The Hidden Signs of Poor Digestion

Is yours truly healthy?

In the intricate web of Ayurveda, digestion is the master key that unlocks the door to vibrant health. Every aspect of our well-being, from physical vitality to mental clarity, hinges on how effectively we digest and assimilate the nourishment we take in.

Balanced digestion is not only crucial for nutrient absorption, it also directly influences:

  • energy levels

  • immune system strength

  • mood/mental health

  • healthy weight

  • skin health

  • longevity and vitality

Do You Have Good Digestion?

Most people think that having regular bowel means that they have good digestionbut that’s not always true. There are hidden signs that reveal the true state of your digestion. And because digestion is the key to good health, it is worth examining these hidden truths to make sure your digestion is functioning optimally.

For instance, you could be processing your meals too quickly, leaving you deprived of vital nutrients. Having bowel movements right after eating can also be a sign of imbalance in your digestive tract. On the other hand, if you’re not having bowel movements daily, your body is holding onto toxic waste. This can result in the reabsorption of toxins back into the body.

In Ayurveda, it is said that bowel movements should ideally happen every morning within the first hour of waking.

The quality of your digestion will vary based on your unique mind-body type. If you’re unsure of what your mind-body type is, this doshas quiz can be a good starting point, but it’s best to be assessed by an Ayurvedic professional for accuracy.

So how do you know if you truly have good digestion? 

It’s always best to consult an Ayurvedic practitioner to get the most accurate assessment of your digestive health, but a simple way you can get started on your own is to remember this catchy phrase:

Check your S.E.A.T. before you decide what to eat.

The acronym S.E.A.T. encapsulates the key aspects of digestion that you can observe to gauge its health and functioning. If you’re new to Ayurveda, be sure to read the post Doshas Decoded to learn more about Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, as they are key components in the health of your digestion.

S - Stool: The Digestive Mirror

The appearance of your stool tells a profound story about your digestive tract and your health. Ayurveda categorizes stool into several different types, each revealing its own signs of imbalance:

Vata Imbalance: Hard, dry, and pellet-like stool. Bowel movements are less than once a day, lacking complete elimination, both frequency and consistency of stool change a lot, color is darker, odor is astringent and foul, and more gas and flatulence are present. This suggests that your digestion is erratic, often leading to constipation.

Support this imbalance by staying hydrated, having regular meal times, avoiding dry, hard, rough foods, consuming meals in a calm/relaxed manner, and reducing stress (meditate, spend time in nature, practice pranayama).

Pitta Imbalance: Loose stool, yellow, or greenish stool with a strong acidic odor, hot/burning stool when eliminating, undigested food in stool, and/or more frequent than two times a day. All of these factors point to excess heat in the digestive tract, potentially causing diarrhea and/or inflammation.

Support this imbalance by avoiding spicy, fermented, and vinegar based foods, consuming more fiber, finding ways to reduce anger/frustration throughout your day, and eating at regular times in a slow, relaxed manner.

Kapha Imbalance: Stool that is sticky, pale or clay colored, contains mucus and has a strong odor. This indicates a sluggish metabolism and often leads to conditions like slow digestion and excess mucus production.

Support this imbalance by getting more exercise, consuming meals at regular times, and avoiding heavy, oily, creamy, and unctuous foods, as well as sweets and processed snacks.

Balanced Stool: Well-formed (shaped like a banana), light brown, doesn’t stick to the toilet, without a strong odor, and easy to wipe. If your stool is almost always this way, regardless of food eaten, it indicates excellent digestion and overall health.

Your gauge for balanced stool and digestion may vary, depending on your mind-body type (Prakriti). For example, balanced stool for:

Vata mind-body types: May tend to have one bowel movement within the first 2-3 hours of waking that are a little more firm and are darker in color than pitta and kapha types. There should still be complete elimination, no gas, and minimal odor.

Pitta mind-body types: May tend to have two complete bowel movements each day (one within the first hour of waking and another after lunch) that are formed but break up when flushed. The color is usually more brown than yellow and there is a mild odor.

Kapha mind-body types: May tend to have one bowel movement daily within 1-2 hours of waking that is well-formed, brown in color, and of large quantity. There should be complete elimination and less odor.

The Takeaway: By observing your stool, you gain insights into which dosha might be imbalanced, enabling you to make dietary and lifestyle adjustments to restore equilibrium.

