How To Know That Your Digestion System Is Working Fine?

Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay)
Hunger is one of the basic instincts of mankind. We are all evolved hunters. Hunting for food has always been a prime motto for life right from the onset of creation. Primitive man was hunting animals and gathering fruits and roots for his existence. We also hunt in this modern era but in a different way. 

We either cultivate our food or buy it. To buy it we need money and for money we need to hunt for a good job. Ayurveda calls it as
Prana Eshana (constant searching for living) and
Dhana Eshana (constant search for earning).

These are the 2 important instincts of human evolution, the 3rd one being Paraloka Eshana (constant search for methods or routes for getting salvation i.e. to escape from the vicious cycle of life and death). For ethical existence and to get adapted to the civilizations we need to do all these 3 constantly.
Read related: 3 Basic Desires Of Life – Charaka Samhita Sutrasthan 11th chapter

The distribution of food is strangely imbalanced in the creation. Some get too much, some get what they need and some are totally deprived of it. But lucky are those who are blessed with food and bread so as to make a decent living.

But what might be the fate of the people who get good food but are not able to digest it and subsequently fall victims for stubborn gastro-intestinal or metabolic disorders?

In this article I would like to throw light on a silent killer developing on the backdrop of many systemic illnesses, the indigestion factor. I would also try to focus on the signs of proper digestion from an Ayurvedic viewpoint. This will help you to make a self-check every day and make sure if you are digesting your food or not.

Ajirna, Indigestion

रोगाः सर्वे अपि मन्दे अग्नौ सुतराम् उदराणि च।
अजीर्णात् मलिनैः च अन्नैः जायन्ते मल संचयात्॥ (अ,हृ.नि.१२)
Rogaaha sarve api mande agnau sutaraam udaraani cha
Ajeernaat malinaihi cha annaihi jaayante mala sanchayaat (Ref – Ashtanga Hridaya Nidanam 12)

agni - gastritis

According to the basic concepts of Ayurveda, all the diseases (most of them) are manifested due to the disturbance of Agni (metabolism errors), unless proved otherwise. The main causes of Mandagni (sluggish digestion or low metabolism) are
Ajeerna (indigestion),
Malina ahara (contaminated and incompatible foods) and
Mala sanchaya (accumulation of unwanted wastes in the body cells and gut).

The general sequence will be –
Agnimandhya (low digestion power) will lead to Ajeerna (indigestion), Ajeerna leads to Ama (metabolic toxins which clog the cells and channels of transport in the body due to the sticky nature and produce a wide array of systemic, inflammatory and immunological disorders) and this Ama will sequentially lead to many diseases related to body and mind.

Therefore the treatment line-up of most of the systemic disorders in Ayurveda starts with the correction and balancing of metabolic errors, bringing the Agni to balance.

Indigestion, Causes

अति अम्बु पानात् विषम अशनात् च संधारणात् स्वप्न विपर्ययात् च।
काले अपि सात्म्यं लघु च अपि भुक्तं अन्नं पाकं भजते नरस्य॥
ईर्ष्य भय क्रोध परिप्लुतेन लुब्धेन रुक् दैन्य निपीडितेन।
प्रद्वेष युक्तेन च सेव्यमानं अन्नं न सम्यक् परिपाकम् एति॥ (सु.सु.४६)
Ati ambu paanaat vishama ashanaat cha sandhaaranaat svapna viparyayaat cha
Kale api saatmyam laghu cha api bhuktam annam paakam bhajate narasya
Eershya bhaya krodha pariplutena lubdhena ruk dainya nipeeditena
Pradvesha yuktena sevyamaanam annam na samyak paripaakam eti (Ref – Sushruta Sutra Sthana 46)

