Want to increase your digestive fire and improve vitality? Read on…
The three pillars of life in Ayurveda consist of proper management of sleep, proper management of digestion, and proper management of sexual energy and the senses. If all three are balanced then ‘a full life that is not cut short by disease’ is guaranteed. – Charaka Samhita Sutra Sthana 11/35
All treatment program’s within Ayurveda will begin by looking at these three things first, and Ayurveda emphasises a daily routine incorporating the management of these three areas so that the body is able to prevent disease, stay healthy, and be bursting with energy and vitality.
Ayurveda uses the metaphor that digestion is like a fire, and there are certain things we should practice with our eating habits to make sure our digestive fire (Agni) is working at its best.
Ayurveda says that good health begins with good digestion, and if we have poor digestion it can lead to a whole host of unpleasant symptoms including constipation, bloating, wind, and heartburn, this then leaves a person feeling lethargic and with an overall lack of energy, and if left unchecked can lead to more serious health problems.
In order to combat those unpleasant symptoms, get the most out of your digestion, and maximise your energy and vitality follow these top tips to keep your digestive fire (Agni) strong and healthy.
1. Eat according to your constitution
Ayurveda is all about balance, and the rule is that ‘like increases like’. If we are a fiery Pitta type and eat lots of chilies and hot food, this will increase our pitta therefore leaving us unbalanced with excess pitta. Over time if this is not addressed then disease and illness can occur in the body and mind. Eating within our constitution minimises the risk of becoming unbalanced therefore keeping us feeling our best.
2. Only eat when you are hungry
In order to digest our food properly, our Agni needs to be kept hot and burning bright. We know we have strong Agni when we are hungry and can feel the hunger pangs, so it’s important to make sure that we actually feel hungry before we eat. If we don’t, then we will overload the stomach before the previous meal has been digested and essentially put the fire out. Then the food will not be digested properly and we may end up with some of those unpleasant symptoms I described earlier.
3. Do not overeat
Following on from the previous point, it’s also important not to finish a meal just because there is food on the plate. Once we are comfortably satisfied, we should stop eating. It is better to waste a little food than to overload the stomach and affect the Agni, again this overloading of the stomach means that we will dampen the fire and digestion will not work at its optimum functioning.
4. Do not drink large amounts of water in one go
As we know digestion is described as a fire in the belly, and for the digestion to work well the fire needs to be burning brightly. If we sat around a campfire and we needed it to keep warm, the last thing we would do is throw a bucket of water on it,
so do not do the same to your digestive fire if you want it to work in your favor! Large amounts of water or liquid will cause the fire to go out, so it’s best to sip slowly throughout the day.
5. Eating times
We should try and keep our eating times pretty regular so we do not confuse our digestion. Breakfast should be taken once the bowels have been evacuated, and we should not eat after 7 pm if we can help it, it’s at this time that our Agni becomes much weaker. We should also try and have our biggest meal at lunchtime as this is when our Agni is at its strongest.
6. Do not snack
Snacking confuses digestion, so again it’s best to avoid it if you can. Make sure you get what you need in your main meals and leave those crips and cakes in the supermarket!
7. When to eat fruit
A wonderful source of natural sugars and vitamins and minerals fruit is fantastic, but if eaten at the wrong time it can affect our Agni. Fruit is incompatible with all other foods in regards to our digestion process so it’s important to eat fruit before a meal, not afterward, and not during. This is particularly important for those who have weak Agni and are trying to strengthen it.
8. Eat warm or room temperature food
This goes back to our metaphor of the fire again. We want to keep the fire hot, so warm or hot food is much better for our digestion, if cold food must be eaten then room temperature food is best. Just make sure you aren’t eating food directly out of the fridge.
Taking regular exercise will also help to improve Agni as it stimulates the metabolic activity of the body. Aim for 20-30 mins each day.
10. Use herbs and spices in your food
Ayurveda has a strong focus on using herbs and spices to heal and prevent illness, and they are also great for making food easier to digest. A few which really help are ginger, black pepper, cumin, coriander, rosemary, and thyme.
I would suggest trying to implement a few at a time so that they become habits, and you don’t overload yourself with things to remember, and within no time you will increase your digestive fire and improve vitality!