Digestion and Its Abnormality: An Ayurvedic Perspective

 

Digestion is the process by which the food you ingest is broken down into a simpler and absorbable form. According to Ayurveda, Agni is considered as the key factor for digestion and it is responsible for good health of an individual and Ayurvedic medicine for indigestion aims at correcting the agni.

The definition of health in ayurveda goes like this “Samadosha, samagni, samadhatu malakriyah Prasannatma indriya manah swastha ityabhidhiyate”- Sushruta.

A person is said to be healthy when there is balance in his doshas (Vata, pitta and kapha), metabolic factors (agni),  tissues(dhatus), excretory products (malas) and harmony in mental factors like senses  (indriyas), mind (manas) and the soul (atma). This signifies the role of agni in maintenance of normal health.

What are the different types of digestive fire or Agni?

In Ayurveda, there is description of 13 types of agni in the human body:

  • Jatharagni – Jatharagni is the biological fire in the body which is responsible for digestion of food which you eat. It is only one and is present in the abdominal region.
  • Bhutagni – Bhutagni refers to the agni attributed to each panchamahabhutas ( Akasa, Vayu, Agni, Jala and Prithvi). The food we eat is made up of five elements and even our body, this bhutagni transfers the energy from the food to your body into simplest form and support the panchamahabutas in your system. .It is five in number.
  • Dhatvagni – Dhatvagni refers to tissue metabolism. According to Ayurveda, our body is made up of seven dhatus- Body fluids like lymph (Rasa),Blood and its components (Rakta ), Muscular system (Mamsa), adipose or fat tissue (Meda),Skeletal system ( Asthi), Bone marrow(Majja ) and reproductive system(Shukra Dhatu). The nutrients absorbed from the intestine is processed in each of these system by respective dhatvagnis for their nourishment, proper functioning and development. It is seven in number.

Jatharagni is further divided into 4 types according to the dosha dominance and intensity of  agni:

  • Vishama Agni Dominance of vata dosha manifests vishamagni in an individual. It is characterised by varying or irregular digesting capacity. Sometimes the digestion will be fast and good, sometimes it will be slow and weak.
  • Teekshna Agni– Dominance of pitta dosha manifests teekshna agni. It is characterised by intense and quick digestive capacity. Whatever you eat gets digested very soon and it starts burning the body tissues leading to weakness.
  • Manda Agni- Dominance of kapha dosha results in mandagni. Majority of the diseases are characterized by mandagni. In this digestion is very slow and sluggish.

Ayurveda quotes that “sarve rogaapi mandagnau sudaraamudarani cha”  which means all the diseases are due to the mandagni and it starts from the abdominal region. Thus agni plays an inevitable role in the ayurvedic treatment and those herbs that have the property of agni deepana and pachana (appetizing and carminative -metabolic properties) are included as ayurvedic medicine for indigestion.

  • Sama Agni- Balance in all the doshas manifests sama agni. It is responsible for healthy development and normal functioning of the body. In this the digestion is neither slow nor fast.

How do you identify that you have indigestion?

Sounds silly! But one may neglect any of these symptoms usually:

  • Acidity, sour belching
  • Bitter or sour taste in the mouth.
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • The smell of food while burping.
  • Bloating or gas in the abdomen.
  • Stomach pain/pricking sensation
  • Discomfort or fullness in the upper part of the abdomen.
  • Fatigue.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea / vomiting.

What causes indigestion?

Before anybody takes any Ayurvedic medicine for indigestion one should know the cause.

    • Are you Skipping breakfast,eating a late night dinner or taking food at irregular timing?
    • Are you over eating or eating before the previously consumed food is digested?
    • Are you a drinking large amount of water or juice immediately after food?
    • Do you drink a lot?
    • Do you take leftovers, refrigerated or frozen foods?
    • Do you Eat too fast or slow, eating while driving, standing, just before going to shower?
    • Do you consume either dry or oily (deep fried) foods very often or foods prepared after soaking for longer duration in water and very spicy foods?
    • Are you emotionally disturbed?
      • “The food you eat can be either the safest medicine and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison”– Ann Wigmore.

What are the different types of indigestion (Ajirna)?