Below mentioned is a list of causative factors for indigestion (Ajirna, Ajeerna) –
Ati ambu paanam – Drinking more water
Vishama ashana – Taking incompatible foods
Sandhaaranaat – Forcibly controlling the naturally impending body reflexes like those for hunger, thirst, defecation, urination etc
Svapna viparyaya – Sleep disturbances (excessive awakening at night, day sleeping etc)
Eershya – Aversion, Jealousy
Bhaya – Fear
Krodha – Anger
Lubdha – Greed
Ruk – Pain due to other diseases
Dainya – Helpless condition, depression
Pradvesha yuktena sevyamaanam – Food served by whom we dislike or hate
Chinta – Anxiety
Dukha shayya – Uncomfortable bedding
Prajaagara – Excessive awakening during night times

Due to the above mentioned causative factors, the food taken even in a small quantity doesn’t get digested easily.The above said factors include causative factors which not only disturb the body factors but also those which upset the mind equilibrium. This proves that indigestion or any digestive errors are not purely physical. In fact they are psycho-somatic in nature.

The Indigestion Factor……
Ajeerna or Indigestion is one of the chief complaints which indicate that the metabolism is under error. The error may be within the gut or at the cellular level.

Food is the basic necessity and instinct to live for all living beings. Variations in quality and quantity of food or incompatible foods readily lead to the manifestation of indigestion. The un-monitored or unattended indigestion becomes the root source for many systemic diseases. Thus indigestion is a chief complaint in many diseases.

This may reflect or manifest as one or more of the below mentioned –
Lack of interest towards food (aversion) or
Tastelessness (anorexia) or
Loss of appetite (hunger) or
Frequent hunger or
Reduced capacity of the gut to digest food even if given in smaller quantities or
Frequent stomach (vomiting sensation etc) or lower gastro-intestinal upsets (loose stools, constipation, bloating, flatulence etc)

Our gut is a just like a mixer or grinder. Its blades and blade strength (capacity to break the food components and digest it so as to convert into a form in which it can be absorbed, assimilated and utilised) wanes off w.r.t its strength to digest food with ageing process. We need to respect this process and make necessary adjustments in the quality and quantity of food we take as we progress with our ageing.

Avoiding the indigestion process or keeping our digestive functions intact and undisturbed is the secret of keeping good health. All of us suffer from one or the other form of indigestion every now and then. None of our digestion pattern is perfect as we are slaves of the modern day lifestyle, stress and diet.

To keep our digestive process going on in a smooth way we need to know whether the food we are taking is getting digested properly or not. Because a good digestion reflects on its other side a good health and immunity.
But who tells us whether our food is digested properly or not?
Answer – Our Gut!!!!!!

Yes, it is our gut which tells us if we are really digesting our food properly or not.
There are some symptoms / signs of proper digestion which are exhibited by the body once our digestion process has been accomplished to perfection.

Manifestation of these signs and symptoms point out towards a perfect digestion. These symptoms are called Jeernahara Lakshana’s (Jeerna=digestion, ahara=food, lakshana’s=symptoms)

Jeernahara lakshana

Jeernahara Lakshana: Symptoms of digestion of food: 
Signs and symptoms indicating that our digestion is going on smoothly or that the food which we are taking is properly getting digested are as mentioned below –
उद्गारशुद्धिरुत्साहो वेगोत्सर्गो यथोचितहः।
लघुता क्षुत्पिपासा च जीर्णाहारस्य लक्षणम्॥ {यो.र}
Udgaara shuddhihi utsaaho vega utsargo yatha uchitaha
Laghutaa kshut pipaasaa cha jeerna aahaarasya lakshanam (Ref – Yoga Ratnakara Ajirna Prakarana)

Udgaara Shuddhi: Pure Belchings –
Pure belching are the important signs of proper digestion. If the food is digested properly the belching should be clear and should not carry the taste or smell of the food. It should not have any taste and should not produce any discomfort in the chest or belly.

This happens due to the flushing of acids (pitta) produced by the stomach along with the food into the duodenum or first part of the small intestine for further processing or digestion to take place.

On the contrary if the acidic food stays in the stomach for a longer duration or if the acids produced by stomach (pitta) is weak and is not capable enough to digest even a small quantity of food, we keep getting acidic regurgitations or burps for couple of hours after food. This may cause chest burn and symptoms of acidity.

