The fall and winter holidays, with its many social gatherings around food, can often spin us off our healthy habits into a whirlwind of consuming. As a young child, Halloween habitually marked my upsurge of dis-ease into the winter, starting with sore throats into flu and so on. Only as an adult moved to heal my body holistically did I see the link between my health disturbances and the conditions I created, which were not just the colder weather, as I was made to believe, but how I treated my entire being—mainly through digestion of food and life. Curious to learn more, I delved into much personal research on the topic of digestion, changed many of my lifestyle habits to improve my well being, and much later, felt compelled to collaborate with various wellness experts on the topic to spread awareness and empowerment through information that inspires positive choices, hoping to make a timely impact just before the eating momentum of the holidays.
As a preview to our upcoming third year of Digestive Wellness pre-holidays workshop on November 4, 2017, I've decided to interview two experts in the field of holistic wellness. Part 1 of this article is an interview with Ayurveda Practitioner Isabel Castro (Stay tuned here for the next interview):
1.) How important is digestion to overall wellness?
Digestion is the foundation of health. It sets the stage for creating health in the body or opening it up to disease. When properly functioning, digestion allows your body to absorb nutrients, eliminate toxins and build ojas, a form of life energy, our reserve or backup battery when in stress mode. If digestion is not functioning properly, our body is imbalanced, causing the burden to overflow into other systems of the body. Ama is anything not digested that stays in the body and is not processed and eliminated. This can also be indigestion in the mind, leaving the mind clouded, cyclically drawing us to things that will keep us out of balance. Thus, our digestive system can either be in a proactive or reactive mode in keeping us healthy.
2.) If you had to narrow down three important tips to optimizing your digestion of food, what would they be?
First is the Goldilocks Principle: eat a balanced meal that is not too small or too large, not too heavy or light in quality and not too hot or cold, so that it doesn’t leave you feeling overstuffed, still hungry, on fire from excessive spice or any extreme. Secondly, eat in a relaxed atmosphere. Even if your surroundings seem chaotic, breathe consciously as you eat and put the fork down between bites to relax your nervous system and allow blood to flow to the center of your body for effective digestion. Lastly, value space by not filling your plate with so much, literally and figuratively. Leave room in your day for rest and processing events, rather than over-busying yourself. Give yourself 3-4 hours between meals so your body knows when it’s time to break down food and when it’s not. Give your digestive organs room to move things around, rather than jam-packing things into your system.
3) How does the way we digest life’s experience affect our overall wellness? What would you say is the most essential ingredient or life tool in being able to digest life with grace?
It’s all connected. If you’re constantly taking things in by having a busy schedule or constantly snacking, you allow no time to release what needs to move through you. Start the day relaxed to enable your evacuation first thing in the morning from the previous day. If you don’t give yourself a chance to process what the takeaway is—whether in nutrients or life events, you’re just constantly consuming. Take time to process. Find balance and remember the yogic virtue of ahimsa, or nonviolence toward self.
Optimizing our digestion of whatever we take in, be it food or life, through various angles—physically, mentally and even spiritually—is a gateway to creating radiant wellness. Stay tuned here for our next interview on Digestive Wellness.
Join us on November 4 for Nourish, a Digestive Wellness integration of yoga, meditation, nutritional cooking, community discussion and a personal talk by my dear friend and yoga teacher, Paola Cardona, about her journey of surviving and thriving past Stage 3B Colon Cancer, sharing her healthy lifestyle tools.
Isabel Castro is an Ayurveda Practitioner based in Bellingham, WA. She was drawn to Ayurveda after years of trying a multitude of treatments for her eczema and realizing its direct correlation to digestion. Through Ayurveda, she effectively treated her skin condition and discovered other benefits, like improved clarity, focus and calm—experiencing a balancing integration of mind and body wellness. Connect with Isabel at www.LivingBalanceAyurveda.com.
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