    • Vistabdha ajirna caused due to vitiation of vata dosha. It is characterized by pain abdomen, bloated stomach or gaseous distension, pain all over the body, fatigue, non elimination of stools and flatus.
    • Vidagdha ajirna caused due to vitiation of pitta dosha. It cause burning sensation in the chest and throat region, different kinds of pain, increased feeling of thirst, sour eructation or belching, tiredness, fainting and giddiness.
    • Ama ajirna caused due to vitiation of kapha dosha. The feature of this are puffiness of around the eyes and face, frothy and increased salivation in the mouth, nausea, repeated belching having the smell of the food you ate and feeling of heaviness in the body.
    • Vilambika – caused due to vitiation of kapha and vata along with accumulation of ama. Person suffering with this, feels very lazy and discomfort in the chest region.
    • Rasa sesha ajirna This is caused due to heavy and late night dinner. In this, you will feel that the food consumed last night is not digested when you wake up in the morning.

What is ama according to ayurveda?

In Ayurveda there is a concept called Ama, which is considered as the main reason for majority of the diseases. Ama is a toxic substance formed due to any of the above said ajirna. This ama is circulated all over the body through minute channels and gets lodged in different parts of the body causing diseases.Constipation is common for all types of ajirna and it is the sign of weak digestion. Ama pachana (metabolising the toxins) is the first step in Ayurvedic treatment for indigestion.

What are the Characteristics of good digestion (Jeerna ahara lakshana)?

  • Clear belching without any smell or taste of the food.
  • Feeling energetic devoid of heaviness and lethargy.
  • Proper and timely elimination of waste products devoid of constipation and loose stools.
  • Sense of lightness.
  • Feels hungry and thirsty after stipulated time.

How to manage indigestion at home?

Ayurvedic treatment for indigestion with home remedies:

  • The first line of treatment for all types of indigestion is fasting (Langhana) . Skip the meal if you feel your previous food is not digested and eat only when you feel hungry.
  • If you are feeling nauseous or vomiting, vomit it out. Never suppress the sensation by taking antiemetic drugs. To ease vomiting, you can drink 2 large glasses of lukewarm water with ½ spoon of rock salt.
  • A pinch of sendha salt with a spoon of lemon juice and ginger juice taken together cures indigestion and increases appetite and taste perception.

Home remedies for Abdominal Pain

  • If you are having pain and gaseous distension of the abdomen, keep hot water bag on your abdomen for few minutes.
  • Chew ½ tsp of jeera with pinch of salt and asafoetida, followed by cup of hot water.
  • Dry roast equal quantity of fennel seeds, coriander seeds and jeera. Grind to a fine powder and take ½ tsp of this powder with warm water thrice a day.
  • Boil 1 tsp of ajwain in 1 liter of water, fill it in a flask and keep sipping this water often.

An ayurvedic medicine for indigestion is not required will not be required for a person who consumes cumin seeds, asafoetida and ajwain on a daily basis.

5 Important must Do’s for a good digestion:

  1. Chew food properly while eating.
  2. Always prefer light food and in moderate quantity. It is advisable to eat only 3/4th of your stomach capacity, never eat full stomach.
  3. Regularly use jeera, pepper, asafoetida, garlic and ginger in your cooking.
  4. Drink water sip by sip along with the meal. Always luke warm water is preferred if you have weak digestion.
  5. Chew a small piece of fresh ginger with pinch of salt just before meals.

How to Naturally Improve Your Appetite and Digestion? Read here

6 Important Things you should NOT DO for Improving Digestion:

  1. Do not take the food stuffs that are incompatible to one another (viruddhahar). See the infographic below on viruddhahar to know about the incompatible food combinations. None of the ayurvedic medicine for indigestion works if a person is continuously taking viruddhahar.
  2. Do not indulge in raw salads. Uncooked foods are difficult to digest. Take soups instead.
  3. Do not eat food if you are not hungry.
  4. Do not consume cold food or reheated food.
  5. Do not take curd  if your digestion is weak. Opt for buttermilk instead.
  6. Do not eat with an anxious, fearful and depressive mind.

Viruddhahar

Ayurvedic medicine for indigestion (Ajirna)

  • Churnas – Hingvastak churna, trikatu churna, vaishvanara churna.
  • Vatis – Chitrakadi vati, agnitundi vati
  • Kashayas – Usually in weak digestion kashayas are not preferred. one may be given Gandharvahasthadi kashayam, Indukantham kashayam according to the nature of indigestion.
  • Arista –  Dasamoolajeerakarishta,, pippalyasavam and ajamoda arka. In children, Aravindasavam is ideal choice as an ayurvedic medicine for indigestion.

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