Ayurveda explains a condition of the stomach as Alasaka, wherein the stomach is lazy enough to propel its contents quickly into the intestines. In such conditions the food is stagnated for a pretty long time within the stomach. In due course of time it gets fermented and the whole stomach becomes a platform for manifestation of many diseases. This also gives floor for stomach infections.

Among many body reflexes or urges which should not be forcibly controlled, Ayurveda has mentioned Kshut or hunger reflex. We should not forcibly control the hunger or postpone it.

If we make it a habit of holding on to the hunger pangs for longer time durations without providing the food for the hungry stomach at right time, the acids produced in the stomach will start reacting with the walls of the stomach and damage it.

This will lead to manifestation of painful stomach diseases like Annadrava shula and Parinama shula (peptic ulcers), Amlapitta (acid-peptic disorders, gastritis, reflex oesophagitis, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome etc) etc conditions on a long run.
Read related: Fruitful Ayurvedic Remedies For Gastritis

It is also possible that the biological clock of the stomach gets disturbed over a period of time. As a result, the pitta (acids and digestive juices) of the stomach might be formed and released at erratic times. The digestive juices will get weakened over a period of time.

Qualitative and quantitative depletion or excess of digestive juices will lead to stomach damage and lessen the immunity of the stomach. The stomach not only loses its power to digest the food, but also becomes susceptible for wide array of diseases.

In all these conditions, the belching will not be clear. They will carry odd taste and odour, especially sour and salty taste. If Kapha is dominating the stomach morbidity, the belching will be sweet in taste, if pitta is vitiated in the stomach, the belching will be sour, bitter or acidic or pungent and hot and if Vata or Vayu vitiates the stomach, the belching will be dry and possess astringent taste.

All these indicate that your digestion is impaired and that it should be addressed at the earliest if we have to avoid many metabolic diseases from getting manifested. On the contrary if the belching is clear and devoid of any taste, it is a sign of proper digestion.

The frequency of clear belching should be less and should be the same for 2-2 ½ hours after taking food. Pure and tasteless belching should be present throughout the interval between 2 consecutive foods.

Utsaha: Feeling of enthusiasm, energetic, spirited –
The complete and proper digestion of food will end up providing good energy indicating that all the cells are properly saturated with adequate nutrition. Thus there is a feel of enthusiasm and energy.

This basically happens when the food is digested properly and there is no formation of ama (endo-toxins). If the digestion is not proper, intermediate products of digestion are formed and they will be called as ama.

Ama being an unprocessed form of food, it becomes difficult for the intestines to take up that form of nutrition mixed with ama easily. Whatever essence of food is absorbed by the intestines has the ama content. The same content goes through the circulation to each and every cell.

When this contaminated or morbid food essence (ama rasa) comes to the cells, they take it but fail to recognise it as it is a foreign body unknown to them. Not knowing what to do with it, they digest and process the ama to the best of their capability.

But the cellular fire can neither digest it properly nor eliminate it out of the cell because ama has a sticky and damp nature which makes it stick to the walls of the cells and channels of circulation and consequently clog them.

These multiple blocks in the cells and channels deprive the body of its nutrients. The brain and other vital organs are not supplied with nutrients, oxygen and other building elements. The brain gets fogged and loses its control over the body. The person always feels drowsy and lethargic, losing all the enthusiasm.

On the other hand, deprivation of nutrients to the body cells makes them lose energy. Non-specific pains and catches develop all over the body and keep us sick all the time.

On the contrary, when the food is digested properly, the reverse mechanism takes place. The cells, brain and other organs get adequate supply of nutrients and oxygen. The person is always enthusiastic and flooded with enormous strength and valour. This is called Utsaha.

Yathochita Vegotsarga: Proper and timely voiding of stools & urine –
Improper evacuation of our bowel and bladder troubles us a lot. Isn’t it? According to Ayurveda, stools and urine are products of food. They are adhaaraneeya vegas (natural body reflexes which should not be forcibly controlled in the body once they show signs of getting expelled or when there is an urge to throw them out. They should be promptly attended as and when they are produced.

