The digestive fire (aka Agni), according to Ayurveda, is such a dynamic concept, it is stated to be the main governor of one’s energy, vitality and well being. An individual’s overall digestion is likely to determine the overall health of that individual.
If the fire is strong, one is able to take in various types of food and properly absorb, metabolize and eventually eliminate any unused portion. The channels of the body will remain open and the energies of the body can flow freely. If the fire is weak or imbalanced, even the healthiest of food that is taken in will not go through this process and therefore remain in the body causing a toxic sludge known as ama. This ama then fills the channels of the body, causing stagnation and blockage which eventually will lead to the pathway of disease.
There are four types of Agni (digestive fire) in Ayurveda. Each one correlates to a specific dosha type. Whichever dosha is imbalanced in the body tends to reveal the current agni type of an individual. These agni types are known as:
1. Vishama Agni
This agni type is related to Vata dosha and typically shows an imbalance of wind in the body. Common symptoms would be gas, bloating and gurgling after food intake. The appetite and metabolism tends to fluctuate and be irregular. Constipation is common, and the digestion is variable. When ama accumulates in these individuals, a brownish-black coating will form on the tongue. Emotional imbalances that relate to Vishama agni tend to be anxiety, fear, insecurity, restless mind, spacey mind, and quickly fluctuating emotions.
2. Tikshna Agni
This agni type is in relation with Pitta dosha and will reveal an imbalance of fire in the body, caused by the hot, sharp, and penetrating qualities that this dosha possesses. Common symptoms include an over-active metabolism and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). These individuals tend to have a sharp appetite that will lead to extreme crankiness if this hunger is not fulfilled. Once food is taken in, a person with Tikshna agni may experience heartburn, acid indigestion, dry mouth, hot flashes, and inflammation. Elimination tends to be over-active and typically is soft, loose, and at times even liquid. Ama accumulation will show as a yellowish, orange coating on the tongue. Emotional imbalance that are related will be anger, frustration, a quick temper, envy, jealousy, and judgmental tendencies.
3. Manda Agni
This metabolic imbalance is linked to Kapha dosha and reveals a disruption of the water and earth element in the body. These individuals show symptoms of slow metabolism, excessive weight, allergies and an overall feeling of heaviness both physically and mentally. The appetite is typically quite low and skipping meals is never a problem. Although their food intake may be minimal, weight gain is consistent and losing weight is a difficult battle. After food intake, a feeling of heaviness and lethargy remains and nausea and congestion may occur. Elimination tends to be regular although may sometimes contain mucus or oil. The presence of ama in the system will show a thick, white coating on the tongue. Emotional imbalance will tend towards sadness, depression, dullness, foggy headed, overly emotional, greed and attachment.
4. Sama Agni
This agni type occurs when one is in complete balance and all three doshas remain in harmony. Digestive power is at full capacity and there are no unwanted symptoms after food intake. In fact, when one has Sama agni there is a feeling of vitality, energy, and fulfillment after a meal. These individuals can eat practically any type of food without any ill effect. Metabolism is balanced and elimination is regular. There is an overall state of Svastha (perfect health) and the emotions are in equilibrium. No ama is present in the system and the tongue will be clean of any coating. The mental state remains balanced and there is complete compassion, patience, calmness and clarity in the heart. Unfortunately it is quite rare to find an individual of this statute, although it is an obtainable goal with the proper guidance and discipline.