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Indigestion

What is Indigestion?

Most of us have experienced a form of indigestion at some point in our lives, and others may experience it chronically from day to day.  Indigestion (also known as dyspepsia) refers to a difficulty digesting food.  Indigestion is a condition that is often a symptom of another, underlying condition and is associated with various forms of discomfort in the stomach including pain in the upper abdomen.

Conditions that can lead to indigestion include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), inflammation of the stomach (gastritis), peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and stomach cancer.  Indigestion is often accompanied by other symptoms including nausea, vomiting, bloating, belching and gas, and heartburn, and can lead to excessive salivation, debility, fainting and delirium.

In Western medicine, patients can be treated medicinally with the administration of aspirin, antacids, anti-flatulents, and proton pump inhibitors (though such methods have been questionable in their effectiveness). Other Western medical practitioners have suggested sufferers modify their lifestyle by eating less, eating slower, refraining from emotionally eating and under the influence of significant stress, refraining from drinking alcohol, and not smoking.

How Does Ayurveda View Indigestion?

Ayurveda considers digestion to be central to the balance and health of a person’s physical being, and poor digestion can be the root cause of disease. The incidence of indigestion is therefore considered to be not just a source of discomfort and pain, but a stepping stone to more serious and debilitating forms of illness. Ayurveda teaches us that indigestion stems from unhealthy eating habits (like consuming processed foods) and poor lifestyle habits like eating late at night and getting irregular amounts of sleep).

Unlike other diseases that are primarily associated with one doshic imbalance (e.g. The mucus in bronchitis is predominantly associated with the heaviness of Kapha and constipation is predominantly associated with the dryness of Vata), indigestion is associated with all three doshas.

If a person’s symptoms are related to a feeling of abdominal pain and the retention of gas, then he or she likely has the dry and frenetic Vata-based form of indigestion.


If a person’s symptoms are related to burning sensations in the stomach and sour belching, they likely have the heated Pitta-based form of indigestion.

If a person’s symptoms are related to a feeling of nausea and heaviness, they likely have the moist and heavy Kapha-based form of indigestion.

 

How Does Ayurveda Treat Indigestion?

An Ayurvedic practitioner will work with patients to strengthen digestion with the help of an appropriate diet as based on the patient’s constitution, proper lifestyle choices, and certain herbal and other remedies that help to build a strong digestive fire. This fire is what helps to burn toxins and break down food for nutrients and eliminate any waste the body doesn’t need.

Lifestyle Changes for Indigestion

 

When we neglect to establish the root cause of one illness, it can turn into another, stronger illness in the future.  The first step in resolving a specific ailment or disease in the body is to assess the nature of our lifestyle and make general modifications.  Living our day-to-day life with a deliberate intention to improve our health will help us to both resolve the disease we are suffering from and prevent further incidence of it and other diseases in the future.

  • If going through a bout of indigestion, stop eating and fast with warm or hot water until the symptoms have gone away.
    Eat only two or three times a day, and eat at the same time every day.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Drink a cup of warm water first thing in the morning to build digestive fire.
  • Avoid eating less than three or four hours before going to bed.
  • Avoid eating processed foods, junk food, and any other food with abundant chemicals and additives.
  • Avoid eating after the stomach is full.
  • Avoid eating while watching TV, working, or engaging in another activity.
  • Avoid mixing fruit with dairy products and other foods with incompatible enzymes.
  • Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.
  • Go to bed early and wake up early.  Follow the same sleeping routine every day.

 

Better Foods For Indigestion

Ayurveda teaches us that disease and sickness are derived from poor digestion and inappropriate food choices. We then have the opportunity to make deliberate and more conscious decisions as to what foods we do and do not put in our body which increases the chance of resolving the body’s imbalance.

Food needs to be in season, in moderate combinations of one or two food groups, not too hot or cold, in a modest enough quantity to allow for room in the stomach later, consumed without too much liquid which hinders digestive power, and fresh and not left over for more than a few hours.  Below are foods to be eaten for each of the three different types of indigestion:

 

 Ghee
Milk
Berries
Figs(Fresh)
Apricots
Peaches
Plums
Carrots
Beets
Zucchini
Sweet potatoes
Asparagus
Whole wheat (unbleached)
Rice (white basmati)
Mung beans
Avoid raw and cold foods

 Ghee
Apples
Pears
Mangoes
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Brussels Sprouts
Asparagus
Barley
Oats (cooked)
Rice (white basmati)
Milk
Coconut oil
Olive oil
Avoid nuts, lentils, and sour foods

 Prunes
Raisins
Cherries
Pomegranates
Figs(Dry)
Radishes
Onions
Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts
Vegetable soup
Barley
Millet
Mustard oil
Ghee
Avoid nuts, seeds, and sweets

 

Foods To AVOID In Response To Indigestion

While some foods can help to balance an aggravated dosha, other foods can cause further imbalance. Dry and cold foods as well as pungent, bitter and astringent tastes will dry out the body and aggravate the Vata dosha.Sour, salty and pungent tastes as well as spicy foods will add more heat to the body and aggravate the Pitta dosha.Sweet, sour and salty tasting foods will add heaviness to the body and aggravate the Kapha dosha. The following foods should be avoided in response to whichever type of symptoms manifest in the indigestion:

 

