Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude, family, friends, memories, and traditions. However, it is also a time where many people overindulge in the delicious, and often carbohydrate-heavy, foods. This not only leaves us feeling slow and sluggish but has the potential to completely throw our usual healthy diets out the window. Thankfully, there are few ways to support the body and avoid the pitfalls of over-consumption.
In Ayurveda, the digestive process is considered central to the development of good quality of Tejas (intelligence), Ojas (vitality) and Prana (life-force). The digestive process is a broad term that includes our gross digestion of food, digestion of elements (sugar, amino acids, fats), cellular metabolism, as well as digestion of sensory inputs, thoughts, and ideas. Digestion is the key to converting good food into good nutrition for the body, while separating out and eliminating the waste.
In Ayurveda, the digestive fire is called Agni. The quality of digestion is based on the health of the digestive fire. Agni is the source of awareness, nutrition, and intelligence. It drives all types of transformation, digests thoughts and emotions, and coordinates countless physiological processes—including the digestion, absorption, and assimilation of foods, sensations, and experiences into energy. When Agni is too weak or too strong, a form of intermediate waste product, called Ama begins to accumulate and cause blockages. In fact, maintaining balanced agni may just be the secret to achieving optimal health and longevity.
The diet is the primary way to maintain balance during the holidays. When we incorporate all 6 tastes, sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent, within one meal not only our taste buds, but our entire body and mind are satisfied. Fall fruits and vegetables such as apples, pumpkins, pears, squash, and sweet potatoes shine this time of year with their vivid orange, yellow, brown, and red colors. In addition to their outer beauty, autumn produce are rich in fiber, vitamin E, low in calories, and great for balancing vata. Following the heaviness of a Thanksgiving feast, you can lighten the load with some easy to digest meals. Ayurveda recommends warm, spiced foods, and hot herbal teas such as Provata Tea™, made from fennel, ginger, licorice, cinnamon, cardamom, and ajwain. Simple, well cooked foods, like Ginger Carrot soup (see recipe below), are a great way to pacify vata and maintain balance. Ginger and black pepper promote circulation and digestion, thus reducing congestion and sluggishness from overly rich, oily foods. Carrots are high in anti-oxidants which are beneficial for immune function.
Sometimes, optimal digestion requires additional support. Ayurveda offers a variety of options to including yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, and herbal remedies to further enhance digestion.
When you have finished eating, it is important to take a full, deep breath before getting up and moving on to your next activity. This helps the body to register satisfaction and retains a helpful level of mindfulness as you transition away from eating. If meals tend to make you sleepy, a very short walk after a meal can be highly beneficial.
A combination of three fruits, amla (Emblica officinalis), haritaki (Terminalis chebula) and bahera (Terminalia belerica), triphala functions synergistically to enable optimal digestion and elimination. This traditional formulation contains high levels of antioxidants, tannins and vitamin C to support optimal health and vitality while balancing vata, pitta, and kapha. It is revered for its unique ability to gently cleanse and detoxify the digestive tract, while replenishing, nourishing, and rejuvenating the tissues. In this way, Triphala tends to support agni throughout the body. Triphala has bowel-regulating properties and provides digestive and elimination support and can be taken after meals or at bedtime.
Translating to the “three bitters,” the ancient combination of black pepper (Piper nigrum), ginger (Zingiber officinalis) and long pepper (Piper longum) form an energizing and digestion enhancing tonic known as trikatu. Trikatu enhances the metabolic processes by aiding digestion in and elimination of toxic products from the body. This formula promotes the body’s secretion of hydrochloric acid and other substances in the stomach and should therefore be taken before meals to optimize digestion.
Pre/probiotic supplements offer several beneficial properties including supporting digestive and immune system health. Prebiotics serve as a fertilizer to make beneficial bacteria in the gut, while probiotics provide good bacteria to the gut. Most high quality probiotic supplements contain a variety of live strains including Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium lactis, Bifidobacterium longum, and Streptococcus thermophilus to name a few. What makes Ayush’s probiotic supplement unique is the human origins of the bacterial strains, which makes them not only well-suited to adapt to the human body, but also acid and bile resistant, so that they survive the stomach acid. Additionally, Ayush’s all natural probiotic supplements are available in a vegetarian capsule, free of common allergens, backed by scientific studies, and are third-party tested.
Ayurveda regards healthy digestion and elimination as the key to promoting health. With the simple Ayurvedic techniques and supplements mentioned above, you can maintain healthy digestion and elimination throughout the holiday season and beyond. Your digestive system will thank you.
Ginger Carrot Soup
- 1/2 tsp Black pepper
- 2 medium Carrots, chopped
- 1 medium Celery stalk, chopped
- 1/4 inch Ginger (fresh), peeled and grated
- 2 tsp Olive oil or ghee
- 1/4 tsp Wright salt
For different flavor profiles, consider substituting in curry powder, cumin, or turmeric. Cinnamon and nutmeg could also be used to give the soup a slightly sweet flavor that pairs well with the carrot.
- Place carrots, ginger, and celery into a blender
- Fill the blender with enough water to just cover the vegetables and puree the mixture
- Pour into pot and boil with other ingredients 10-15 minutes