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Strong digestion is absolutely essential for spiritual practitioners, especially beginners on the path. It is important to cultivate strong digestive power before challenging spiritual practices and pilgrimages or journeys. The traditional view is that we need digestive power not only for food, but also for new information, strong emotions, and sensory experiences.
Please consult with a certified nutritionist or doctor before making health decisions. This is not a medical document or advisory. This document is for inspiration and should not be relied upon if you have any medical issues. The ideas presented here are meant for healthy adults with an established self-care routine. Immediately stop and consult a medical professional if complications arise.
©2022 Ekabhumi Ellik, with gratitude to David “Atibala” Thorp
Everything is Food: Cultivate balanced digestive fire (Agni) to transform food, situations, thoughts, and emotions into nourishment. Too little fire and undigested material becomes poison and provokes disease. Too much fire consumes YOU.
Cultivate a feeling of enthusiasm about life. Be engaged. Be inspired!
Try to eat food that is close to the sun (fresh) and touched by the fewest hands (unprocessed).
Keep your body and eating environment clean, but play outside and get dirty regularly.
Fresh pure water, fresh air, sunshine, and loving human touch can be thought of as food we need regularly.
Schedule appropriate sleep (at least 6 hours) between sunset and sunrise, during the same hours every day. It is especially beneficial to sleep between midnight and 2AM. Avoid sleeping with a full belly.
Eat fresh local seasonal foods prepared with love.
Eat foods that are appropriate for your body type. For most people, most of the time, the diet should be mostly vegetables. Fresh fruits and veggies are essential for healthy gut flora.
Digestion is strongest when the sun is high in the sky. Try to eat breakfast before 8AM, lunch before noon, and finish dinner before the sun sets.
Conserve spiritual power: avoid making empty promises, taking unfulfillable vows, empty speech, avoid recreational drugs, escapism, excessive sexual activity, and extended periods in fantasy or trance.
Regular gentle exercise helps both digestion and absorption.
Smell and taste food before eating. Awaken your senses. Feel gratitude. Relish eating as a form of meditation. It can be helpful to avoid talking or distractions while eating.
Routines are beneficial to health and digestion: try to eat and sleep at the same times every day.
Abdominal exercise helps to enkindle digestive fire. Vigorous exercise is best between meals – ideally, at least an hour and a half after eating. Abdominal exercises (like sit-ups) are strongly encouraged if you know you will face difficult-to-digest foods or experiences.
Respect authentic signals from the body: drink when thirsty, eat when hungry, sleep when tired. Do not eat when thirsty, or drink when hungry.
A hot glass of water taken immediately after rising in the morning, and at least 30 minutes before breakfast (which is a good time to exercise or practice), helps wake the digestive system. A dash of lemon juice makes it even more awakening.
One teaspoon of grated fresh ginger & a pinch of salt is an excellent appetizer to ignite your digestive fire.
Sip warm water during meals; avoid icy drinks.
A teaspoon of ghee with rice helps digestion. In general, a small amount of oil or fat helps the digestion of starches.
Moderate quantities: stomach should be filled with 1/3 air, 1/3 water, and 1/3 food at the end of a meal. The equivalent of two handfuls of food is appropriate.
Eat slowly: sit up straight and avoid distractions; lovingly smell and taste the food. Cultivate a sense of gratitude and relish the flavors!
Chew carefully: at least ten times per bite and up to 32 times for each mouthful. Some foods, like breads and other starches, can only be broken down by enzymes in the saliva!
Include probiotic-rich foods with meals, such as yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, and real pickles (not just brined cucumbers)
Some traditional healers recommend drinking water from a copper vessel.
Take a short walk 15 minutes after your meal.
Brush teeth after meals
Do not sleep on the belly after meals!
Do not repress natural urges of the body, like defecation, urination, coughing, sneezing, yawning, belching, and passing gas (toxic energy moving downward or outward)
Short fasts under the guidance of an expert may be beneficial in both increasing digestive power and eliminating toxins. Be careful: extended fasting diminishes digestive power.
Avoid constant snacking between meals, which tends to weaken digestive power.
Normal functions of Agni
Span of life / Longevity
Color of complexion
Luster or “shine”
Vital breath / Prana
Factors that impair Agni
Over-eating / drinking
Irregular eating, snacking
Foods unsuitable for constitution
Incompatible food combining
Heavy, cold, and frozen foods
Spoiled, old food
Improper use of purgative or emetics
Improper foods for time, place, season
Suppression of natural urges
Repressed emotions (fear, anger, anxiety, grief, sadness)
Eating too soon after previous meal
Combinations to FAVOR
Dairy generally alone
Veg + Grain
Protein + Veg
Combinations to AVOID
Fruit + Anything else
Dairy + Grain
Fruit + Grain + Dairy
Protein + Veg + Grain
Fish + Dairy
The big secret to a healthy gut: more fiber and diversity of fruits and veggies
More fibrous foods, more fermented foods, more raw veggies, less red meat, sugar, and seafood
Mood and skin problems may indicate issues; reducing stress and sugar may help
Improving your gut health can improve your emotional health