For much of the country, spring tends to be a cool, damp time of year. The winter frost starts to melt, and along with it, the accumulation of the moist and heavy qualities in our bodies. This is why we often tend to experience moist coughs and congestion in the spring. It is also known as the kapha time of year, a time when our digestion tends to feel a little bit more sluggish, requiring us to balance the diet with the lighter, drier foods of the season, such as sprouts, beans, and greens.
How do you know if you have sluggish digestion?
Kapha-type digestion is generally characterized by low metabolism, and a feeling of heaviness or sleepiness after eating meals. You may feel bloated or overly full, sometimes to the point of nausea. You may have one large, slowly passing bowel movement each day. Sometimes, a white coating may show up on your tongue.
If you have a kapha imbalance or have tendencies towards sluggish digestion, it is especially important to take the necessary steps to balance that sluggishness. As we move towards warmer spring and summer weather, we no longer need to hold onto as much of that protective weight that got us through the cold winter.
The following 5 tips are excellent steps to take for balancing kapha-type digestion:
1. Get Moving First Thing in the Morning
To get past the stagnation of kapha, it is important to get the body moving early in the morning. Kapha-types do best when waking an hour before sunrise to do their self-care practices, then moving on to some vigorous exercise to wake up the body and get those juices flowing. Going for a jog is great, or perhaps 10 minutes of jump rope. A yoga flow with plenty of vinyasas can also be good for kapha.
2. Aim to have two meals a day with no snacking
Kapha digestion is described as mandagni, which literally means slow digestive fire. When kapha is dominant in the digestion, metabolism is slow and the body cannot handle a lot of food at once, nor does it necessarily need a lot of food. Because of this, it is better for those with kapha digestion to have 2 meals a day with no snacks. Snacking will only further aggravate kapha and can cause symptoms such as weight gain and feelings of heaviness. Meals should be taken at the same time each day. Note that this is NOT for everyone - if you find yourself starving with this routine, you may need to eat more frequently. Always consult with a practitioner if you are not sure.
3. Favor light, dry, and spicy foods
In Ayurveda, the 6 tastes inform us in how to balance our diet. For kapha, the balancing tastes are pungent, bitter, and astringent. Why? Kapha is inherently heavy, dense, moist, and cool. Foods that counter these qualities are going to be those that are purifying. Spicy foods help kindle the digestive fire and also help dry up congestion. Bitter foods help reduce excess tissue and also aid the body in riding of toxins and buildup. Astringent foods help dry out excess moisture and also help tonify the body. Perhaps a spicy papaya salad, or a black bean quinoa salad would be some delicious choices that can help balance kapha.
4. Hold the fries, ice cream, and pickles!
On the flip side, it is important to reduce excess intake of the sweet, sour, and salty tastes. Yes, those chicken and waffles, ice cream sundaes, and curly fries with ketchup might taste really good going in, but will wreak havoc in the form of a food coma and stomachache later (in fact, I would not recommend those foods for any dosha). The sweet tastes directly increases kapha with its heavy, cool, moist qualities. Both sour and salty tastes, while heating, are also considered heavy and difficult for kapha to digest. Regularly eating meals where heavy qualities are not properly balanced with an adequate amount of vegetables, legumes, and other more typically lighter foods is a straightshot to lethargy, weight gain, and more serious problems down the road.
5. Finish Eating around 6 PM
Did you know that the body's digestive system also has a circadian rhythm? Digestion is most efficient during the pitta time of day, typically 10 am to 2 pm when the sun is highest in the sky. After that time, the body's ability to effectively digest food gradually decreases. For kapha-type digestion, this is especially true, and so food that is taken too late in the day will have a very hard time digesting well, causing ama (toxins from undigested food) buildup. Since it is better for kaphas to have two meals a day, they would ideally have an early lunch and early dinner, so that by the time the sun goes down, the kitchen is closed for the day.
This might all sound daunting to take on at once, and it is! Remember, habits are formed over a long period of time. It is better to take on one of these habits and work on it for a bit of time rather than try to do everything at once. If you find yourself struggling on your own, you may want to ask a friend or family member to support you as an accountability partner. And of course, I am always here to help!
Not sure where to start and want help?
My job as an Ayurvedic Health Counselor is to make sure that you successfully adopt the habits, diet, and lifestyle that are truly supportive to your unique constitution and imbalances. I am here to help you get over any obstacles or humps that might come up as you progress on your healing journey. Get in touch with me at any time to learn more about one-on-one health counseling and other opportunities to explore Ayurveda in further detail.
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