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Revive the Fire in the Belly

Revive the Fire in the Belly
A healthy life revolves around a sound digestive system. It is Agni or ‘digestive fire’ that gives the energy for all activities of life.

In Ayurveda, digestion is described as pachana-parinaman or transformation of food. Digestion means parivartana or conversion of food in the body into nutritive elements that the body requires. This change, parinaman, is important to maintain fitness of the body. Good health is a measure of good digestive power.

In Ayurveda it is said ‘samadosha samagnishcha samadhatu mala kriya, prasanna atmendriya mana swastha ityabhidhiyate’. This verse, mentioned in samhitas, means that a person is fit only when the dosha dhatu and mala are in samyavastha or equilibrium state. This is maintained when Agni or ‘digestive fire’ is strong. Agni is a concept in Ayurveda. It represents a form of energy, which transforms a substance into a higher order of the same substance. Biochemically, this means changing a substance into a finer form. There are 13 types of Agni mentioned in texts.

The Agni for digestion is called as Jatharagni. It is found in the lower stomach, duodenum, small intestine and pancreas. Various secretions of the stomach, liver and other digestive organs act as vehicles of Jatharagni. Pachak Pitta, which exists here, plays an important part in digestion. Ayurveda suggests following a few basic principles for maintaining good digestion. Eating at fixed times, not consuming excess water during meals, avoiding late night meals, being in a happy frame of mind while eating and consuming fresh and hot food are some of them. Following these principles ensures that the digestive fire is strong enough for good digestion.

Ayurveda recommends some diet elements for keeping the digestive fire strong. Ginger in the diet helps keep the Agni alive. Lemon should be part of diet because its sour taste (amla rasa) has a cleansing action and also acts as an anti-flatulent. Cumin and ajwain act as carminatives and add flavor to food, enhancing digestion. Drinking plenty of water between meals, not after meals, eases constipation. Hingashtak choorna is useful if Agni is weak. Hingu (asaefoetida) is a common part of traditional Indian diet. Powders of triphala, kutaki taken at bedtime helps treat agnimandya (low power of digestion).

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