agni - the digestive fire

Digestion plays a very key role in Ayurvedic understanding of health & illness. Ayurveda contends that almost all of the diseases originate due to disturbed Agni (digestive fire). Because of this, Ayurveda places a great emphasis on Agni or the body’s metabolism as a source of life.

Every cell in our body is alive due to Agni. The day your Agni extinguishes, there will be no life.

Ayurveda believes that Agni is the key to a long, healthy & happy life. Any disturbance in Agni is a sure indication of an approaching ailment.

So, what if you know something is awry with your digestion and you want to restore your Agni, but don’t know how? Ayurveda helps you to judge your Agni yourself and also offers to make amends with it.

What is Agni?

Agni mahabhuta in our body is known as Jatharagni. It can be called as mother of all Agni as it feeds and maintains all other Agni in body cells. Each body tissue in our body has its own Agni.

It is Agni, which maintains & preserves your body heat, digests your food into smaller parts so that your body could take up them, and nourish body tissues. It gives strength to your body and produces energy.

It is agni, which gives a glow to your skin and sight to your eyes. Imagine, without agni, would you be able to survive? Certainly no. This is why it is essential to know your agni as it is an excellent indicator of your health.

But how do we know our agni?  How to tell if you are getting the benefit of what you are eating? What are the signs & symptoms of a healthy or impaired agni? For this, Ayurveda has described four states of our jatharagni.

This classification is of importance from the preventive aspect. Once you figure out what kind of agni you have, you can become aware of taking care of your agni.

Sama agni – Healthy agni

If Tridoshas i.e., vata, pitta, & kapha are in the normal state, then your agni stays in balance. Such balanced agni is called as Sama Agni. Individuals having Sama agni digest their food without any irregularities.

Balanced agni ensures healthy digestion, proper bowel movement, vitality, contentment, keeps you energetic, nourishes body tissues, keeps up your immunity, makes you tolerate seasonal changes, and prevents you from falling ill.

However, in today’s fast-paced lifestyle and faulty dietary habits, it is rare to have a healthy state of agni. Most of us have impaired digestion, and we suffer from digestive problems every now & then. That is why it is vital to heal our agni as soon as possible.

Visama agni – Erratic & fitful

Due to the influence of aggravated states of vata dosha, agni intermittently stops & starts. Agni gets irregular and unpredictable. Sometimes our digestion goes well, but other times it is a real problem.

Signature sign of visama agni is that sometimes it digests food slowly and you feel full all the time while sometimes digestion is healthy but you still feel hungry at times.

Other symptoms of visama agni include:

  • Irregular appetite
  • Indigestion & heaviness after eating
  • Distention of abdomen
  • Colicky pain
  • Sometimes loose motions, sometimes constipation
  • Ascites
  • Gurgling sounds from the stomach
  • Heaviness of limbs
  • Dry lips, skin, mouth
  • Craving for hot, spicy foods
  • Sleeplessness

Tikshna agni – Acute & sharp

When your pitta levels get highly aggravated, you may have tikshna type of agni. As agni & pitta are closely related, your agni gets excited & intense to the extent that it quickly digests even a very heavy meal.

Tikshna causes voracious hunger and digests all types of meals, even if taken frequently.

Such quick digestion often consumes or burns the digested food material and leaves you under-nourished even after eating the right diet. If you have tikshna agni, then you might be experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Getting hungry frequently
  • Insatiable appetite
  • Eating in large amounts at any time
  • Excessive thirst & Dryness of throat after eating
  • Parched lips & palate
  • Heartburn
  • Hyperacidity
  • Intense craving of sweets & cold drinks
  • Loose stools
  • Developing acne frequently
  • Disturbed sleep

Manda agni – Dull & slow

The heavy influence of kapha dosha suppresses down your agni and cause manda agni. Such agni makes your digestion sluggish. Hence, Agni is unable to digest even a small quantity of easily digestible food.

Individuals having Mandaagni always feel full and eats little. Therefore, they are always under-active and dull.

Following symptoms are shown in manda agni:

  • Unable to digest the regular one-time meal
  • Very less or no appetite
  • Heaviness in stomach & head after eating
  • Frequent cold, cough, allergies
  • Breathing problems
  • Over salivation
  • Vomiting
  • Weight gain
  • Weakness in body
  • Swelling
  • Feeling lethargic after eating
  • Excess sleep

What are other ways to assess Agni?

With the above symptoms, you can know what kind of dosha has afflicted your Agni, and with the help of dosha balancing diet, lifestyle, & herbs, you can treat your Agni.

Besides this, you can also go to an Ayurvedic physician who assesses your agni by diagnostic methods such as examination of the tongue, stool, number & quantity of motions, & your food intake capacity.

The above states of agni are also found naturally. Like in summers & rainy season, your agni becomes weak (Visama agni), while in autumn & early winter, agni is very sharp (Tikshna agni). In the spring season, agni is very weak (Manda agni).

Also, agni of older people & kids is naturally manda agni while that of youth is tikshna agni.

Agni – The road to healthy life

Ayurveda has kept agni on the foremost position, whether in the state of health or disease. It is agni which sustains life, and there can’t be any life without agni.

While singing praises of Agni, Ayurveda says that agni is the basis of strength, health, longevity, vital force, complexion, enthusiasm, luster, immunity, & energy.

Under the influence of our taste buds, we have been harassing our Agni for long. Hence, understanding the Ayurvedic concept of Agni has become the need of the hour. We must strive to look after our Agni for disease-free living.