Our metabolism and digestive system works in a series of steps where brain begins to prepare the body for the meal that we are about to eat. As we sense food through our eyes, nose, or even hear about certain food items, our body responds with certain actions:
- Saliva production increases.
- Stomach begins to produce enzymes and acid.
- Liver and gall bladder get ready to release bile.
You may have heard the saying “digestion begins in the mouth,” but it actually starts in the brain!
Ama – Toxins building up in the body
If you have diminished Agni – digestive fire within you, then the food remains undigested. The undigested food is sticky in nature and is called “Ama”. Ama is the primary reason behind modern lifestyle physical and mental health issues.
Ama is deposited in the body within excessive fats leading to weight gain, weakness, lowered agni and hence slow metabolism, and further deposition of fats.
Ama is caused due to inappropriate eating habits and careless lifestyle. For a proper removal of Ama “Toxins” from your body, you need to adopt a holistic lifestyle with physical activity. Also ensure that you are consuming foods that provide you with essential micronutrients, antioxidants, and fiber.
Causes of imbalance of Agni which slow down the Metabolism
- Having spicy and oily food along with milk and milk products regularly.
- Consumption of caffeine, tobacco and alcohol.
- Irregular food habits and sleep cycles.
- Medications like pain killers, antibiotics, oral contraceptives and steroids.
- Intestinal parasites.
- Diseases of pancreas, liver, gall bladder, intestinal infections etc.
- Pregnancy, premenstrual period, menopausal period in women.
- Emotional imbalances such as anxiety, stress, examination, family tension, etc.
Lifestyle tips to ignite Agni and get better metabolism rates
- Manage your stress.
- Drink a lot of water and keep your body hydrated. However, never drink water after food, keep a gap of at least 30 minutes between meal and water.
- Eat slowly and avoid multitasking.
- Chew your food at least 35 times so that it is almost liquid before swallowing.
- Eat real, whole, organic foods, especially high-antioxidant vegetables.
- Avoid a high sugar / high starch diet.
- Eat veggies and greens with animal proteins (fish, meat, eggs).
- Eat fruits at regular intervals but not with meals. Also avoid eating fruits immediately after meals.
- Eliminate coffee, tea, alcohol, sugar and tobacco.
- Avoid spicy and fried food.
- Avoid drinking cold liquids before or during meals.
- The enzymes and acids activated by chewing gum can cause bloating and overproduction of stomach acid.
- Take a 10-minute walk after dinner. This aids in digestion and reduces stress.
Your Digestive Fire depends on your Age
Our gut microbiome and our taste buds evolve as we age. According to Ayurvedic texts, our digestive fire is the strongest during adulthood, poor during childhood, and irregular during old age. A change in the strength of digestive fire or Agni parallels with our metabolic rates.
Our digestive fire or the metabolic rate are at peak near adulthood (18 ~ 20 years). It goes down from there onwards. This is the reason why same food and same quantity has different effect on our body at different points of age!
This is also the reason why same food and same quantity has different effect on different people. Because of the variation in their digestive fire, metabolic rates, or gut microbiome!
We need to eat age appropriate foods and quantities to keep our digestion, metabolism, and nourishment in place.
Additionally, the strength of our taste buds is poor during old age. This is one of the primary reasons, why elderly often crave for significantly spicy, salty, or sugary foods. Since, the strength of their microbiome or digestive fire is often variable or on the weaker side, they struggle to metabolise excess ingredients, leading to health disorders!
Children on the other hand have highly sensitive taste buds and an immature microbiome. A super sensitive taste preference often makes them fussy eaters! So, if you try to please kids with artificially tasteful but unhealthy foods, their overall health and Immunity will go down.
Here are Ayurvedic guidelines to food consumption for good digestive fire or Agni according to your age.
Ayurvedic Diet for Children
- For children, include nutritionally dense and energy dense foods such as grains, dairy, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits.
- Meals should be soft in texture and easy to digest.
- Naturally sweet foods such as grains, pulses, fruits, and vegetables.
- A variety of vegetables and fruits should be given such as sweet potatoes, squashes, carrots, beets, banana, grapes, apple, and pears.
- Stay clear from cold and stale foods.
- Small meal portions should be provided as their tummies cannot handle over sized meals and children often do not realise when they are full.
- Food should never be forcefully given to children.
Ayurvedic Diet for Adults
- During adulthood we should consume variety of foods in moderation.
- Include fibre dense greens, naturally sweet, and variety of grains, dairy, meat, vegetables and fruits in your diet.
- EXCESS of everything including superfoods is BAD!
- Moderately sized portions should be consumed with bigger at lunch time and small at b’fast and dinner.
Ayurvedic Diet for Elderly
- For elderly, meals should be soft and easily digestible.
- A variety of vegetables, cooked appropriately should be included.
- Regular meal time is of utmost importance.
- Stay clear from cold, energy dense, stale, and raw foods as it aggravates Vata Dosha and reduces digestive fire.
- Reduce the quantity of food.
Yoga Asanas to fire up Agni and Metabolism
- Empty your bowels and have a glass of warm water with squeezed lemon.
- After that stand shoulder distance apart.
- With bent knees, spine straight, bend slightly forward from the waist.
- Palms rest on the knees, or just above, so the back isn’t sacrificed.
- Breathe in deeply, exhale all air, tuck chin slightly, contract belly to spine, holding breath in this position, then push it all the way out.
- This provides internal organs with a deep internal massage; do these contractions while holding the breath.
- Do as many as you are able to, working towards building the number of repetitions.
- Inhale and slowly return to standing.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
- Come to the floor onto knees and palms.
- Sit onto the heels.
- Bring thighs side-by-side.
- Guide belly onto thighs.
- Forehead to the mat.
- Bring arms back beside thighs, palms facing upwards.
- Stay here with a focus on the quality of the breath for 10-15 breaths.
- Inhale to come up onto the knees and palms into a tabletop position to prepare for Cat/Cow Sequence.
Chakravakasana (Cat-Cow Sequence)
- Place hands shoulder distance apart, align knees directly under hips, toes tucked under.
- Inhale, head and tailbone up to Cow, as if in a backbend on the knees.
- Exhale to round the spine, tuck pelvis, belly button to spine, gaze at the belly, Cat.
- Link this movement to the breath, for 5-6 rounds
Virasana (Hero’s Pose)
- From tabletop, bring feet side-by-side, shift weight and sit on heels.
- With a straight spine, place palms onto thighs, close the eyes and concentrate on the breath for 5 minutes, or for as long as it is comfortable.
*Avoid if you have knee or ankle injury.