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Agni (the digestive fire)

Agni (The Digestive Fire)
  • Ayurveda refers to an individual’s overall digestive capabilities in relation to agni. We all digest food differently. One individual may gleam with satisfaction after a meal, while another person may clutch his stomach in agony after eating the exact same thing.
  • While it’s common to use the terms agni and “digestive fire” interchangeably, there are in fact a total of 13 different agnis governing all metabolic functions of the body, Digestive fire being one and supreme of them
  • Any process involving heat, light, transformation, and conversion relates to agni.

While mentioning benefits of good Agni, Ayurveda says:

  • Longevity, strength, growth, health, complexion and the vital energy all depend upon Agni. It generates good quality of Oja through proper digestion of food. Agni, the digestive fire, serves to convert food into various bodily constituents and represents the power of transformation in the body.
  • When Agni is normal there is excellent digestion, proper elimination of waste, proper tissue formation and good circulation of nutrition, strong immunity, high energy and good physical and mental health. Agni destroys harmful organisms and toxins, which create ill health.

The conversion (Transformation) takes place by three types of Agni working at three different levels in the body resulting in 13 types of Agni-

  • Jharagni (digestive fire)
  • 7 Dhatu agnis
  • 5 Bhutagni

Digestion of food is carried out in the gastro intestinal tract by the Jathargni (Digestive fire)/ kayagni (body fire). Jatharagni transforms/metabolizes the food into nutritive fluid called as ‘Ahar rasa’. If this jatharagni is weak in its function the food will not digest properly and the ‘Ahar Rasa’ produced will be of poor quality.

Further the seven-dhatu agnis take over the function of digestion and proper nourishment of the body; if these agnis are weak they will generate toxins from the indigested food material called ‘Ama’. This Ama clogs the channels (strotas) and creates imbalance in all systems.

Bhutagni exist for taking the five element portions of the digested food mass and converting them in to nutritive substances for the five sense organs. Some of the specialized materials like rods and cones responsible for the photosensitivity in the eye, mucus membrane in nose that aids smelling, special liquids around the taste buds on the tongue, special cartilage forming the ear function properly by the Bhutagni.

Factors that disturb the function of Agni-

  • Over eating, left over, frozen foods, frequent change in dietary habits, eating tasteless foods, drinking too much water with meals eating before the previous meal is digested, eating at inappropriate times, eating at irregular times, and resisting the urge to eat, not exercising enough, consuming incompatible food, anger, grief or excess sleep.

Normal function of Agni is different in all people according to the predominance of dosha in them.The three doshas produce four types of agni-

  • Vishamagni (Unstable state of Agni) :

This is influenced by vata dosha. Sometimes the food is digested properly, other times slowly. Such people are irregular in their dietary habits, and suffer from abdominal distension, colic type pain, constipation; gurgling sounds in their intestines are common symptoms.

  • Tikshnagni (strong digestive state):

This is influenced by pitta dosha and is found in pitta predominant people. Agni is strong and digestion is fast. These people can digest large quantity of food in short time. Burning sensation in stomach, excessive thirst, heartburns, dryness of mouth are few symptoms of Tikshnagni.

  • Mandagni (Slow state of Agni):

This is found in kapha predominant people. They take long time to digest little amount of food. Their metabolism is very slow. Hence do not have to urge for food. Nausea, heaviness, coated tongue, laziness are few signs of Mandagni.

  • Samagni (Balanced state of Agni):

This is found in healthy individuals. It is balanced type of Agni, indicative of good health and balanced Tridosha. These people can digest normal diet with proper nourishment to tissues.

Ways to Improve Agni:

  • Adding pungent spices to food (such as cumin or ginger) or drinking spicy teas (such as ginger tea) is one of the easiest ways to spark the digestive fire.
  • Physical activity also strengthens agni by stimulating the overall metabolic activity of the body.
  • For variable agni conditions, eating meals at regular times each day is highly beneficial, while eating Pitta-pacifying foods will help balance sharp agni conditions.

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