system, various digestive disorders and more specific suggestions on how to recover from them – “Restoring your Digestive Health” by Drs Jordan Rubin and Joseph Brasco. It has become a great reference guide for me when I’m digestively challenged.
And once you’re starting to feel better, it’s really important to keep on strengthening your Agni – here are some Ayurvedic tips for good digestion:
- eat at the correct times of the day
- eat warm/cooked foods
- avoid cold/raw food
- avoid chilled drinks while eating
- avoid incompatible food combinations
- use fresh, seasonal, organic ingredients
- eat slowly and chew your food properly
- have a calm and balanced mind
- bathe before eating
Ayurveda plays a huge part in self-healing and I would also say that local food and indigenous plants in your area are really important as well because the microbiome in your gut will be assisted during the healing process if you include these in your diet. After all, your body is a reflection of your natural local environment.
Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”
Nicole Young is the founder of Three Harmony, a Melbourne-based Ayurvedic consultant, Yoga teacher, writer and online educator. She is deeply passionate about traditional medicine and self-healing with Ayurveda and Yoga.