You Are What You Digest: Emotional Digestion, Episode 2

Transcript for Episode 2

Rumin: Hi Mamta

Mamta: Hi Rumin  

Rumin: So here we are again, with Episode 2 of our series “You Are What You Digest”. Are you ready to take us through mental and emotional digestion?

Mamta: Sure!

Rumin: Before we begin, I am going to recap our previous episode for the listeners to help set the stage for this episode. In our first episode, we focused on physical digestion through the lens of Ayurveda. Talking about how physical digestion takes 35-40 days and is a continuous process that extends beyond our GI Tract and into our 7 tissues. Beginning with our plasma then continuing to our blood, muscle, fat, bone, marrow, and ending with our 7th tissue the reproductive system. And in order to maintain healthy digestion and prevent ama or toxins,  which stems from food that is not digested properly, we also talked about the importance of not just what we eat, but our eating habits, the strength of our digestive fire, which helps us to  metabolize effectively –  so that we can attain the optimal nourishment or ahara from the food we eat. And today we are going to talk about digestion as it relates on an emotional level. I think our listeners will agree on the importance of our mental and emotional well-being and this theory may not be something new. But I think what is relatively different here is the using same concepts like digestion, ama, and ahara which we used when discussing physical digestion, being applied to our mental and emotional health. And the benefit of using these same concepts allows us to connect the dots and see the connection between our mental, emotional and physical well-being. And when speaking holistically, it is important that we do not compartmentalize these three levels.

Mamta: Yes. We are going to address them individually for the sake of clarifying each level, but they work synchronically.

In physical digestion, we are looking at what kinds of food you’re eating, how you eat,  when you eat and everything to do with the physical body,  but you are a human being, and the human being has more components to it that pour into the physical body.

Your emotions pour into it, your mind pours into it,  your thoughts pour into it, your ability to discern, your intelligence pours into it and all this goes into the chemical mix of digestion.  Our nervous system releases digestive enzymes and hormones not only according to what food we are eating but also according to what mood we are in!. If you are joyous, there will be endorphins! Your blood will be rushing, your fire will be high. IF you are depressed, or angry, or in fear, it’s a whole other chemical mix! and will eventually impact how your food gets absorbed, how it is broken down, AND whether you are going to build healthy tissues OR toxicity in your system.

So you see, there is a relation here. In Ayurveda you have this saying, “The subtle effects the gross and the gross effect the subtle. But the subtle affects the gross more.”

Rumin: When you say gross, you are referring to the physical body and subtle refers to the emotional or mental factors.

Mamta:  Yes. As a Human Being we have far deeper dimensions than are perceptible and more than science has yet fathomed. But, we can all agree that we have feelings and we have thoughts. We cannot see them but we can infer them by how each one looks or sounds or feels as an attitude. You can feel someone’s joy, or anger or disapproval! We see the gross, the physical body, we cannot see our thoughts or our emotions. We only see the effect of our thoughts and emotions on our physical body. Ayurveda is a mind and body medical system. They are inseparable.

Rumin: Exactly this one of the benefits to a holistic approach to the health. Can you give us some examples of the subtle affecting the gross

Mamta: Let’s say you receive some great news! you got a raise! or your partner gave you a gift, or someone threw a surprise party for you …your mood suddenly changes! with that your body’s chemistry changes.  You release endorphins and this is going to affect your appetite! You may become ravenously hungry OR, you are so nourished by those emotions that you are no longer hungry!

Similarly, Let’s say you heard some bad news and you are in an emotionally depressed place; That is going to suddenly make your body release some other hormones OR go into a fight or flight response. When this happens, the body is poised for emergency. all other systems shut down!…you are in a fight or flight posture. That emergency clouds out every other function. Your digestion is going to shut down. if you get some bad news, and I say: “Dinner is served…”  you may say: I “ lost my appetite and I don’t feel like eating!” NOTHING happened physically but emotionally something caused a switch to turn off.  What started as a mental or emotional incident, triggered a shutdown on a physical level.

Rumin: Or a person may get compulsive and run to food and begin to over eat.

Mamta: Yes

Rumin: So this is how the subtle affects the gross, and before we go into the opposite let’s explore the subtle affecting the gross a bit more. So this person who is depressed and not eating, let’s say this becomes a pattern over the next several days. We know from what we discussed previously that the lack of nourishment is going to affect the tissues of the physical body. Now that we have the mental and emotional factors into play, what are the effects?