 Apples
Pears
Watermelon
Cauliflower
Broccoli
Tomatoes
Celery
Eggplant
Corn
Oats (dry)
Barley
Most legumes including green lentils and garbanzo beans
Raw and cold foods

 Grapefruit
Bananas
Cherries
Pineapple
Tomatoes
Garlic
Carrots
Spinach
Rice (brown)
Corn
Nuts
Lentils
Corn oil
Almond oil
Spicy foods
Sour foods (like yogurt, sour cream, and pickles)
Salt
Meat

 Bananas
Melons
Papayas
Avocado
Plums
Sweet potatoes
Zucchini
Cucumbers
Tomatoes
Wheat
Rice
Nuts
Seeds
Sweets and candies
Allergy-causing foods
Dairy products (except goat milk, in moderation)
Unnatural sugar
Cold foods

Beverages For Indigestion

Generally, Ayurveda discourages the consumption of too many cold beverages, as doing so hinders the strength of the body’s digestive fire.  Instead, favors room temperature or hot beverages to encourage the strength of the digestive fire.

  • Hot water, especially during meals and first thing in the morning.
  • Herbal teas to balance each of the doshas per the list of herbs below.
  • Avoid cold and frozen drinks.
  • Avoid sugary or fizzy drinks that blend with the digestive juice and make it weak.
  • Avoid alcohol, coffee, and black tea.

 

Herbs For Indigestion


Herbs are used in the Ayurvedic system much like Western medicine utilizes drugs and vitamins and can be taken like tea 2 to 3 times a day. Herbs aid in the digestion of food, the breakdown and elimination of toxins, and help to strengthen the cellular structure of our system for greater vitality. Herbs become more potent once mixed with other herbs of similar properties. Mix together 2 to 4 different herbs from the below list by adding a quarter to a half teaspoon full of each, for a total of 1 teaspoon. Drink these in half cup of hot water.

 Ginger
Cumin
Cinnamon
Cardamom
Triphala
Yogaraj guggul

 Coriander
Aloe vera
Cardamom
Cinnamon
Turmeric
Haritaki
Draksha

 Ginger
Cumin
Cardamom
Cinnamon
Black pepper
Triphala
Trikatu

 

Yoga Postures For Indigestion

 

When applied therapeutically to specific ailments, yoga postures provide an opportunity to strengthen the body, rid it of toxic matter, and restore balance. The postures included in this section can be practiced as part of a more general sequence or can be focused on in short sessions. When first exploring yoga postures, it is best to only practice them for twenty minutes or so per day and buildup from there once the body becomes more flexible.

Camel
Cobra
Bow

Standing forward bend
Seated forward bend

Spinal twist
Fish

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Aromatherapy For Indigestion

Aromatherapy utilizes the fragrances of essential oils when applied to the skin.  Essential oils can burn the skin and therefore must be diluted with a base oil such as sesame, coconut, sunflower, canola, or mustard oil.  Mix 1 fluid ounce of base oil with about 12 drops of essential oil before applying to skin. You can also just mix 5 drops of base oil to one drop of essential oil if using on one spot.

Vata-like indigestion can be treated with basil, camphor, cedar, eucalyptus, frankincense, ginger, cinnamon, lavender, lily, lotus, musk, myrrh, patchouli, or sandalwood oil.

  • Use a sesame oil base.
  • Apply oil on the forehead or on the back of the neck.

Pitta-like indigestion can be treated with sandalwood, tea tree, rose, honeysuckle, gardenia, lily, iris, mint, lavender, or lotus oil.

  • Use a coconut or sunflower oil base.
  • Apply oil in the chest center in front of the heart.

Kapha-like indigestion can be treated with cinnamon, eucalyptus, sage, basil, musk, cedar, frankincense, or myrrh oil.

  • Use a canola or mustard oil base.
  • Apply oil on the skin between the navel and pubic bone.

 

Mantra Therapy For Indigestion

Ayurvedic tradition suggests that repeating certain words or sounds can help a person suffering from an ailment to restore subtle balance to nerve tissue and enhance one’s mental clarity.  Different sounds are prescribed to either repeat mentally or chant outwardly.  These sounds are also used and repeated in the mind for the purpose of spiritual growth.

For Vata-like indigestion, repeat the syllable “Ram” for several minutes a few times a day and build more practice over time.

  • As a Vata-related disorder, it is helpful to inwardly repeat this syllable for the duration of time it is practiced.

For Pitta-like indigestion, repeat the syllable “Aum” (pronounced ohm) for several minutes a few times a day and build more practice over time.

  • As a Pitta-related disorder, it is helpful to both outwardly chant and inwardly repeat this syllable for the duration of time it is practiced.

For Kapha-like indigestion, repeat the syllable “Hoom” for several minutes a few times a day and build more practice over time.

  • As a Kapha-related disorder, it is helpful to outwardly chant this syllable for the duration of time it is practiced.

Breathing Practices For Indigestion

 

Controlling the breath is a central practice toward developing peace and stillness in the mind and body. When the breath is under our control, we are no longer at the mercy of the senses that are stimulated by everything and lead to greater fluctuations of the mind. When applied to the context of resolving specific ailments, the breath is used as a tool for developing lung capacity, heating and cooling the body and resolving mental afflictions like anxiety and stress. Like with the yoga postures above, breathing exercises are likely to be of significant benefit to those who suffer from considerable amounts of stress.

General

 

Vata

 

Pitta

 

Kapha

 
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