Gut and Digestive Health

The Importance of Balanced Agni in Ayurveda

In Ayurveda, balanced agni (fire; pronounced ug-nee) is the key to good digestion and overall health. Agni is what we would call enzymes and the metabolism in the body.

Everything we eat and drink can either strengthen or dampen agni, causing it to be balanced or impaired. When impaired, this is when we suffer from all kinds of dis-orders, physically, mentally and emotionally and can cause ama (toxins) to form, thus becoming the root cause of dis-ease. Ama can form anywhere in the body and if left too long to accumulate can become serious and even life-threatening. Balancing agni and restoring good digestion is key to bringing the body and mind back to health.

Remedies for Improving Gut Health and Digestion

Improving gut health and digestion can be remedied with a few simple things:

  • Consume a diet of light and simple foods. This by no way means that your meals have to be boring! There are plenty of herbs and spices that you can find in your kitchen cupboard to bring meals to life.
  • Having a simple remedy of roasted cumin and honey before meals can help to kindle digestion.
  • Incorporate all six tastes into meals – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent. The Western diet mainly focuses on the first 3 tastes. If we include the latter 3 then the body will start to feel more satisfied and prevent us from overeating and thus impairing digestion further.
  • Keep gaps between meals and avoid snacking to allow meals to be digested properly.
  • Reduce cold, wet, oily and fried foods. This can impair the agni.
  • Chew food properly and mindfully. Sit at a table with no other distractions (TV, music etc) and focus on eating your meal. You’ve just made a beautiful meal, why would you want to be thinking about doing anything else!?
  • Avoid ice cold water as this can impair agni further. Only drink warm water and have small sips with food to help with lubrication as food works its way down the digestive tract. Only drink when your body tells you that you are thirsty.
  • Avoid raw foods such as fruits and vegetables, especially so when the body is in dis-order.
  • Ensure you get a good night’s rest and avoid using any digital technology at least an hour before bed. When the body is trying to power down but still receiving information this can also impair digestive health. The brain processing information is considered as digestion!

As the Buddhist proverb says:

Eat when you are hungry.

Drink when you are thirsty.

Sleep when you are tired.

An Ayurvedic practitioner can work with you to help strengthen gut health and eliminate toxins from the body through diet, lifestyle and herbs.

This article was written by Hari Krishan, Ayurvedic Diet & Lifestyle consultant.

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