By Scott Blossom, Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medical practitioner
I recently watched the movie, “Melancholia,” by Lars Von Trier, and was struck by parallels, plot-wise, with the upcoming season of holiday feasting. For those of you who don’t know anything about the movie, it is about a wedding that happens on the eve of an astronomical disaster. The promises of love, unity, and family bonds are eclipsed by the presence of a rogue planet on a collision course for Earth. I know from first hand experience and observation that many a holiday feast, while gleaming with the promise of gathering and celebrating life with our beloveds, often ends with some in the party being eclipsed by a sort of gastronomical crisis!
Yes, I am being hyperbolic. Indigestion is not the end of the world. From an Ayurvedic perspective though, digestion is integral to virtually every aspect of our body/mind health- to harmony and balance as we know it.
The thing to keep in mind: you are not what you eat, you are what you digest.
Most people’s digestive capacity is similar to that of a small campfire. (There is, of course, a special subset of exceptional individuals, mostly adolescent males, who like wildfire can incinerate nearly anything that comes their way. I direct my commentary toward the rest of us.) Like a small campfire, the average humanís digestion is delicate: overload it and you smother it; feed it too little fuel and it dies; stir it too much or too little and it sputters. The key to good fire tending is to be a good observer and listener. Elemental fire knows what it wants and communicates its needs in the form of heat, radiance, and sizzle.† Our internal digestive fire speaks its own sensual and intuitive language: that of gut feelings.
For successful digestive fire tending, at least from an Ayurvedic perspective, consider these images:
- Heavy foods, like flesh foods, dairy, highly processed and intensely sweet foods are big logs. (Actually, dairy and intensely sweet foods, especially sweetened dairy foods like ice cream, are more like green or soggy logs, since they are the hardest to digest for most people.)
- Nuts and legumes, which fall in the middle of the spectrum from heavy to light, are well-seasoned medium logs; their vegetable fat and protein content make them both easy to burn and substantial enough to burn for awhile.
- Vegetables and fruits are light foods, easy to burn but quick to burn out.† Fiber-rich foods like these are the sticks that keep the fire burning, that stir it up and keep air circulating within it (via healthy peristalsis and elimination patterns).
- Judicious amounts of alcohol (apertif anyone?) and seasonings are your matches and kindling.
Next: Things that trouble digestion