Agni is our digestive fire (metabolism) which is responsible for processing and absorbing the foods we eat. Depending on the strength of our individual agni, each person is capable of digesting certain foods better than others. So rather than, “You are what you eat,” Ayurveda says, “You are what you digest.”
We can eat whatever we want, but if we don’t digest it properly, we will be on the path to getting some sort of disease. Agni is literally a fire in our digestive system and when not fueled properly it can run too hot, or not hot enough. In either case, malfunctioning agni creates ama. Ama is undigested food (it’s toxic!) and is responsible for 90% of all disease. Ama is leftover goo that clogs, sticks, blocks, clouds channels in the body/mind and creates disease. Yucko!
Signs of healthy agni
• tongue is pink
• hungry for next meal
• regular bowel movements
• poop that floats or is very loose
• clarity of mind
• clear, glowing skin
• good energy
Signs of malfunctioning agni
• whitish coating on tongue (sign of ama)
• weak or loss of appetite
• poop that sinks
• clouded thinking
• bloating, gas, constipation, distension
• lethargy or grogginess
Vata people have varied agni. Pitta people tend to have very strong agni because of their natural heat, however pittas need to make sure that their agni doesn’t get too hot. Agni that is too hot can burn the tissues which also results in ama. Kapha have low agni which results in kapha imbalances like lethargy, obesity, heaviness, and dullness of the senses.
Tips on keeping agni strong
• Small breakfast. Our agni is just a tiny fire in the morning…just barely burning from last night’s fasting. We should have a small breakfast to kindle the little fire because if we eat too much, we will squelch it.
• Large lunch. Agni is strongest at noon, so lunch should be the biggest meal of the day. It makes sense because agni relates to the sun. It’s all about nature…when nature is warm, so are we, so let’s use nature to our advantage!
• Small dinner. The sun is going down and agni follows suit, preparing for sleep. If we follow the regimen of eating a large lunch, we shouldn’t be starving at dinner.
• Eat with peace of mind. If our mind is focused elsewhere (eating lunch while working) we are not present or aware of what we are putting in our bodies. That’s 1/2 of digestion right there!
• Ghee. Great for kindling agni.
• Spices. Using spices depending on constitution to increase internal heat.
• Less Water. Don’t drink a lot of water with the meal. Some water is necessary, but too much will put out the fire. Drink water about an hour after the meal.
• Hunger pangs. Wait until there is real hunger and you have clear burps (sounds gross, I know) before eating the next meal.