When the digestive fire is low, the digestion process is too slow, peristalsis is slowed down and as a result there is accumulation of dampness, appetite takes time to build up, after eating a feeling of heaviness and lassitude appears, as well as other possible symptoms such as heaviness in the abdomen, bloated abdomen, congestion, nausea and belching. Slow digestion is a result of Spleen Qi Deficiency or aggravated Kapha. Due to the Heavy, Slow and Cold attributes of Kapha, which inhibit the Light, Sharp, and Hot qualities of Agni, Agni becomes dull, leading to slow metabolism. In this condition Agni cannot digest even a humble diet properly.

Slow and sluggish digestion is a result of eating more than can be digested, suffocating the digestive fire with excess food and drink to the point the digestion is cold, phlegmy and stagnated. Slow, heavy digestion feels like a brick is stuck in your stomach. The brick of undigested food plugs up your digestive tract, making you feel bloated.  The thought of more food makes you nauseous, even if you are hungry. This type of digestion is typical especially with overweight congested people; none the less slow digestion can also develop with underweight depleted people. A slow digestion results in the formation of excess mucus and phlegm in the stomach, which coats the food and blocks enzymatic action, slowing digestion down in a vicious circle. Furthermore, stomach acids may not be strong enough, either deficient in quantity or in quality (diluted), to break down more difficult to digest foods such as protein. Undigested food can stagnate for hours, or even days, leading to a heavy feeling in the stomach, burping, and phlegm accumulation. Slow digestion can be temporary, say following a big dinner, causing discomfort and nausea. This tends to pass by fasting the following day, once you manage to digest the meal. However, slow digestion may be a constitutional tendency or a chronic condition as a result of inappropriate dietary habits and lifestyle, to the point that every meal, no matter the size, makes you feel bloated.

A slow digestion may lead to a sluggish metabolism, poor circulation and the lack of movement through the digestive tract.


Slow digestion & Overeating

The most common reason for slow digestion is caused by overeating (even overeating of very healthy or light food will bring about stagnation of food), and more obvious by eating excessive amounts of gooey, sweet, rich, oily, and cold food. Foods such as pastries, cheese, and ice cream, especially eaten for desert, are heavy, cold, and difficult to digest. Unless your digestive fire is strong, these foods will be hard to digest and could obstruct your gut with mucus.

Slow digestion is also common among poorly nourished people due to a diet of refined, highly processed foods. These foods lead to excess mucus production, and this mucus obstructs the action of stomach acids, further weakening digestion.

If you’ve eaten too close to bedtime and feel sick at the sight of breakfast, this is a sign you have not fully digested your meal from the previous evening. In this case, it is essential to stop eating at least three hours before bed time to ensure the digestive system has enough time to break down the meal before heading to bed.

Chronic slow heavy digestion, in the absence of overeating or bad food choices such as greasy fast food, usually points to blood deficiency (anemia), low metabolism or poor circulation. This condition is a mix of excess cold and phlegm, accompanied by depletion of digestive juices, secretions and excess dryness of the body tissues.



Many slow digestion symptoms are stomach related, including nausea, loss of appetite, feeling tired after eating, and acid reflux due to hypoacidity. Phlegm accumulation and stagnation may also results in gallstones, weight gain, and other congestive disorders. Slow digestion may also cause constipation due to weak peristalsis and poor bowel muscle tone, especially if the thyroid is depressed.


Differential diagnosis of a slow digestion:

  1. Possible bowel movements:
    1. Constipation: bowel movement once a day or every other day or less often, the stool can be hard or soft or pasty
    2. Difficulty emptying: bowel movement possibly every day but takes time, progressing slowly. There may be a feeling of insufficient emptying
    3. Loose stools: feces may either be too soft, pasty, formless, or watery, possibly containing undigested food
  2. Gas: often released easily, less noisy, a sense of “wet” gases, could be of strong smell
  3. Abdominal bloating: Immediately after eating, also as a result of drinking water
  4. Abdominal pain: Dim, in the center of the abdomen, more characteristic immediately after eating
  5. Nausea: After eating, feeling nauseas easily, nausea from fatty foods, creamy food such as porridge, sweet or oily pastries
  6. Heartburn: A relatively weak burning sensation, after eating when the stomach is full, caused by sticky, fatty or wet foods
  7. Burping: can occur immediately after eating or even a long time after eating, usually with the smell of food from the last meal
  8. Vomiting: A tendency to vomit
  9. Hemorrhoids: Usually itchy, relatively swollen, relatively whitish, no bleeding or slightly bleeding, with little pain or no pain
  10. Appetite: Relatively poor, late breakfast or skipping breakfast, small portions, easily satiated, easily fast, a general positive feeling on an empty stomach. There are situations in which slow digesters eat large amounts or eat often because of mental or emotional reasons, regardless of their physiological appetite which is much smaller.
  11. Dull sense of taste
  12. After eating: fatigue, tiredness, heaviness, heavy eyelids, and desire to nap or sleep. If in motion the feeling of fatigue is tolerable.
  13. Weight: tend to overweight without overeating, or thin and unable to gain weight.
  14. Signs of coldness: aversion to cold weather, cold hands and feet, clear urine, pallor
  15. Tongue: pale tongue with a white coating, possibly swollen, wet, with teeth indentations on the sides.
  16. Other possible symptoms: weakness, fatigue, food sensitivities, nervous indigestion, anemia, chronic diarrhea or dysentery, ulcers, pain in the upper abdomen, weak limbs, prolapses such as hemorrhoids, prolapsed uterus, bladder or intestines.

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