Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay)
If someone asks you to run or climb stairs or walk uphill after taking food, you will definitely not be comfortable doing them. This shows that there are certain things, works and activities which should not be done, sooon after consumption of food.
If done, they would definitely have a bad impact on the health and metabolism. Thus it is important to know what are those things, works or activities which are prohibited after food.
Loss of appetite or indigestion is the earliest symptom or complaint of a disturbed or diseased gut / stomach. This symptom is also premonitory symptom for many diseases, symptom of some diseases, sign of bad prognosis in some, complication in many diseases.
These symptoms are generally neglected. But we have to be careful and take caution when they have a longer route and a longer period of existence in the body. There may be a dangerous systemic disease developing in its backdrop.
According to Ayurveda, these symptoms of impaired digestion indicate a systemic disease slowly developing within us which might get manifested as a serious disease in a larger scale in the future days. These also reflect an error in metabolic process either in the gut or at the cellular level. They are not as easy and simple as we think them to be.
Doing certain things or getting indulged in certain activities after food also puts the stomach, metabolism, health and immunity in trouble.
Below mentioned are the 15 things which would upset the gut and cause systemic diseases if done immediately after taking food. Therefore according to Ayurveda, these 15 are best avoided immediately after food in the fore-sight of good health –
Table of Contents
Things to avoid immediately after food
15 things to be avoided immediately after food –
शयनं च आसनं च अति न भजेत् न द्रव अधिकम्।
न अग्नि आतपौ न प्लवनं न यानं न अपि वाहनं॥
व्यायामं च व्यवायं च धावनं पानं एव च।
युद्धं गीतं च पाठं च मुहुर्तं भुक्तवान् त्यजेत्॥ (यो.र)
Shayanam cha aasanam cha ati na bhajet na dravaadhikam
Na agni aatapau na plavanam na yaanam na api vaahanam
Vyaayaamam cha vyavaayam cha dhaavanam paanam eva cha
Yuddham geetam cha paatham cha muhurtam bhuktavaan tyajet
(Ref – Yogaratnakara)
Shayanam – Excessive or Immediate Sleeping –
One should not sleep immediately after taking food. You should go to sleep at least 1 – 1 ½ hours after taking food. This rule though is applicable for all foods including breakfast, lunch and dinner; it is more apt for dinner because generally we tend to sleep immediately after dinner.
Read related: Day sleep – Sleeping in the day: Yay or Nay!?
When we immediately sleep or rest after food, we would not have given enough time and opportunity for the stomach to digest our food.
Also when we sleep, the blood supply, the nerve control over the stomach will be cut off or will be taking place at a lesser pace than needed. This leads to indigestion. Chronic indigestion forms the foundation to many systemic disorders.
According to Ayurvedic concepts of digestion – during the first part of digestion in the stomach, ama or improperly processed or immature essence / extract of food is formed. This needs to be further processed in the further stages of digestion.
When we sleep immediately after food the ama is not further processed and accumulates in heavy amounts. This dilutes the digestive juices and slows down the digestion process. Over a period of time when sleeping immediately after food gets into a practice, severe digestion sets in and forms a foundation for many systemic illnesses.
This stage of digestion also gives rise to Kapha Dosha. Kapha in every cell is basically nurtured soon after digestion. Kapha is a supporting substance which helps in the integrity of each and every cell. It is composed of earth and water element.
But sleeping immediately after taking food, leads to indigestion and excessive formation of Kapha. Like ama, Kapha too dilutes the digestive juices and gives rise to chronic indigestion in a long run. This in turn leads to severe diseases caused due to sluggish metabolism, such as obesity, high cholesterol, worsening of asthma etc.
The Kapha located in the cells also will increase beyond limits and slows down the cellular metabolism. Lot of Ama (toxins, metabolites or products of improper cellular digestion and processing of nutrients, have a capacity to block and clog the cells and channels in the body) is formed in the cells and causes cellular toxicity and damage.
