Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What Your Tongue is Telling You

Over the past couple of blogs I’ve discussed digestion, ama (that toxic goo that is a byproduct of poor digestion,) and appetite. Perhaps you are beginning to suspect that your digestion isn’t buzzing along as well as you’d like. Maybe you feel a little fatigued, bloating, and irregular. Maybe you are wondering: "Could I have ama?"
There’s one efficient way to tell. Tomorrow morning, immediately after hopping out of bed, shuffle over to the mirror and stick out your tongue. Look hard. What is that? A thick white coating? Especially at the back of the tongue? Take the edge of a stainless steel spoon and scrape. Is your reaction “Ewww!” Yep. That’s ama
If that isn’t enough to get you bounding out of bed tomorrow morning, think about this. As I outlined in my November blog, Ayurveda believes much disease begins in the digestive system. The toxic product of poorly digested food, ama, is sort of like an undesirable neighbor. It coats our digestive system and then travels our body searching for a home, settling in our bodies weakest tissues. Our lifestyle and/or heredity can determine what these weak tissues are; heart, lungs, skin, joints. Once ama settles in, disease is soon to follow.
Achy joints, dull skin and eyes, bad breath and a sluggish mind are further indicators of ama. If you suspect the presence of ama, check out my blog “Tips to Keep the Digestive System Perking”. Then, take a few extra steps:
  • Brush your teeth and scrape your tongue immediately upon awakening
  • Avoid old, processed, artificial and fast food
  • Avoid cold, icy foods and drinks
  • Make lunch the largest meal of the day, when digestion is strongest
  • Eat light foods in large quantities, heavy foods in light quantities
  • Skip a meal occasionally to let your digestion rekindle
  • Fill a thermos with very warm water and sip throughout the day
These are good tips even if your tongue is squeaky-clean in morning. Why ruin a good thing? If you enjoy good digestion and your body is a clean machine, keep it that way. And if not, a few extra steps can have you enjoying good digestion, better energy, and vibrant health.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Tips to Keep the Digestive System Perking

Lime juice and ginger
stimulate digestion. Herbs
make certain foods more
Good digestion, according to Ayurveda, is the #1 way to keep ama at bay. Ama is undigested food, a gooey substance that takes up residence in the weak tissues of the body, leading to disease in those tissues. How to keep the digestive fires burning bright?
Eat when hungry. Develop a good appetite. If you never feel hungry, perhaps you are eating too often. Or, maybe you need to enhance your appetite with exercise. And remember, appetite and cravings are not the same thing! One comes from the belly, and the other from the mind. When a sense of hunger strikes, close your eyes and assess; do you feel content in the body, but anxious or bored in your mind? Or, is this truly hunger in the belly?
Give your digestion a little rest between meals to build appetite and allow digestion of previous meal to complete. Leave a little space in your belly from time to time. 
Chew completely. Chewing is the first step to digestion, and the more food is broken down at this stage, the more able your system is to utilize it.
Avoid cold drinks with meals. The digestive process is a heating process. The digestive juices work better warm and undiluted. Take sips of room temperature water with meals. Give up the icy drink habit and see if you feel less tired and bloated after a meal.
Stop eating before feeling 100% full 
Eat in a calm environment, and only when calm (stress affects digestion). Yes, having a family, I have an occasional laugh with this also. At least, take a slow, gratitude breath before diving in.
Use ginger as an appetite stimulant. Simmer a few slices in water to ingest as a tea. Or, make 1/8 in. thick slices, and eat with a little sea salt and lime. Also, soak 1/8 in. think slices in fresh lime juice for a few hours. Strain, and sweeten juice with a little honey to taste. Take a shot. Also, you can eat a slice or two of the ginger. Try these appetite stimulants 30 - 60 minutes before a meal to jump start the process.
Spices to use in cooking for digestion: cumin, coriander, fennel, turmeric, ginger, black pepper. Add these to a dish while cooking, the heat releases their digestive enhancing properties. These can be especially helpful to add to foods you find difficult to digest, like dairy, meat, or other heavy foods. But, they are delicious in vegetable and egg dishes.

And, yoga sure can help. Yoga can help increase appetite, especially a more vigorous practice. Standing poses help draw energy down, enhancing the downward flow of, umm, energy. And twisting poses tone and stimulate the digestive system.
Despite our best efforts, our digestion might cough and sputter occasionally, leading to the dreaded ama condition. Next week we'll look at this nasty substance to learn how to tell if we have it, and how to eliminate it before it settles in for a long stay.