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4 Types of Digestion in Ayurveda and Unique Remedies That Work

Ayurveda views digestion as one of the keys to health.


Let's look at the 4 different types of digestion in Ayurveda and remedies to balance each.


4 Types of digestion in Ayurveda


Ayurveda recognizes 4 types of digestion that are connected to the doshas.


  1. Balanced digestion

  2. Irregular appetite and digestion--usually connected to vata dosha

  3. Sharp digestion, hypermetabolism--usually connected to pitta dosha

  4. Sluggish digestion, hypometabolism--usually connected to kapha dosha



Digestion in Ayurveda: woman's hands making a heart on her stomach with a flower in her bellybutton

1. Balanced digestion


Samagni, or balanced digestion, is what we are all striving toward. This means digestion is completed in 4 hours with neither cravings nor a lack of interest in food (Pole, 100). Bowel movements are regular and of good quality. Appetite is present at the beginning of each meal.


Signs of this balanced digestion are:

  • hunger at mealtimes

  • regular bowel movements

  • clarity in the mind

  • hardy immunity

  • strong metabolism

  • comfortable digestion

  • proper absorption of nutrients (Kripalu, 7.30)


According to Dr. Vasant Lad, a person with this balanced digestion can eat almost anything during any season without experiencing adverse effects (Lad, 90-91).


He goes on to state that balanced digestion not only creates the best working capacity of the body and longevity but also brings clarity of thought and a loving, calm mind (Lad, 91).


No remedies are needed for balanced digestion.



Digestion in Ayurveda: woman eating a tostado and drinking Jarritos


2. Irregular appetite and digestion

Vishamagni, or irregular appetite and digestion, is common in people with vata dosha predominant in their constitution or a vata dosha imbalance (Pole, 100). 


Read more about the doshas in this Explanation of the Doshas.


Vata dosha has the following qualities:

  • dry

  • light

  • rough

  • cold

  • subtle

  • mobile

  • clear/clearing (CS, Sū, 1/59)



The general rule of Ayurveda is that like increases like and opposites decrease (AH, Sū 1/14).


That means consuming foods with these qualities listed above may increase both vata dosha and irregular appetite and digestion.


The same is true not only for food but also for the environment we live in (dry climates for vata), the current season (fall and early winter for vata), the activities we do (for example excess mobility), the time of life (50-60 years and onwards for vata), etc.


Applying the opposite qualities of oily, heavy, smooth, warm, gross, stable, and cloudy/sticky in your diet, lifestyle, and environment will help to balance both vata dosha and irregular appetite and digestion.


Signs of irregular appetite and digestion include:

  • irregular desire for food

  • inconsistent digestion--sometimes good, sometimes bad

  • indigestion

  • bloating

  • constipation

  • gas

  • pain in the abdomen

  • dry skin

  • intestinal gurgling

  • pain in the lower back

  • joints that crack

  • stools with undigested food particles

  • eliminating at different times of the day

  • insomnia

  • grey or black coating on the tongue

  • anxiety, insecurity, and fear (Kripalu, 7.31)


Digestion in Ayurveda: person holding their bloated stomach and a sandwich

You can prevent and reduce irregular appetite and digestion by avoiding the causes listed below:

  • snacking between meals

  • eating too often

  • eating before the last meal digests (within 4-5 hours)

  • stress

  • raw foods

  • dry foods

  • cold foods

  • eating meals at irregular times (Kripalu, 7.31)


The cold quality of vata slows down digestion while the mobile quality of vata makes the digestion fluctuate, both of these lead to irregular metabolism (Lad, 91).


Remedies for irregular appetite and digestion


1. Set up a meal schedule, eating 3 meals a day at the same time every day. This meal schedule gives a structure to vata dosha. It also allows your body to know when to expect the next meal so that it can prepare the digestive enzymes you need to digest your meal.


