School of Ayurvedic Diet & Digestion
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Of course, in modern life there are many stressors that can leave you feeling despondent such as career pressures, relationship troubles, financial worries or lack of fulfillment. A healthy digestive system is not going to magically take these problems away, but it will boost your physical and emotional strength and put you in a better position to cope with tough times.
Our spiritual well being is the ultimate foundation for happiness. However, without strong digestion, it may feel like you're taking two steps forward and one step back. Improving digestion can play an important role in in reducing the physical causes of unhappiness.
The connection between the brain and the belly is a two way street. In fact, the gut sends more information to the brain than vice versa. Many of these messages travel 'upstream' along the vagus nerve. The microbes in your digestive system have a direct effect on the brain as they produce certain neurotransmitters. Special cells in the gut also produce hormones and neurochemicals that directly affect mood, including serotonin and endorphins. This relatively new area of research is opening up a new perspective on how our gut health affects how we think, feel and behave and also the role it plays in disorders such as anxiety and depression.
But the nerves of the gut are only half the story. Toxicity plays an important role, too.
Ama irritates your gut. And, some of it gets absorbed into the bloodstream, where it irritates your nervous system, and makes you feel emotional. When bacteria digest your food instead of you, they get the nutrients and you don't. This can leave you feeling depleted and fatigued.
Mentally, ama is responsible for brain fog, low mood, negative thinking and some forms of depression. Ama makes it feel like you are living each day in a haze. When ama is high, life is colorless, exhausting and uninspiring. It clogs up bodily channels and emotions can get trapped and repressed in the mind. These toxins also irritate the nervous system which can contribute to increased feelings of anxiety, and even anger. Even though these conditions are disorders of the mind, when you trace their root cause back to digestive toxins, you can start to understand the brain-belly connection from an Ayurvedic perspective.
Depression is a heavy, slow and dull condition. To balance feelings of depression, light and sharp foods should be included in the diet. This heavy dull, type of depression is most commonly associated with an imbalance in Kapha dosha. People with a predominance of Kapha generally experience excess mucous in the upper gastrointestinal tract, particularly the stomach, which can leave them feeling tired, sluggish, lethargic and depressed after eating. To balance this, Kapha people need some stimulation of pungent and bitter tastes to enhance digestion and follow these guidelines to balance slow digestion.
Anger is a hot, sharp and fast condition. To balance an angry disposition, introduce foods with cool and dull attributes. Anger is a typical Pitta disorder, and generally those who are quick to anger often have inflammation, irritation, loose stools and acid reflux in their digestive tract. Sound familiar? Introduce sweet and bitter flavors to cool and cleanse an irritated intestine and follow these steps to balance Pitta digestion.
Anxiety is a dry, light and mobile condition. To calm the mind and stabilize your nervous system, it is important to emphasize comfort foods with oily and heavy attributes. Generally those experiencing anxiety have a predominance of Vata in the digestive system which can often lead to dryness and constipation. IBS is a typically Vata digestive disorder that has been closely linked to anxiety. Because of Vata's dryness, Enzyme output is also generally low in Vata types which means they struggle to digest complex meals. If this sounds like you, enjoy simple, easy to digest meals and start incorporating some of these techniques to balance Vata digestion.
If boosting your mood, feeling joyful, and healing the gut is a priority for you, eat a diet of easy to digest food. Complex meal with many different ingredients requires far more energy to digest and will slow the digestive process down. Your belly and brain thrive off these easy to digest foods. Also, don't forget to sip hot water throughout the day. This will keep your body hydrated and mind refreshed, while also stimulating and supporting the digestive system. Make sure to avoid iced drinks at all times, as these shock the body and increases digestive toxins.
Still having trouble? Get our complete tips in Healthy Digestion Made Simple
Students in the Mastering Ayurvedic Digestion & Nutrition program learn these fundamental methods and many other advanced techniques to pinpoint and recalibrate digestion, so their clients function with optimal vitality.
A strong digestive system leads to a strong and capable mind. Therefore, the foods you eat have a significant impact on mood, how you feel each day and how you handle difficult times. Learn to eat for digestion and you'll find yourself processing emotions more efficiently, feeling lighter, brighter and more enthusiastic about life.
About the AuthorJohn Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda. His approach to Ayurveda exudes a certain ease, which many find enjoyable and insightful. His online course Balance Your Ayurvedic Diet in a Week provides tools for gracefully healing with Ayurveda to thousands. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda , which specializes in digestive tract pathology & Ayurvedic nutrition. John and his wife Natalie recently published Explore Your Hunger: A Guide to Hunger, Appetite & Food.
John's interest in Ayurveda and digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, including his public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well.