What if none of the food you ever ate got digested? It’s a scary prospect to consider. The implications are numerous. For one, it would mean that your body cells would have no nutrients to operate on, since ingested food is not broken down into the useful components.

Aside that, you would constantly feel heavy. To top if off, it would be a real trouble when you have bowel movement. Indigestion and heaviness is not a favorite condition.

Yet, this does happen to some people. Statistics have shown that in the U.S., 20% of people are affected by indigestion, and yet only 10% of seek medical attention. This is to show that it has a pretty high incidence.

Indigestion, or dyspepsia, is a functional disease. This is to say that the symptoms of dyspepsia arise as a result of improper functioning of a group of muscles, an organ, or the nerves controlling them. It is often a chronic disease that can last for years and even up to a lifetime, with periodic recurrent episodes of alternating intensity or mildness of symptoms between days, weeks or even months.

Causes of Indigestion

  • Untimely food 
  • Skipping breakfast, eating a late night dinner, irregular food timing.
  • Over eating – Eating large amount of food at a time or eating before the previously consumed food is digested.
  • Profuse drinking – Drinking large amount of water or juice immediately after food, excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Stale foods – Eating leftovers, refrigerated or frozen foods.
  • Eating style – Eating too fast or slow, eating while driving, standing, just before going to shower.
  • Type of food – Consuming either dry or oily (deep fried) foods very often, foods prepared after soaking for longer duration in water and very spicy foods. “The food you eat can be either the safest medicine and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison”- Ann Wigmore.
  • Psychological factors – Emotional disturbance, fear, anxiety and stress also causes disturbance in digestion.

Ayurvedic Perspective of Indigestion and Heaviness

Indigestion is mainly caused by an manda (slow) agni (digestive fire). Agni is a pitta component mostly, so we can say that, by extension, indigestion is due to an abnormality in the Pitta dosha. Pitta, afterall, is responsible for all transformative processes such as the metabolic machinery necessary to convert ingested food to the smaller nutrient units that will be used by the body.

Reverting back to agni, again, when agni, the digestive fire, doesn’t ‘b urn’ aright, then digestion is incomplete(ajirna), and this leads to several complications, primarily the accumulation of ama. However, the probelm can vary depending on the particular type of agni that is involved, and this variation cuts across all three doshas.

There are mainly three types of indigestion, ama, vidhagda and vistabdha due to vata pitta and kapha respectively. Some consider a fourth type called rasasesa that is due to delayed absorption. A fifth type is recognised by some as dinapaki indigestion that is due to a sluggish digestion and is not due to the involvement of any dosha. The sixth variety of indigestion is called prakrta, which is a natural and daily regimen.

In the ama type of indigestion there is a feeling of heaviness of the body, nausea and swelling in the cheeks and around the eyes. As the food is not digested, eructation’s occur of the same nature as the material ingested. Ajeerna is caused by agnimandya. Agnimandya causes ama. Samana vata increases formation of ama. Mainly kapha dosha involving first stage of ajeerna occurs as amarjeerna.

Samana vayu is increased because of pre-existing ama, it increases agni or pachaka pitta or Hcl (acidity). It combines with ama and produces contaminated chyle or ama (sour) and produces burning sensation, belching and is called vidhagdha arjeerna.

In the Vidagdha type of indigestion there is vertigo, thirst, fainting and various other disorders due to vitiated pitta, smoky and acidic eructations, perspiration and a burning sensation are also produced. (pitta type).

Contaminated chyle goes to antra or intestines, and this vitiates apana vata in their sites, this causes visthabdha arjeerna.
In the vistabdha type of indigestion there are symptoms of colic flatulence and various types of vatika disorders, faeces and flatus are not passed (constipation) and stiffness, confusion and body ache also occur. All three doshas involved in vistabdha but main dosha is vata.

In the case of delayed absorption, rasasesa type indigestion, there is an aversion to food, pre cordial discomfort and heaviness all over the body.

Because of amajeerna the disorder visuchika ajeerna can arise, with vistabdha ajeerna the disorder alasaka can arise and with vidagdha arjeerna the disorder vilambika can arise.

Different types of Ajirna (Indigestion)

  • Vistabdha ajirna – caused due to vitiation of vata dosha. It is characterised by pain abdomen, bloated stomach or gaseous distension, pain all over the body, fatigue, non elimination of stools and flatus.
  • Vidagdha ajirna – caused due to vitiation of pitta dosha. It cause burning sensation in the chest and throat region, different kinds of pain, increased feeling of thirst, sour eructation or belching, tiredness, fainting and giddiness.
  • Ama ajirna – caused due to vitiation of kapha dosha. The feature of this are puffiness of around the eyes and face, frothy and increased salivation in the mouth, nausea, repeated belching having the smell of the food you ate and feeling of heaviness in the body.
  • Vilambika – caused due to vitiation of kapha and vata along with accumulation of ama. Person suffering with this, feels very lazy and discomfort in the chest region.
  • Rasa sesha ajirna – This is caused due to heavy and late night dinner. In this, you will feel that the food consumed last night is not digested when you wake up in the morning.

