Modern food habits of people nowadays are, needless to say, not very healthy. Our digestive track is the most underrated aspect of our health now. However, 95% of the bodily ailments starts from the digestive track itself. A person with healthy digestion system feels energetic and active with clear and sharp mind. Our mental and physical constitution has an intricate relationship with the energy flow in our entire body and the digestive fire responsible for the main job – digestion.
Fire cannot differentiate between good and bad. It rejects nothing. It burns the woodfire and when unchecked, can burn the wood from which the house is made of. The digestive fire in our body works in similar fashion like the fire. It burns the digestive fluids, then the food particles; if it does not get pacified, it burns the vital fluids and life force called prana. As a result, person feels acidic, irritated, parched, heart-burn, fatigue and dehydration. It is essential for the digestive fire to function in modest form and remain under control.
Indigestion is the silent and potent killer. Undigested food particles remain in the stomach and the metabolic system makes an attempt to break them down, as a result, gaseous toxins enter in the blood reaching all parts of the body. This creates a drop in blood oxygen levels creating a fine pitch for the cancerous cells to be born. In this case, deep-breathing works as a miracle as it provides floods of oxygen to each and every cell in the body destroying the cancerous cells. In addition to this, healthy food choices and regular detoxification of colon create the fountain of good health.
Ayurvedic aspect of digestive fire
Ayurveda suggests many types of fires in the body, notably, jnana agni (fire of wisdom), darshana agni (fire of senses), kama agni (fire of passions) and prema agni (the fire of love). These fires transform and shape us for good or bad. Most of the people in the world are acting as per one or more of these fires like burning desire to have more money, be famous, be loved, achieve something and do more. These fires give us the necessary warmth but when unchecked can dry us out and burn us.
There are thirteen fires in the human body controlling our metabolic system in cellular and molecular level. Out of these, there are four ruling fires which govern every other bodily-fires in the body. The digestive fire is known as ‘vaishvanara’ in Vedas and ‘jathara agni’ in Ayurveda. Digestive fire is denoted as Sun as per yogic scriptures, as foods like grains, roots, vegetables, sprouts, herbs and most other foods are nourished by the sun. Our metabolic activity passes the heat from the food to our tissues in the body.
Below are the four prominent digestive fires affecting our well-being.
Sama Agni signifies balanced fire. In Sanskrit, ‘sama’ means ‘even’. A balanced digestive agni is the sign of healthy digestive functionality. Foods get digested and assimilated properly in the blood with the help of sama agni. Sama agni generates harmonious balance between vata, pitta and kapha and improves the quality of seven dhatus. Overall, sama agni helps to maintain perfect mental and physical equilibrium providing a sense of contentment and satisfaction.
Vishama Agni indicates wicked digestive fire created by the imbalance of vata dosha. Vishama agni is erratic in nature. The food gets digested either too slowly or too quickly. The light, cold and airy nature of vata either intensifies the digestive fire or blows it out completely. This leads to rumbling in the stomach, heaviness, gas, irregular appetite, diarrhoea, dysentery and stomach ulcers. Vishama agni causes frequent anxiety. Brownish black coating at the back of the tongue indicates conditions of vishama agni.
Vishama Agni can be stabilized by eating vata pacifying diets – warm, oily, grounding, mushy and nourishing foods. Foods must be chewed very well and irregular eating timings should be avoided. Yoga and pranayama are extremely beneficial in strengthening the vitiated digestive fire.
The word ‘Tikshna’ means ‘sharp’. The condition of tikshna agni is associated with excess pitta dosha. Pitta is hot, subtle and sharp in nature. Excess pitta causes hypermetabolism. The food passes through the digestive tract rapidly which makes the person hungry very quickly leaving the tissues undernourished. The person feels dryness in mouth, throat and lips. This can lead to gastritis, acidic saliva, hot flashes, hypoglycemia, ulcer in colon and nausea. Tikshna Agni causes anger, aggressiveness, harsh judgement, hatred and envy. The symptoms of sharp agni can be seen as a yellowish coating on the central part of the tongue.
Tikshna Agni can be pacified by consuming pitta cooling diet – mint, cilantro, watermelon, coconut, avocado, papaya, fennel, cow ghee etc. Sleeping late in the night should be avoided. Yoga and deep breathing in the evening is very soothing for excess pitta dosha.
The word ‘Manda’ means ‘slow’ in Sanskrit. Manda agni is the result of excess kapha interfering with the digestive fire. Kapha is soft, cool, dense and heavy in nature. Excess kapha suppresses the digestive fire, resulting into dull and underactive condition. This is very unhealthy condition where undigested food builds out toxins which rise through the windpipe. As a result, the windpipe gets swelled creating breathing problems like asthma, cough, allergies, congestion and bronchitis. Manda agni develops slowly and takes longer to stabilize as well. Condition of manda agni causes hypothyroid, obesity, hypertension and diabetes. Also, it causes lethargy, boredom, lack of motivation, possessiveness, attachment and dullness.
Consuming energetically heating foods like steamed leafy and green vegetable soups, including plethora of spices like ginger, cloves, cinnamon, mustard seeds and pepper can help this condition. Minimizing fatty oils and sugary foods (specially processed foods) and including light oils like olive oil and sunflower oil is best for kapha imbalance. Yoga, walking, cycling, swimming and high intensity workouts are beneficial for correcting excess kapha.
It is very much possible to have more than one particular type of impaired agni. For example, vishama-manda agni causing irregular appetite and sluggish digestion, tikshna-vishama agni with strong appetite and irregular digestion, vishama-tikshna-manda agni with serious health concerns. Hence, it is imperative to opt for organic, fresh and healthy food preferences and regular detoxification, deep breathing, yoga and exercise regimes to regulate healthy digestive fire.
Due to our fast-paced lifestyle, it might not be possible to maintain all the best practices for our health, however, it is crucial to keep these invaluable Ayurvedic knowledge in mind so that one can maintain healthy choices whenever possible.
Published By: Ayurveda Store New Zealand | All Rights Reserved.
Swami, Om. 2015. The Wellness Sense. Noida, Uttarpradesh: HarperCollins Publishers.