They are also called sthula mala’s (waste products of metabolism or macro-wastes). In the definition of Swastha (healthy person), Ayurveda has clarified that timely and proper elimination of stools and urine is one of the signs of balanced health. They keep the body clean and healthy by getting expelled.

Not only this, the sthula mala’s will be added with sukshma mala’s (micro-wastes formed during tissue metabolism, the tissue wastes) which are formed in the cells. This means to tell that small wastes which are regularly produced by the cells as a part of metabolism are drained into the stools and urine and are excreted out along with them.

Thus stools and urine is not just excreted product, they also contain in them the wastes from the whole body, which if remains in the body can contaminate the whole body, damage the cells and organs and can produce wide array of diseases. In short, the whole body is detoxifying itself in the form of excretion of stools and urine.

The formation of stools and urine depends on the digestive fire or Agni. If the Agni is fine, the digestion of food is proper. If the digestion of food is proper, ama is not formed and the wastes are properly segregated as end products at the end of digestion process. Later they initiate a natural urge and are expelled in proper time. If they are not properly formed and eliminated our health gets disturbed.

Proper digestion leads to proper formation of stools and urine. They will be eliminated properly in proper time and quantity without causing much discomfort or without any aid. This natural elimination of wastes will further keep our gut and body healthy and our mind happy

Laghutaa: Lightness of the Body –
Heaviness of the body is often considered to be a sign of improper digestion. It is associated with lack of freshness, lassitude, lethargy, vague body pains and other systemic illnesses.

When the food gets digested properly it will be properly bifurcated and split into nutritive part and waste part. The nutritive part of food nourishes all the cells and keeps them healthy. At the same time the metabolic wastes are thrown out in proper time.

When these mechanisms are running smoothly in the body, there will be no blocks in the channel systems of the body. All the functions of the body and its cells will take place smoothly and uninterruptedly. This will keep our body light and healthy.

Kshut Pipasa: Timely feeling of Hunger and Thirst –
We feel hunger when the previously taken food is properly digested. We also feel thirsty when the water stores of the body have been depleted. On the contrary if we feel saturated even after taking a small quantity of food, which is not proportional to the hunger we have or when we don’t feel like eating even after a long period of time has surpassed since the previous intake of food, it is an indication of digestion errors. It also suggests that the platform is being laid for many systemic diseases to manifest.

Also, when we don’t feel like drinking water for longer duration, it suggests that the system is storing a lot of water and is not able to throw it out. You may have water indigestion in this case. Excess of fluidity in the body indicates an increase of Kapha and ama in the body which deteriorates the central and peripheral metabolism.

Once the food is digested properly and converted into energy and heat in due course of time, the body will need more food and water to fulfil its needs for smooth functioning. This demand is manifested in the form of hunger and thirst.

Thus manifestation of hunger and thirst in proper time (in rhythm with the digestion) is a sign of proper digestion.
The above said are the signs of proper digestion. When all these signs are manifested we can be sure that our food and water is being digested properly. This also reflects a perfectly balanced health and good immunity.

Indigestion

Absence of Ajirna Lakshana’s –
Along with the presence of the above said symptoms, proper digestion can also be inferred by the absence of signs and symptoms of indigestion (Ajeerna Lakshana’s).

