Ayurvedic Treatment Of Indigestion
Ayurvedic understanding of digestion is based on the strength of the digestive fire, known as Agni. Agni is seated inside the lower stomach and small intestine and relates to Pitta dosha. Indigestion is a key factor for all diseases.
How does ayurveda view indigestion?
Digestive problems are the most common reasons why people seek medical advice. Ayurvedic understanding of digestion is based on the strength of the digestive fire, known as Agni. Composed of various enzymes and acids, Agni is seated inside the lower stomach and small intestine and relates to Pitta dosha. Ayurveda views indigestion as a key factor for all diseases.
Ayurveda refers to individual general digestive capabilities in reference to Agni. While it's common to use terms such as Agni and "digestive fire" interchangeably, there are actually a total of 13 distinct Agnis regulating all metabolic functions of the human body. Any procedure involving heat, light, transformation, and conversion relates to Agni. On a worldwide scale, Agni is the creative fire of intellect that's present in all life.
After an individual's present Doshic condition, Agni is the most significant element in determining dietary needs. It's a readily observable truth that most of us digest food differently. One person may gleam with satisfaction after a meal, while the other individual could clutch his stomach in agony after eating precisely the same thing.
The digestive system breaks down food into basic components for cells to use for energy, building materials & catalysts– life depends on it. Ayurveda describes digestive health imbalances as the root cause of most major diseases.
Research has established that a major part of the immune system is located in the gut – GALT gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) is the prominent part of mucosal-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) and represents almost 70% of the entire immune system.
The digestive system has its own autonomous nervous system – enteric nervous system- that has more number of neurons than the brain. Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of the mind and sense organs in the proper functioning of the digestive system. The human intestines harbor ten times more bacteria than there are cells in the body – concept of Gut flora & intestinal dysbiosis leading to the leaky gut syndrome
Gut and Immune Function: Chewing in the mouth stimulates the parotid glands to release hormones that stimulate the thymus to produce T lymphocytes, which are the core of the protective immune system.
Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT) is located in the lining of the digestive tract and intestinal mucosa. If an antigen (foreign substance/allergen) enters the digestive tract, specialized cells called M-cells carry the antigen to the lining of the tract.
Specialized cells (Peyer’s patches) in the intestinal lining check them out. These cells alert the B & T lymphocytes, which then carry the antigens to the intestinal mucosa, where they are ingested by macrophages. Secretory IgA, present in the gut mucosa, signal cytokines to begin the inflammatory process designed to rid the body of antigenic materials.
Agni & concept of digestion
Concept of Digestion
The digestive system is self-running and self-healing. Its function is to breakdown complex food into assimilative microscopic particles that cells use for energy, maintenance, growth, and repair. The digestive tract is a 25-35 foot hose that runs from the mouth to anus. The ingested food is squeezed through this tract by rhythmic muscular contraction called peristalsis. Along the way, the body breaks down food- carbohydrates into glucose, proteins into amino acids & fats into fatty acids & glycerol- unblocked flow of nutrients is critical for optimal health & function. You aren’t just what you eat but also what you digest, absorb, assimilate, and eliminate.
In accordance with Ayurveda, Agni is a source of life. 'Agni' is a Sanskrit word that refers to fire and connotes the Vedic fire god of Hinduism. According to Vedic civilization, an ancient Indian civilization, fire is essential for the warmth and light it provides and for its ability to cook meals. Agni is also considered to be one of the five building blocks that form the world.
In the context of health, 'Agni' describes digestive fire or the capacity of the body to digest food. Ayurveda considers that Agni is among the most effective tools required for the correct functioning of the body.
Specifically, Ayurveda considers that Agni has an essential role in balancing your health. Balanced Agni can help you attain a healthy, happy, and long life, whereas impaired Agni contributes to diseases. Ayurveda creates awareness of our body and mind that may help us heal. When we know the nature of sacred fire and its importance in maintaining harmony with the world, we can better comprehend the potent healing force of digestive fire.
In Ayurveda, Agni is the digestive fire in our own bodies, which determines the condition of our health. Our Agni is located inside the lower stomach and small intestine that contains acids and enzymes. The notion of Agni is closely linked to the digestion of food, which only indicates the ability of your body to metabolize food and nutrients into energy, which sustains life. Our Agni is powerful when we have healthy digestion. A healthy digestive system contributes to well-balanced Agni, which in turn will help to support overall wellbeing.
Why is Agni Important?
According to Ayurveda, Agni has a close relationship with your physiological physique, also called Prakriti. Ayurveda posits that you're comprised of three distinct sorts of doshas or energies, namely Vata (air), Pitta (fire), and Kapha (water). Ayurveda believes your Agni is dependent upon your dosha type.
All you take in through your body, whether that be food and drink or the stimuli around you, such as discussions, sights, and other information, must be processed and digested. As we go through life, we're continually bombarded with outside stimulation and other influences that we have to deal with. For balance, your body and head must process each new thing that it receives.
