New Years 2017 Series (1/5): Don't Put Out Your Fire!

There’s a saying that you can pour the purest golden nectar into a chalice, but if the cup is dirty on the inside, then the quality of the nectar is irrelevant.

When it comes to food and your body, the same is true. You can eat the freshest, high-quality whole foods but if your digestive system is not in good shape, then your ability to process and assimilate the nutrients from your food is severely compromised. This is a key reason why Ayurveda and most other healing systems place such a strong focus on creating and maintaining a healthy gut.

This week, as many people focus on making changes to what they are eating, I am offering a five-part series on simple ways to boost your digestive capacity so that you can more optimally process the healthy foods you are consuming.


Part 1: Don’t Put Out Your Fire

In Ayurveda, the metabolic process is symbolized by fire (known as agni in Sanskrit). Fire is the energy of transformation, converting our food into absorbable components that the body can then use as sources of energy. If you’ve ever built a fire, you know that there is a delicate balance between not having enough wood/kindling, and having too much. So it goes with our gut.

Likewise, we all know what happens if we pour a giant bucket of cold water on a campfire. And yet, that is exactly what many of us are doing daily to our belly fire when we consume large amounts of cold liquids right around the time that we eat.

In Ayurveda, it’s recommended to avoid drinking much of anything within half an hour before or after meals. If you need to sip something, warm water is best. Ginger tea can be particularly beneficial for those with slower digestion.

Between meal times, I encourage you to skip ice water entirely. This is often a hard change to make, but one that can quickly be rewarding, not only for its digestive benefits but also for the increased energy you may reclaim. Think about: each time your douse your digestive fire with water, the body has to use energy to rekindle its fire (as well as to simply regulate internal body temperature).

I was never much of an ice water fan, but I did used to drink all my water from a filter pitcher I kept in my refrigerator. Once I switched to drinking only room-temperature water, I noticed some really profound shifts in my energy levels, especially after working out or other strenuous activities.

Every now and then, in the heat of summer or when traveling to a humid tropical locale, I will indulge in a glass of something frosty, but in general my body is much happier when I drink things close to body temperature. I usually lightly heat my water in an electric kettle and sip that throughout the day, often with some sliced lemon (especially in the mornings).

If you’re hooked on ice water, try reducing the amount of ice you use over 5-7 days, eventually omitting it altogether.  Then, stick to room temperature water only for a couple weeks and see how you feel.