Digestion and Doshas

In Ayurveda, good digestion is the key to good health. Poor digestion produces “ama,” a toxic substance believed to be the cause of illness. And good digestion is the result of sufficient “agni” or “fire” in the system, whose presence maintains normality in all functions of the body.

Spices to increase agni (the digestive fire) are

  • Black pepper
  • Cardamom
  • Cayenne
  • Clove
  • Mustard

According to Ayurveda, most diseases are due to a weak digestive agni and imbalanced doshic functioning.

Food categories: The effects of diet and lifestyle on the mind

It has been observed that the mind conforms to one of the three categories – sattvic (pure), rajasic (stimulating) and tamasic (base and ignorant). In Ayurveda, food is described as falling into these categories.

“From Sattva is born knowledge, from Rajas greed, from Tamas is confusion, delusion and ignorance.” - Bhagvad Gita

Sattvic foods

Sattvic foods tend to be alkali-producing and are the highest quality foods. They help to maintain the body’s health, increase strength, vigor and vitality, create physical balance and promote spirituality.

These include fresh vegetables, fresh and dried fruit, warm salads, lentils, yoghurt, milk, fresh butter, ghee, wheat, rye, barley, nuts, rice and honey.

Rajasic foods

Rajasic foods are of medium quality. They are high in protein and generate high levels of physical energy. These foods are heavy and hard-to-digest, especially if the digestion system is not very efficient.

These include sugar, sweets, meat, cheese, fish, fried foods, eggs, potatoes and other root vegetables.

Tamasic foods

Tamasic foods are low quality foods. These foods damage the health and can cause physical imbalance and impair mental function. They can cause hyperactivity in children and restlessness and agitation in adults.

These include tinned (except fruit), processed and contaminated food. Drugs, alcohol and tobacco are also tamasic foods.

Let us take the examples of the elephant, the tiger and the jackal.

The elephant is a ‘sattvic’ animal that eats only fresh, vegetarian food. It is a large, strong, gentle and intelligent animal that is friendly and amiable.

The tiger is a ‘rajasic’ animal that kills and eats the flesh of other animals. It is fierce, aggressive, restless and always on the prowl.

The jackal is a ‘tamasic’ animal that does not seek his own food but eats the leftover food of other animals. He is a fearful, lazy animal that is nocturnal and shuns daylight.