Health is a natural state of balance of harmony - anything that gets in the way of this is an obstacle to healing. You may be doing many things "right" to be healthy, but have you looked at what might be "in the way"? For example, maybe you prepared a delicious, well-balanced meal and suddenly, you get a call from a friend that is upset with you...and you have a tummy ache the rest of the day.
Obstacles to healing can be for example, emotions such as anger or jealousy or lifestyle habits such as eating inappropriate food for the time of day or season. Ayurveda has long recognized the importance of daily routines (dinacharya) and seasonal routines (ritucharya) to prevent disease. While some of these routines may have been considered as superstitious or old fashioned, there are many which have a scientific basis. You might be doing all the right things - eating organic, eating healthy, exercising, taking your supplements but, if certain lifestyle habits are out of alignment, it could be slowing you down. Let's look at a few of the lifestyle habits below and what to avoid:
1. Ice Cold Smoothies
Smoothies seem like a convenient way to pack in fruits, veggies and proteins in one meal, but when they are loaded with ice or frozen berries it will put out your digestive fire. Digestion requires heat, provided by your metabolic activity and blood circulation to the stomach. Ayurveda considers the digestive fire (jatharagni) to be a driving force in breaking down food in your stomach so when you eat anything cold, digestion quickly slows down. If you are a vata or kapha type, it's like you already struggle from gas or bloating and cold will worsen it. In the morning, your digestive fire is just beginning to wake up. When you eat anything cold, it will take around an hour for it to return to normal temperature depending on your body type. It is best to have smoothies that are room temperature (thaw out berries the previous night or keep the ingredients out of the fridge before blending). Other suggestions include avoiding cold fruits in the morning for breakfast, ice water with meals, or ice cream after meals.
2. Eating While Distracted
You digest best when you are relaxed. When you eating on the go, while walking, driving, or watching tv, your body is in sympathetic mode where the nervous system is activated. When you're distracted, you're less likely to pay attention to your chewing, notice signals from the body that you are full and enjoy the experience of the meal. Ayurveda suggests eating meals when relaxed, sitting down with minimal conversation to digest at your best. How often do you do this? The more you try this, the more likely you will feel satisfied from your meal.
3. Suppression of Natural Urges
How often to you stifle a sneeze, hold your bladder until it's bursting, hold back a yawn in public? Due to hectic schedules or social situations, you may find yourself holding back natural urges until a convenient time or until the urge is gone. Natural urges like going to the bathroom, sneezing, yawning, crying, coughing, feeling hungry, thirsty or tired are natural signs from your body. Ayurveda has actually identified how suppressing specific urges can lead to imbalance and specific illnesses over time by disturbing the flow of doshas in the body and allowing toxins to accumulate (read more). In some cultures, belching after meals is considered a sign that you have eaten well and in other cultures, passing gas goes unnoticed in public. While it may seem unpleasant or socially inappropriate, it is important that you pay attention to what your body is telling you and allow a natural release when possible. Next time you feel like sneezing, try allowing it to happen and see how you feel.
4. Improper Food Timing
You might be eating the "right" food for your body type or health concern, but are your timings off? Your body is tuned to the natural cycles of the day. As the sun rises and reaches peak, so does your digestive strength. As the sun sets and night rolls in, metabolic activity slows down. Tuning your mealtimes according to your digestive strength allows the body to work at its best. When you eat when you are not hungry, or eat large meals at times when digestion is weak, or ignore hunger when you are busy, you are working against the natural forces of nature.
The recommendation is to eat a wholesome breakfast before you start your day, followed by a well balanced lunch between 11-1pm (largest meal at the peak of the day when digestion is at peak) a light afternoon snack, and an early dinner before sunset. For many people, breakfast and lunch are light and quick and they are starving by the evening and either end up eating a very heavy dinner, or snacking before dinner. If you consistently skip breakfast because you don't have time or are not hungry, this creates havoc with your stress hormones. Heavy and late dinners are difficult to digest and lead to bloating, sluggishness and weight gain. By simply adjusting the timings of your meal to optimize your digestion, you will notice that you feel lighter and healthier. Speak with your ayurvedic practitioner who can help guide you on an eating regime customized to you while supporting your digestion
5. Overstimulation of the Sense Organs
Your 5 sense organs are constantly receiving information from your surroundings through vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch. While the senses are crucial for survival, your body's resources are constantly processing this information. When the senses are overstimulated, you may experience sensory overload, and divert energy needed for healing the body. How do you do this? It means reduce screen time, computer games, tv, bright lights and anything which stimulates vision and consequently the the nervous system.
We live in an era where we constantly need to respond to sounds - such as cell phone beeps and calls which easily puts you into sympathetic mode where the body is unable to relax. Impressions through our senses are processed by the brain and leave an impression on the mind. When there is imbalance, this can lead to anxiety, ADHD, hyperactivity and general disturbance. In yoga and Ayurveda, there are several techniques to help you gain control over the 5 senses and currently, "float tanks" (which minimize noise, light and other stimuli) are becoming very popular due to their relaxation benefits.
When you can identify and remove obstacles in your diet and lifestyle, you are allowing the vital healing force of nature doing it's work. Living in disharmony with the environment, the people around us and within ourselves, is the first step of dis-ease. Work with your naturopathic doctor or Ayurvedic practitioner to help you identify obstacles to your health and find harmony in your daily routine.
Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor & Ayurvedic practitioner at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus in chronic disease. She applies Ayurvedic treatments to help you realign to your state of healthy balance. If you are healthy and looking into preventing disease or learning more about your constitution, Dr. Athparia can help you. Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment.