Monday, November 21, 2011

Keeping the Digestive Fire Burning

Yep, it’s getting colder outside.  But have you noticed any changes inside? The cold and dryness outside means we need to create our own heat inside, and within ourselves. In Ayurveda, the inner heat that transforms our thoughts, perceptions and, yes, food, is called agni.
Strong, healthy agni means food is broken down and utilized efficiently. Hand-in-hand with strong digestion is strong elimination (you know what I mean). Ideally, what we take in as food is broken down, absorbed, assimilated, and the balance eliminated. 
But what if our agni is poor and our digestion and elimination is sluggish? During the colder, less active time of year, this may be an issue. Sure, we may feel a little uncomfortable, but is it really important? 
Yes. According to the ancient health science of Ayurveda, much, if not most, of disease begins in the digestive system. The toxic product of poorly digested food, ama, is sort of like an undesirable neighbor. It originates in our digestive system and then travels our body searching for a home, eventually settling in the areas not strong enough to keep it out: our bodies weakest tissues. Our lifestyle and/or heredity can determine what these weak tissues are. Heart, lungs, skin, joints...ama will find a hangout where there is a vacancy shingle. And once it settles in, there goes the neighborhood; disease is soon to follow.
Many of us aren’t really in-tune with our inner workings. Our digestive system may have the pizzaz and gusto of a snail and we wouldn’t notice. But clearly, we want to keep the neighborhood safe and it’s worth getting a little sensitive to what’s going on. What are the tell-tail signs of poor digestion?

  • Lack of appetite
  • Over-fullness after eating
  • Tiredness after eating
  • Bloating and/or gas
  • Irregular (less than once a day) bowel movements
  • Small, hard or otherwise constipated BMs

Any of these sound uncomfortably familiar? Check in next week. I’ll list some Ayurvedic and yogic remedies to help stoke agni and keep the digestion burning strongly.