Food for Thought: How to Stimulate Emotional Digestion


We all know some of the signs of poor digestion: belly aches, heaviness, gurgling sounds calling out from your gut at exactly the wrong time.

But what about these symptoms: foggy mind, running over and over something you “should’ve said,” inability to accept someone else’s point of view, and so on?

According to Ayurveda, these experiences are all indicators of poor emotional digestion. The word emotion itself comes from the Latin word emovere — to be moved. Emotions move us. They are a call to action and attention. Emotions are energy in motion; They can be powerful gateways into grace, revelation, and even ease. When emotions are repressed or misused, they lead to more pain and suffering. When systematically channeled, they are portals into empowerment and self-understanding.  

Signs of Poor emotional digestion are:

  • self-criticism
  • indecisiveness
  • feeling of emptiness and not belonging
  • constant dissatisfaction
  • reluctance to accept change
  • mental fog and inability to make sense out of the situation

Signs of healthy emotional digestion are:

  • feeling of ease when making decisions
  • good self-image
  • contentment
  • sense of fulfillment in relationships
  • clarity on what you want
  • confidence


In Ayurveda, digestion is the work of fire element in the body (called agni in Sanskrit), which digests food, provides warmth, and produces the glow of good health. Properly nourished and with a balanced digestive fire, the body aligns itself with nature and self-adjusts to the weather as well as the small shifts and ups and downs of daily life. 

Really, though, this agni is the agent of all transformation. Agni provides your actual capacity to transform food — and situations, thoughts and emotions — that you take in so that it becomes nourishment. And just like eating a banana, we don't have to tell it what to do in our digestive system. We eat the banana and our body naturally digests it. The same thing holds true with the emotions. If we simply observe and feel the emotion, it will rise, fall, and come to a natural state of completion. We can let go of what isn't needed (elimination) and keep what is useful (nutritional wisdom). If we learn how to “juice” our emotions in the moment—when they're ripe—we become calmer, more stable people. We seem, ironically, less emotional.


Stoking Emotional Agni (fire)

We use spices to stimulate physical digestion; Ginger, cinnamon, cumin, and black pepper enkindle digestive fire and help to absorb nutrients better. Similarly, certain things, let’s call them ‘emotional digestive spices’, can help us feel clear and comfortable, spacious and resilient. Here are a few things to enhance your emotional digestive capacity:

Smile. Smile for yourself and your entire body. We often smile to others but rarely smile to ourselves. Let even the smallest joys of your life move you.

Let go of expectations. When expectations rule our lives, we set ourselves up for disappointment. Approach life from a place of exploration and open yourself up to experiencing things that are beyond your wildest dreams.

Get active. Physical movement improves physical digestive fire and will do the same for the emotional digestion as well. It will get your endorphins flowing and it will make the world seem like a better place. It will help to boost creativity and get new ideas flowing.

Meditate. Even a few minutes a day will make a huge difference. It can be as simple as listening to your breath. Finding a comfortable seat and turning off all electronic devices. (This means taking another few minutes to turn off your phone, iPad, TV and computer.) All you have to do is sit down, get comfortable and just breathe. You will find a rhythm that works for you.

Choose your company wisely. It is similar to finding foods that work for your stomach. Someone likes cheese and others will get feel heavy and bloated from its sodium. It is a matter of trial or error. If you like someone, spend time with them! If you don’t, decrease your interaction instead of trying to change the person. It might be a difficult decision at times but it will make your heart feel lighter.

Sachi Doctor

Elemental Alchemy, 90 Rio Vista Avenue, Oakland, CA, 94611

Sachi Doctor is an Ayurvedic practitioner and holistic health coach who founded Elemental Alchemy with the mission to provide a resource for those navigating their way towards optimal mind-body health.

Diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at a young age, Sachi has spent over twenty years exploring different health modalities, treatment plans, diets and mindfulness practices to help alleviate chronic pain and restore balance.

After years of looking to others for a model of health with no relief, Sachi realized that the answers she sought were not hidden in someone else’s prescription for wellness but unique to her, and that the first step towards discovery was actually tuning out what was right for others and tuning into herself.

As she tapped into the wisdom of her own body, she discovered that the elements foundational for health  — the blueprint she so fervently sought — was within her, within each of us. Since then Sachi has been passionate about helping others also cultivate clarity and inner wisdom for vibrant health.

In addition to her Ayurvedic and nutrition education, Sachi has completed over 800 hours of yoga teacher training and continues to study with her mother, her first yoga teacher, for whom these practices are a way of life.

Sachi is a board member of the Prison Yoga Project at San Quentin State Prison and serves as an ambassador for Yoga Gives Back, a non-profit that raises funds within the US yoga community to support microcredit programs for women in India. She holds a Msc in Development from the London School of Economics.