Ajeerna lakshana

Symptoms of Indigestion: Ajeerna
तस्य लिङ्गं अजीर्णस्य विष्टम्भः सदनं तथा।
शिरसो रुक् च मूर्च्छा च भ्रमः पृष्ठ कटि ग्रहः॥
जृम्भा अङ्गमर्दः तृष्णा च ज्वरः च्छर्दिः प्रवाहणम्।
अरोचको अविपाकः च घोरम् अन्न विषं च तत्॥
संसृज्यमानं पित्तेन दाहं तृष्णां मुख आमयान्।
जनयति अम्लपित्तं च पित्तजां च अपरान् गदान्॥
यक्ष्म पीनस मेहादीन् कफजान् कफ सङ्गतम्।
करोति वात सं सृष्टं वातजान् च अपरान् गदान्॥
मूत्र रोगान् च मूत्रस्थं कुक्षि रोगान् शकृत् गतम्।
रसादिभिः च संसृष्टं कुर्यात् रोगान् रसादिजान्॥(च.चि.15/45-49)
Tasya lingam ajeernasya vishtambhaha sadanam tathaa
Shiraso ruk cha moorchaa cha bhramaha prushta kati grahaha
Jrumbhaa angamardaha trushnaa cha jwaraha chardihi pravaahanam
Arochako avipaakaha cha ghoram ann visham cha tat
Samsrujyamaanam pittena daaham trushnaam mukha aamayaan
Janayati amlapittam cha pittajaam cha aparaan gadaan
Yakshma peenasa mehaadeen kaphajaan kapha sangatam
Karoti vaata samsrushtam vaatajaan cha aparaan gadaan
Mootra rogaan cha mootrasthaha kukshi rogaan shakrut gatam
Rasaadibhihi cha samsrushtam kuryaat rogaan rasaadijaan
(Ref – Charaka Chikitsa Sthanam 15 / 45-49)

The symptoms of Ajeerna (indigestion) are as mentioned below –
Vishtambha – Improper elimination or excretion of stools and urine
Sadanam – Weakness
Shiro ruk – Headache
Murcha – Unconsciousness
Bhrama – Giddiness
Prushta graham – Gripping pain or stiffness in the back
Kati Graham – Gripping pain or stiffness in the low back
Jrumbha – Yawning
Angamarda – Body aches
Trushna – Thirst
Jwara – Fever
Chardi – Vomiting
Pravahanam – Straining at passage of stools, tenesmus
Arochaka – Tastelessness, Anorexia
Avipaaka – Indigestion
Ghora annavisham or ama – Life threatening food toxins are formed (food poisoning)
When this annavisha or ama gets association with morbid Pitta, it leads to –
Daha – Burning sensation
Trushna – Thirst
Mukhamayaan – Stomatitis, ulcers in the mouth
Amlapittam – Gastritis, Acid-peptic disorders, Reflux oesophagitis
Pittaja vikaara’s – Many diseases caused due to aggravation of Pitta
Read related: 10 effective Ayurvedic home remedies for acidity and gastritis

When this annavisha or ama gets the association of morbid Kapha it leads to –
Yakshma – Wasting diseases, Phthisis etc
Pinasa – Rhinitis
Mehaadi roga – Diseases of metabolic origin like chronic urinary disorders, Diabetes Mellitus etc
Kaphaja Vikaara – Many diseases caused due to aggravation of Vata
When this annavisha or ama gets association of morbid Vata, it leads to many diseases due to aggravation of Vata
When this annavisha or ama gets associated with Mutra or urine and gets located in Mutrashaya (urinary bladder), it causes many serious Urinary diseases
When Shakrut or faeces / stools get associated with annavisha or ama, it leads to Kukshi Vikaara’s (diseases of gut or lower abdomen)
When this ama or annavisha gets located in the Rasa etc tissues, it leads to the manifestation of multi-tissue or multi-organ related diseases
Absence of the symptoms of sub-types of Ajeerna –
Ajeerna or indigestion is of 6 sub-types depending on the predominance of Dosha

Ama Ajeerna

Ama Ajirna (Amajeerna) –
This type of indigestion is caused due to predominance of morbid Kapha in the stomach.
तत्र आमे गुरुता उत्क्लेदः शोथो गण्ड अक्षि कूटगः।
उद्गारः च यथा भुक्तम् अविदग्धः प्रवर्तते॥ (मा.नि.६/१०)
Below mentioned are the symptoms of Ama Ajeerna –
Guruta – Heaviness of the body
Utkleda – Nausea or vomiting sensation
Ganda shotha – Swelling in the cheeks
Akshi kuta shotha – Swelling around the eye sockets
Yatha bhukta, Avidagdha udgara – Belchings have the same taste of the previously taken food and doesn’t cause symptoms like heartburn etc

