In Ayurveda, healthy digestion is critical to good health. Learn about the digestive fire (agni) and 3 ways to improve digestion the Ayurvedic way.
We have all heard the saying "you are what you eat," but in Ayurveda there is a saying too. So in this article, I'm going to give you an introduction as to why food is so important in Ayurveda, and three of my top tips on how to use food to provide greater energy and fuller health for you. Read on to find out more.
Ayurveda is a natural medical system that's been going for over 5,000 yrs. It's made up of many different parts and is the "science of life" that offers us knowledge that comes from the beginning of time.
Traditionally Ayurveda is associated with India because of how long it has been used in this region, but if you look at traditional cultural knowledge you will also see evidence of the information Ayurveda provides.
We have all heard the saying "you are what you eat."
In Ayurveda there is a saying: “Without proper diet, medicine is of no use. And with proper diet, medicine is of no need."
Diet is the basis of Ayurveda, because our bodies are the result of what we eat or rather what we digest. What's more, it's a practical and easy way to maintain good health to prevent illness - a main goal of Ayurveda. But the choices we have also mean we have responsibility.
Agni: The Digestive Fire
The concept of "digestive fire" or agni is key to maintaining health and building immunity in Ayurveda. Depending on your body type at any given time, the season, your environmental stresses, the particular food you choose to eat etc., you can influence your digestive capacity or fire.
When I was at school we would go camping at weekends. We'd have to get a fire going to cook our food. If the fire was low, the food would take ages to cook. If the fire was too strong, the outside of the food would cook more quickly than the inside - often the food would be burnt! It was important to find a happy balance to satisfy our rumbling tums.
Our digestive fire is just like the camp fire. If our agni is too low, then the food we ingest won't be cooked/digested properly, leaving it to move undigested into the rest of the digestive system. Our cells can't benefit from the nutrients in the food, and waste matter clogs up the system and prevents the available nutrients from getting through. Not the more efficient way to get our energy.
If the digestive fire is too high then the food will "burn" - i.e. move through the system too quickly, not giving our bodies the chance to extract the nutrients required. Not the best situation either to get the nutrients our intrinsic healing system needs to build our immunity and keep fit and healthy. So, how do we find the "happy balance" of nicely cooked food?
3 Top Tips on Improving Your Digestive Fire
Here are three of my top tips on how to achieve the "happy balance" to be able to use food for greater energy and fuller health:
1. Eat food that's right for your particular digestive fire.*
2. Eat food when you're hungry - when the "fire" is stoked up - so it digests properly.
3. Don't throw (too much) water on the fire!
These simple tips are a way of taking charge of your health. You have tools to:
1. Save money on medical bills;
2. Save time going to the doctor; and
3. Most importantly start the New Year with plenty of energy to do all those things you've planned to do and enjoy them as well!
So what are you waiting for? Start looking after your digestive fire with a taste for Ayurveda!
*Editor's Note: The right types of food depend on your Ayurvedic constitution and current state of digestion. For more information, check out the article Ayurveda's Approach to Indigestion and the Concept of Agni.