Agni: digestive fire

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.

31 Responses to Agni: digestive fire

  1. Rekha says:


    My son is 5 yr old and underweight. He has no desire to eat his food. He does not like food. Always he says that he is full. Please guide me what to do.

    I would really appreciate your response.

  2. Fruitbat says:

    Hi there Monica. Did you mean to put “poop that floats or is very loose” as a sign of Healthy Agni? Doesn’t sound very healthy…Many thanks

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  10. Eight Cavities | The Harmonious Foodie says:

    […] potatoes, brown rice, granola and anything involving coconuts, she expressed some concern about my digestive fire. The foods I choose extinguish my fire because these foods are heavy and sweet. Hmmmm, oddly enough […]

  11. littleice says:

    Namaste Monica!

    I have gone through the site… U r Marvelous…

    The thing is… I hav most of of all the three doshas…

    It seems, like am V-P-K…

    Any suggestion for me plz????

  12. sunil says:


    You are welcome. Thanks for the warm words.

  13. sunil says:

    Namaste Monica,

    This is great blog on Ayurveda, undoubtedly one of the best I have come across. You sure are doing a great job by spreading awareness about it in your country & elsewhere. This particular topic on Agni is also an eye opener of sorts for me…. ( being an Indian) I am a firm believer of its teachings & I knew what Ayurveda can do to a person for his/her well being. But alas due to our fast paced life styles we hardly incorporate its benefits in our daily life. Only today I took the dosha test on your site ( had done it on other sites in the past) & was hooked from the word go… I have also mailed my test results (V15,P5,K5) for further suggestions from your side. You are doing great please keep it up & best wishes from me ….always.

  14. Lauren says:

    Hi Monica,
    I am a Kapha with good digestion overall, but my skin still breaks out. Any advice for improving skin clarity from the inside out? I’m trying to avoid the dermatologist route.
    Thanks! Lauren

  15. Jessicah Torma says:

    Thanks so much for taking the time to respond. I would like to do a session with you. I will email you soon so we can set something up. I’ve done so much reading since I wrote that post and have started learning a lot! I made the basmati rice lentil recipe you posted and have been eating it all week! As well as doing Zumba and getting my sticky set in place kapha self moving! Thanks so much for the response! I’ll be in touch!

    • Monica says:

      Look at YOU Jessicah!! I’m so proud of you! I’m so glad you are learning a lot and it sounds like you are doing ALL the right things to move your sticky-kapha-self :) hee hee. Thanks for sharing – you’ll inspire others!!! XOXO!

  16. Jessicah Torma says:

    Hey Monica!
    I found your website while researching about excess bile in the morning, acid reflux, constant loose stools, and not properly digesting food. I need your help desperately. I took the test and I am 16-k and 11-p so mainly kapha. It seems that spicy hot warm foods are good for me? Or is that only when I’m balanced? Something is majorly out of whack-I have acid pain in my stomach most of the day. Tried an enzyme called digest with little luck. How can I balance? I don’t want to just take antacids for the rest of my life! SO THANKFUL TO HAVE FOUND YOUR SITE! HELP!

    • Monica says:

      Hey Jessicah!! Thanks so much for your note!! Hmmm…I would say if you are having all of those problems your pitta is increased from your natural level. So spicy foods will not be your friend right now. However, in order for me to find the root cause and give a proper solution, I would need to know much more about you and your past habits. Some things are easy to pin point in Ayurveda, but this one is a bit more complex. Ayurveda doesn’t treat the disease, it treats the person :) and in order to treat the person, we need to know much more information. I definitely recommend doing a consultation with myself or another reputable Ayurvedic Practitioner in your area. The good news is, with some adjustments to diet and lifestyle you probably won’t have to take antacids forever!! :) You just need to start with a good foundation of healing. Sorry I couldn’t slam dunk your question, but I think you would benefit much more by learning about who you are so you not only fix the problem, but can prevent it from happening in the future :) All my best!!

  17. Autumn says:

    Hey Monica B! I have a pink tongue, however it does have a slight coat of white on it. Once or twice it has even felt a little grainy (eeew!) if you know what I mean! Also, the corners of my mouth are suddenly so dry that they split, and then build up new layers of skin, which then tears again and on and on.. :( Do you have any ideas of what’s going on? I am vata/pitta..

  18. Brittany says:

    Whenever I developed gastritis after some medicines the docs had given me, I was given Prilosec. Now, I’m wondering what affect this could have on me as a Pitta type. Is it possible I don’t have enough stomach acid still from the Prilosec use? I was having digestive troubles that taking HCl with my meals for awhile seemed to have helped some. What would you recommend? I used to be burping my food hours later! It was so gross!

    • Monica says:

      Well first of all, I recommend following a pitta-balancing diet. If you are having many sour, spicy foods, alcohol, fermented foods, cheeses, , this will totally aggravate your gastritis. I don’t know much about medicine (totally not a doctor) but I do know that if you follow pitta balancing diet of fruits, veggies, grains and milk, your gastritis will reduce. So my suggestion is to start there. If you take meds for one thing, they will likely cause another problem and you’ll end up taking meds for that thing…it can just go on and on! So start with diet! :) You have full control over that and it will help you heal as a whole.

  19. Monica says:

    mm…it might depend on the person. For example years ago my biggest compliant about eating a donut, was that I could “burp at 2:00 pm and still taste the donut!!” Which, to me was gross! That my friend, is knowing that it takes hours and hours to digest a donut! To answer your question, we will burp when there is air and space and fire in our belly – signaling that it’s time to eat! Maybe just pay attention for now – pay attention to when you eat lunch and if you burp at 4:00, if you still taste lunch. A little narsty, but you get my drift. Holler with more questions – I am not shy nor do I get annoyed with questions :):) namaste Erin!

  20. Erin says:

    What do you mean burps? Do our bodies naturally start burping before meals? I usually tend to burp after meals….whoops!

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