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You Are What You Digest! By Dr. Marc Halpern

Published: 10/4/12 :  Guest Blog Post at LenSaunders.com 

You’ve heard the old adage, “ you are what you eat”. This statement has been used by health gurus, doctors, and parents to motivate us to eat healthier foods. While eating healthier foods is important, it does not provide you with the full picture of how to get the most from your food and build a healthy body. The new adage is “you are what you digest.” After all, what good is it to your body if eat your vegetables and whole grains but you don’t digest them well. No one wants to suffer from indigestion.  If you want to be healthy, it’s not just what you eat but how you eat that is important.

There are 10 general guidelines which if you follow them will improve your digestion dramatically.  These guidelines have their origins in the science of Ayurveda, India’s traditional healthcare system.  Even practicing just one can make a remarkable difference in your life. 

1.  Eat in a Calm, Clean and Peaceful Environment: If the environment you eat in is noisy or cluttered, you will not be relaxed and calm when you eat. Relaxation is necessary for healthy digestion.

2. Say Grace before You Eat: Say grace sets the stage and prepares the body to receive food. Any grace will do. And, if you are uncomfortable with the spirituality of grace then try taking 3 breaths. Take one  to bless the food, one to bless those who contributed to bringing it to your table and one to bless your body which is about to receive it. This will relax you, slow you down a bit and improve your digestion.

3. Chew Your Food Till it is an Even Consistency: This makes sense as soon as you read it. After all, digestion begins in your mouth. If the food is too “chunky”, the digestive enzymes will have a harder time doing their job. 

4. Eat Quietly and Avoid Distractions:   In order to chew you food well, you have to be able to focus within your mouth and not outside yourself on book, excessive conversation or the television.

5.  Drink only Enough Fluid with your Meals to Keep the Food Moist: Flooding your stomach and intestines. The liquid dilutes the digestive enzymes and they become less effective. A half cup is usually sufficient with a meal. If the meal is soup, none is necessary. 

6. Keep food a moist with a little oil: A little oil is good and helps keep the lining of the digestive tract healthy. The lining of the small intestine secretes a lot of enzymes that aid digestion.

7. Take Room Temperature or Warm fluids only: Cold and especially iced drinks weaken digestion.

8. Eat Till You are 75% Full: Even the healthiest food becomes unhealthy and will create weight gain if you over-eat. Eat till you are satisfied and not till you are full. 

9.  Rest Before Going on to the Next Activity:  If you eat and run, your mind will engage the dramas of your life before your food even makes it to your intestines. The thoughts and emotions that arise interfere with digestion. Take 20 minutes to relax with light conversation or go for a relaxed stroll. 

10. Wait at least 3 hours between your Meals: It is better for your digestion is you complete the digestion of one food before your start the next one. Frequent snacking interferes with quality of digestion. 

Dr. Marc Halpern is the author of the book, Healing Your Life; Lessons on the Path of Ayurveda.  A pioneer of the Ayurvedic movement within the United States, he is the founder of the California College of Ayurveda and co-founder of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association.  Learn more at www.ayurvedacollege.com and www.healing-your-life.com. Find him on Facebook!