Ayurvedic Eating Tips to Balance Energy and Emotions

by Kimberly Jordan Allen

These days, science supports what so many of us have intuitively known for a long time—that what and how we eat greatly impacts our mood, emotions, energy, and overall health. Many chronic diseases we now struggle with as a society are heavily influenced, and even sometimes caused, by lifestyle choices. Diabetes, heart disease, obesity, major depression—all can be related to what we consume. The traditional medical model of the West rarely incorporated nutrition and food awareness into the allopathic approach. In med school, according to a 2015 study, students spend only 19 hours or so studying nutrition and food.

But today, the way we eat and the foods we eat have been linked to anxiety, depression, and our capacity for cognitive function. Furthermore, prenatal and postnatal nutritional deficit has been linked to emotional dysregulation in children. The impact nutrition can have on our mental wellness is significant—in part because our mental health is regulated by hormones such as serotonin, 90 percent of which is produced in the gut.

But it’s not just what we eat—the way we eat and how we live impact not just the digestive system but many other systems that are vital to our emotional well-being. Our patterns around food, especially in the developed world, are often influenced by stress and even addictive tendencies. We’re overworked, undernourished, and moving fast. We don’t have time to prepare high-quality, nutritious meals, using fresh produce and organic ingredients—even when we know those are the best choices. And we don’t have time to sit down with loved ones and simply be present for a meal.

Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga—steeped in the wisdom of mindfulness, seasonal awareness, and self-care—can support healthy choices around food and eating, helping us to change our patterns and move toward greater physical and mental health.

“According to Ayurveda, the seat of the mind, emotions, and nervous system is in the gut. This is where the microbiome governs our thoughts, behaviors, and actions, via the gut-brain axis,” says John Douillard, DC, CAP, Ayurvedic practitioner and specialist in sports medicine. “To restore underlying digestive imbalances that could be linked to deficiencies and toxicities, we can follow daily and seasonal circadian rhythms. Being in harmony with those rhythms is essential for us to achieve balance and the inner calm needed to make emotional change.” 

The body comes into balance as we employ tools of Ayurveda, such as self-awareness through yoga, breathwork, and meditation. Research supports the understanding that cultivating calm can impact digestion and mitigate symptoms of gastric distress.

Optimize your digestion with these Ayurveda-inspired tips from Erin Casperson, Dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda.

  • Drink a glass of room-temperature or warm water first thing in the morning.
  • Choose your food each day by identifying what you think will be most balancing for you that day—if you’re feeling cold, choose a hot option; if you’re feeling sluggish, choose something light. 
  • Eat at a moderate pace, in a calm environment. Chew well—aim for 32 chews per bite. Avoid eating on the run. 
  • Choose fresh, local, seasonal fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid iced beverages and cold foods, which slow down digestion and cool the natural heat of digestive enzymes. Sip a small amount of warm water throughout your meal.
  • After eating, take a few minutes to relax or to take a short walk. Ideally, lie on your left side for five to 10 minutes after big meals, followed by a 15-minute walk.
  • Make lunch the main meal of your day, and dinner your lightest. Just like the heat of the sun, the digestive fire is strongest in the middle of the day.
  • Focus on eating rather than watching TV, reading, scrolling on your smartphone, or other distractions.
  • Listen for the first burp after eating. This will signal that you are done eating and that your stomach is full.
  • Allow a few hours between each meal, and at least two hours after dinner before going to bed.

Browse Ayurveda programs and trainings at Kripalu.

Kimberly Jordan Allen is an award-winning writer, editor, and content strategist. Her work has appeared in Yoga Journal, Shape, and Berkshire Magazine, and has been featured on Sonima and the Huffington Post.

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