In Ayurvedic philosophy it is believed that in order to be able to fully assimilate the nutrients we put into our bodies, our sense of taste and just as importantly, our sense of smell must both accept and welcome the food or drink we are about to consume. This is based on the principle that the digestive process begins with the sense of smell, closely followed by taste. This is exemplified when we arrive home to the smell of a favourite meal gently simmering away in the kitchen, releasing its tantalising aromas. Much of this trigger will be from the smell associated with the memory of the taste of the food, but it can also be simply because it’s a very attractive smell, as is the case if its something that smells amazing but we haven’t tried it before. Our sense of smell is the most closely linked to the memory. In fact it has been noted that loss of the sense of smell can be an early sign of the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Next our mouth begins to water, literally. We salivate, releasing enzymes in the mouth that will begin to digest food. When the food is placed in front of us, this salivation and enzyme production increases as our brains receive information that we are about to begin eating.
Once the food is placed in the mouth the sensory receptors on the tongue will distinguish the taste of the food – sweet, salty, sour, astringent, pungent or bitter. Each of these tastes has a differing effect on our constitutions – for example pungent tastes have a heating effect on our systems, whereas sweet tastes are generally cooling. It is taught that we need a balance of the six tastes in our diet to be healthy, however this ratio will depend on ones own constitution. E.g. someone with systemic inflammation in the body (inflammation = heat), would benefit from foods that assist in keeping the inner workings of the body cool.
After the taste has been sensed inside the mouth our brain receives this information and we know if the taste is agreeable or repugnant to our palette. This most often confirms the earlier message from the sense of smell.
Our digestive journey then descends from the palette into the digestive tract and the food is broken down where its contents are processed and the energy, hydration and nutrients are assimilated by the body.
However if we can recall perhaps being presented with food that our senses are rejecting from the moment we inhale the food’s aroma, the salivary enzymes will not be produced. In fact depending on how disagreeable we find the smell or taste, we may have an embarrassing reaction of choking as our body vehemently rejects it. This is literally the body restricting access; closing down, because it doesn’t want the food. Again as mentioned earlier, this could be from a memory associated with the food, and not because there is anything bad or wrong with the food in front of us. Whatever the reason we are reacting in this way, the result is that if we were to forcibly intake the food, we would not digest it, and consequently wouldn’t absorb the nutrients from it. If you have to hold your nose to eat something, you really should not be eating it, because its likely that your body will pass it straight out. We know this because in extreme aversion, vomiting can be the very undesired reaction.
So does this mean that anything we make ourselves intake, because we know its good for us, won’t work unless we really like it? All those green sludgy smoothies, that we force down when we have no time for breakfast or mum’s liver casserole, that we were told would “put hairs our chest” – (thank goodness I never ate it!!).
You will obtain some nutrients from whatever you put into your body, even if you don’t like it. But because your body will naturally not produce the right fluids and enzymes necessary the digestive process will be compromised and you may not get the best from your food.
In the case of liquid nutrition (such as smoothies and juices) even when we don’t like the taste we will still begin the absorption process via the mouth. During times of illness, digestive stress or during a fasting protocol, this method of ingesting nutrients in a liquid form, even if we are not so keen on the taste, is still an effective way to get around a compromised or resting digestive system.
To get the best from them, it is advised that we hold the liquid in the mouth allowing the tongue to distinguish the tastes and produce salivary enzymes to begin the digestion process in the mouth.
Because the food is in a liquid form, the stomach doesn’t have to break it down, and absorption still takes place while the stomach rests and repairs.
However, if we are not convalescing, or fasting, perhaps we should be listening more to what our senses are telling us. This is perhaps the first step to eating intuitively. Once we begin to hear what it is that our body is either calling for or rejecting, we begin to know what our body might need on a deeper level.
To do this we must of course first deal with addictions e.g. sugar cravings, which mask the messages from our body. Cravings are not the same as nutritional requirements – but they are certainly much louder, so much so that they drown out the voice that tells us what we really need!
The time has come in our evolution to stop listening to everyone else about what is right or wrong for us – and to start listening to the messages from our own excellently designed, but long forgotten, inner workings.
Our health is no-one else’s responsibility but our own. Get back in touch with your inner workings through the doorways of your 5 senses.
I wish you good health, calm and clarity and most of all love ❤