Christmas time offers so many edible delights that it\’s hard not to overindulge and accumulate Ama, the toxic waste product of incomplete digestion.
Christmas pudding with white sauceFestive meals and an abundance of tempting sweets can lead you to overeat and snack at irregular times, and encourage the accumulation of Ama (toxin or undigested metabolic waste. It is an umbrella term for all sticky, slimy, aggravating, and toxic substances accumulated in the body). If this process goes unchecked, the body can become clogged and the immune system weakened.
The Ama’s stubborn nature causes it to stick to the gastrointestinal tract, clogs arteries, seep under the skin, and creep upwards to the mind’s subtle channels.
If overlooked, the presence of Ama can lead to several underlying health issues. Ayurvedic practitioners consider Ama as the root of all diseases and forms of illness. They refer to such health problems as ‘Amaya.’ Which means ‘caused by Ama.
How do you keep your Agni strong and avoid building up Ama? The following tips will help:
Practice Mindful Eating
Eating the right food, at the right time, in the right way can keep you happy and healthy.
Our digestive fire (ruled by Pitta) is highest between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. So eating your main celebratory Christmas meal at this time will give your body the best chance at digesting it. Have a lighter, smaller dinner later, around 6:00 p.m.
When it comes to the evening, a big meal will not only tax your digestive system but can disrupt your sleep. Avoid discomfort and lack of good quality sleep, by eating a light easily-digested supper at least three hours before going to bed.
Eat meals instead of snacks. Snacking – especially consuming sugary snacks throughout the day, imbalances blood sugar levels which can lead to poor energy and mood fluctuations. Go ahead and enjoy sweets and treats this season but make them part of your main meals.
Control portion size to avoid overindulging. Ayurveda suggests to figure out the ideal amount of food to consume is to cup your 2 hands together, forming a bowl with them. This is your maximum individual portion at one sitting. Being mindful of portion size means you won’t overburden your digestive system which can lead to indigestion such as reflux, pain and flatulence.
Stop Eating Before You Are Full
As there are often so many gastronomical delights on offer over Christmas, the advice in the line above may be hard to follow at times. But it is very important that you always eat according to your hunger level.
The Ayurvedic rule is to leave 25% of your stomach empty at the end of a meal – you should feel satisfied but not completely full. This allows room for the digestive acids and enzymes to do their work.
Again it’s a matter of listening to your body. When there is animated conversation, intoxicating wine, and many tastes and smells to tempt the senses, you can often ignore your body-signals and end up feeling bloated and sleepy.
Eat slowly, take smaller portions and avoid seconds. When you eat slowly and quietly, it is easier to tell when you have reached the point of satisfaction. Even the freshest organic foods will create Ama when eaten in excess.
The best way clear away your fatigue, stress and tiredness due to your busy Christmas schedule is to sleep well throughout the night. Early to bed and early to rise is the principle behind a healthy life according to Ayurveda, as a good night’s sleep creates a refreshing start to the following day.
Ayurveda suggests having an early dinner and go to bed before 10 PM to harness the deep rejuvenating effect of sleep. Going to bed on a full stomach blocks the body reaching the state of deep sleep and causes overactivity of the nervous system which creates restless sleep.
Use herbal digestive aids
So, occasionally you break the above rules – it happens, especially over Christmas. You can use nature’s intelligence to support your Agni, in the form of spices and herbs. To give your digestive fire some help:
- drink warm or hot water between meals (not immediately before or after meals, though sipping warm or hot water during meals is recommended)
- drink ginger or cumin tea 30 minutes before eating, or with your meal
- as a digestive stimulant before a meal, eat a thin slice of fresh ginger with a little lemon juice, honey and a pinch of salt.
Look After the Liver
The liver is the major organ of detoxification and can be easily overburdened during the silly season due to a tendency to overindulge – especially in alcohol, sugar and processed fatty food.
Instead of waiting until the New Year to cleanse out the system, why not support your liver and digestion when it needs it most? During the festive season, you may want to take a herbal liver tonic.
Throughout the day, drink herbal teas such as dandelion root and add plenty of liver supporting herbs such as rosemary and turmeric into the diet. Drinking lemon in water on rising and having 1 cup of fresh beetroot juice daily are also great remedies to keep the liver supported.
Watch Out For Those Sweets
When energy levels are low, its tempting to snack on those chocolates, biscuits, cakes or sweets that seem to be so abundant over Christmas. Although this self-medicating energy boost can be very tempting, a bit of moderation can save you from dampening your digestion, creating Ama and gaining weight.
Most shop-bought confectionary contains high levels of sugar and usually sugar of the worst kind – highly refined sucrose that, though it can give you instant energy, eventually diminishes your body’s ability to effectively metabolise food into energy. The result is an energy crash. Shop-bought confectionary can often contain artificial ingredients that your body will not recognise as food and which will turn into Ama.
If you have a sweet tooth, try creating your own homemade cakes and sweets. Making your own allows you to use un-refined organic ingredients, such as coconut sugar – a more complex carbohydrate that releases its energy slowly and offers many useful nutrients.
A minimum of thirty minutes daily exercise will not only keep off the extra pounds, but will improve your Agni and burn off Ama. Something as simple as a short walk after a meal is a great way to aid digestion and help the detox process.
Yoga asanas stretch your body this way and that and exercise muscles, joints and tendons in a way that other exercise routines rarely do. They are also an ideal way of increasing Prana, balancing both mind and body, aiding digestion and removing Ama.
Also, sticking to your twice-daily Meditation practice this time of year is key.
Fast Once a Week
Ayurveda techniques form a connection between spiritual and mental wellbeing. Fasting is an excellent way to control toxin levels and eliminate them from the system. One consciously provides the body with a short break from unhealthy eating.
When that happens, the body may utilize stored fat and nutrients. That, in turn, can accelerate healthy elimination and natural detoxification.
Each dosha type responds differently to fasting. We recommend observing a short fast (skipping dinner once a week) before attempting a 24-hour fast. That way, one becomes attuned to the body’s responses and avoids unwanted dosha imbalance.
Some fasting forms require removing a few food items from the meal plan instead of skipping meals. Choose what is best for the body before practicing fasting.
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