Food habits, Indigestion – Ashtanga Hrudayam Sutrasthana 8th Chapter

The 8th chapter of Ashtanga Hrudayam Sutrasthana is known as Matrashiteeya Adhyaya. It includes information about – right quantity of food to take, right time to take food, types of indigestion and their treatment, qualities and types of after drinks, right method of food intake etc.

Right Amount Of Food – Aharamatra Apeksha

One should always consume proper quantity of food. Right amount of food activates Agni – digestion power (which is compared to fire, in Ayurveda).
Food that are light to digest (Laghu) and those that are hard to digest (Guru) both require a specified quantity for proper digestion.
As a general rule, if the food is heavy to digest (such as oily food, non veg, sweets etc), it should be consumed till half of the satiation level is achieved. (Ardha Sauhitya).
If the food is light to digest, it should be consumed till one is not overly satiated. (Na Ati Truptata).
The right amount of food is that, which undergoes digestion easily.

Effect of taking more or less quantity of food

Consuming less quantity of food does not increase strength,  ojus (immunity). The body will not be nourished properly. Over a period of time, it leads to Vata imbalance disorders. Excessive quantity of food is again not desirable. It causes quick increase of Doshas.  3 – 3½.

Effects of over eating

Due to eating excess quantity of food, Vata and other Doshas suddenly get increased together and associating with the undigested and vitiated food (Ama) , produce diseases.
It causes Alasaka disease by  blocking the movement of food inside the alimentary tract and
Visuchika (gastro enteritis) by expelling out the undigested food in both downward and upward directions (diarrhoea and vomiting) simultaneously.
This is seen in persons who are not self controlled and who can not control their food cravings. 4-5.

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Alasaka – indigestion + constipation
Food neither comes out in the upper route by vomiting nor from the downward route by purgation. Nor does it undergo digestion in the stomach. It stays in the stomach lazily (=Alasya). Such a disease condition is called as Alasaka.  6.


Visuchika ~ Gastro enteritis
Due to sudden and profound aggravation of Vata, along with other Doshas, the person experiences pain in entire body, as though being pricked by needles, hence this disease is called Visuchika. (Suchi means needle).

Dosha influence

Influence of different Doshas in Alasaka and Visuchika –
In Alasaka and Visuchika,
If Vata is aggravated, it causes
Shoola – abdominal pain
Bhrama – Delusion
Anaha – bloating, fullness
Kampa – tremors
Stambha – stiffness etc symptoms.

If Pitta is aggravated, it causes
Jvara – fever
Atisara – diarrhoea, dysentery
Antardaha – internal burning sensation
Trut – excessive thirst
Pralaya – panic, unconsciousness

If Kapha is aggravated, it causes
Chardi – Vomiting
Angaguruta – heaviness of the body
Vak Sangha – Difficulty to speak
Shteevana – excessive salivation, expectoration and spitting

 Manifestation of Alasaka symptoms

Alasaka occurs especially in those who are weak, who have low digestion strength and who suppress urges of the body, habitually. In them, Vata gets increased, gets associated with Kapha to obstruct the movement of undigested food in the digestive tract. It causes the food to stay inside the stomach, as a foreign body. It leads to abdominal colic and such other symptoms, but without vomiting and diarrhea.  10 – 11.


Highly vitiated Doshas, move into vitiated and obstructed channels by accumulation of undigested food. Thus Doshas get obstructed in the GI tract, and begin to move in other unnatural channels. Thus Doshas spread throughout the body and make it stiff like a log of wood. This disease is called Dandakalasaka, which should be rejected for treatment as it is quick in causing death. 12.

Ama Dosha

Persons who indulges in
Viruddha Ashana – taking incompatible foods,
Adhyashana – taking excess food
Ajeerna Ashana – Eating over undigested food,
develops the dreaded Amadosa which is similar to poison. Hence it is also called as Amavisha (undigested food poison).

Such a person should be refused for treatment because of its similarity with poison, quickness in causing death and requiring treatments of opposite nature to one another Doshas and qualities. 13 – 14.
Ama – undigested food stagnating inside the Gastro intestinal tract should be removed quickly after deciding the conditions of easy management.

The person is made to drink warm water mixed with powder of Ugra (Vacha – Acorus calamus), Patu (Saindhava – Black Salt) and Phala (Madanaphala); This will cause vomiting;

This therapy is followed up with Swedana (sudation therapy)

Next, Phalavarti (rectal suppositories) prepared from fruits which help in downward movement of faeces and flatus should be administered,

The parts of the body which are rigid should be well fomented and then wrapped using cloth. 15 – 16.

In advanced stage of Visucika, branding by fire over the heel, is recommended. The patient should be made to fast on that day and taken care of as the one who has undergone purgation therapy. All the post Virechana procedure and treatment should be given to the patient.  17.
The patient of indigestion though having severe abdominal pain should not take pain killing drugs; the Agni – digestive fire which is associated with Ama – improperly processed metabolites will not be able to digest the Doshas, drugs and food; the severe troubles arising from these three will soon kill the patient. 18.