In total, the functions of the body and mind will cease and become slow and sluggish. Lot of metabolic wastes accumulate in the body blocking the nutrition to the cells. The vital organs like heart, brain, liver and kidney are damaged on the long run as an effect of functional overload.
Kapha and Ama are heavy elements and their excessive accumulation lead to severe morbidity and digestive dysfunctions. This in turn causes many stubborn systemic diseases.
Asanam – Excessive Sitting (Relaxing) –
One should not sit or relax for prolonged periods after taking food. Doing this too will produce excessive Kapha and Ama just like as it happens when we sleep immediately after taking food.
The impact on health and metabolism will be similar to Shayanam. This too leads to the manifestation of similar systemic and metabolic disorders like those caused due to Shayanam (sleeping immediately after taking food).
Dravadhikam – Excessive intake of fluids –
Fluids, especially water is an important part of the diet. Ayurveda advocates to take food and liquids in 1/3 proportions each and leave the other 1/3 part of the stomach empty for free movements and for the Doshic actions to take place (action of Vata, Pitta and Kapha factors on the food).
Ayurveda also preaches that water or any other liquids should not be taken when you are on empty stomach or feeling hungry or after food. This shows that water or fluids, though help in digestion of food and is an essential element, it might also hamper the digestion process when taken in excess.
Read related: Drinking Water before or After food? A Wrong Habit – Ayurveda Proof
After food intake, the digestive juices especially the acids will be acting on the food to convert it into an absorbable and usable form. This is an important step in the digestion because the stomach has to provide semi-digested food subjected to action by Pitta (acids) to the intestines for further digestion to take place.
At this point when we drink excessive water, the water floods and dilutes the acid mixed foods and hampers digestion. The same water can prematurely flush the food into the intestine (duodenum, first part of small intestine called Grahani in Ayurveda where the food is converted into micro-processed form so as to be utilized by the body cells) and contaminate the environment therein. At this point, the intestine is still not prepared to digest the food sent by stomach.
With practice and in due course of time, the Grahani will be weakened and will lead to Grahani Roga (Sprue, Irritable bowel or malabsorption syndrome). The Pitta and Agni (metabolic fire) within Pitta will be consequentially diluted and weakened. This forms a platform for many systemic illnesses on the long run. Drinking lot of water immediately after food causes diseases like obesity.
Agni – Exposure to Fire –
Fire and activities related to exposure to fire and or heat should be avoided immediately after taking food, at least for 1 Muhurtha (~45 minutes). This includes all the jobs and activities which need one to work for longer hours in front of fire and furnaces Ex, housewives, goldsmith, factory workers etc.
Exposure to heat and fire activates Bhrajaka Pitta, a type of Pitta or heat element located in the skin. This in turn activates the other Pitta’s located in the body inclusive of Pachaka Pitta or belly fire (ingredients related to digestion of food and gut-level metabolism) and disturbs them.
Exposure to heat is said to be one of the factors which disturb the Pitta equilibrium in the body. The disturbance of Pitta leads to errors of metabolism and digestion related disorders, which once again lead to many systemic and metabolic disorders.
Excessive heat in the stomach is also not a desired environment for normal and easy digestion to take place. The food gets burnt out and charred and is again prematurely pushed into an ‘under-prepared’ Grahani or small intestine.
This food will have inadequate nutrients and will not be capable of supporting the body and mind functions properly. Also the cells, tissues and organs will be damaged with insufficient nutrition.
Apart from this, high pitta in the body will give raise to multi-inflammatory zones which leads to inflammatory disorders. The endocrine glands too will start working in an erratic way due to the influence of high pitta leading to endocrine disorders.
Moreover, during exposure to fire and heat, more blood circulation and nerve impulses will be oriented towards the skin. This will consequentially lessen blood supply to vital organs within the body including stomach. This will hamper the stomach functioning when we get exposed to fire and heat immediately after food, because the stomach has just begun its function and getting into the act of digesting food when we meddle with it by getting ourselves into untoward activities at that point of time.
