A healthy digestive and eliminative system is absolutely necessary for good physical and mental health. A large number of chronic degenerative and metabolic diseases are secondary effects of long term malfunctions and abuse of the digestive system. In these diseases are included asthma, diabetes, arthritis, heart and vascular disorders, skin diseases, cancers, headache, obesity, mental diseases, sexual disorders and other endocrine mal-functions. There debilitating and often fatal processes have their genesis in disturbed digestion, assimilation and elimination processes.
Therefore, in attempting to ameliorate or manage major diseases, it is frequently necessary to initially strengthen and rebalance the primary digestive processes. Indigestion is everyone’s problem. Everybody has an experience of indigestion in some time in their life. Indigestion is actually a deeper problem than most of us realize. Most of the people have taken for granted that indigestion is a part of life. In most of the houses antacid and digestive medicines are the part of their food intake. Which should not be as it does more harm to our body in the long run. We should use it judiciously. Rather avoid using.
The Causes Of Indigestion:
The various digestive diseases have a multitude of causes, from mental or emotional disturbance, the habit of swallowing air, to gluttony. Other prime causes of indigestion or dyspepsia are a diet deficient in mineral salts, eating too many refined foods such as those made of white flour and cane sugar products, drinking with meals, hasty or irregular meals, late supper, poor mastication etc. Besides all these causes most of the yoga authors claim that behind poor digestion is the inability of the mind to digest the situation of life and to metabolize the problems correctly. You must have noticed yourself that when you are experiencing digestive problems, you tend to be pessimistic and easily irritated; conversely a healthy digestive system allows one to be cheerful, happy and optimistic. Yoga is the key to a relaxed, efficient, harmonious, digestive system. A strong digestive system means energy and vitality. It reflects a positive life style.
Signs and Symptoms:
The general symptoms are heart burn, headache, heaviness in the stomach, irregularity of bowels, cold feet, weak pulse. In long standing cases there will be a hacking cough, intermittent fever, palpitation of the heart and irritability.
Hypoacidity, hyper acidity, regurgitation, heart burn, wind, belching and burping.
Peptic ulcer, duodenal ulcer, colitis, constipation, acute gastro enteritis, mal absorption states the sprue, whipple diseases and ceoliac diseases, chronic hepatitis.
Yogic Management Of The Disorders:
Medical science and yoga both agree that most of the digestive disorders are psychosomatic. Experiments have shown that the lining of the stomach is an extremely sensitive recorder of our emotional state. Physiologists now recognize that emotional tension and psychic stress factors, including high level of frustration are related to the digestive organs and glands via the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve pathways. So, the first way of managing the digestive disorders is deep relaxation, which can only be attained through asana, pranayam, dhyana and yoga nidra.
Recommended Asans For Digestive Problems:
Abdominal group of asanas like.
- Supta pawanmuktasana
- Supta udarakarsanasana
Shakti bandha series like Chakki sanchalanasana, gatyatmak meru Vakrasana etc. Surya namaskar is very beneficial for digestive system. Sitting in Vajrasana at least 10 minutes after food is highly recommended for digestive disorders.
Pranayam- Kapalbhati, Nadisodhan, sheetali, ujjayi are recommended. Deep relaxation techniques like savasana, yoga nidra, meditation should be adopted.
No digestive problem can be cured 100% without the yogic shatkriyas. So sankhaprakhyalana, kunjal kriya, agnisara kriya, nauli, jala neti and basti practices have to be adopted. Whatever yogic practices one needs to adopt should be learnt under the guidance of an experienced qualified therapist as the therapy is given to the patient taking into account all problems of the patient as a whole. The program has to b personalized to get maximum benefit out of it.
Feeding The Fire:
Food is the fuel for the digestive fire and therefore must be pure, well combined and in correct quantity. The amount of food one needs to eat depends on one’s digestive power. We must discover our own capacity and set ourselves a standard amount to eat at each meal. Few people however can stop eating at the point of satisfaction or little sort of it. Constantly eating beyond this point vitiates the digestive fire. Undigested food is worse than no food and becomes a detriment to our health.
One must judiciously take a well balanced food comprising of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals according to their personal need. By understanding the qualities of food we are eating, we can manipulate and adjust the body’s function in the same way as we would the control on a gas stove. So, most of the digestive disorders and many more diseases can be eradicated if we consult a good dietician.
There are some other practices which should be followed strictly for the proper functioning of the digestive system.
- Always drink plenty of water. Preferably in the morning drink 3-4 glasses of Luke warm water. Water in the morning is nectar, water during meal is poison, water after digestion is tonic. This principle should be followed.
- Never overload your stomach. We all know that after an excessively large meal we feel heaviness in the abdomen and lethargy throughout the whole body. Overloading the stomach and intestine results in loss of energy rather than gain. Blood is redirect from the vain and other organs to aid in the process of digestion, leaving most of the body with only the minimum supply of oxygen and nutrients.
A light meal of grains and vegetables is sufficient for the body’s physical needs and helps the pranic level high. Many people thinks that the energy comes from food, so tasty dishes are prepared for the sick person to induce him to eat. This attitude fails to take into account the fact that one of the first sign of sickness is loss of appetite, a natural warning triggered to help nature’s repair work. Therefore during illness we should reduce the intake of food to minimum to facilitate the repair work of the body. When bacteria invade the body the immune system is mobilized. All available energy is required and therefore physical activity should be avoided. Eating requires a lot of metabolic energy and this energy must be kept in reserve for fighting the disease. Fasting during illness speeds up the catabolic process which occurs in illness, thereby helping to eliminate toxins. Timing of one’s food intake according to yogic philosophy is from sunrise to sunset when the pingala nadi is active our digestive organs work properly. As petrol is to a car so is the food for our body. When we are ready for activation in the morning we need more food to work. So the breakfast must be nutritious one comprising of all the nutrients. One should not miss the breakfast as it creates a lot of health problems. In yoga it is said one should eat in the morning like a emperer, lunch like a king and dinner like a pauper. The dinner should be before sunset, as after sunset idanadi dominates which is not meant for the digestion rather it induces the whole system for relaxation.
In the modern urban society it is a general practice to skip breakfast as all are in a hurry and overload the stomach at late night and then go to sleep. Which is very detrimental to our health. There should be a minimum gap of 2hours between our last meal and sleep.
Last but not the least a relaxed mind and good hunger is essential for good digestion. A worried, anxious, depressed and anger state of mind is probably the main cause of indigestion. Enjoy your food without becoming attached to any one way that you think is right rather experience all and fulfill your desire. One thing yoga suggest that you remain aware of what are you doing. Watch what is happening to your body and mind when you eat meat, rich food or when you eat excessively. Then you will know for yourself what is right thing to eat and no neurosis and misunderstanding will arise.
Reference is taken from the book “Yogic Management Of Digestive System”(A Bihar school of yoga publication).