After the food is found digested, if stiffness and heaviness of the abdomen persists, then medicines should be given to digest the residual Doshas and to stimulate the Agni – digestive power. 19.

Diseases produced by Ama – undigested food, become relieved by Apatarpana (non-nourishment); three kinds of Apatarpana,  appropriate to the three Doshas should be adopted after careful consideration of all aspects. 20.

If Ama is less, only Langhana (fasting) will be suitable,
If it is moderate Langhana (fasting) and Pachana – digestive drugs are needed;
If it is severe, then Shodhana (purification Panchakarma therapy) is necessary; for these will expel out the Dosha and Ama from the very root. 21.

Treatment principle for diseases

Even the other diseases should be treated by adopting treatments which are opposite to their causative factors. It is called Hetu Viparyaya Chikitsa. Hetu means causative factors. If, however, the diseases recurs or persist for long time then the Hetu Viparyaya  should be given up and disease specific treatment should be adopted. It is called as Vyadhi Viparyaya Chikitsa.

Or Tadarthakari Chikitsa (therapies which, though not actually opposite of either the cause or the diseases still produce the desired result) should be adopted;

When the Doshas have returned to normal, when the Ama is completely relieved,  when digestion activity is completely restored to normalcy, then oil-bath, drinking of oil (oleation therapies) and enema therapy, etc. should be administered appropriately to gain the lost strength in the patient.  22-24.

Ajirna Bheda – different kinds of indigestion

Ama ajeerna

Vitiation of Kapha causes ”Ama Ajeerna” It is characterized with swelling of the eyes socket and cheeks, belching similar to those which come up immediately after meals, excess salivation, nausea and heaviness of the body. 25

Vishtabdha ajeerna

Vishtabdha ajirna – this type of indigestion is caused due to vitiated Vata and is characterized by pain in the abdomen, constipation, flatulence and debility.

Vidagdha ajeerna

Vidagdha ajirna – this type of indigestion is due to vitiated Pitta and has thirst, fainting, dizziness, giddiness, sour belching and burning sensation as its symptoms. 26

For Ama ajirna, Langhana – fasting should be done;|
For Vishtabdha Ajirna,  Swedana (sudation therapy) should be done;
For Vidagdha ajirna, Vamana (emesis therapy) should be done, or any therapy appropriate to the stage of the disease can be done. 27

Vilambika disease

Vilambika – another kind of indigestion occurs due to profound accumulation of Ama inside the channels. It is caused due to vitiation of Kapha and Vata and has all the symptoms of Ama; its treatment is also similar to that of Ama. 28

Rasashesha Ajeerna

Rasashesha ajeerna – Lack of enthusiasm, discomfort in the region of the heart in spite of pure belching are the features of Rasashesha ajirna – another kind of indigestion. Such a person should sleep for some time during day without eating anything.

Patient of indigestion of any type should sleep during day without taking any food. Later, when he develops hunger he should eat small quantites of easily digestible food. 28½ – 29

General symptoms of indigestion

Ajirna Samanya Laksana – general symptoms of indigestion
 Diarrhea or constipation, exhaustion, inactivity of Vata, distension of the abdomen, feeling of heaviness and dizziness are the general symptoms of Ajirna (indigestion). 30

Other causes for indigestion

Ajirna Anyakaranani – other causes of indigestion
Consuming large quantity of food is not the only cause for production of Ama Dosha; foods which are disliked, which cause flatulence, which are over-cooked or uncooked, which are not easily digestible, which are dry, very cold, dirty (contaminated), which cause burning sensation during digestion, which are dried up or soaked in more water, do not undergo proper digestion; so also the food consumed by persons afflicted with grief, anger, excess hunger etc. 31- 32½

Bad food habits

Consuming suitable and unsuitable foods mixed together is known as Samashana,
Consuming large quantities of food even before the previous meal is digested constitutes Adhyasana,
Consuming less or more quantity at improper time is Vishamashana,

– all these three either cause death or dreaded diseases. 33 – 34

Diet regimen

Ahara vidhi – regimen of diet –
Kale Satmyam – Food should be consumed at the proper time,
Shuchi Hitam – it should be accustomed, clean, suited to health,
Snigdha, Ushna, Laghu – unctuous, hot and easily digestible;
Tanmanaa – consuming food with due attention
Shadrasa, Madhurapraayam – should contain all the six tastes with predominance of sweet taste,
Na Atidruta, Vilambitam – partaken neither very quickly nor very slowly;
Snataha – after taking bath,
Kshut vaan – after having good hunger,
Viviktastha -sitting in solitude,
Dhauta Pada kara aananaha – after washing the feet, hands and face,
Tarpayitva pitrun, Devan, Atitheen, Balakaan, Guroon – after satisfying the Pitrus (manes), gods, guests, children and Guru.
After satisfying even the dependents maintained in the house (such as servants, horses and other animals for receiving service, parrots and other pets etc.), after carefully considering one’s own constitution, likes and dislikes,
without scolding / abusing the food, without too much of talk;
should partake more of liquid food, that which is liked,
in the company of the liked persons, and served by those who are clean and faithful to him. 35 – 38

Food which is contaminated with grass, hairs etc; re-heated, which consists  more of vegetables and undesirable grains, which is very hot and very salty should be rejected. 39

Food that should not be consumed habitually

Kilata (dairy product – sweet in taste),
Dadhi – Curds,
Kuchika (solid part of curds),
Kshara (alkalies),
Sukta (fermented gruel),
Ama Mulaka – Uncooked radish,
Meat of animals which are emaciated,
Dry meat,
Meat of the boar, sheep, cow, fish and buffalo,
Masha (black gram), Nishpava; Saluka, Bisa, Pista (powdery, starchy),
germinated grains, dried vegetables, Yavaka (small barley),
Phanita (half cooked molasses) – those should not be consumed habitually. 40 – 41.

