The Digestive System (Pachana Kriya Pranali )

Since the earth has evolved the man has lead life like a hunter, as the hunger is the prime reason of life. Hunting for food has always been main motto. Earlier man hunt and gathered food in an unorganized manner but now in the civilized world the mode has been changed. Now we cultivate the food. As all know that food is necessary for the existence and to live alive.

Now a days along with food, there are lot of other things which become the part of life, and are necessary to be in life like clothing, house to live in etc. For these sources we need money to get. With all the comforts we can lead a prosperous life.

Apart from these things one more thing which every man is trying to get or has the desire to get. That is constant search or a way for getting salvation or to escape from the cycle of birth and death.

Summarizing the above three points, a man has basic three desires in the life that is too mentioned in ayurveda. These basic desires are called Eshana. These are:

  1. Prana Eshana
  2. Dhan Eshana
  3. Parloka Eshana

For ideal civilization and for ethical existence we do need all the three eshanas constantly in the life. In this world and in our surrounding there are available lot of food materials. For it is very much strange that in spite of the availability of such abundance some time we are not in the condition or not be able to digest even small quantity of food.

Here, I would like to discuss about a silent disease, that is effecting in today life very commonly and becoming a major reason for many systemic illnesses, The digestive illness or metabolic disorder.

In ayurveda it is described in the context of Ajirna or indigestion.

According to ayurveda, all the diseases either physical or mental except the traumatic or accidental are manifested due to the disturbance of Agni or weakness of agni, called as mandagni (sluggish digestion or low metabolism). The main causes of Mandagni (sluggish digestion or low metabolism) are:

  1. Malina ahara or virrudha ahara (contaminated and incompatible foods)
  2. Mala sanchaya (accumulation of unwanted waste products in the body).

First due to the different causes Agnimandhya (low digestion power) occurs, which will lead to Ajeerna (indigestion), Ajeerna later on leads to Ama (metabolic toxins which clog the cells and micro channels of transport in the body 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 line of treatment for almost all the systemic disorders in ayurveda start with the correction of metabolic errors and bringing back the agni to normal state. The first step of the treatment is to avoid the cause of the disease as well as the cause which causes agnimandya or indigestion. For the avoidance of the cause first in detail those causes should be known well.

According to ayurveda the main causes of Agnimandhya/Low digestion are:

  • Ati ambu paanam – Drinking more water
  • Vishama ashana – Taking incompatible foods
  • Vega Sandhaaranaat – Forcibly controlling the naturally urges or 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
  • Lobha – Greed
  • Ruk – Pain due to other diseases or any origin
  • Dainya – Helpless condition, depression
  • 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 but the mind equilibrium also. This proves that indigestion or any digestive errors are not purely physical. In fact, they are psycho-somatic in nature.
Due to above mentioned causes, the condition of Ajeerna or Indigestion occurs which indicate that the metabolism is under error. The error may be within the gut or at the cellular level. During indigestion the food which we eat will not get digested proper leads to the formation of ama. This indigestion process exhibits certain symptoms like:

  • Aversion for food: Lack of interest in food.
  • Anorexia: Loss of appetite or hunger.
  • Intermittent hunger.
  • Reduced capacity of the gut to digest food even if consumed in smaller quantities
  • Frequent gastro-intestinal upsets like loose stools, constipation, bloating, flatulence etc.

Maintaining the digestion process or keeping our digestive functions intact is the key to good health. Most of the people get indigestion trouble in one or another form every now and then, as we are becoming slave to the style of modern life.

It is the dream of every individual to attain good health and optimum immunity throughout the life. It will be there only if the digestive process is in smooth and synchronized manner. It is of great importance for we people to know whether the food we take is digested properly or not. Our body, especially our gut shows some symptoms and signs when the food gets digested properly. These symptoms are called Jeerna aahara laxanas (symptoms of digested food). These are the symptoms which are exhibited by our body once the digestion has been perfectly accomplished.