When you eat food or drink, it engages the Agni in the body. Accumulated toxins, undigested food, and digestive tract diseases can elevate the quantity of digestive fire in your body, which could have a negative impact on your wellbeing. When you know your Agni and learn how to balance it, you will experience healthful digestion, excellent flow, and a clear mind. To prevent or overcome ailments, you should learn how to encourage the healing power of Agni.
Well-balanced Agni will cause a healthy mind and body and supply a natural glow to your skin and sparkle to your eyes. Healthy Agni may also help resolve gut and bowel problems in the body. You will need to support and nurture your Agni for optimal health.
Functions of Agni
Agni or digestive fire supports many important digestive processes:
- Supports digestion and absorption
- Creates healthy digestive enzymes
- Enhances metabolism
- Offers nourishment to the body's cells
- Offers energy and strength
- Promotes mental clarity and awareness
- Results in good health and longevity
Types of Agni
Agni is the term used in Ayurveda for fire. In terms of human physiology, agni refers to the broad classification of digestive fire and metabolic factors that include gastric juice & enzymes for digestion and metabolism at systemic and cellular levels. Charaka Samhita classifies agni into 13 types based on their function.
- BHUTAGNI – 5 types based on Pancha maha bhuta (5 basic elements)
- DHATVAGNI – 7 types based on Sapta dhatus (7 basic tissues of the body)
Importance of agni – Food provides nourishment to all tissues of the body and maintains the vital energy (Ojas) required for sustenance of life. Agni plays a vital role in this connection as the transformation of ingested food into body tissues can only happen with optimal digestion, absorption, assimilation, and excretion.
Primary anatomical location: Midsection of the body in the gut (KOSHTA) where the stomach, duodenum, liver, and small intestines are located, also referred to as the ‘Pitta sthana or grahani’.
It could be correlated to the digestive enzymes of the digestive tract.
Main function: Process of transformation of complex food nutrients into simpler form for absorption into the intestinal wall and bloodstream
Agni is responsible for transforming heterogeneous elements in the food ingredients into homologous elements for permeability through the intestinal mucosa (villi and microvilli).
Jatharagni is the chief among all categories of agni because bhutagni and dhatvagni are dependent on it.
Aggravation or diminution of the jatharagni results in aggravation and diminution of other agni types as well.
Wholesome food and drinks should be taken to carefully maintain the jatharagni because the life and strength of an individual are dependent on it.
“Just like the fire placed below the vessel helps cook the food in it, so does the agni in the amashaya digests food and produces rasa and mala”
- Bhutagni: This refers to the agni inherent in the five basic elements (pancha maha bhuta).
- Parthivagni – inherent agni in element earth
- Apyagni – inherent agni in element water
- Taijasagni – inherent agni in element fire
- Vayavagni – inherent agni in element air
- Akashagni – inherent agni in element ether/space
These five agnis are inherent in the food ingredients and get stimulated and activated by the jatharagni in the gastrointestinal tract.
The bhutagni, during digestion, disintegrates the mahabhuta (carbohydrates, proteins, fats etc.) in the food ingredients and manifest their respective qualities (guns). The ingredients and its attributes or qualities in food are heterogeneous (in the non-assimilative form) prior to bhutagni paka (digestion).
It becomes homologous (in the assimilative form) after bhutagni and jatharagni paka (digestion).
Example: if you eat an apple, in order for the body to assimilate it into the tissues, the ingredients of the apple should first be transformed into such a state that is conducive for absorption in the body. This absorbed material from the apple imparts the qualities of the mahabhutas present in the apple to the tissues of the body.
The body takes up the qualities of the food that is ingested. If you eat a healthy and balanced diet, you get a healthy and balanced body.
- Dhatagni: This refers to the inherent agni in the 7 basic tissues (dhatu) of the body, as described in Ayurveda. The seven tissues are Rasa, Rakta, Mamsa, Medas, Asthi, Majja, and Shukra. This concept explains cellular metabolism and tissue growth.
Agni based on the dominance of dosha: Based on the tridosha dominance (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha), agni is classified as Sama agni and Vikrita agni.
- Samagni – balanced state of tridosha
- Vikritaagni is of 3 types:
- Teekshnagni – the predominance of Pitta
- Mandagni – the predominance of Kapha
- Vishamagni – the predominance of Vata
Can you balance your Agni?
How to Balance Agni
It is possible to strengthen and encourage your Agni by following certain healthful practices. In particular, a suitable focus on food and nutrition and an Ayurvedic diet can improve the balance of your Agni. Some things to encourage healthy Agni and Great digestion include the following:
- Maintain an appropriate daily regimen: In Ayurveda, there's a significant focus on keeping a correct daily routine, including in regards to diet. This practice reduces stress and produces a classical pattern, which makes you feel hungry naturally at regular intervals. Adopting a balanced routine helps you keep healthy Agni.
- Take Triphala: Triphala describes a traditional Ayurvedic formula made of 3 fruits used for balancing the doshas. Triphala also helps to cleanse and detoxify the digestive tract. By rejuvenating the cells, Triphala supports healthy Agni.