Foods to be consumed habitually

Pathya – food that can be consumed habitually (on daily basis, for a long time) –
Shali (rice),
Godhuma (wheat),
Yava – Barley – Hordeum vulgare,
Shashtika (rice maturing in sixty days),
Jangala (meat of animals of desert like lands),
Sunisannaka, Jivanti – Leptadenia reticulata,
Balamulaka (young radish),
Pathya (Haritaki)
Amalaka (Amla – Indian gooseberry),
Mridwika – dry grapes,
Patola – Pointed gourd
Mudga – green gram,
Sarkara (sugar),
Ghrita (ghee),
Divyodaka (rain water or pure water),
Ksheera (milk),
Kshoudra (honey),
Dadima – Pomegranate – Punica granatum
and Saindhava – Rock Salt (salt) can be consumed habitually. 42 – 43.

Triphala along with honey and ghee should be consumed at nights daily for strengthening of eye sight.

Any other things which is good for promoting/maintaining health and dispelling diseases can also be consumed habitually. 43½.

Food to be consumed at the beginning of meal

Foods which are not easily digestible, which are unctuous – fatty, sweet, slow and hard such as Bisa, Ikshu (sugarcane), Mocha, Coca, Amra (mango), Modaka (sweet meat ball), Utkarika (sweet dish) etc., should be consumed at the commencement of the meal; foods of opposite qualities, at the end of the meal and those which are predominantly sour and salty in the middle of the meal. 45 – 45½.

Two parts of the stomach (half of its capacity) should be filled with solid foods, one part by liquids and the remaining one part should be kept vacant for accommodating air etc. 46

Anupana (after – drink)

Cold water is the ideal after-drink (Anupana) – after meals containing/ prepared from Yava – (Barley) and Godhuma – wheat, after consuming Dadhi – Curds / yoghurt, wine, poison and honey.
Warm water is ideal after-drink for
foods which are starchy,
Mastu – Supernatent liquid of curds (whey),
Takra (diluted buttermilk)
Amla kanjika (fermented gruel);
Dishes prepared from vegetables and Mudga (green gram) and other legumes :

Sura (beer) is the ideal after drink for lean person.
Honey mixed water is the ideal after drink for obese person.
Meat soup is good after drink for the emaciated.
Wines are ideal after a meal of meat and to those who have poor digestive capacity;
Milk is best suited just as nectar for those who are debilitated by diseases, medicines (and therapies), walking long distances, speaking, sexual intercourse, fasting, exposure to sun and such other tiresome activities; for the emaciated, the aged, and for children. 47 – 50.

Anupana benefits

An ideal Anupana (after-drink) is that which has properties opposite to those of the foods but not incompatible with them; such an after- drink is always valuable. 51.

Anupana – after – drink invigorates, gives contentment, helps proper movement of food inside, stability of the body parts; loosening of hard masses of food, their proper liquification (moistening) and digestion. 52.

Contra indication for Anupana

It is not good in diseases of the organs above the shoulders (ear, nose, throat, eyes and brain related diseases), dyspnoea (COPD, Asthma), cough, injury to chest (lungs), rhinitis, for those engaged in singing and speaking and in hoarseness of voice. 53.

Drinking liquids should be avoided by those who are over-hydrated, who are suffering from polyuria, diseases of the eyes and throat, and wounds (ulcers). 54.

All persons – both healthy and sick should avoid speaking, walking long distances and sleeping immediately after consuming liquids; exposure to sun and fire, travel in vehicles, swimming and riding on animals soon after consuming food. 54½.

Ahara kala – proper time of meals

The ideal time for taking meals is after the elimination of faeces and urine, when the mind is clear (devoid of emotions), when the Doshas are moving in their natural paths (functioning normally), when belching is pure without and foul smell or taste, when hunger is well manifested, when the flatus is moving downward easily, when the digestive activity is keen, when the sense organs are clearly functioning, when the body is light. Food should be consumed observing the rules and procedures of taking food. That is the ideal time. 54 – 55.

Thus ends the chapter called Matrashitiya, the eighth in the Sutrasthana of Astangahrdaya Samhita.

3 thoughts on “Food habits, Indigestion – Ashtanga Hrudayam Sutrasthana 8th Chapter”

  1. I find this a very useful article to plan daily diet!

    One question: Above, it says that we can consume Yava daily but not Yavaka. Is the barley available in market of type Yava or Yavaka? How can we differentiate these two types?


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