2. Tastes

Use sweet, sour, salty, and slightly pungent flavors in your foods and herbs


3. Trikatu is a blend of 3 culinary spices:

  • black pepper

  • powdered ginger

  • pippali, a long, cylindrical peppercorn


Trikatu seems a little hard to find these days, but you can DIY it for yourself. Mix equal parts of black pepper, powdered ginger, and pippali together. Use 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon 3 times per day.


Ayurveda recommends taking trikatu with warm water 1/2 hour before meals to help stimulate hunger and improve irregular digestion, especially when the appetite is low. It can also be taken after meals to clear toxins from the GI tract.


4. Hingvashtak Churnam

Hingvashtak churnam is a blend of culinary herbs that is excellent for vata dosha and regulating digestion. It reduces symptoms of:

  • gas

  • bloating

  • gurgling

  • constipation

  • lower abdominal pain

  • belching

  • indigestion

  • hiccups

  • soothes a nervous stomach (Pole, 298)


Hingvashtak can be taken before meals to stimulate your appetite and hunger, or after meals to burn away toxins (Pole, 299).


Digestion in Ayurveda: Hingvashtak powder by Athreya herbs

I really like the flavor of this Hingvashtak Powder from Athreya herbs. I bought some while in India and it wasn't quite as clean and fresh tastin as this one from Athreya.



3. Sharp digestion (hypermetabolism)

Tikshnagni, or sharp digestion with hyper metabolism, is common in people with pitta dosha predominant in their constitution or a pitta dosha imbalance (Pole, 100). It creates an intense hunger with poor digestion.


Pitta dosha has the following qualities:

  • slightly oily

  • sharp/penetrating

  • hot

  • light

  • fleshy-smelling

  • spreading

  • liquid (AH, Sū, 1/11)


Consuming foods with these qualities listed above may increase both pitta dosha and this sharp digestion with hypermetabolism.


The same is true not only for food but also for the environment we live in (hot climates for pitta), the current season (summer for pitta), the activities we do (for example jogging in the midday sun during summer), the time of life (puberty to 50/60 years for pitta), etc.


Applying the opposite qualities of dry, dull, cool, heavy, sweet-smelling, contained, and solid to your diet, lifestyle, and environment will help to balance both pitta dosha and sharp digestion with hypermetabolism.


Signs of sharp digestion and hypermetabolism

  • diarrhea

  • excess hunger

  • desire to eat large quantities of food often

  • hot flashes

  • heartburn

  • hyperacidity

  • acid indigestion

  • gastritis

  • colitis

  • hypoglycemia

  • dysentery

  • liver pain

  • vomiting

  • nausea

  • intense cravings for sweet foods

  • tongue coated in yellow

  • weight loss

  • decrease in the quality of the tissues of the body

  • anger, envy, hate (Kripalu, 7.31)


Digestion in Ayurveda: man holding his stomach in pain

You can prevent and reduce sharp digestion and hypermetabolism by avoiding the causes listed below:

  • salty foods

  • oily foods

  • sour foods

  • spicy foods

  • repressed anger

  • excess exercise (Kripalu, 7.31)


A person with this sharp digestion and hypermetabolism may become judgmental and critical of everyone and everything around them (Lad, 91).


This sharp digestion and metabolism are the source of pitta disorders (Lad, 91).



Remedies for sharp digestion (hypermetabolism)


1. Avoid pungent, sour, and salty foods. These foods will increase pitta which may create sharp digestion and hypermetabolism.


2. Pomegranate seeds

Pomegranate seeds that are dry and roasted are excellent for reducing sharp digestion and hypermetabolism (Pole, 242).


3. Avipattikara churna

Avipattikara powder is a blend of medicinal herbs that is cooling, bitter, pungent, and astringent. It is excellent for reducing sharp digestion and hypermetabolism. It reduces acid and burning in the stomach (Pole, 297-298).


Digestion in Ayurveda: a bag of Avipattikar powder by Athreya


4. Sluggish digestion and hypometabolism

Sluggish digestion and hypometabolism, or mandagni, are connected to a predominance of kapha dosha and kapha dosha imbalances and are characterized by weak hunger (Pole, 100).


