How to Make Improper Food Combining Less Harmful
Eating foods that won't digest easily and efficiently when eaten together can wreak havoc on our digestion and our entire being, for that matter. When food digests improperly, it weakens our agni and leaves behind a residue of gunk, called ama, which is considered to be the foundation of disease.
However, we do live in the modern world, and of course, food temptations abound! And to try to follow the recommendations that Ayurveda puts forward for eating in a way that serves Swastha rigidly and dogmatically can lead to tension, perfectionism, overwhelm, pitta imbalance and an inability to connect to the playfulness of life.
So how can we include improper food combinations into our diets here and there? And how can we support our digestion as much as possible when we do 'bend the rules' a little bit?
If you haven't yet seen our Guide to Ayurvedic Food Combinations to Avoid, click here.
1. Strengthen Agni
If your Agni (digestive fire) is strong, then you will not have to worry so much about the effects of occasional improper food combining. The power of your agni will determine whether it is possible or not to burn up the impurities caused by combining foods together such as milk with fruits and honey with hot water. However, when done repeatedly and regularly, unhealthy food combining will challenge and aggravate even the strongest agni.
And if your agni is already compromised, then you will need to be more disciplined with yourself around food combinations, making a tapas out of your commitment to only eating foods that will digest in harmony with one another.
In either case, it is important to bring awareness to the state of your agni right now, and to make the shifts necessary to bring it back to into realignment and homeostasis; to what ayurveda calls 'Samagni' (even/balanced digestion).
2. Eat Improper Food Combinations Only Occasionally
When first arriving to the teachings of Ayurveda, many make the mistake of believing that the great wisdom offered by this system of living and healing is another set of rules and dogmatic principles that one must follow in order to 'receive' a specific result. And in this way, the recommendations that Ayurveda puts forward can then turn into another 'thing to do,' bringing more stress, rigidity and ego into our days. And this is, of course, not the aim of Ayurveda.
Instead, we should strive to allow these teachings to imbue our minds and bodies with experiential understanding, by living the practices and recommendations, and therefore allowing our relationship with Ayurveda to become one that is much more intuitive.
From that place, it is possible to occasionally indulge in food combinations that won’t sit too well inside our bellies, for the exchange of sharing a celebratory meal with friends and loved ones on a special occasion or holiday.
And if we live according to Ayurvedic principles 90% of the time, we can be promised bountiful health throughout our lives.
However, if our digestion is already struggling, more diligent measures and commitments will be required for a time, and improper food combinations may need to be avoided entirely for a while.
3. Take a Digestive Tonic Before Eating
Spark the fire of your digestion before indulging in a difficult food combination, with an Ayurvedic digestive tonic. There are many digestive aids that can be of service before a meal, but one of the simplest is to simply mix one of our Ayurvedic Spice Mixes (1/2 tsp) in 1 cup of hot or warm water, and to sip on that 10 minutes before a meal.
We have Ayurvedic Spice Mixes for each Dosha and a Tridoshic version for sharing with the whole family.
You can also drink a strong infusion of ginger in hot water.
4. Cook your Food Together!
When we cook foods together, they become easier to digest. The cooking process itself is already an initial form of digestion, easing the burden on our own internal agni. The fire and agni of the stove-top or the oven or the open flame breaks down the separation between the ingredients and invites in a kind of cohesiveness and camaraderie. Cook your difficult-to-digest foods into a soup, stew or one-pot meal (slow-cookers and instant-pots are great tools for this) with a healthy oil such as sesame oil or ghee (if non-vegan) and add some dosha-appropriate spices to the mix to create a meal that will be more friendly once it hits your stomach.
5. Eat as Ritual
Ayurveda clearly shares that the way we eat is just as important as what we eat. So if you are eating something that you know might not be the friendliest for your tummy, practice eating with presence and as a practice, in and of itself.
- Eat in a quiet and calm space, with no distractions
- Eat slowly, savouring every bite
- Use all 5 senses to experience the act of eating
- Sit for a few minutes after your meal in quiet to allow the meal to digest
- Take a short walk afterwards
- Sip on CCF tea after your meal to further support digestion