BEFORE STUDYING digestive disorders, we should understand the process of digestion; only then can we properly understand the disorders and their treatment.
The Process of Digestion
The stomach is one of the vital organs of the body, being one of the five so categorized; the other four are the heart, lungs, kidneys, and the brain. The stomach not only stores food during the process of digestion, but also makes it more permeable through the juices it produces. The stomach has minute glands from which gastric juice is produced. The gastric juice helps to break down the food into smaller molecules. The acid in the stomach aids the action of the digestive enzymes. The moment food enters the stomach, the acid starts a churning action to mix the food with the gastric juice so that it becomes absorb able. Light foods like milk and fatless cereals or fruits take much less time to be digested than heavy foods like fried substances which contain fat.
The partially digested food from the stomach enters the intestine and is exposed to the action of bile, pancreatic juice, intestinal juice, and bacteria. The food is, thus, broken down into various absorb able substances which are vital for the growth and development of the body. It is only when the food has passed out from the intestine that the process of digestion is completed and the process of absorption starts. That is how the human body replaces the energy that has been expended.
Ancient Ayurveda have recognized thirteen types of Agni, of which the most important is the jatharagni, the others being the seven dhatu agnis and five bhuta agnis. The jatharagni, contained in the pachaka pitta, is the root of all the agnis of the body. The diminution of jatharagni gives rise to most disorders of the stomach, particularly anorexia and dyspepsia. In addition to this agni which is the sheet anchor of digestion, there are six factors which help digestion: pachaka pitta, samana vayu, moisture, kledaka kapha, time, and a proper combination of the first five. Vayu propels the food into the stomach, bringing it near the agni, and also inflames the agni; moisture breaks up the compactness of the food; kapha softens the food.
Time is required for completing the process of digestion, and a proper combination of all factors is vital for completing the process of digestion. We shall now deal with the common disorders of the digestive system in the order of their frequency.