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The Ayurvedic perception of digestion is summed up in the term ‘Jatharagni’. In the simplest possible sense this can be interpreted as ‘Digestive Fire’ (Jathar = the digestive tract ; Agni = fire). When it is working well it has an enzymatic type of action, whereby the processing of foods is complete and the metabolism is balanced, ensuring the efficient working of all the body systems.
However, if the agni is weak this results in the production of ama (toxic waste).
What are the symptoms of Ama?
Every organ and system has its own ‘fire’ and if it is not functioning optimally there is a resulting build-up of toxic waste which clogs the lymphatic system, the arteries and the liver. Heart disease and disorders of the central nervous system can follow. Another disorder arising from extreme accumulation of ama is arthritis, when the body’s tissues are affected. Where ama is in excess, endocrine problems, in particular hypothyroidism, are frequently found. This is a problem of low Pitta and as all mitochondrial functions are dependent on balanced Pitta there is a deficiency of body energy.
Does Ayurveda prescribe an ideal diet?
An essential difference between the Ayurvedic and the western medical approach to diet is that Ayurveda does not standardise its recommendations. On the contrary, it recognises that the Vata, Pitta and Kapha characteristics of each individual are unique, and there are even variations due to season and age.
What are some examples of Ayurvedic dietary recommendations?
Ayurveda recognises that an individual’s dietary requirements vary according to time or place, circumstances and bodily condition. It does not generally view foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but rather considers the effects of specific foods, as well as the differences in the effect of combining the foods in different ways or of consuming them in a different form at different times. For example, hot water is seen to stimulate in cold weather. Warmed orange juice has a very different effect from that drunk cold. It is also recognised that for every food there is an antidote – valuable knowledge when dealing with intolerancies or even allergies.