Mamta: The word Ahara in Ayurveda, means nourishment. We get nourishment physically – from food, water, air..  emotionally, mentally, intellectually and spiritually simultaneously. So digestion has to take place on all these levels. If any of these are out of whack, it is going to affect our chemical river. what hormones get released, what digestive juices are being secreted…how is the interaction occurring on all these level.

You know we discussed in the previous episode that physical digestion takes 35-40 days, where the nutrients we ingested are broken down and assimilated to become our tissues and immune system. if you are emotionally or mentally out of sorts, your digestive juices and release of the proper enzymes will be impacted. This can result in unhealthy tissues down the road: Muscles could get weak, or you may put on weight because the fat tissue is affected, or with bad blood, emotional outbursts could become an issue. so, EMOTIONS play a major role in your Digestion.

Rumin: And that’s why in Ayurveda we talk about not only about the importance what we eat but how we eat, and one these components is the state or our emotions while we are eating, or even cooking, because our feelings pour into the chemical mix and affect it.

Mamta: You know, in India, sometimes you see a very poor mother feeding her child, and all it is, is rice and salt! but as she feeds the child, she tells him stories and uses her hands to feed him. There is love pouring into that mix! What she lacks in dietary nutrients, she adds emotionally. You or I would be sick in one day if we ate that!  these days we hear mind/body, Mind/Body in modern medicine! Harvard has done studies that show people’s physical health improves exponentially when they are released from the hospital and go home to loved ones, and they are released earlier from the hospitals when loved ones visit!. Scientists today tell us what Ayurveda has been saying for centuries. If you are angry, do not eat.  why is this? when we are emotionally upset, toxic juices get released. Anger, Fear, Depression in their own way, are not clarifying, harmonious emotions. They are blinding emotions! People do irrational things when they are angry or fearful or depressed!. They eat irrationally! Their system at that time is toxic! If a nursing mother feeds her baby when she is angry, or upset, most of the time the baby throws up!  So if you are chronically upset and do not put some balancing practices in place, eventually it is going to catch up with you! ALL the organic food you consume, will not help because the enzymes needed to digest it, were curtailed or some other more overpowering hormones were released and now what should have been ahara or a nourishment for you becomes again, a toxin. We call it ama. Now this ama is not caused by preservatives, or fast food, fried food, but by an emotion has not been digested

Rumin: so not only do we need to digest what we eat, remove our toxins from our body, but now we also need to be aware of digesting our emotions and detoxing on this level as well.

Mamta: Yes. We need to break them down to glean their lessons. Digestion is also happening on an emotional level, and on a mental level, because we are constantly ingesting on those levels as well. a carrot has to undergo a change after entering the human body. it is broken down, it is mixed with the human forces, human digestive juices, until it is no longer recognizable as a carrot. It becomes part of the human physical structure. if you recognize it as a carrot at any deeper stage of digestion, it cannot be absorbed. It stagnates and eventually becomes a toxin, which can harbor disease. Similarly, we are constantly ingesting emotional experiences. these if stored away in the body without proper engagement, will just stay within us.  In the body, our pancreatic juices, help to neutralize the pH balance as the food passes through! We also have to learn to neutralize our experiences on the emotional and mental plane wherever there is a charge or an overload, so our system does not go out of balance. In fact we store emotions in our muscles. you know, our posture changes, when we react emotionally. Our muscles move! if we are depressed, we may slouch – our eyes dull. If we are angry, our skin can turn red: skin is a subsidiary tissue of our muscles. If we are overjoyed, our muscles move and we may jump up and down! or our cheek muscles break into a smile! In fact emotions affect our tissues on every level!

Rumin: So if this is the case just as the quality of our food or undigested food affects the quality of our tissues. Similarly the type of emotions we are experiencing can do the same. It’s like the difference between eating fresh, living foods, or highly processed foods. Both in a sense are forms of ahara, but they engage in our body in different ways, and how they engage can affect the end result – based on the quality of what we are consuming. Now in this case it’s not what we are eating but it’s the quality of what we are feeling which can disturb the rhythm and cycles of digestion. In-turn also playing a role in the quality of our tissues.

Mamta:Yes so Now imagine if an individual has gone through a traumatic , abusive relationship.  they are going to store that experience within their emotional structure. now this can be an emotional overload. they may need to take bite size bits and detox this experience. Otherwise it’s going to become a part of their personality. how often do we see that a person who has been abused, turns around and abuses their own child or another partner!. On the other hand, I know so many people who have been severely abused, but they take the experience, break it down, digest it, glean the insights and wisdom from that experience and release the imbalance and put important structures in place. Then they turn around and share their wisdom with other victims of abuse and help theri rehabilitation. THIS is what digestion is about. It’s about transformation! On an emotional level, it’s about taking experiences through us and refining them and transforming them before releasing them into the world. Now it becomes ahara or nourishment for our fellow beings on a subtle level, as well as allows US to get our nourishment into the deeper recesses of our body and our Personality structure.

