Understanding Agni, Digestion and Gut Health

Tired, sluggish, heavy legs? Here are 7 ways fix poor digestion (agni)

Agni is one of the most important factors when it comes to Ayurveda, so I think it’s best just to start with a description of what agni is. In essence, this is your “digestive fire” and how well you digest things.

Ayurveda teaches us that everything we take into our bodies must be “digested”. This is not only food and drinks, but also information and our environment.

Our social media feed, conversations, situations, messages and emails, what you watch, who you interact with – all of this needs to be digested. In Ayurveda, the mind, body and soul are intrinsically linked, so when we are emotionally stressed it affects our physical health, usually starting with the digestive system.

Agni is in charge of absorbing nutrients and essential elements we need to be strong and healthy, while at the same time helps to get rid of waste.

Fast Fact Agni means ignite/fire.

STRONG AGNI

If our agni is strong, we’re able to digest food easily and it is useful to our bodies. By the same token, we can easily understand and absorb our daily experiences (so our social media feeds, conversations and so on).

WEAK AGNI

But if agni is weak, our bodies just won’t function well and we won’t digest food, experiences and situations well at all. This leads to the creation of ama and sticky toxins in our bodies. We may feel sick, in pain, bloated, get skin rashes, indigestion, fatigue, heartburn and so on. Sound familiar?

Must read: Check out the blog on ama, the toxic residue that can wreak havoc on our bodies and cause disease.

The scriptures of Ayurveda say that a person is as old as their “agni” and we find many of our clients physically look and feel younger – they have a “glow” to them – after our detox program. That’s because the detox cleans them of all the toxins that have formed in their bodies and balances the doshas and agni. As long as the digestive fire is strong, ama can’t form in the body.

What causes weak agni (low digestive fire/poor digestion)?

In this day and age we are all busy. I see so many of my clients who are stressed and overwhelmed from everything they have to get through in their lives – children’s appointments, work, running a business, catching up with friends, being there for family, day-to-day errands… it can all create stress in our lives.

All of this busyness and stress means that we may not eat regular meals or skip meals, or resort to takeaway and processed quick food, so we are not eating foods in accordance with our specific body type. You can read up on your body type here. You might also be eating the same food day in day out.

Leading a busy life may also mean we don’t get adequate sleep because we stay up late and get up late, or we have an irregular sleep cycle.

All of this contributes to weak agni. This is when we start to get run down and tired or the stress gets too much and we experience overwhelm. In this state, our digestive fire can’t eliminate the ama properly and the toxins get stuck in our bodies.

Correlation between agni and ama: The story

I have a great metaphor that helps to explain the relationship between agni and ama. Imagine ama (that’s the toxic waste) is a big hard block of cheese…say cheddar. When this block of cheddar is in the fridge at the supermarket it’s hard. If you leave there, it stays that way.

But if you were to make a cheese toasted sandwich on a hotplate, the cheddar would melt and ooze out of the sandwich when you cut it. But you can’t make it melt without heat (or fire).

So when it comes to agni, having a strong “digestive fire” helps the ama flow so it can be flushed from your body.

Here are 7 ways to can kick your digestive fire (agni) up a gear:
  1. Only eat when you are hungry.
  2. Eat in a calm environment.
  3. Don’t eat when you’re upset, angry or distracted.
  4. Sit down to eat (don’t eat in front of your television, at your desk or computer, while driving).
  5. Don’t gulp down your food or eat too slowly.
  6. Minimise raw foods (these are harder to digest than cooked food).
  7. Include all six tastes (sweet, sour, astringent, bitter, salty, and pungent) for each meal. Try this great Ayurvedic recipe – moong soup that has the six tastes covered in one meal.