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The concept of digestive power described in Ayurveda is an essential important contributory factor in the pathogenesis of all the diseases. The food is digested by this digestive power and the three basic vital farces – vata, pitta, kapha are produced and nourished. Therefore, this power is necessary to maintain the power of the human body. The digestive power is responsible for the maintenance of life, colour and luster of the body, energy, health, enthusiasm, and vital essence.
The provocation and pacification of vata, pitta, kapha depend on the digestive power. Therefore this power must be protected and maintained normal. When the digestive power is completely cooled down, an individual dies. When it is normal an individual lives a longer life without any disease. When it becomes abnormal an individual becomes diseased one. Hence, one must maintain his basic digestive power in normal state. In all the diseases the digestive power is reduced ( in ascites it is reduced maximally). The reduced digestive power gives rise to undigested harmful toxic waste product which is one of the basic contributory factors of a disease.
As the digestive power is essential and useful to the human body, it is also harmful if not maintained properly. The digestive power should receive food material for digestion, proportionately. This food material acts like a fuel for it. If the food material is supplied in excess of capacity of the digestive power then this power will get extinguished. The food material must be supplied proportionately and at a proper interval of time, to maintain this power. On the contrary, if no food material is supplied as it happens in starvation or fasting then the digestive power starts absorbing body elements. And if this is continued further it can lead to death.
The knowledge of digestive power is essential in giving treatment for a disease. When vata, pitta, kapha are associated with the undigested waste products the treatment given is fasting (langhan). If there is no food available for digestion then the digestive power digests the undigested waste product. And vata, pitta, kapha are freed form it. This fasting should be continued only till the undigested waste product is digested. If continued further it will start digesting body elements, which is harmful.
The Types of Digestive Power
(1) Balanced, (2) Imbalanced, (3) Acute, (4 Mild
(1) Balanced digestive power (Sama-agni): This is the normal digestive power. The appetite is normal and regular. The food is digested properly.
(2) Imbalanced digestive power (Vishama-agni): This is an abnormal type. Sometimes the digestive power is increased or sometime it is decreased. Therefore the appetite also becomes irregular. This results in improper digestion. This type is seen in individuals with Vata-predominant body constitution.
(3) Acute digestive power (Teekshna-agni): This is also an abnormal type. The digestive power is so acutely raised that any amount of food taken is insufficient. The appetite becomes horacious. This type is seen in individuals with Pitta-predominant body constitution.
(4) Mild digestive power (Manda-Agni): This is also an abnormal type. The digestive power is very much reduced. This cause severe anorexia. This is see in individuals with Kapha-predominant body constitution.