Ask Ayurveda: How do you increase the digestion without increasing heat in the body?

Big dark pink Lotus Flower photoDear Ask Ayurveda:

“I am a busy mom from New York.  Last summer, I had struggled to try to stay in balance but I seemed to become very irritable (ask my kids!), as my inner “fire” seemed to get a bit out of control due to the hot weather.  Despite the excessive heat and irritation, I also suffer from having a low digestive fire and slow metabolism.  How can I go about increasing my digestive fire without adding a lot of heat to my body during these hot summer months?   Do you have any recommendations or products for increasing the digestion in a cooling way?  Also, are there some Ayurvedic remedies to keep the heat balanced during the summer months?  Thanks for your help!!”  Hot and Irritable in New York

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Dear Hot and Irritable:

Thank you for writing in with your question.  It is true that during the hot summer months the digestion often gets weaker while the overall fire, also known as Pitta, tends to increase.  Therefore the metabolism slows down, while symptoms of high Pitta (heat) such as irritability, anger, inflammation, headaches, rash, acne, hot flashes and hyperacidity increase.  This can get troublesome, as many herbs that will increase the digestion will also increase the heat. The trick will be to increase the digestive fire, while keeping the rest of the body cool and calm. 

Luckily, increasing the digestive fire does not always involve heat.  Since your digestion is currently weak and metabolism slow, I would keep to an overall simple, easy-to-digest diet while avoiding snacking, grazing, overeating, improper food combinations and eating any food after 7pm.  Secondly, make sure the diet is not too heating by avoiding spicy foods, fermented foods, nightshades (i.e. peppers, potato, tomato, eggplant), citrus (except lime), salty foods, sour foods and hot sauces.  These foods will all increase Pitta and therefore increase your heat and irritability, especially during the summer. 

You can instead add more cooling spices such as fennel, coriander, cumin, fresh ginger (in moderation) and pippali (indian long pepper) along with using some lime, ghee, coconut oil and cilantro.  By using these condiments and spices, you will not only help to pacify the heat in the body, but also simultaneously increase the digestive fire in a cooling manner.

In addition, you can make a peppermint, lemongrass, fennel and fresh ginger tea to sip on throughout the day.  Here is the recipe:

Cooling Tea Recipe for Digestion:

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp peppermint
  • 1 Tbsp lemongrass
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1” chunk of fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp of honey (optional)
  • 3 cups of water

Directions:

  1. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.
  2. Add the herbs and spices.
  3. Steep over a low heat for 8-12 minutes and then strain.
  4. Let the tea cool a bit.   Add the honey if desired.
  5. For best results this tea should be taken hot to warm; however, it can also be taken at room temp or slightly cooler during the extremely hot months if needed.

Another powerful cooling remedy that is also great for increasing the digestion is aloe vera juice.  Try taking 2 tablespoons of organic aloe in 1/4 cup of pomegranate juice.  Drink this 2-3 times daily during the summer.  You should notice a difference pretty quickly! 

In terms of the products I offer, the first thing that comes to mind is the Tikta Ghrita, also known as Bitter Ghee.  This traditional Ayurvedic medicine is unbeatable for reducing heat and inflammation in the body, increasing the digestion, flushing out toxins from the system and balancing the hormones.  You can read more about Tikta Ghrita here. 

Another option would be the Pitta Honey Infusion, a powerful digestive aid that is specifically designed for people with too much heat in the system.  You simply take a small spoonful of this before each meal.  This is by far one of my best selling products, as it is a pleasantly tasty way to sneak in your herbs.  Click here to read more about the Pitta Honey Infusion.     

I also offer a Healthy Digestion Tea that has lemongrass as the main ingredient, making it perfect for increasing digestion without increasing the heat during the summertime.  If you don’t have the ingredients for the tea recipe above, this can be a nice alternative.  Click here to read more on the Healthy Digestion Tea.

In addition to these herbal remedies, I would definitely practice a Pitta-reducing diet and lifestyle as well.  Here are some tips on “How to Balance Pitta” from a previous article: http://svasthaayurveda.com/how-to-balance-pitta-dosha/

Well Hot and Irritated, I hope these recommendations will help to boost your digestive fire, while keeping your body and mind cool for the summer.  I would try to implement these remedies as soon as possible, instead of waiting for the irritation and heat to manifest (if it hasn’t already).  If left untreated, the increased heat (aka Pitta) will continue to accumulate throughout the summer and can begin to cause other heat-induced imbalances as well, such as the Pitta disorders listed in the first paragraph above.

Sending you and your kids some cooling, calming energy for the summer!  

Namaste,

Ask Ayurveda

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