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What is Digestive Fire or Agni ?


Ayurveda has laid lot of importance on Agni i.e. the digestive power or the transformation force. Agni in Sanskrit means fire and is used to describe all metabolic functions in our body. All metabolic activity, including digestion, is ruled by Agni (digestive fire).

In the context of functions of the biological system that which converts all that is ingested to structural and functional constituents and provides for the energy is something that is termed as Agni in Ayurveda. The net result of Agni (digestive fire) would mean better conversion of ingested things in to body tissues and better generation of energy required for carrying out various activities in the human system.

Our health mainly depends on what we eat. Agni (digestive fire) is responsible for the proper digestion of these consumed foods. Ayurveda believes that all diseases are primarily because of a weak digestive/transforming power. A defective Agni (digestive fire) leads to the development of toxins or undigested part which when circulates in the body gives rise to various diseases.

The digestive power and immune system depends on the proper functioning of Agni (digestive fire).â¨Agni takes the essence of nourishment from food, helps to carry out the metabolic reactions of the body and helps the immune system by destroying harmful organisms and toxins.

The state of the digestive fire is one of the most important concepts of Ayurvedic approach to health & wellbeing. It doesn’t matter how organic is the food you consume, if the body cannot metabolize it properly, then it is unable to access the nutrients that the food contains.

In every tissue and cell, Agni (digestive fire) is present and necessary for maintaining the nutrition of the tissues and the maintenance of the auto-immune mechanism. Agni (digestive fire) destroys micro-organisms, foreign bacteria and toxins in the stomach and small and large intestines. In this way, it protects the flora in these organs.

Longevity depends upon Agni (digestive fire). Intelligence, understanding, perception and comprehension are also the functions of Agni. The colour of the skin is maintained by Agni and the enzyme system and metabolism totally depend upon Agni as well. As long as Agni (digestive fire) is functioning properly, the processes of breaking down food and absorbing and assimilating it into the body will operate smoothly and maintained a state of good mental and physical health.

When Agni (digestive fire) becomes impaired because of an imbalance in the Doshas, the metabolism is drastically affected. The body’s resistance and immune system are impaired. Food components remain undigested and unabsorbed. They accumulate in the large intestine turning into a heterogeneous, foul-smelling, sticky substance. This material, which is called ama(toxins), clogs the intestines and other channels, such as capillaries and blood vessels.

It eventually undergoes many chemical changes which create toxins. These toxins are absorbed into the blood and enter the general circulation. They eventually accumulate in the weaker parts of the body, where they create contraction, clogging, stagnation and weakness of the organs and reduce the immune mechanism of the respective tissues. Finally, a disease condition manifests in the affected organs and is identified as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and so on.

The root of all disease is ama (toxins) developed because of weak digestive fire. There are many causes for the development of ama. For example, whenever incompatible foods are ingested, agni (digestive fire) will be directly affected as a result of the toxins, or ama created from these poorly digested foods. If the tongue is coated with a white film, this symptom indicates that ama (toxins) exists in the large quantity.

Balancing your digestive fire is a key principle in Ayurvedic medicine. That's why ayurveda recommends a number of general practices for better digestion. Digestive fire can be compared to a burning fire. If the flame is very low than it will take a long time to cook the food. In the same way if the fire is too big it can burn the food. If we put a huge log on a low fire it will extinguish it. Our digestive fires should be balanced so that we can digest our meals efficiently and smoothly.

To maintain balance of our Agni (digestive fire) we have to develop a healthy life style including:

• Proper eating habits
• Proper sleep
• Proper fitness routine
• Control over emotions

There are four types of agni:

Balance (sama) â balanced digestion, no after effects
Irregular (vishama) â irregular, gas, bloating, distension
Sharp (tikshna) â sharp, hyper, acid reflux, heartburn
Slow ( manda) â slow digestion, heavy, dull.