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Ayurvedic View of Optimal Digestion
Is your digestion as good as it could be? According to Ayurveda, the physical root of all disease is improper digestion. Therefore, maintaining good digestion is the key to optimal health. The Sanskrit term for digestive fire is “agni”. There are many factors that decrease it’s capability, like stress and improper diet. Yet many good habits can improve agni. Chief among them is starting off the day with the perfect breakfast.
Imagine you are living in a home that is heated solely by a wood stove. To get it started in the morning, it is necessary to begin with just the right size kindling to build the fire. Newspaper might be used beneath some twigs and thin strips of wood. Then as that catches, you begin to add larger and larger logs of wood until the fire is really roaring. The fire will now stay strong for the whole day with the addition of more wood.
Agni is like the fire in the wood stove. As the morning sun rises in the sky, our inner fire awakens as well. First thing in the morning, the agni needs just the right size kindling in order to be fueled. Eating only fruit for breakfast is like putting paper on the fire. The fire consumes it but is not made stronger. And eating a heavy breakfast of bacon and eggs can smother the fire like placing a big log in the fire before the kindling. The ideal kindling for our digestion in the morning is a hot, whole grain porridge. Whole grains nourish the Earth element that is our digestion. When they are slowly cooked to unleash their inner vitality, they benefit digestion, increase assimilation, and boost metabolism. Choose the appropriate grains and seasonings for your constitution. You will find yourself quite hungry within a few hours. Don’t worry about an increased appetite; true hunger is a very good sign that your digestive fire is alive and well. Because you have already burned through the kindling, by mid to late morning you’re ready for more substantial fuel.
Most people are in the habit of having coffee or tea first thing in the morning, both of which extinguish our appetite and our agni. I wouldn’t dare forbid anyone from having their morning coffee, for fear of having my head cut off, but it is wise to accompany the caffeine with the porridge nonetheless. It will still do it’s job of feeding our fire.
So it turns out, as usual, that our mothers were right all along. Breakfast IS the most important meal of the day.
Dr. Sharada Hall is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine who integrates Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine in her private healthcare practice. She is also the founder of Bodhimed.com, an online natural health magazine devoted to Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine. Find practical health tips from ancient medical traditions that you can easily apply to your life at http://bodhimed.com.