Jeerna Aahara Laxanas: (Symptoms of digested food):

  1. Udgaara Shuddhi: Clear Belching
    Clear belching, without any burning epigastrium or upper abdomen and pain 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.

Actually, the food which we eat enters the stomach where the process of digestion takes place. In the stomach gastric juices/secretions or acid called pitta, acts on the food and starts the process of digestion. After the appropriate time of staying the food inside the stomach, it flushes into the early part of the intestine called duodenum, and later on to further parts following the digestion process.

But, when there is problem with the digestion process or when the agni will be weak, food stays for a long time in the stomach. The contact of food and acid for long time leads to more acid production. This excessive produced acid regurgitates causes feeling of burning epigastrium and burning chest like symptoms.

Keeping stomach empty for long time and over filling of the stomach leads to the formation of excessive acid. This causes injury to the inner linning of the stomach wall thus causes ulcer formation. This will also 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.
In all these conditions, the belching will not be clear. They will carry odd taste and odors, depends on the involvement of dosha present.  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 vitiates the stomach, the belching will be dry and possess astringent taste.

All these symptoms indicate that the digestion process is impaired. On the contrary if the belching is clear and devoid of any taste ( Udgara sudhi ), it is a sign of proper digestion.

  1. Utsaha: Feeling of enthusiasm and energetic:
    The symptom of Utsaha or enthusiasm and energetic, comes in the body when the process of digestion of food will ends up providing optimum energy and nutrition to each and every cell.

When the digestion process will be compromised then the food will not be digest properly leading to the formation of ama (toxins). This ama is sticky and viscous in nature. Ama in ayurvedic classics described as a form of un processed or semi digested food.  This is also called as intermediate product of digestion.

As it is in unprocessed form and is sticky and viscous in nature, it will not take up or absorbed by the intestine. It remains there and interfere with the absorption process of the intestine resulting lack of micro nutrients in the body. On the other, small part of this ama enters the circulation process, from where it reaches the cellular level, where it clogs the micro nutrients circulation process too. Through this whole process, the body get deprived of the nutrients and the body shows the symptoms of drowsiness, lethargic and less enthusiasm. It also affects the immune system of the body making it weak, resulting different ailments at the most.

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 immune system will be optimum. There will be full enthusiasm and maximum strength and vigor in the body. This is called Utsaha.

  1. Yathochita Vegotsarga: Proper and timely voiding of wastes
    As discussed earlier, if the ama gets formed in the body, the food taken will not be ended up in the proper waste formation. Actually the food which we eat, after the complete digestion gets segregated into two parts. One part provides nutrition and the other part will be eliminated from the body as it contains waste material. Improper evacuation or in complete evacuation of our bowel and bladder troubles a lot. According to Ayurveda, the urge for defecation and urination 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.

According to the definition of Swastha in ayurveda, it is clearly mentioned that timely and proper evacuation of the waste including stool and urine should be there and is the sign of good health. Body will remain clean once the waste gets eliminated completely. Stool, urine etc are not simply the waste product, but they themselves contain the waste of the body, which if remains in the body, if not evacuated properly can contaminate the whole body, damage the cells and organs and can produce wide range of diseases.

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 keep body and mind happy and healthy.

  1. 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 blockade in the micro channels 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
When the previously taken food will properly have digested, then the feeling of hunger will start felt. The feeling of thirst also felt when the water level in the body have been depleted. On the contrary if the feeling of hunger and thirst get diminished even if food and water consumed in very little quantity and if didn’t feel hunger and thirst even after taking a small quantity of food, even after a long period of time has passed since the previous food has taken, it is an indication of digestion errors or can say that that the platform is being laid for many systemic diseases to manifest.

Once the food is digested properly and converted into energy, the body will need more food and water to fulfill 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 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.

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).

Symptoms of Indigestion: Ajeerna
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 ama or toxic substance gets association with morbid Pitta dosha, 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

When this annavisha or ama gets the association of morbid Kapha it leads to –

  • Yakshma – Wasting disease
  • Pinasa – Rhinitis
  • Meha adi 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