You can learn more about the doshas by reading or revisiting our previous post - Doshas Decoded: Your Blueprint for Balanced Living and Radiant Transformation.

Are you more of a visual learner? Check out the handy stool chart below:

E - Energy: The Vital Post-Meal Feeling

After a meal, you should ideally feel invigorated, not sluggish or sleepy. This post-meal energy surge results from the efficient digestion and absorption of nutrients. If you often experience drowsiness after eating, it may be a sign of poor digestion.

In Ayurveda, this phenomenon is explained through the concept of ‘Agni’, your digestive fire. Like a furnace in your belly, a strong Agni ensures efficient metabolism and the proper transformation of food into energy. Conversely, a weak Agni leads to indigestion, fatigue, and the accumulation of toxins in the body.

The Takeaway: Feeling energized after eating is a sign of a robust digestive system.

A - Appetite: The Navigator of Meal Timing

Your appetite plays a pivotal role in guiding when, what, and how much you should eat for optimal digestion. Ayurveda suggests that you should not consume another meal until the previous one is fully digested, which typically takes about 3-4 hours. This practice promotes optimal digestion and prevents the accumulation of undigested food. Understanding your appetite helps you recognize the ideal moment to consume your next meals.

Sharp Appetite: If you feel a strong, gnawing hunger, and your energy is slowing, it's an indicator that your previous meal has been completely digested. This is the ideal time to eat, as your body is ready to receive and process the next meal effectively.

Variable Appetite: When your hunger varies, it's crucial to listen to your body. Eating only when your appetite is strong aids digestion. Conversely, if your appetite is weak, opt for a lighter meal or consider skipping the meal to allow your digestive system time to catch up.

Lack of Appetite: Occasionally, you might find yourself without much appetite. This can be a natural response, and it's advised in Ayurveda to refrain from eating until your appetite naturally returns. This fasting period enables your digestive system to rest and reset. If you’re experiencing a lack of appetite for an extended period of time you should consult your doctor or Ayurvedic practitioner.

The Takeaway: Observe the regularity and sharpness of your appetite to assess your digestive health, and make sure you give it time to catch up if it is getting too sluggish.

T - Tongue: The Reflective Surface

In Ayurveda, your tongue is like a mirror reflecting your overall health and the efficiency of your digestive system. By looking at your tongue in the mirror, you can identify various imbalances:

White Coating: A thick white coating on your tongue indicates the accumulation of toxins (ama), poor digestion, and suggests a kapha imbalance. Tongue scraping, ideally with a copper tongue scraper, can help remove this coating, resulting in improved digestion, taste, and breath.

Yellow Coating, Red/Inflamed Tongue: This condition signifies a pitta imbalance and excess heat or inflammation in your digestive tract, potentially leading to conditions like acid reflux or gastritis. Consuming cooling foods and herbs is beneficial, and avoiding spicy, fermented, and vinegar based foods will help reduce the excess heat.

Thin White/Clearish Coating, Cracks or Fissures: The presence of cracks or fissures indicates a Vata imbalance and may be associated with gas, bloating, or constipation. This is often linked to dehydration, erratic eating, and consuming rough, dry, hard foods. Consuming warm, well cooked meals at regular mealtimes will help balance vata.

Putting it All Together: Simple Steps for Digestive Health

Assessing your digestion using the S.E.A.T. acronym is an easy and powerful tool for enhancing your well-being. In closing, here are a few more practical steps to improve and maintain optimal digestion:

Stool: Aim for well-formed, light brown stools with minimal odor, indicating balanced digestion.

Energy: Strive to feel invigorated after meals by promoting a strong digestive fire. if necessary, incorporate warming spices like ginger and cumin into your meals.

Appetite: Listen to your body's cues. Eat when you have a strong appetite and avoid eating until the previous meal is fully digested.

Tongue: Keep your tongue clean by using a copper tongue scraper morning and evening as part of your daily oral routine. If you notice any concerning tongue symptoms, consider consulting an Ayurvedic practitioner for personalized advice.

Ayurveda emphasizes that digestion is the cornerstone of vibrant health.

By observing your stool, energy levels, appetite, and tongue, you can easily gauge your digestive performance. Start implementing these Ayurveda Life Design tips today to experience the transformative power of balanced digestion!

If you’d like a custom plan for optimizing your healthy and digestion schedule your Ayurvedic assessment today. 💜🌿