Vidagdha Ajeerna

Vidagdha Ajirna (Vidagdhaajeerna) –
This type of indigestion is caused due to the predominance of morbid Pitta in the stomach
विदग्धे भ्रम तृष्णा मूर्च्छाः पित्तात् च विविधा रुजः।
उद्गारः च स धूम अम्लः स्वेदो दाहः च जायते॥ (मा.नि.६/११)
Below mentioned are the symptoms of Vidagdha Ajeerna –
Bhrama – Giddiness
Trushna – Thirst
Murcha – Fainting or loss of consciousness
Vividha Pittaja Rujaaha – Various types of pain caused due to vitiation of Pitta (inflammatory pains)
Sveda – Excessive sweating
Dha – Burning sensation
Dhuma-Amla-Udgara – Sour belching with a feeling of smoke being eliminated through the mouth

Vishtabdha Ajeerna

Vistabdha Ajirna (Vistabdhaajeerna) –
This type of indigestion is caused due to the predominance of morbid Vata in the stomach
विष्ठब्धे शूलम् आध्मानं विविधा वात वेदनाः।
मल वात अप्रवृत्तिः च स्तम्भो मोहो अङ्ग पीडनम्॥ (मा.नि.६/१२)
Below mentioned are the symptoms of Vistabdha Ajeerna –
Shula – Colic
Adhmana – Bloating, flatulence
Vividha vata vedana – Various types of pain due to Vata vitiation
Mala apravritti – Constipation
Vata apravritti – Non-elimination of flatus
Stambha – Stiffness of the body parts
Moha – Loss of consciousness
Anga peedanam – Pain in the body parts

Rasashesha Ajeerna

Rasashesha Ajirna (Rasasheshaajeerna) –
This type of indigestion is caused due to remnants of small amount of indigested material or portion in the essence of digestion (ahara rasa).
रस शेषे अन्न विद्वेषो हृदया अशुद्धिः गौरवे। (मा.नि.६/१३)
Rasa sheshe anna vidvesho hridaya ashuddhi gouravaihi (Ref – Madhava Nidanam 6/13)
Below mentioned are the symptoms of Rasashesha Ajeerna –
Anna vidwesha – Aversion towards food, rejection of food
Hridaya ashuddhi – Feeling of discomfort in the region of heart
Gourava – Heaviness of the body parts

Dinapaki Ajeerna

In this type of indigestion, the food is digested on the next day in contrary to the normal digestion process which should complete on the same day of consumption of food.

This is generally not a disorder but if it continues for a longer period it should be addressed before it becomes root source of chronic indigestion and many other diseases.The absence of the above said symptoms of subtypes of indigestion are by themselves signs of proper digestion.

Note –
There is another type of Ajirna (indigestion) mentioned in the texts. It is called Prakrita Ajeerna (Normal indigestion). This type of indigestion occurs in almost everybody and daily.

This is the normal indigestion which persists till the food consumed at a given time is digested. It wanes off after the food gets digested.

Just before Finish –
The body and mind gives early signals of something wrong happening within the interior. Our job is to catch those early signals and address them at the earliest. This helps us to avoid small symptoms progressing into serious diseases.

Isn’t it easy to identify whether our food is digested properly or not?

With the above said information you can do this check test daily and be happy if things are matching up

If the above said symptoms are not found in you, it might be a case of acute or chronic indigestion. This indicates that your metabolism is at trouble and you are in waiting for some serious disorders in near future.

It may become the root cause of many diseases in future especially Diabetes, Hypertension, Thyroid problems, Weight related issues, Depression, Sleep disorders, Heart diseases etc.

Awareness is the root for prevention of diseases and Prevention is always better than cure.
Kindly bring these symptoms to the notice of your Ayurveda doctor as early as possible and get attended….
It is never too late…………
If you are done with reading this material, kindly circulate it among your near and dear ones.
Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu): Ayurvedic Physician from Bangalore

6 thoughts on “How To Know That Your Digestion System Is Working Fine?”

  1. sir please help bams students by posting such informative topics so that we may understnd the topics correctly…….ty for such a wonderful informative post….

    Reply
  2. Sandeepji , you have given good information on belly button.

    My belly button has shifted from its position .
    Please suggest some ways to bring back the belly button to its correct position.

    Thanks

    Reply

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