Mercury rules the tongue and mixed flavours. Certain areas of the tongue house taste buds specifically to one of the six tastes; sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. When we eat food, our saliva’s digestive enzymes activate the tastebuds and enable us to experience the flavour. When all six tastes are balanced in one meal, we are more satisfied and lack cravings for certain foods after we eat. Each of the six tastes also corresponds to an organ and a stage of our digestion.
THE SWEET TASTE – Governs the first stage of digestion when food is tasted. It is broken down in the mouth and liquified in the stomach. At this stage, simple sugars are absorbed. The sweet taste relates to the thyroid and upper lungs. Too much of the sweet taste can increase Kapha and cause lethargy and heaviness.
THE SOUR TASTE -Relates to the second stage of digestion. Hydrochloric acid secretes from the stomach to break down protein and fat. Too much sour taste can cause pitta conditions and congestion as it also relates to the lungs.
THE SALTY TASTE – Corresponds to the kidneys and governs the third stage of digestion when food enters the duodenum. Acidic food mixes with alkaline secretions from the pancreas and bile from the gallbladder, creating salts. Carbohydrates break down as well as protein and fats. The third stage of digestion helps stabilize our water and electrolyte balance. When we overeat salt, we increase kapha resulting in water retention, swelling and hypertension. The fire element in the salty taste increases pitta causing increased heat and hyperacidity.
THE PUNGENT TASTE – Relates to the heart and the stomach and governs the fourth stage of digestion. Enzymes in the intestines continue to digest carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The Pungent taste is a combination of fire and air elements. Fire increases heat and circulation. The air element, which is movement, creates peristalsis and pushes food toward the end of the small intestines. Too much pungent taste can increase pitta, causing heartburn, nausea and diarrhoea, and vata, which causes insomnia and tremors.
THE BITTER TASTE – Corresponds to the liver, spleen and pancreas and governs the fifth stage of digestion. Food now moves into the ileum; the end of the small intestines and peristalsis continues to take place. At this stage, we rapidly absorb nutrients. The digestive system can feel light as the air and ether elements make up the bitter taste. The bitter taste is cooling, and this stage reduces the heat created in the previous, pungent stage of digestion.
THE ASTRINGENT TASTE – Governs the colon and governs the sixth and final stage of digestion. Food moves into the colon. The colon wall absorbs minerals and any remaining liquid and transfers minerals to nourish the bone tissue. The earth element forms our waste. The air element triggers the colon’s peristalsis, pushing the waste product of our food out of the body.
The whole digestive process takes between 6 – 8 hours, about one hour for each stage. Once digestion is complete, we feel real hunger; we start to feel hungry and ready for our next meal! So, balancing the tastes in our food is not only necessary to create flavour and feel satisfied. Balanced flavours are also imperative for optimal digestion.