Kapha dosha has the following qualities:

  • heavy

  • slow/dull

  • cold

  • oily

  • smooth

  • dense

  • soft

  • stable

  • gross

  • sticky/cloudy


Consuming foods with these qualities listed above may increase both kapha dosha and sluggish digestion with hypometabolism.


The same is true not only for food but also for the environment we live in (cold, wet climates for kapha), the current season (late winter and spring for kapha), the activities we do (for example not getting enough movement), the time of life (conception through puberty for kapha), etc.


Applying the opposite qualities of light, sharp/penetrating, warm, dry, rough, liquefying, hard, mobile, subtle, and clear will help balance kapha dosha and sluggish digestion with hypometabolism.


Signs of sluggish digestion and hypometabolism include:

  • heaviness

  • white coated tongue

  • constipation

  • gas

  • bad taste in the mouth

  • obesity

  • excess saliva in the mouth

  • obstruction of the channels in the body

  • edema

  • hypertension

  • diabetes

  • fatigue

  • lethargy

  • greed, attachment, possessiveness (Kripalu, 7.31)


Digestion in Ayurveda: a woman in yellow holding her stomach while her hands are forming a heart over her belly


You can prevent and reduce sluggish digestion and hypometabolism by avoiding the causes listed below:

  • irregular eating

  • snacking

  • eating before the previous meal is digested

  • excessive fasting

  • cold foods

  • heavy foods

  • eating large quantities of food (Kripalu, 7.31)


Someone with this sluggish digestion can fast on water for several days and still gain weight (Lad, 91).


Remedies for sluggish digestion and hypometabolism


1. Avoid overeating and eating excessively heavy foods.


2. Trikatu

Trikatu is a blend of 3 culinary spices:

  • black pepper

  • powdered ginger

  • pippali, a long peppercorn


A mentioned earlier, trikatu seems a little hard to find these days, but you can make it for yourself. Mix equal parts of black pepper, powdered ginger, and pippali together. Use 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon 3 times per day.


Take trikatu with warm water 1/2 hour after meals to help regulate digestion.


3. Cinnamon

Cinnamon benefits a cold, sluggish digestion due to its warming potency (Pole, 160).


Ayurveda suggests a tea of cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger. Boil 1/2 teaspoon of each in 1-2 cups of water. Strain and add a little raw honey and enjoy.


Digestion in Ayurveda: cinnamon sticks and powdered cinnamon

4. Ajwain

Ajwain is an herb that works great for this slow, sluggish digestion with hypometabolism. Some specific benefits are:

  • warms the digestion

  • anti-spasmodic

  • reduces gas

  • stimulates a sluggish digestion (Pole, 122).


A 1/2 teaspoon of ajwain seeds can be mixed with a pinch of salt. Chew these together and then drink warm water.


5. Cardamom

Cardamom helps to stimulate digestion and reduce sluggishness (Pole, 65).


Ayurveda suggests a tea of cardamom, black pepper, and cinnamon. Boil 1/8-1/4 teaspoon of black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and cardamom in 1-2 cups of water. Strain, add raw honey, and enjoy.



 

If you're unsure of which type of the 4 types of digestion you are currently experiencing, you can book an online appointment with me and we'll figure it out together.




I would love to hear your experience with these remedies in the comments section.






 

Vagbhata. Astanga Hrdayam. Translated by Prof. K. R. Srikantha Murthy, 7th ed., vol. 1, Chowkhamba Krishnadas Academy, 2010.


Lad, Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda: Fundamental Principles of Ayurveda. 1st ed., vol. 1, The Ayurvedic Press, 2002.


Pole, Sebastian. Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice. 2nd ed., Singing Dragon, 2013.


Kripalu Center. "Foundations of Āyurveda." 2019. PDF.

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1 Comment


Guest
Feb 25

Hi Belinda! Where can we get these herb packages. I found the Ayurvedic Doctors in Kerala who have a retreat house with the same name as the company the above herbs. But I could not find a store on there site.

Karen🤗

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