If you cannot digest your food effectively, then it does not matter how good your diet is, your health will not serve you as well.
This belief is one of Ayurveda's fundamental teachings. Digestion is very important and is the foundation for good health. Diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome and any other digestive imbalance is a result of a weakened and imbalanced agni, or digestive fire. When the digestive fire is imbalanced, this gives rise to disease.
The Agnis and the Doshas
There are numerous different types of agnis within the body, but the main agni is found in the stomach and is known as jathara agni. Ayurveda clearly teaches that without a proper functioning agni, no other part of the body can function in a balanced state.
Each dosha has an agni associated with its imbalance. A vata agni is known as visham, pitta agni is tikshna, and kapha agni is mand. There is then of course a balanced agni, which is sama agni and this is the ultimate goal.
A visham agni is irregular. This means that sometimes digestion is strong, sometimes weak, and sometimes it's fine. This type of digestive fire can be unpredictable and can easily become imbalanced.
Some signs and symptoms of a visham agni are:
- Irregular appetite.
- Irregular indigestion.
- Dry skin and mouth.
- Aches and pains.
A tikshna agni is very strong and in fact can be too strong. This means that sometimes food will get processed so quickly so that the body is left with no time to metabolise or assimilate nutrients during the digestive process.
Some signs and symptoms of a tikshna agni are:
- Strong appetite.
- Cannot skip meals.
- Acne and other skin disorders.
A mand agni is slow. This means that food takes too long to process which can result in a loss of appetite. Those with a mand agni can often go long periods of time without eating.
Some signs and symptoms of a mand agni are:
- Poor appetite.
- Sluggish digestion.
- Heaviness in the stomach.
- Lack of motivation.
Knowing some of these signs of an imbalance are just as important as knowing the signs when you have sama agni, which is a balanced digestion.
Here are some of the indicators:
- Normal hunger and thirst levels.
- Good sense of taste.
- Regular bowel movements.
- Good digestion, assimilation and absorption.
- Vitality, strength, stamina.
Steps to Healthy Digestion
Having a very healthy diet is useless unless your body can effectively digest and metabolize all the nutrients. One of the most effective ways to balance the doshas and improve digestion is to eat according to the six tastes.
Ensure that you consume each of the six tastes, sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent at every meal. However, be sure to favour the tastes that balance your doshas.
Next, follow the ideal ayurvedic daily routine. Lastly, follow these principles of dietetics. What you eat is important, but how you eat is also just as important.
To effectively digest food, it is important to engage in the following:
- Eat with your full attention on the meal. Avoid watching television, reading, or engaging in heavy conversations. Light conversation is fine, but keep attention on the meal.
- Do not rush through the meal, but likewise, do you not dawdle and eat too slowly.
- Eat about 3/4 of your capacity. This is the point in which you are full and satisfied but not stuffed. Your stomach needs some air to aid digestion.
- Avoid eating for the sake of eating. Ensure you are indeed hungry before eating.
- Lunch should be the main meal as midday is when the digestive fire is strongest. Breakfast and dinner should be lighter meals.
- When possible, favour organic, fresh, and wholesome foods.
- Eat your meals and snacks are regular times of the day every day of the week including weekends. Your digestive system loves routine and stability.
- Once you have eaten, takes a few minutes to relax, which will allow the digestive system to begin its work. Do not get up immediately after eating.
Read: You Are What You Eat
By following the above, you can help your diet be more effective for you. These principles can help balance and even improve your digestion. Ayurveda places a strong importance on the health of the digestive system being fully functional and working well.
When the digestive system is compromised, so are all the other systems within the body. Taking these simple, yet powerful steps can help increase your energy and improve the health of your gut.
During These Times of Stress and Uncertainty Your Doshas May Be Unbalanced.
To help you bring attention to your doshas and to identify what your predominant dosha is, we created the following quiz.
Try not to stress over every question, but simply answer based off your intuition. After all, you know yourself better than anyone else.