When digestion becomes impaired it is understood to be the result of disturbed vital functions. These vital functions relate to the intrinsic features associated with the digestive and metabolic system. Some examples of these substances and functions relating to digestion are salivary secretion, mucus, bile, gastric juices, acids and gastric motility.
These vital functions are referred to in ayurveda as tridosha and consist of three types namely vata, pitta and kapha. They are also known individually as dosha. Pathogenic factors in the body are known as vayu, pitta and kapha.
(Ca. Sutra 1:57)
Dosha’s are considered in ayurveda as the pathogenic or disease causing factors of the body. When they are balanced they provide the proper functions required for optimal health. When they become imbalanced they initiate the disease process. The quality of disturbance is determined by the nature of which dosha’s are involved.
Vata is responsible for movement. It governs the vagus nerve, a complex neurological pathway that connects the brain to the gut. It controls the timely release of saliva, mucus, enzymes, hormones, acids, and bile. It is also in charge of muscular contraction and relaxation. It is responsible for moving food and waste through the digestive system and controls the timing of how long these substances occupy the stomach, intestines and large bowel before being released.
The inherent qualities of vata are dry, light, cold, rough, subtle and mobile, and its main location is in the large intestine. When these qualities become excessive due to external factors such as dry, rough, cold foods, stress or irregular eating habits jatharagni becomes changeable.
This changeability is known as vishama agni. Vishama agni is indicated by the presence of gas, wind, bloating, abdominal pain, severe tiredness, food intolerances, constipation, fluctuating bowel habits and general digestive sensitivity.
Pitta is responsible for providing heat. Its supports the function of agni by providing substances that support digestion, assimilation and absorption. These substances manifest in the digestive system in the form of acids, bile and various hormones that play a vital role in ensuring the proper breakdown of food substances as well as protecting the body from potentially harmful bacteria and viruses.
The inherent qualities of pitta are hot, sharp, light, liquid, mobile and oily, and its main location is in the stomach and small intestine. When these qualities become excessive due to external factors such as excessively pungent, acidic, oily foods, stress or over exertion jatharagni becomes disturbed.
This disturbance is known as tikshna agni. Tikshna agni may present as stomach discomfort after eating, hunger pains, bloating, wind, reflux, burning sensation and loose bowel motions.
Kapha is responsible for lubricating, softening, preserving and protecting. It aids in moistening and softening food; provides a medium for taste perception and lines the digestive walls giving protection from acids and enzymes. Kapha dominant substances enter into digestive tract in the form of saliva, mucin, pancreatic juices and various other fluids excreted from the mucus membranes located throughout the entire digestive system.
The inherent qualities of kapha are heavy, slow, dull, oily, liquid, slimy, smooth, dense, soft, static, cloudy, hard and gross, and its main location is in the stomach and chest. When kapha becomes excessive due to external factors such as heavy, cold, stale foods, stress or sedentary lifestyle jatharagni become sluggish.
This sluggishness is known as manda agni. Manda agni may present as heaviness after meals, weight gain, depression, fatigue, fluid retention, excess phlegm, disturbed blood sugar control or alterations in gastro-intestinal micro flora.
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