Ayurvedic Guidelines for Healthy Eating: Take Time to Rest After Meals

 “If you are like many people, after your meal is done, you are ready to get on to the next activity. This is particularly true for people with a more pitta (focused and directed) nature. To the determined pitta, resting is an uncomfortable waste of time. There are plans to make and things to do. Often the mind has wandered on to the next activity as soon as, or even just before, the last bite is taken. 

It takes the body several hours to fully digest a meal. In the stomach, hydrochloric acid and pepsin act on the food as the stomach churns the food into a mushy mass. That mass passes into the small intestine where enzymes continue the digestive process, converting the proteins, fats and carbohydrates into their molecular building blocks. These, along with additional vitamins and minerals in the food and water, are then absorbed. In the large intestine, more water is absorbed and the indigestible and non-absorbable remains are formed into fecal matter. 

The more you can rest after a meal, the better for your digestion. Activity causes the physiology of your body to shift away from digestion and toward action. When you become active, the small blood vessels in the digestive system through which nutrients are absorbed constrict. This decreases absorption. Meanwhile, the blood vessels that bring blood to the muscles of your body dilate to allow them to receive more oxygen and nutrients. This situation worsens as soon as you encounter stress. The body treats stress just like exercise. It causes the small vessels of the digestive system to constrict, reducing nutrient absorption. Thus, going back to work or onto another activity right after eating, contributes to poor nutrient absorption. Stress also interferes with the secretion of digestive enzymes, decreasing the body’s ability to digest the food properly in the first place. 

Some people are given or take a lunch hour. Sadly, for many, that lunch hour has shrunk to 15-30 minutes. It is just not possible to eat a meal and then digest it well if all you have is 15 minutes and then hurry back to work. However, it does not take as much time as you might think. If you are eating your food consciously in a peaceful environment, it only takes about 15-20 minutes to eat a meal. It generally takes people longer than this to eat because they are engaged in debate, discussion or distraction. Following eating, take 15-20 minutes to rest. This is a good time for light conversation, a slow walk, light reading or to just gaze off into the distance and reflect. If you do find yourself pressed for time, try just taking enough time to close your eyes and take 3 conscious slow breaths. This will help close the door on the sacred experience of eating and keep you more relaxed as you re-enter your day.”

~ Excerpt from “Healing Your Life, Lessons on the Path of Ayurveda,” by Dr. Marc Halpern, Founder of the California College of Ayurveda. Available at Amazon: http://amzn.to/1GP7m28 and Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1PsYDUA