According to Ayurveda, the basis of good health is properly digesting the food you eat. The fire of digestion – the “agni” – helps to digest food as well as being responsible for the absorption of nutrients. Undigested food leads to the accumulation of toxins – ‘amá‘ – and as a result, disease.
When we have a good agni, we have good digestion, good circulation, a strong immune system, energy, beautiful skin and shiny hair. On the other hand, if the agni is abnormal, it results in poor digestion, weak circulation and immune system, nervousness, unhealthy complexion, unpleasant body and mouth odour, bloating or constipation.
The four states of agni function
A balanced agni is best. Our appetite is normal and can be easily satisfied with light and slightly spicy foods. Our metabolism is functioning properly, there is no bloating, all other functions are working perfectly, our mind and senses are all sharp.
High levels of agni are associated with diarrhoea. It is most common in people with a pitta dosha (body type). (Read more about Ayurvedic body types here.) They have a wolfish appetite for immediate gratification. Although their circulatory and immune systems are strong, they may experience sudden onset of illness and fever.
Low agni is associated with slowed metabolism. They may gain weight despite a poor appetite and normal amounts of food for others. It typically occurs in people with kapha dosha. They also have poor circulation, although their illnesses are not severe, often with colds and flu.
If the agni is volatile in nature, the craving for food alternates with a lack of appetite. Sometimes they forget to eat and then want to quickly make up for breakfast-lunch at dinner time. This is a typical vata characteristic. Constipation, intestinal and gastric upsets are due to this variability. Their circulation and immune system strength will also be variable. Their illnesses will weaken them.
5 simple tips to improve your digestion
The science of Ayurveda gives us lots of useful advice to improve our agni function and digestion.
– Get ready to eat! In most Indian restaurants, you will find a piece of ginger, a slice of lime and a small fresh chilli on your tray. Eating a small piece of ginger before a meal activates agni, the fire of digestion.
– According to Ayurveda, the digestive fire is strongest when the sun is highest in the sky, at noon. It is therefore recommended to eat the most abundant meal of the day.
– Avoid eating late at night, which can disturb sleep and lead to toxin build-up. As the sun goes down, so does the agni. In many cases, this is the reason why we feel tired and depressed the next day. Dinner should be eaten before 7pm – allowing time between then and bedtime – and it’s important to eat light meals.
– For proper digestion, avoid drinking liquids after meals! Do not drink large quantities or cold drinks in between. A cold drink acts on the digestive fire like watering a burning fire.
– Ayurveda places great emphasis on the circumstances of the meal. It is recommended to eat in a relaxed atmosphere and to avoid heavy topics of conversation.
If you want to use Ayurveda in a deeper way than the above, consult a specialist (we heartily recommend Adam Baktai), therapist or doctor, find out about your body type and the diet that goes with it. Find out which vegetables, fruits and other foods are right for you and which you should avoid. You can also find out how many times a day you should eat. This knowledge can help you achieve proper digestion and a harmonious lifestyle.
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