Constipation is common for all types of ajirna and it is the sign of weak digestion.

In Ayurveda there is a concept called Ama, which is considered as the main reason for majority of the diseases. Ama is a toxic substance formed due to any of the above said ajirna. This ama is circulated all over the body through minute channels and gets lodged in different parts of the body causing diseases.

Characteristics of good digestion (Jeerna ahara lakshana)

  • Udgarasudhi- Clear belching without any smell or taste.
  • Utsaha- Feeling energetic devoid of heaviness and lethargy.
  • Vegotsargayatochitaha- Proper and timely elimination of waste products devoid of constipation and loose stools.
  • Laghuta- Sense of lightness.
  • Kshut pipasa- Feels hungry and thirsty after stipulated time.

Management of Various Types of Ajirna (Indigestion)

  • The first line of treatment for all types of indigestion is Langhana (fasting). Skip the meal if you feel your previous food is not digested and eat only when you feel hungry.
  • If you are feeling nauseous or vomiting, vomit it out. Never suppress the sensation by taking antiemetic drugs. To ease vomiting, you can drink 2 large glasses of lukewarm water with ½ spoon of rock salt.

Home remedies for Abdominal Pain

  • If you are having pain and gaseous distension of the abdomen, keep hot water bag on your abdomen for few minutes.
  • Chew ½ tsp of jeera with pinch of salt and asafoetida, followed by cup of hot water.
  • Dry roast equal quantity of fennel seeds, coriander seeds and jeera. Grind to a fine powder and take ½ tsp of this powder with warm water thrice a day.
  • Boil 1 tsp of ajwain in 1 liter of water, fill it in a flask and keep sipping this water often.

Types of Agni: The Right Proportion of Digestive Fire

  1. Samagni: This is balanced agni. It is the proper proportion of digestive fire, and digests food completely, so that all the cells of the body can get sufficient nourishment from the broken down nutrients.
  2. Vishamagni: This type of agni is varying. It happens when vata is the dominant dosha. Here, the digestive fire alternates between sufficient and poor, and as a result, there is poor digestion. It leads to constipation and bloating.
  3. Teekshnagni: In this state, the digestive fire is heightened, and it overburns. It is as a result of a spike in pitta(fire) dosha. When agni is too much, food can get too quickly digested than is good. As a result, there is perpetual hunger, thirst, heartburn and diarrhea.
  4. Mandagni: The last of the agni types. Here, the digestive fire is lower than it is supposed to be, and is a result of kapha dominance. Since the intensity of the digestive fire is dampened, digestion is very slow, leading to poor digestion(ajirna).

What Causes Indigestion?

Indigestion leads to heaviness, since the food just stays there, and more often than not, it is caused by poor lifestyle and dietary choices, such as those listed here:

  • Overeating or eating too fast: overfeeding puts too much strain on the digestive system, or the digestive fire, such that it is unable to process all that has been dumped on it. Similar effect occurs with eating too fast.
  • Infections can also cause a feeling of heaviness in the stomach.
  • This condition can also result from the backflow of stomach acid from the stomach into the oesophagus.
  • Pregnancy increases the risk of indigestion and heaviness.
  • Certain medications, such as NSAIDs(Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) like ibuprofen, antibiotics, estrogen, etc, can also cause indigestion.
  • Overconsumption of greasy foods, excess intake of sugar, etc, can also cause this.
  • Taking too much of wheat can also cause one to feel heavy. Wheat has a lot of fibers that are not easily digested.
  • Other health conditions that increase the risk of dyspepsia include diabetes, thyroid disease, hyperthyroidism, and kidney disease.
  • Irregular food habits confuse the bodies metabolic processes.

What are the Symptoms of Indigestion “Ajirna”?

If you’ve had episodes of indigestion before, then you certainly know what it feels like. But just so we’re on the same page, we will look at a far from exhaustive list of symptoms that present itself in the case of indigestion and heaviness.

These symptoms are usually precipitated by the very act of eating, and they include:

  • Feeling full and uncomfortable even after a small meal.
  • Pain in the upper abdomen and lower chest. Discomfort may also be felt in the back.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Bloating and flatulence(There are highly effective remedies to bloating however).
  • Belching.

