1. Start your meal with a small piece of fresh ginger or a pinch of salt. Ginger is a rippa root for digestive issues. (Dry ginger is best for kaphas and fresh for vata and pitta.) It acts as a digestive stimulant, ideal for people with constipation, low stomach acid and weak digestion. (A pinch of Himalayan rock salt will do the job if you experience any burning with raw ginger.)
2. Eat warm food. According to Ayurveda, the digestive system works like a fire. Warm foods fuel the fire, while cold food put it out. Stacks of raw vegetables and greens take a lot of time and energy for the system to process, resulting in gas and bloat. Switch to warm, soft meals and see if you notice a difference. This is particularly crucial if you’re a vata dosha. Me, slow cooked stuff and soups are my friend. And I “warm and soften” most of my mish-mash meals, too.
3. Drink warm water. Or at the very least, room temperature liquids. Sipping warm water balances the digestive fire. It helps to keep the digestive system soft and relaxed, ready to release the acids and enzymes needed to cook your food. I drink warm water with apple cider vinegar 20 minutes before dinner and chamomile tea 20-30 minutes after dinner (never during or close to).
4. Add carminative herbs. Carminative herbs are rich in oils that soothe and settle the gut wall, helping to removal gas from the digestive tract. I always assemble beans, legumes and veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts with herbs like basil, bay leaves, fennel, oregano and thyme. Why not try some of these recipes below.
- Sweet Potato Chickpea Tacos
- Kangaroo Koftas with Shredded Brussels Slaw
- Vietnamese Slaw
- Slow Cooked Zucchini with Basil and Lemon
- Sweet Potato and Spinach Dhal
- Maderas Fish Tacos
- Pan Fried Beans and Kale
5. Cook with Ayurvedic digestive spices. There’s a list of wonderful spices traditionally used in Ayurvedic cooking to aid digestion and prevent gas and bloating after eating. Below are some of my favourites, which I’ve asked Ayurvedic consultant Nadia Marshall to elaborate on. Nadia is director of The Mudita Institute near Byron Bay. She lives and breathes this stuff.
- Cumin. Great for all three doshas. It helps to increase the absorption of nutrients and is one of the best spices for sluggish digestion. It also helps the absorption of water in the large intestines. Dry roast or fry whole cumin seeds in oil and add to any meal. Grind in a spice grinder with equal parts cumin, fennel, coriander to make a balancing garam masala to add to most meals or even drink as a herbal tea any time of the day (1/2 tsp in a cup of boiled water). Try this Moroccan Hummus.
- Fennel. Great for all three doshas. Fennel has the special quality of improving appetite without aggravating Pitta, due to its sweet post-digestive effect. It is antispasmodic so is a specific herb for reducing lower abdominal pain from bowel tension and overeating and it also reduces flatulence. Add whole fennel seeds or freshly ground fennel to virtually any meal. I share below what to do with fennel after a meal, too. Try my Foolproof Fennel Soup or these Grilled Sardines with Fennel Slaw.
- Coriander (seeds & fresh). Great for all three doshas. Coriander is cooling so is a wonderful daily addition to meals for people suffering from excess heat, acidity, reflux or IBS. It is an appetite stimulant, toxin digester, worm killer and alleviates flatulence, griping and bloating. You can use fresh coriander leaves or ground coriander seeds in almost everything. It has a gentle, earthy flavour so is suitable across many cultural cuisines. If you need some extra cooling down, you can prepare coriander seed tea and sip it throughout the day. Try this Coriander Pesto or this Avocado and Green Tea Chilled Soup.
- Turmeric. I’ve shared how to eat turmeric previously. It’s great for all doshas. Turmeric stimulates digestion and reduces the build up of undigested food waste in the gastrointestinal tract. It helps to decrease pathogenic bacteria in the intestines, aids the treatment of dyspepsia and stomach ulcers and has even been shown to help prevent bowel cancer. Use ½-1 teaspoon of ground turmeric powder daily in soups, casseroles, daals, curries and other one-pot meals. Try our Anti-inflammatory Turmeric Tea or this Turmeric, Goat’s Curd and Onion Seed Loaf.
Tip: Always buy organic whole spices and grind them fresh when cooking (you can use a cheap coffee grinder), to maximise the flavour and potency of the spices.
6. Chew fennel seeds after meals. Chew well and swallow 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds after meals. Compounds in the fennel – anethole, fenchone and estragole – have anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties that relax contracted intestinal muscles and allow trapped gas to dissipate. The oil in fennel seeds is also believed to stimulate bile for better digestion. The liquorice taste of the seeds also acts as a bonus breath freshener.
Do you stop to slowly enjoy your food? What are your best tips for being in the moment at mealtimes?