Aatapa – Exposure to Sun’s heat –
Exposure to Sunlight or heat of the Sun is also contraindicated after having food. Sunlight or heat of the Sun is a similar energy like that of fire. It imparts similar effects on health just as exposure to fire (agni) does, when immediately done after taking food.
Going into the Sun or sunlight is permissible if sufficient break-time has been given between food intake and exposure (1 Muhurtha ~45 minutes). But many times it becomes mandatory for us to get into the Sunlight as a part of our day-to-day schedules. It is impractical to work on theories while doing so. But on a long run it will definitely have its contribution towards health disturbances. Consider taking an umbrella with you.
Plavanam – Swimming –
One should not swim till at least 45 minutes after taking food. Again swimming is an activity or exercise which uses the whole body movement, mainly those of muscles. Lot of movements, activities and exercises, according to Ayurveda leads to vitiation of Vayu (the wind element making up the body and controlling all the activities within).
The vitiated Vayu in turn disturbs all the activities in the body by creating haphazard movements (Udavarta (bloating), Ashayapakarsha or Vimargagamana of Vayu). This includes the disturbance of digestive functions also. This Vayu can misplace any elements in the body leading to serious metabolic disorders and tissue damages on a long run.
Activities like excessive swimming leads to burnouts in the body and depletion of tissues. It hampers blood circulation and nerve conduction. Depletion of tissues (dhatu kshaya) is one of the reasons for Vayu aggravation in the body.
The blood circulation will increase towards muscles and peripheral tissues during activities like swimming. This causes consequential blood circulation depletion in the digestive system. The food doesn’t get digested properly and leads to excessive formation of ama, first at the gut level and later in the tissue level disturbing both gut and tissue metabolism. Excessive ama in the body causes toxic effects and disturbs health and depletes immunity.
Yaanam – Walking long distances –
Walking is good for health but not always. Walking immediately after intake of food is not good for health. Walking long distances is really hazardous especially when practiced for longer periods of time. Many people have a habit of going for walk immediately after taking food. The impression is that it might aid in better digestion but on the contrary it might hamper and damage the entire digestive apparatus on a long run.
The same mechanism as explained in the previous context (Plavanam) i.e. ‘consequences of swimming immediately after food’ is also applicable here. Walking too has similar bad impact on the health if done in excess following intake of food.
Many would have experienced a type of discomfort in the stomach and chest regions when we walk immediately following food. This is due to the pressure exerted on the chest organs i.e. heart and lungs by the ‘food-filled-stomach’. This poses pressure for circulation and breathing which might cause breathlessness and fatigue.
If we do this on regular basis it poses a dangerous scenario for the heart and lungs to function. Apart from this we also can see stomach related conditions like vomiting, nausea, headache, bloating, irritable bowel, colic etc to occur frequently.
Vaahanam – Riding / Driving vehicles or animals –
These days we don’t ride animals but do a lot of driving and riding vehicles. Vehicles are the best things that happened to mankind. Horses, camels, elephants are replaced by scooters, bikes, cycles. Wagons, chariots etc are replaced by bus, car, train and we have graduated to the level of travelling through airlines and sophisticated waterways. But we have evolved through transformation of modes of transport. We cant guess our lives going in the same pace if we subtract these vehicles from our lives.
Riding or driving a vehicle in excess (immaterial of whether we are active or passive drivers) is not good for the health. We can put it into the category of Ativyayama or over-exercise. Exercise beyond our capabilities always is harmful and will cause tissue depletion and vitiation of Vayu as we have discussed in the previous instances of Plavana and Yaanam.
Riding or driving a vehicle or travelling immediately after taking food will have a similar ill-effect on overall health and metabolism as explained in Plavanam and Yaanam.
In a disease called ‘VataRakta or Vatashonita’ (compared to gout), explained in Ayurvedic texts it is said that one should not ride vehicles or animals after intake of food especially those foods which are of Vidaahi in nature (foods which cause burning sensation, are of hot, sour, pungent in nature, includes fried foods).