An Ayurvedic Perspective of Indigestion “Ajirna”

Since it is a functional disease that has to do with malfunctioning of the muscles lining the wall of the stomach and intestines, Western medicine may direct treatment at these muscles, called smooth muscles, by the use of smooth muscle relaxants.

Antidepressant drugs may also be used. Cisapride helps with heaviness due to slowly emptying stomach, and erythromycin is useful as an antibiotic that also stimulates gastrointestinal smooth muscle cells.

Ayurvedic Herbs for Indigestion

The list of Ayurvedic remedies for addressing problems with digestion is very long, but a few of them have been made available here for you.

  1. Baking Soda: Baking soda contains the alkali, sodium carbonate, that helps to neutralize excessive stomach acid. Hence, it is an effective antacid.
  2. Ginger: It contains gingerols and other antioxidants that help relieve indigestion, and nausea. It also has the ability to relieve irritation and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
  3. Apple Cider Vinegar: It has a full arsenal of minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus to battle acid reflux and to burn down fats. It can be taken with water or honey.
  4. Triphala: It contains amalaki, haritaki, and bibhitaki. It is tridoshic and helps to relieve constipation and bowel irregularity.
  5. Lavender: Aside its powers of curing indigestion, it also serves as an antiseptic and takes care of insomnia and high blood pressure.

If you want to have healthy digestive system, here are things you can do

As was earlier mentioned, indigestion is largely due to poor lifestyle and dietary choices, and it can be cured and prevented by reversing those choices. If you don’t have it yet, you really should start doing these things to keep safe.

  1. Eat modestly and have moderate spacing between meals. You should have at between four to six hours between meals.
  2. Quit over-drinking and smoking.
  3. Exercise regularly to give your build up your body. For example, taking a walk will help energize you and reduce drowsiness, thus alleviating/preventing heaviness.
  4. Do not overindulge in snacking between meals.
  5. Eat on time and eat regularly. Be consistent in your feeding. Do not skip breakfast.
  6. Do not go to bed immediately after eating.

Eat Healthy for a better digestive fire

  1. Regulate your diet according to the type of agni you have. The imbalanced dosha should be balanced up.
  2. Take less sugars, salts, spicy foods and consume less fibers to promote digestion.
  3. When you eat, take your time. This gives your body time to actually process the signal that it is being fed. If you eat too fast, you can finish two helpings before your body realizes that you are eating. If the body doesn’t know its being fed, you keep feeling hungry and you keep eating, but in reality, you’re actually overfeeding.
  4. Don’t eat meals that are high in fat and condiments.
  5. Drink enough water while eating. Water takes up more space faster, and is easier to metabolize than any other food item. When you drink water, it takes up space that you would have used to store excess food while eating. The water is then soon taken away, freeing you up.

References

FAQ

1. What is the Ayurvedic treatment for indigestion?

Ayurveda is one of the oldest medical systems in the world and its principles are still relevant today. One of the many conditions that Ayurveda can effectively treat is indigestion. The cause of indigestion is often a build-up of toxins in the digestive system, and the goal of Ayurvedic treatment is to cleanse the system and restore balance. There are a number of different herbs and spices that can be used to treat indigestion, but one of the most effective is cumin. Cumin helps to stimulate digestion and helps the body to break down and eliminate toxins. Other helpful herbs include ginger, fennel, and coriander. Ayurvedic treatment for indigestion often includes a diet change as well. Foods that are easy to digest, such as soups and stews, are typically recommended. Avoiding spicy and oily foods can also help to reduce symptoms. With a little dietary changes and some simple herbal remedies, indigestion can be a thing of the past.

2. Can Ayurveda cure digestive problems?

The Ayurvedic treatment for indigestion is a little different from the Western approach. In Ayurveda, we believe that indigestion is caused by an imbalance in the digestive fire, or Agni. This can be caused by factors such as stress, poor diet, and dehydration. To restore balance, we recommend lifestyle changes such as reducing stress, eating light and simple meals, and drinking plenty of water. We also recommend specific herbs and spices such as ginger, cumin, and fennel, which can help to kindle the digestive fire. If you are experiencing chronic indigestion, we also recommend seeing an Ayurvedic doctor for further guidance.

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About the Author

Dr. Pawan Bansal (Ayurveda Acharya)

Dr. Pawan Bansal is the Founder of Medhya Herbals. He is a registered Ayurvedic Practitioner with more than 40 years of experience in Ayurvedic and Herbal treatment. He has successfully cured his patients from chronic health issues related to Poor Digestion, Low Immunity, InFertility, PCOS, Joint Pain, Arthritis, Psoriasis, Inflammation, Chronic Cough, and Sinusitis. Dr. Bansal is passionate about Life and believes that one should enjoy it’s simple gifts to be Healthy and Happy.

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