The regret comes after the meal when you are running for the antacids, of having eaten too much or the wrong gassy foods. If this is a one-off situation, there is nothing to worry about. It is nothing that a spoonful of Haridra Khanda cannot resolve. But according to Ayurveda, frequent bloating and flatulence signals poor digestion and must be looked into before it turns chronic.
This is because when digestion (digestive Agni) is weak, the food is disintegrated through the process of fermentation and a byproduct of the process can be gas.
Importance of agni or digestive fire
Agni or digestive fire is an important Ayurvedic principle with a more literal and metaphorical meaning. You have probably come across people who can eat a really large meal and there is no sign of discomfort or lingering heaviness. This is the gift of having strong agni. (we do not mean you should test the limits of it very often!) The strength of Agni determines how strong your digestive metabolism is, how balanced your pitta dosha is, how sharp and focused your mind is, how energetic you are, and how strong your immune system is. It is the strongest indicator of good health and the body’s metabolic functions.
Bloating: Everything you need to know
Bloating, a common Vata disorder is described specifically in 4 ways in Ayurveda-Aadhmana or flatulence, Pratiaadhmana or accumulation of gas in the upper abdomen region, Aanaha or distention caused by an inability to pass stool or urine, and Atopa or stomach regurgitation with shooting pain.
Imbalanced Vata dosha, weak Agni and accumulation of ama toxins due to these two reasons, can lead to bloating problems. Here are a few things you can do to deal with bloating. Before we get into that, it is advisable to get your dosha imbalances examined with a senior Ayurveda practitioner, so they can prescribe the treatment best suited for your dosha type. But in general, the following tips can go a long way in dealing with bloating.
Stay away from foods that can aggravate vata
If you have been experienced a bloated feeling for a few days, it is a good idea to consciously stay away from vata aggravating foods like beans, cabbage, raw salads, raw sprouts frozen foods, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, fried stuff, dairy, fatty, processed or fermented foods. Though you can have healthy fats like clarified butter or ghee in small quantities for better digestion.
Ayurveda recommends the rule of opposites. So if Vata quality is one of dryness and roughness, to counter its excess, you can go for foods that are slightly unctuous, warm and smooth. So you can have soups, cereal, nut milk, and puddings to pacify aggravated Vata.
It is important to have a routine
An important way to keep Vata in check is by following a routine diligently. Everything from your sleep-wake cycle, meal schedule, the time when you work out or meditate needs to be tied down to a routine, for Vata to stay balanced. This one practice can go a long way in taming vata.
Don’t suppress natural urges
Suppressing natural urges can lead to the accumulation of Vata and cause more discomfort. In Ayurveda, these urges that should not be suppressed are called Adharineya Vega. Suppressing natural urges can block the downward moving apana vayu (type of prana or life force) to linger in the upper regions which can slow down the natural digestive movement. Gas formation is also part of the metabolic processes in the body and to that extent, they are a natural occurrence.
Cooking with spices
To balance Vata, you must avoid raw foods completely, especially raw salads. While cooking, you can use Vata pacifying spices like coriander, fennel, or cumin seeds. Also add a generous amount of turmeric, asafetida, and rock salt to relieve flatulence and discomfort.
Digestive fire is kindled by adding ingredients such as jaggery, garlic, black pepper, or garlic. They also balance Vata dosha and reduce constipation. Buttermilk also pacifies all three doshas, improves digestion and makes digestive fire stronger. You can also have turmeric in the form of a whole food supplement to get its full benefit.
Ginger and honey
An important herb for dealing with bloating is ginger. You can try having ginger with honey for vata relief. Studies indicate that certain enzymes like gingerol and shagaol in ginger can help our digestive system disintegrate and expel the gases formed. Ginger’s antibacterial properties, backed by scientific research, can help ward off digestive infections caused by pathogenic yeasts and strains like E coli, Bacillus subtilis, among others. Ginger is also known to support the movement of food particles and other matter through the digestive tract for quicker expulsion.
Ayurveda treatments for bloating
When bloating becomes a perpetual occurrence in your life, you may require holistic and complete cleansing of the digestive tract, detoxification of the ama deposited over time, and proper diet before, during, and after the treatment that suits the sensitive digestive system post-treatment. One practice you can do at home for a natural detox is fasting. But make sure it is alright to fast according to your dosha type. If you fast once a week, you can have light soups or warm water with lemon and honey.
Also, treatments like swedana or sweat therapy, herbal enema and Virechana or purgation therapies can help get the blood flowing to important digestive organs, lubricate the joints, remove ama toxins, and reduce stress. The line of treatment for digestive cleanses will depend on your dosha constitution and the kind of imbalances that need correction.
An important Ayurvedic practice for effective detox is warm oil massages with Vata pacifying oils. A nice round of abhyanga massage with warm oil helps soften the toxins, preparing them for elimination through the intestinal route. Abhyanga followed by a warm bath can help deal with sticky ama deposits and relieve flatulence.
You can also try applying asafetida-soaked warm water to the naval area for quick relief from discomfort and gas.
Include Triphala in your diet
According to Ayurveda, the gut is the seat of Vata and so anything that helps improve the gut microbiome, like Triphala, can help address overall Vata imbalance. Triphala also includes three fruits-haritaki, amalaki and bibhitaki-that balance all three doshas. Triphala has mild laxative properties which help cleanse the colon, clear out unwanted gases and reduce bloating.
Haritaki (Chebulic myrobalan) is good for improving the digestive fire, removing toxins, and balancing Vata dosha. It has heating energy and is light and drying and along with Vata dosha, it also balances pitta and kapha.
Amalaki (Emblica Officinalis) supports healthy intestinal health and is a rich source of Vitamin C. It is cooling, light and dry and reduces vata and pitta dosha. It also increases Ojas or vitality in your body.
Bibhitaki (Beleric myrobalan) as per Ayurveda helps in the removal of intestinal mucus and ama that makes metabolism sluggish. It is rich in antioxidants like ellagic acid, flavonoids that support healthy blood sugar levels, and sensitivity to insulin. They also have anti-inflammatory properties.
These three fruits help tone, cleanse, stimulate, and rejuvenate the digestive tract. You can try Triphala in powder, tablet, and tincture form. You can read more about triphala benefits for your immune system here.
Additional tips to reduce bloating caused by Vata imbalance
- Have your meals when you are hungry and avoid snacking.
- Have a gap of at least 3 hours between meals.
- Make sure you avoid practices that dampen digestive Agni like eating processed, frozen or junk foods, coffee, foods with preservatives and artificial colors, and irregular sleep cycles.
- Make sure you also consume alkaline foods to counter weak Agni.
- Warm water with fennel seeds or ginger can help calm down Vata aggravation and bloating.
- For stronger digestion, it is important to eat mindfully and chew your food well, so the digestive juices released by the mouth can work well for total absorption and assimilation of food into the body for nourishment.
- Avoid drinking water immediately after meals. If needed, you can have a sip or two during the meal to wash down food stuck in the throat. Drinking water before a meal can also kill appetite. You can have water after 30 minutes of having your meal.