Doing so, it will vitiate Vata and Rakta (blood) factors in the body and cause blocks in the blood vessels in the body or lessen easy flow of blood into the tissues and organs leading to a systemic disease comprising of multiple organ involvement. This disease is often compared to Gout or Gouty arthritis or Peripheral vascular diseases.
Read related: Gout: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, home remedies
Similarly in the context of Amavata (often compared to Rheumatoid arthritis) it is said that we should not get indulged in physical activities followed by incompatible food consumption and also that we should not be sedentary following food. Read related: Wrong food combinations as per Ayurveda
It is also mentioned in this context that exercises of severe and excess proportions should not be undertaken immediately after taking unctuous, oily and fried foods.
Vyaayamam – Exercise –
Exercise and sporting of any kind is also prohibited post food. It will have a similar impact on the health as explained in Yaanam, Plavanama and Vahanam. Exercising immediately after taking food will reduce the life expectancy and immunity of an individual.
Vyavaayam – Sexual intercourse –
Vyavaaya or sexual intercourse or coitus is also a type of Vyayama (exercise). Just like the exercise and its patterns like vehicle riding, swimming etc explained above, sex (done after taking food) also leads to wasting of tissues especially reproductive tissue or semen. One could not be able to perform sex either actively or passively and there will not be satisfaction or pleasure of sex since there will be pressure on circulatory apparatus and other organs.
Semen or shukra dhatu is said to be a product of food according to Ayurvedic basics. It is the last tissue formed at the end of a sequential process of formation of various tissues. Thus Shukra dhatu is formed out of the essence of all the other tissues of the body.
We can also tell that semen represents micro-proportions of the other tissues of the body. In one way it represents the immunity essence as the tissues are the building blocks of the body and their well being (qualitative and quantitative) reflects perfect health.
It takes 7 days for the semen to be formed. Once semen is put out or ejaculated through sexual intercourse, the next mature semen is formed after 7 days. It is not that one cannot ejaculate the following day, but that semen will be devoid of the good qualities of the semen in comparison to that which is processed and formed after 1 week.
When one indulges in intercourse immediately after food it will deplete the semen stores. This exerts pressure on predecessor tissues (lymph, blood, muscle, bone, marrow, fat tissues which are formed before semen) to form semen.
This functional pressure on the other tissues to replace and replenish semen will cause work-burden on them and gradually there is failure of those systems in rendering their duties. This reflects the depletion of other tissues in an attempt to form semen.
But practically since it takes 7 days to form semen, the tissues will fail in doing so.
Thus having sex immediately after food not only disturbs the overall metabolism, it also exerts a functional burden on many tissues and organs thus imparting a bad effect on health.
During sex, just as in swimming or travelling or exercising, the blood supply will be more oriented towards peripheral tissues and other organs. Less blood supply to gastro-intestinal apparatus causes digestive disorders on a long run. There is also a chance of respiratory and cardiac failure due to excessive functional burden on the concerned organs.
Dhaavanam – Running –
One should also not do running or jogging after taking food. It will have a similar ill-effect on health, metabolism and digestion as we have discussed in case of Vyayaamam, Plavanam, Dhavanam, Vyavayam etc in the above explained contexts.
Paanam – Intake of alcohol –
Consumption of alcohol and smoking has been modern day trends and depict social status on many occasions. People drink and smoke to impress others. The label over them that they pose a danger to the life is ignored. Ayurveda calls it Prajgnaparadha ‘doing mistakes or sins in total consciousness and awareness’.
As such addiction to alcohol is bad. It not only destroys the liver and stomach but also has a bad impact on many organs and tissues of the body. Alcohol is a slow poison. Ayurveda substantiates this by telling that Alcohol has all the qualities (life-taking) of a poison, in milder form.