- Reduce stress through meditation: Stress has an adverse effect on your wellbeing. Specifically, stress disturbs your digestive health. Meditation reduces your stress and can help you to positively process emotions and thoughts, thereby supporting a healthy mental state.- Eat right: Eat light and easy to digest meals at regular intervals when needed to relieve your natural hunger. Eating a suitable amount of food can help strengthen your Agni. Let your digestive fire procedure one meal before using the following and let a 3 to 4-hour gap between meals.
- Prevent food choices that can inhibit your Agni: Cold foods or drinks during meals can impair your Agni. Additionally, drinking lots of water or other fluid in a meal or later can also dilute your Agni and cool your digestive fire.
- Ignite your Agni before ingestion: Here are some ways you can help you effectively process your meals:
Have a short walk before eating.
Drink hot water in the morning.
Drink a glass of water half-hour prior to meals.
- Support healthful Agni: Foods often make you lethargic and sleepy, but taking a brief walk after a meal is extremely beneficial. Moreover, once you've completed your short walk, lying on your left side for 10 to 15 minutes can help your body to digest.
- Cleanse your ama: You can cleanse your body of ama (toxins) through the practice of digestive cleaning. This procedure can help to repair, rejuvenate, and detox cells of your body, which may boost your Agni. Based upon your state of health, you can adopt one of those above-noted diets or consult with an ayurvedic practitioner for advice.
- Exercise regularly: Regular exercise is the best way to secure your Agni. Based upon your Prakriti, or condition of health, and your dosha type, Ayurveda recommends different kinds of exercise. It's believed that Vata dosha demands gentle exercise, that pitta dosha requires moderate exercise, and that Kapha dosha demands rigorous exercise.
- Pranayama and deep breathing: Practicing a deep relaxation and breathing regimen can also help you spark your Agni. If you're prepared to consider more specific sorts of deep breathing practices, then pranayama or yogic breathing can be of great assistance.
Ayurvedic spices for Agni
Boost your Agni with spices
Spices carry immense health benefits because of their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Together with making your food more flavorful, certain spices may also help support the health of your Agni and encourage the proper digestion of food. These spices may be utilized in any form on your foods. Spices to help optimize your Agni include the following:
- Cumin can help to alleviate digestive problems like bloating, stomach pain, and gas. Cumin also supports greater absorption of nutrients in your gastrointestinal tract. For best results, use whole cumin on your soups and stews and try sauteing it in a little in oil or ghee. Ground cumin powder can be added to a dish after cooking. Be sure that you don't burn cumin, as doing so may decrease its health effects.
- Ginger -Helps digestion, boosts immunity, and relieves stomach pain. Ginger also helps burn toxins in our bodies, which in turn helps encourage better digestion and the formation and maintenance of healthy body cells. Use freshly chopped ginger on your vegetables for improved absorption.
- Turmeric -This spice is anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidizing, and has great healing properties. Turmeric has an active ingredient called curcumin that's becoming increasingly popular. It's thought that curcumin can enhance brain function and reduces the chance of brain diseases. In Ayurveda, the use of garlic has many health benefits. To strengthen your digestive fire, use turmeric regularly on your cooking.
- Fenugreek (methi seeds): Fenugreek aids in digestion and assists in eliminating toxins from the body. It's a synergistic impact that flushes toxins out. Fenugreek also provides a calming effect on your gut. Fenugreek comprises natural digestive enzymes and is full of fiber.
- Cardamom - Cardamom helps the body digest food and is very effective after heavy meals. Cardamom helps to absorb nutrients and can boost your energy levels. Ayurveda recommends drinking hot milk with a bit of cardamom to enhance your digestion. Additionally, it offers a great aromatic taste when added to desserts and sweets.
- Clove - This aromatic spice is well known for its antioxidant, antiseptic, and analgesic properties. It prevents gas formation in your gastrointestinal tract. Additionally, it is proven to help balance Kapha dosha. Adding a clove to your diet can improve your general health. Clove may also be added to own herbal tea to increase digestion.
- Cinnamon -This hot spice assists in digestion and absorption of nutrients. Cinnamon has antibacterial properties that protect the digestive tract from infections. Sprinkling cinnamon powder on your meals can decrease heartburn and indigestion. Additionally, it carries warming properties that may help pacify gut disorders. Use cinnamon on your herbal tea or on your daily diet as a digestive boost.
- Black pepper -This well-known and popular spice enhances the release of digestive enzymes and eases digestion. It stimulates your appetite and helps to decrease bloating and constipation. Additionally, when added to your meals, black pepper enhances the bioavailability of nutrients, meaning that nutrients within your meals become more accessible to and absorbable from your own body.
See: Ayurvedic Diet
Keeping a balanced Agni is critical for optimum health and longevity. A healthful Agni not only modulates the digestive process but can also be in charge of good mental and emotional health. To attain balanced Agni, be sure you consume readily digested, freshly prepared food with mindfulness.