WHAT’S YOUR type? If you’ve been paying attention, you already know that gut health is a key to wellness – and that getting to a balanced state requires entirely different things for different bodies. Ayurveda’s ancient wisdom distills those digestive differences into four categories, each of which comes loaded with its own set of healing solutions.
Which one are you?
We all have that one friend who can get away with eating pizza at midnight and will still be yoga-ready the next morning. We all have that other friend who has every food sensitivity under the sun.
Digestions Vary As Widely As Complexions
We are each born with a unique type that can also change according to our diet, lifestyle and age. You may have been the midnight-pizza person in your college years and now too much cheese makes you bloated for days.
According to ayurveda, the world’s oldest health system and sister science of yoga, we each have a unique digestive type. As the author of the Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda and an ayurvedic nutritionist, I specialize in assessing individual’s digestion, skin, metabolism and even mind to help them find balance.
One of the first things I assess in my clients is their digestive fire type. The word agni in Sanskrit means fire; it is used to describe our digestive system because it’s the internal flame that turns our food into energy. Some of us have an easier time breaking down foods, absorbing nutrients and releasing toxins, while others feel heavy and exhausted after a meal because their digestive systems are on overdrive. This all gives us information about one’s digestive type. Ayurveda classifies four types of agni or digestive fires:
1. VISHAM AGNI (irregular digestion)
Visham agni is when your digestive system is completely unpredictable. Sometimes you eat a meal and feel nourished and satisfied with no digestive issues. Other times, you bloat like a balloon and have gas so bad you can’t go to SoulCycle. Visham agni is related to the vata (wind) dosha because it’s always up in the air. You never know what’s going to happen next!
Symptoms of visham agni incude: bloating, gas, constipation, sometimes interchanging with loose stool
If this relates to you: follow a vata-pacifying diet of warming, grounding foods, plenty of root vegetables and healthy fats. Steer clear of raw and cold foods like salads, smoothies, popcorn and crackers.
2. TIKSHNA AGNI (sharp digestion)
Tikshna agni is when your digestive fire is burning too brightly. You may be running to the bathroom after every meal, especially if it involves spices, nightshades, onion or garlic. When our internal flame is too strong, our stomach secretes excess stomach acid, causing hyperacidity, heartburn and even ulcers. Tikshna agni is related to the pitta (fire) dosha because it’s strong and sharp. You’re the type that if you don’t get to eat on time, you’re seriously hangry!
Symptoms of tikshna agni incude: loose stools, hyperacidity/heartburn, sharp appetite
If this relates to you: follow a pitta-pacifying diet of cooling, hydrating foods, plenty of leafy greens, juicy fruit and cleansing herbs. Stay away from spicy and pungent foods such as cayenne, onion and garlic, which will further ignite your digestive fire.
3. MANDA AGNI (slow digestion)
Manda agni is when your digestion is going at the pace of a snail. You eat a meal and feel stuffed for the next six hours or longer. In fact, you may barely eat but your body keeps depositing fat – it’s like you gain weight even thinking about fries! You may feel exhausted after a big meal and feel the need to take a nap. Manda agni is related to excess kapha (earth) dosha, as it’s heavy and dense. The speed of your digestion can feel like watching the Earth rotate on its axis!
Symptoms of manda agni include: slow digestion/ metabolism, weight-gain, large, sticky stool, low appetite
If this relates to you: follow a kapha-pacifying diet of light, stimulating foods such as steamed non-starchy vegetables and a wide array of spices. Say no to dairy, sugar, starches, fried foods and excess protein.
4. SAMA AGNI (balanced digestion)
Sama agni is when you have no digestive issues- lucky you! You eat a meal and feel comfortable after, with no bloating, gas, hyperacidity or lethargy. You have one to two healthy daily bowel movements without loose stools or constipation. If this is you, you deserve a gold star!
Symptoms of sama agni include: healthy daily bowel movements, no digestive discomfort after eating, strong ojas, or vital life-force, radiant skin, shiny eyes
If this relates to you: keep it up by following the recommended foods for each season’s dosha. In the hot summer months, consume more of the pitta foods. In the cooler fall months, consume more vata foods. In the wetter, winter and early spring months, consume more kapha foods.