I have wondered how frequently inefficient digestion can be implicated in physical, emotional and mental problems. I know that, according to Ayurveda, digestion problems are the underlying culprit in many issues.
This weekend I visited with a young woman named Ashley and she had an interesting tale to tell. Ashley said she felt terrible the last few weeks of her final term at college. After coming home her symptoms worsened.
Ashley’s symptoms were all over the place. She had a constant headache. The pain in her head was, she said, “Like a narrow tense bar that extended over my eyes.” The headache would become more intense after she ate.
Ashley was tired. Sleep did not rest her body and she felt more tired after eating. She had inertia and wanted to do nothing but lie on the sofa and watch reruns of Gilmore Girls! Parents aren’t happy when their teenage kids don’t want to rise off the sofa and so her family relationships began to suffer. Her parents wanted her to see a therapist because she seemed depressed. Ashley did not deny feeling down in the dumps but she adamantly insisted that something else was wrong.
Last Thursday Ashley had a meeting with an Ayurvedic practitioner and she learned that the underlying issue for the depression, the headache, the lethargy and inertia were—-you guessed it—digestive problems. Her digestive system is a mess because of the poor eating habits she picked up at school. During finals week her eating habits worsened and this was, so to speak, the icing on the cake. She came home with the headache, low-grade depression and lethargy.
Today is Monday and Ashley began a cleanse on Thursday. She said she already feels significantly better. She is giving her system a rest by staying away from gluten, heavy dairy products and meat. Twice a day she drinks an 8 oz glass of water with 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar in it. (She winced and made a “bad” face when she spoke of this concoction but acknowledged that it seems to be helpful.) She is staying away from things that are difficult to digest such as cheese and salads. Basically, in addition to cleansing her system, she is giving it a rest.
The Vaidya, Ayurvedic practitioner, who Ashley saw told her that her digestive system was full of toxins. Since the digestive system was not working properly her immune system was low. She was fortunate that she hadn’t picked up a bad cold or the flu. When the immune system is as low as Ashley’s it is also possible to develop allergies.
In Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way we discuss nutrition at length. We discuss optimizing digestion and we give the Ayurvedic guidelines for eating. We advise our readers that if these guidelines are followed, physical, mental and emotional health will be enhanced.
I asked Ashley to tell me what she had been eating at school. “Oh,” she said, “You know, pizza and cheeseburgers and lots of diet coke and well, it wasn’t just what I was eating but when I was eating, mostly I ate late at night and now I understand that my food wasn’t being digested. It was turning into toxins.” (undigested food). “I became” Ashley noted, “a tank of ama.” (Ama is the Ayurvedic word for toxins.)
She also told me that she was constantly hungry, never feeling satiated by her meals and that she had developed cravings. Constant hunger and cravings are symptoms of toxic buildup in the physiology.
While at college, Ashley is gaining knowledge that will help her to build a career. Now that she is home she is learning how to take care of herself. After all, without health she wouldn’t have the vitality necessary to put her education to use!
Her story is an interesting one especially because we all tend to focus on symptoms when we feel poorly and we often don’t look for the underlying causes. The next time your health feels challenged, take a look at digestion as a possible culprit. It just might be the source of the problem and might be easily fixed. Remember, the physiology is not a hunk of material but a pattern of vibrations so the state of our being can change very quickly in either direction—toward health or away from it. It did take several months of poor eating habits for Ashley’s problems to surface but they are dissipating very rapidly. She is amazed at how quickly her new eating regimen is helping her to feel better and me—well, I’m just always amazed at the wisdom inherent in the human body when we know how to trigger the physician within!
As always, Sandra and I wish you perfect health and happiness. Today we also wish you perfect digestion!