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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Ayurvedic Methods for Healing Digestion Woes

May 27, 2015 02:32PM ● By Monica Yearwood

Ayurveda is a medical system that originated in India more than 5,000 years ago. It teaches that digestion is the most influential bodily process on our overall health. If we are not assimilating our food properly, our body can be depleted, infiltrated with toxins and disease can ensue. To keep digestion healthy, we must avoid dietary triggers if we have them, fast intermittently, restore beneficial bacteria and heal the intestinal wall. These efforts reduce inflammation, repair the mucosa, restore immunity and encourage a returned health status.

Dietary triggers are food items that have become allergenic because of compromised immune system function and digestive weakness, and are found in many conditions. When consuming a trigger, a hypersensitive immune system flares and symptoms increase. Removing triggers from our diet can reduce the symptoms of many imbalances and help the intestinal tract heal.

There are several methods that can help identify dietary triggers, such as allergy tests and elimination diets. The best way to identify a trigger is to keep a journal and begin recording the sensations experienced after eating. Over time, we will see a pattern emerging between consuming potential triggers and reactions such as fatigue, skin flares or digestive changes. Once this becomes clear, eliminate any and all potential dietary triggers from the diet. After some healing, it may be possible to reintroduce foods that were once provoking.

Fasting is one of the most powerful systemic healers and restoratives for the intestinal tract. For thousands of years, fasting has been part of every spiritual tradition and used to restore health all over the world. It is the oldest medicine and clinically shown to extend life and restore youthful vitality. When we fast, we lighten our body and release toxins that clog the system to inhibit full functioning. By reducing food intake, the intestinal tract is able to rest and repair itself at a deep, cellular level.

The most popular fasting methods include purified water, freshly juiced vegetables and fruits, and easy-to-digest, highly liquefied soups such as kichadi (a cleansing soup made of lentils, rice and spices), the last of which are typically part of an ayurvedic fast. To successfully complete a fast, it is advisable to utilize a cleansing expert that can design a customized program based on individual needs and intentions.

The gut comprises a bacterial system that infiltrates every part of our intestinal tract. A deficiency of intestinal bacteria or imbalances between healthy and pathogenic strains can greatly affect the experience of our health by instigating inflammation and encouraging disease. Consuming fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, fresh yogurt, fermented vegetables and kefir daily can help keep the gut populated with important bacteria that maintain immune system and digestive health.

The mucosa is the innermost layer of the intestinal wall, and its permeability has been linked to allergies, autoimmune disorders and cognitive disorders. Repairing the mucosa heals the intestinal cell wall, decreasing transference of pathogenic or foreign foods, bacteria and fungus into the bloodstream. Several therapeutics are indicated in mucosal repair, such as bone broth, ghee, bromelain and turmeric. Mucilage herbs such as licorice root, marshmallow root and slippery elm can easily be drunk as a tea. Ghee and raw coconut oil are dietary fats that also assist healing of the gut lining.

Common symptoms of impaired digestion include sugar cravings, hormonal imbalance, depression and anxiety, bladder infections, insomnia, skin problems and dryness, infertility, bad breath, gas, diarrhea, constipation, parasites, abnormal gut flora, iron deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency, fatigue, undigested food in the stool, Candida, acne, food allergies, cracked fingernails, tiredness after eating, irregular bowel movements and body odor. Digestion is the most influential bodily process on our health. We know that digestion is strong and regular when we have at least one solid bowel movement per day. A healthy stool is six to 12 inches in length, well shaped and brown in color. The stool should be free of odor, leave the body easily and float.

Modern medicine and science is just getting to understand what ancient medical practices have said for thousands of years: almost all disease originates from faulty digestion. Our digestive system is the epicenter of the immune system, the doorway through which the full capacity of our health may enter. Digestive system imbalance presents itself in conjunction with almost every known disease. If we are able to identify the provoking factors of our digestive system and effectively heal it, many symptoms can be significantly reduced, if not totally remediated.


Monica Yearwood is an ayurvedic practitioner at Hamsa Ayurveda & Yoga. Contact her at 773-697-3640 or