We’ve all have heard the saying “You are what you eat.” Ayurveda takes it a step further to say you are what you digest and assimilate. Ayurveda says this because you could be eating the “healthiest” foods and still suffer from gut and digestive issues if you aren’t properly breaking down food and absorbing the nutrients. The better your food is digested, the more nutrients you’ll absorb through food. Ayurvedic cooking works on clearing the whole digestive system to optimize our health.
If you experience any digestive discomfort such as bloating, gas, heartburn, constipation, acid reflux, or diarrhea we suggest using food to aid digestion and support a healthy intestinal tract.
Here are our top foods for improving digestion. Remember one-size does not fit all. Some of these foods are more recommended for different digestive or health issues.
Dark greens do incredible things for the body. Greens work as a scraping effect in the intestinal tract by removing any build-up to improve digestion. They help the liver, act as a gentle diuretic to purify the blood, cleanse your system, and assist in weight reduction. They also can help clear the skin, eliminate acne, improve bowel function, prevent anemia, and eliminate or reduce acid indigestion and gas build up by clearing the heaviness of fatty foods. These are just a few of the amazing benefits dark greens can do for your body. The insoluble fiber helps support health elimination. Bitter greens that are dark and leafy are what we are talking about. Some examples are dandelion, kale, arugula, and red chard. They are rich in vitamins and are exceptionally beneficial for digestion like most greens. We suggest bitter greens, as it is the least eaten taste in the American diet and can be very beneficial according to research. Eating bitter food activates taste buds that stimulate enzyme production and bile flow, which promotes digestion.
Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage that contains natural probiotics. If your gut flora is unbalanced between the “good” and “bad” bacteria, then the probiotics in sauerkraut can be beneficial. Probiotic rich foods help feed the good bacteria, which can reduce bloating, gas, and other gastrointestinal issues. Sauerkraut is best made at home and not bought in stores, as it will have more diversity in probiotics. Sauerkraut is a fermented food. Fermented foods have great benefits for the microbiota, but can be too heating for some individual’s body constitution. Thus, we suggest knowing your Dosha (body constitution). We suggest sauerkraut for Kapha individuals and in some cases Vata individuals. Pitta people should be cautious in how much they eat regularly as it can lead to imbalances.
Bone Broth (For non-vegetarians/vegans)
Bone broth has been used for centuries to support digestion, immune function, and bone health. It can be used to treat leaky gut syndrome, improve joint health, and overcome food intolerances. The collagen that is excreted from the bones of the animals that helps heal the gut lining. It can be made or bought for a store. We recommend this particularly for people who are aging and need support for their bones.
Ghee (For non-vegans)
Ghee is clarified butter that is a rich dietary source of butyric acid. Butyric acid, also known as butyrate, is a short chain fatty acid (SCFA) that the intestinal wall thrives on. Ghee helps restore the integrity of the gut lining, reduces inflammation, has anti-viral properties, and lines the gut lining to have easy elimination. The cells of the colon use butyric acid as an energy source to support the health of the intestinal wall. Research has shown that often patients with digestive tract issues do not produce butyric acid and have low levels of fatty acids or related oils in the gut. When the gut is healthy, the microbiome converts fiber to butyric acid. Ghee can help aid the body in protecting the integrity of the gut lining when your body is having digestive issues.
Ginger is one of the universal medicines. (1) Ginger in food, before meals, or as a strong tea helps stimulate saliva, bile, and gastric juice production to aid in digestion. Ginger had been used for centuries to treat gastrointestinal system issues like gas, bloating, upset stomach, colic, heartburn, flatulence, and diarrhea.
Experimental Research has shown that ginger and its active components (6-gingerol and 6-shogaol) exert anticancer activities against Gastrointestinal (GI) cancer, one of the most common cancers in the world. We suggest eating a thin slice of ginger in lemon juice 15 minutes before your meals to boost your digestive fire (Agni).
Drinking warm water throughout the day cleans the body of Ama (toxins) and keeps the body hydrated
Turmeric is one of the best spices to reduce inflammation, while it boost digestion, and helps to improve intestinal flora. (1) It promotes proper metabolism in the body and aids in the digestion of proteins.
Other digestive spices we recommend are: cumin, coriander, fenugreek, and black pepper.
Start by slowly adding some of these foods into your diet on a daily basis and see where it can help aid your digestion! If you are still having digestive issues, an Ayurvedic Practitioner can work with you one-on-one to find the best food and lifestyle tips for you.
(1) Lad, Vasant and Frawley, David. The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine. Lotus Press, 2001.