Ayurveda considers agni (the digestive fire of the body) to be the root of all causes and cures of ill health. This is because our food is the basis of all seven tissues of the body (lymph, blood, muscle, fat, bone, bone marrow and reproductive tissues). When food is incorrectly digested it creates more waste (ama) than energy (prana), directly effecting the quality and function of these seven tissues. Therefore, the cause of ama is incorrect digestion.
We now know that sluggish, low, inactive agni causes ama. But what causes sluggish, low, inactive agni?
- Improper quality of food
- Improper quantity of food
- Improper timing of food
- Improper mixture of food
- Improper sleep
- Emotional strain and stress
But how do we know when we have this ‘ama’? Look below for the six symptoms of poorly functioning agni
- A sense of blockage in the body (constipation, blocked emotions, mentally blocked, blocked menstrual flow, blocked breathing, etc)
- Feeling the need to clear your throat or spit
- Becoming easily exhausted mentally and physically (no stamina)
- The tongue has a white coating even after tongue scraping
- Feeling heavy mentally and physically
Ayurvedic practices protect and support agni. A wealth of information is available to us from these ancient texts that help correct sluggish, low, inactive agni. The first rule of treatment in Ayurveda is called ‘nidana parivarjana’ which means ‘avoid the cause’. So we now know the six main treatments for maintaining a healthy digestive system and reducing the symptoms of ama.
- PROPER QUALITY OF FOOD: Cook your food (Ayurveda advises against eating excess raw foods). Lightly oil your foods with a small amount of high quality virgin oil or ghee or cook with a small amount of sesame oil/ghee. Always soak then rinse beans before cooking.
- PROPER QUANTITY OF FOOD: Avoid overeating (your hands cupped together are an ideal portion size for you)
- PROPER TIMING OF FOOD: Eat your main meal between 12-2pm and avoid eating before the last meal has been digested (leave at least 3 hours between meals). Try to eat your lightest meal in the evening, not too late after dusk.
- PROPER MIXTURES OF FOODS: Avoid having fruits with other meals. Have your fruits about 15 minutes before other foods or as a snack in between meals. Eat melons away from all other foods including other fruits.
- PROPER TIMING OF SLEEP: Get to sleep before 11pm and avoid working late into the evenings which may disrupt your sleep patterns. Get up early in the mornings with the sunrise or just before.
- STRESS REDUCTION: Attend to areas of stress and tension in your life and treat them before they bring stress and tension into the body. Avoid eating meals when you are feeling angry or fearful.
The above are the first steps Ayurveda would advise when bringing the body back into balance. From here all other steps and techniques for good health will be improved ten fold. Try implementing the steps above into your daily routines to find a happier, healthier body and mind.