Read related:Alcohol Intoxication – Symptoms, Treatment As Per Ayurveda
Consumption of alcoholic products after food is contraindicated. Alcohol meddles with digestion of food, impairs blood and nerve control over the stomach and intestines. Alcohol also provides fermented background for digestion and produces indigestion. Lot of ama (endo-toxins) is formed which clogs the channels of the body.
Alcohol also produces intoxication and depressive effect on the brain and heart functions. The alcoholic may tend to sleep early due to the tranquilizing effect of the alcohol. Sleep further slows down the process of digestion.
Read related: Effects Of Alcohol Consumption On Health
Yuddham – Wrestling and similar activities –
Wrestling and other activities involving severe physical exertion are contraindicated after taking food. Yuddham is also a type of exercise. The impact of wrestling or getting indulged in similar activities after taking food will be similar to the ill-effects of taking food after exercising, swimming, riding etc activities as explained in the above said contexts.
Geetam – Singing –
Singing and other activities involving art forms like dance etc should be avoided immediately after food. These activities also disturb and vitiate Vayu and lead to many systemic disorders. Singing includes using of our voice.
According to Ayurveda, the voice is produced from the Jatharagni or belly fire and moves upwards to be produced and expressed. Here the voice is produced by the co-ordination of Udana Vayu and Samana Vayu.
By doing the activities like singing etc we will be disturbing this rhythm. This not only disturbs the metabolic process, it also will produce deformities of voice. Disturbance of Udana Vayu will cause difficulty in speech, low oxygenation, less energy and enthusiasm, low strength and tolerance levels, less complexion and deterioration of thought processing and memory in the long run.
These activities also increase the burden on heart functioning and breathing process in the presence of food. The food may regurgitate back and cause symptoms like acidity, sore and burning throat, heartburn and vomiting.
Udana Vayu – Vayu which is located in the chest, coordinates the function of circulation and breathing and production of voice
Samana Vayu – Vayu which is located in the belly and aids Pachaka Pitta or the gut fire in carrying the processes of deglutition, digestion, absorption, assimilation and utilisation of food smoothly
Paatham – Studying / Reading –
Studying, Reading or anything related to learning process should be avoided after food. After the food, the circulation of blood and nerve responses is oriented towards the stomach and intestines to aid proper digestion process.
The higher functions of the brain related to grasping and storing the learned material would have ceased after the ingestion of food and during the process of digestion. That is why we often feel hangover and a tendency to sleep after taking food. Anything read or learnt during this time is futile.
If you have a tendency or practice of reading loudly, the disturbances in the Vata balance leading to metabolic errors and digestive disorders takes place in the same way as is explained in the previous context of singing.
In the olden days there was no provision of light after sunset. Therefore they used to have early dinner and sleep early. Thus dinner would have been the last activity to end the day. Even in the current day scenario we see a lot of kids and students read overnight and strain their eyes and brain.
This causes loss of sleep, disturbance of sleep pattern, and release of stress hormones, chronic insomnia, gut-related disorders, disturbances in thought processing and memory, mood swings, eye sight disorders and lot more.
Just before finish….
All these above described factors or any of these can come into the way of digestion of food and the metabolic process which eventually becomes the cause of many systemic diseases. These should be avoided at-least for a period of 45 minutes or 1 hour after food.
Intentionally or unintentionally, knowingly or unknowingly we all would be indulged in one or the other of the above said immediately after food because we often do not live by theories.
But with a perspective of keeping ourselves healthy and to let our metabolism to go in a smooth way, we have to know the above described things and try to avoid doing them as far as possible. After all they do not cost us anything apart from being aware.
On a long run, these principles would have helped us to prevent a lot of systemic diseases and keep ourselves fit and healthy.
‘Prevention is better than cure’ is an old saying and it holds good even as we go ahead in civilization and become more and more scientific….
So friends, I feel that this was worthy reading for you all. If you are satisfied and happy and if you think that these are some of the best tools to keep many systemic diseases at bay, try avoiding them to the best of your possibility. Don’t stop there. Kindly pass on this material to your near and dear ones.
Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu)