We all know friends or family members who always eat healthy, take supplements, are into the latest health ideologies, but still look unhealthy. Alternately, we also know people who have poor diet habits but always seem to be in the best of health. While what you eat and how you eat is important, how you digest what you eat is more important. This is attributed in Ayurveda to the power of digestion that is called Agni.
According to Ayurveda, it is Agn’ or the metabolic fire that influences human health more than anything else in our lives. Agni is responsible for all processes that concerns with physiological transformations in our bodies. It is responsible for digestion, and assimilation of food in the GI tract, as well as the exchange of nutrition on cellular levels in our body. When Agni is imbalanced, it leaves the body defenseless against ailments chronic or otherwise. As you can see Agni is responsible for the competent functioning of so many of our bodily functions. As such, it is our duty to protect Agni to enhance our overall health.
Understanding Agni or metabolic fire
Agni, proclaimed in the ancient texts of Ayurveda as the gatekeeper of life, is said to be the main governing factor in determining one’s energy, vitality and overall wellbeing. If this digestive fire inside us is strong, then we are able to absorb and metabolize various types of food and eliminate portions that go unused quite conveniently. The energy in our body can flow freely from one channel to another throughout our system with a balanced Agni.
On the other hand, if this very fire is weak and impaired, you will find it difficult to consume even the healthiest of food. The food ingested will not go through the normal digestive process, accumulating until transforming into a toxic sludge of harmful waste also known as ‘ama’ in Ayurveda. The intimidating presence of ‘Aama’ in our bodies is what ultimately makes the body vulnerable and exposed to foreign diseases. It is therefore crucial to understand what impairs the Agni, and what you can do bring it back in harmony with your mind-body dosha type.
According to Ayurveda there are in fact 13 types of Agni in our body. They are:
- 4 types associated with the Stomach and Duodenum and the primary Agni involved with the digestion of food
- 5 Bhutagni’s within the Liver that helps process the five elements – air, water, fire, earth & space
- 7 Agnis related to the seven tissue types that metabolize the nutrients supplied to them through channels of circulation
The four primary Agnis in the GIT
In this article, we will look at the 4 different types of primary Agni in Ayurveda associated with the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), each correlating with a specific dosha type. The imbalance in whichever dosha type is what reveals the current Agni type of an individual.
Vishama correlates with the Vata dosha type and displays an imbalance of wind in the body. Typical symptoms associated with this Agni imbalance include bloating, gas, and gurgling. Constipation is normal in ones who possess this Agni type, with some even experiencing fluctuations in their appetite and metabolism. The accumulated ‘ama’ in these individuals will leave a brownish-black coating on their tongues. Such people can experience emotional imbalance pertaining to disturbed mind, insecurity, anxiety, fear, and a spaced-out mind.
Tikshna correlates with the Pitta dosha type and displays an imbalance of fire in the body. Typical symptoms associated with such imbalances include hypoglycemia, and an over-active metabolism. A person with this Agni will experience extreme appetite, that once satiated can result in indigestion and heartburn, dry mouth and inflammation. Ama accumulations here, exhibits itself in the form of a yellowish-orange coating on the tongue. Elimination of waste in such individuals tends to be loose, soft or sometimes even liquid. Such people can experience emotional imbalance pertaining to envy, short-temper, and judgmental nature.
Manda correlates with the Kapha dosha type and displays imbalance of water and earth elements in the body. Typical symptoms associated with such imbalances include allergies, excessive weight, slow metabolism, and feeling both mental and physical heaviness. A person with this Agni will experience low appetite. Although skipping food is no problem to such individuals they still face persistent weight gain that can be difficult to manage. Elimination of waste in such individuals tends to be normal and can contain oil and mucus. Ama accumulation exhibits itself in the form of a thick white coating on the tongue. Such people can experience emotional imbalance pertaining to sadness, depression, greed, attachment and foggy headedness.
Sama Agni is the ideal Agni type, wherein all three doshas are in perfect harmony with each other. The digestive power of such individuals is operating at an optimal capacity and there are no ill-symptoms after the consumption of food. People possessing the Sama Agni are very rare.
Such individuals exhibit all the signs of a balanced Agni, which can be attributed to energy, vitality and wellbeing. There is no Ama formation and the tongue is clean. The elimination of waste is also normal. Sama Agni is the perfect example of ample health (Swastha) and emotional equilibrium attributed to a calm, patient and compassionate nature.
Like we mentioned before, Sama Agni is hard to achieve but not impossible. Following a proper diet and lifestyle routine that is in harmony with the mind-body dosha type will help you accomplish your goal of a balanced Agni. You can take help of an expert Ayurvedic Practitioner to make this process a tad bit easier.
Factors influencing your Agni
There are several factors that influence your digestive fire. They are:
- Emotions like stress, grief, rage, worry, fear
- Bad diet habits
- Unhealthy lifestyle
Therefore, it is important to not let you Agni get vitiated and prevent the formation of Aama or toxins in our body. Hope this helps in understanding the importance of your metabolic fire and take precautions in leading a healthy life.