Rumin: Thank God for people like that!  Who can take their emotional experience, transform it and channel with a digestive fire to not only transform themselves but bring this gift to their community or the world.

Mamta: Yes. because our emotions become part of the causative forces that navigate what hormones,  enzymes, and digestive juices get secreted out. They have a direct connection with the brain.  Now Ayurveda is not really talking about Good and Bad thoughts or emotions. It’s Important that we don’t go there. Because Good-Bad, these are subjective values that one’s mind swings perpetually between the polarities. We need to become aware of how our body is responding, to our emotions and how our emotions are dictating its functions. This is why the subtle affects the gross more. We’ll explore this much deeper when we get into the next episode.

Rumin: Okay, sounds good, but before we go further into this, let’s circle back to what we haven’t explained yet and that is the gross affecting the subtle

Mamta: well….if something happened physically to you and say a person broke their leg, and I say: “ Come on let’s go to a party!”  That physical pain is not going to want you to emotionally engage, because the pain has obscured the joyous emotional outlook at that point.

Rumin:  And once the pain goes away or the leg heals, you get back into your routine. And this shows that the lack of desire to emotionally engage was rooted from the physical imbalance. But to bring us back to topic of our conversation today, the subtle affecting the gross, there could also be a time, when we have a physical imbalance and not realize that this imbalance has nothing to do with a physical injury but rather it stems from emotional ama.

Mamta: AND unless you acknowledge this, you will not get to the root cause of a complaint, and never arrive at the right conclusion and remedy! A person having a stomach ache or spasms, can be due to indigestion because they ate some bad fish, or due to their menstrual period, or because they are frightfully nervous!that is emotional.  If you do not get to the cause, how will you address the solution?

Rumin: Exactly this the beauty of holistic approach to health, and what I love about Ayurveda.  When we use these same concepts of ama, ahara, and digestion and apply them to both our emotion and our physical body, our lens widens, we have the capacity to connect the dots and explore whether the a cause is rooted in an emotional or physical imbalance. We are not confined to one specialized field. We are trained to approach this from multiple levels.

OKAY, so I digress, so let’s get back on topic,since we already covered how to deal with ama rooted on a physical level, let talk about how do we work with emotional indigestion or emotional ama?

Mamta: Well, these emotions that have not been digested well, they act like little triggers within us now we become emotionally reactive entities and we have to start discerning between being an automatic reaction triggered by past habits, or being appropriately responsive in a given situation. You know, take a hostage situation, if you think of a swat team leader, he is confronting the hostage, there is tension, the hostage taker is reactionary, the swat team leader cannot afford to be reactionary also. He has trained himself. He stays calm, he keeps his attention on the right goal to avert the crisis. He does not automatically react. He stays centered till the right response emerges. That is what we have to train ourselves to do. we have to learn to respond not react – unless we are in a dangerous situation where we have to rely on our reflexes a semi truck …and react quickly. We say we are what we digest, but often times, when we are just in a reactive mode,  we become what we have not digested within ourselves. And we need to train ourselves to be conscious that our emotions don’t take us hostage, that WE are appropriately driving the car.

Rumin: This reminds me of a quote a i came across recently that i think ties in well with what just said, its from Malala, speaking of people who transform their experiences and shared it with the world,  So she say,  “I truly believe the only way we can create global peace is through not only educating our minds but our hearts and our souls”  And this is exactly what you were saying,  we need to educate ourselves on how to respond appropriately and not react,  in order to not only prevent emotional ama, but also physical ama from occurring as the subtle effects the gross and the gross effect the subtle. Of course this is easier said than done it  takes time, as we need to learn about ourselves and what is shaping our reactions.

Mamta: The human being’s journey is  a journey in consciousness becoming aware of our unconscious reactions and reflexes and turning them into positive responses. And to do this we have have tools and we have the faculty of breath because the breath connects the gross with the subtle in the human being. IT also connects us to the mind. And the breath and our mind play an important role in digestion and we will discuss this next time as we dive into mental digestion.

Rumin: Sound good, I’m looking forward to it – until our next episode. Thank you Mamta.

Mamta: Thanks Rumin