Modern medicine is now confirming what Ayurveda has always known – gut health is everything. In Ayurveda, your digestion or agni is the key to good health. There is no health, or even life, without agni. When the digestive fire is compromised, toxins can accumulate in the gut and settle elsewhere in the body. In practice, Ayurveda seeks to strengthen the digestive fire and remove toxins or ama from the system before any other treatment. This can be accomplished through the basic tenants of Ayurvedic medicine for digestive fire: good eating habits, right diet and Ayurvedic herbs.
Good Eating Habits
How you eat is just as important as what you eat. So, if you’re texting, scrolling or stressed while scarfing down your organic buddha bowl, hold the fork. Your body needs to be in ‘rest and digest’ mode for digestion to occur. You can ensure good digestion with a few simple habits:
- Eat in a relaxed environment, with good company.
- Take a few deep belly breaths or try alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhana).
- Offer gratitude for your food
- Only eat – don’t walk, talk or scroll.
- Chew your food really well! Digestion begins in the mouth.
- Engage all of your senses – enjoy the sights, smells, textures and flavors in each bite.
- Eat your largest meal at lunchtime when agni is strongest and have a light, early dinner.
- Stop eating before full.
Food should be consumed appropriate to an individual’s prakruti (birth constitution), vikruti (current state), agni, (digestive capacity), and ritu, (the season). Some general recommendations for diet:
- Focus on seasonal, local produce, whole grains and legumes
- Enjoy cooked foods over raw
- Avoid packaged, processed or microwaved food
- Practice proper food combining
- Recall the principles: like increases like and opposites balance
- When agni is low, fast or take lighter food.
With good eating habits and appropriate diet are in place, Ayurvedic herbs and spices can boost agni and help the body to eliminate ama or toxins. Because Ayurveda is personalized medicine, it’s important to consult a practitioner before taking herbs. Here are some of the best Ayurvedic herbs for digestive fire:
Amalaki (Emblica officinalis)
Commonly found in Chyawanprash and triphala, this sour fruit detoxifies the digestive tract, promoting regularity and strong agni. Amalaki is also an excellent remedy for excess Pitta or inflammation in the body.
Pippali (Piper longum)
Long pepper is a pungent spice, cousin to black pepper and important ingredient in Chyawanprash. Pippali strengthens agni, aiding digestion and absorption, and increasing the potency of the other herbs. It helps the body burn off ama and excess mucus in the gut. It’s also high in immune boosting antioxidants and vitamin C.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Revered in many cuisines for its ability to stimulate appetite, ginger is a star herb for digestive health. It’s pungent taste ignites agni while anti-bacterial and antiviral properties help keep the microbiome healthy. It helps the body burn off ama and anti-inflammatory properties soothe sore muscles and joints.
Cumin, Coriander and Fennel
Commonly known as CCF, this blend of spices improves digestion and absorption. It’s well balanced for all doshas, and helps soothe gas, bloating and indigestion. Sip as a tea or sprinkle onto meals for strong agni and a happy gut.
Understanding how to use Ayurvedic medicine for digestive fire is easy when you follow good habits, an appropriate diet and use digestive herbs. When in doubt, keep it simple and listen to your body’s innate wisdom.