The Ayurveda Series: Agni

Agni means 'fire' and in Ayurveda our agni is responsible for our digestion and metabolic processes. Ayurveda says our health depends largely on how well we are able to digest, absorb and utilise nutrients from our food.

If digestive energy is weak or disturbed, stomach aches, diarrhoea or constipation may arise, as well as general symptoms such as lethargy, headaches, irritability, poor concentration, disturbed sleep and lower immunity.

Optimal functioning of the digestive system depends on;

  • Sufficient dietary fibre to assist peristalsis (wave-like muscle contractions that move food through the digestive system) so we evacuate food residues and waste products of the metabolism

  • There is a constant interaction between the brain and digestive tract which means your digestion is highly susceptible to the effects of mind and emotions

How to look after your agni;

  • Start your day with warm water (boiled and allowed to cool a little) and either grated fresh ginger or a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, then follow with a light breakfast

  • Your agni is strongest at midday so this is the best time to eat your largest meal

  • Energy and digestion slow down in the evening so have another light meal then rest and relax


  • Don’t eat more than you need – smaller, lighter meals are better and we should stop eating once our stomach is ¾ full to leave space for digestive juices

  • Taste and enjoy your food – eating what you dislike inhibits digestive enzymes

  • Eat slowly and in a relaxed fashion – enzymes flow when the parasympathetic nervous system is in operation, when adrenalin flows, enzymes don’t so don’t eat on the run

  • When you eat, only eat – watching TV, working at a computer or discussing something imflammatory will disturb digestion (light, relaxed conversation is fine)

  • Don’t drink too much with meals as this dilutes your digestive enzymes

  • Add mild spices to cooking such as turmeric, ginger, cumin, coriander and fennel

  • Eat when you feel hungry and once your previous meal has digested (at least 4 hours between), snacking isn’t great but if you have high agni you may need to eat more often to prevent low blood sugar

  • Don’t eat late – allow 2-3 hours after your evening meal before bed

  • Eat regularly and at the same time each day

Next blog... the Ayurvedic daily routine