Home > Ayurveda > The Alimentary System, Anna Vaha Srotas 

The Alimentary System, Anna Vaha Srotas 

11 Sep 2016   Shanti Gowans
 
The group of organs concerned with 
- ingestion of food, anna adana
- digestion, anna pachana
- separation of nutrient and waste portions, sara kitta vivechana, and
- absorption of nutrients, rasa shosana,
is known as annavaha srotas, which we might understand as the alimentary canal.

Charaka mentions the oesophagus (vamaparshwa anna nalika) and stomach (amashaya) as the mula, the chief organs of this channel system, srotas

Begining with the mouth (asya) till its terminal, the anus (guda), it is a continuous tube of irregular shape and size. Hence it is also called mahasrotas (big canal).

The organs under this group can be classified as follows:

1. In the head and neck, shirastha
- mouth, asya including
- the lips, ostha;
- teeth, danta;
- tongue, jihwa;
- palate, talu; and
- throat, gala.
 
2. In the chest, urastha
- oesophagus, annanalika.
 
3. In the abdomen, udarastha
- stomach, urdhwa amashaya;
- deodenum, grahani;
- small intestine, ksudra-antra;
- caecum, unduka;
- large intestine, pakwashaya or brhad antra;
- rectum, uttara guda; and
- anus, adhara guda.
 
The liver, yakrt;
- gallbladder, pittashaya; and
- pancreas, taila vartika
are organs outside this tube, but connected with it by means of their ducts (nalikas).
 
The different parts of the big canal, mahasrotas are designated as different systems (srotas), according to the important functions they perform, namely:
 
• Talu (palate) and kloma (identified variously as oesophagus, trachea, pancreas, gallbladder), form part of the fluid balance system, udaka vaha srotas.
 
• The last portion of the large intestine (brhadantra), rectum (uttara guda) and anus (adhara guda) are termed as faeces system, purishavaha srotas.
 
• The liver (yakrt) and spleen (pliha) are called the haemopoitic system, raktavaha srotas.
 

Anatomy, Rachana Sharira 

The mouth (asya) is the first gateway of the big canal, mahasrotas

It has two lips (osthas), one above and the other below acting as doors, protecting the food from falling out. Osthas are composed of mamsa and medo dhatus, their inner surface is lined with mucous membrane, sleshmasravi kala and their outer surface being a think layer of skin (twak).

There are 32 teeth (danta), in two rows of 16 each. One row is attached to the maxilla (kapolasthi or gandasthi), forming the upper jaw, and the other row is attached to the mandible (hanu-asthi), forming the lower jaw. All the teeth are firmly embeddded in sockets (danta-ulukhala), held on either side by a pad of mamsa (dantavestha).

Teeth (dantas) appear like bone (asthi dhatu), are hard and so are helpful for functions such as cutting, tearing and grinding of food (charvana).

The tongue (jihwa) is composed of mamsa dhatu, placed on the floor of the mouth with its front portion free. It is capable of all types of movement inside the mouth and can even be brought out of the mouth a little. Embedded inside it, are the taste perceptors, rasanendriya. At the back of the jiwah are two slightly raised nodules on either side of the central line, the papillae of the tongue.

The roof of the mouth is the palate (talu). The front part of it is hard, hence it is called the hard palate (kathina talu), while its hind part is soft because of the presence of a pad of mamsa, hence it is called the soft palate (mrdu talu). From the centre of the soft palate (mrdu talu), hangs a small piece of mamsa, like the trunk of an elephant (sunda), the uvula, (gala sundi).

On either side of the throat (gala) are lymphatic glands (lasika granthis), the size of a bead seed, called the tonsils (gilayuka).

The cavity of the mouth (asyaguha) is covered all over with a thin sheet of mucous membrane (sleshma sravi kala) and so is always kept moist.

The throat (gala) is the continuation of the mouth cavity (asyaguha). In it are three important organs:
- larynx, swarayantra
- pharynx, grasanika, and
- epiglottis, adhijihwika.

The epiglottis (adhijihwika) is made up of cartilage (tarunasthi). It is situated just above the larynx (swarayantra) and acts effectively as a lid over the trachea (swasanalika) during the swallowing of food.

The oesophagus (annanalika) starts at the level of the sixth cervical vertebra (griva kasheruka) and ends by joining with the stomach (jathara). It is placed at the back of the trachea (swasanalika) and can be divided into three parts. The first part of about 3” in the neck (grivabhanga), the second part of about7-8” in thechest (urobhanga) and the third part of about 2.5-3” lying in the abdomen (udarabhanga). It is the tube composed of two layers, the outer layer is of longitudinal mamsa kala and the inner one of horizontal mamsa kala and it is a mucous membrane (slesmasravi kala). At its lower portion it pierces through the diaphragm (mahaprachira) and joins the stomach (jathara).

The diaphragm (maha prachira) is a thick sheet of muscle (mamsa pesi) and ligament (snayu) which separates the chest (uras) from the abdomen (udara). It resembles the hood of a serpent, with its convexity towards the chest and concavity towards the abdomen. Under its concavity lie the liver (yakrt) on the right side, stomach (jathara)and spleen (pliha) on the left side. It moves up and down in relation to respiration (swasana).

The stomach (jathara/urdhwa amasaya) is a big bulge of the big canal (mahasrota), forming a bag for the statis of food. Hence it is called a hollow organ (saguha-avayava). It is similar in structure with the oseophagus (annanalika), outer layer of mamsa and snayu which is moderately thick, and the inner layer of mucous membrane (sleshma-sravi kala), arranged in longitudinal folds. It is situated on the left side of the upper abdomen and extends towards the centre and also downwards. Behind it is the spleen (pliha) and inbetween these two, lies the pancreas (taila vartika). 

At both the ends of this organ (stomach, jathara) there is a ring of circular ligament (sushira snayu), which, by its action, can close the passage; hence it is called a sphincter (argala or mudrika). The upper sphincter (mudrika) is designated as the cardiac sphincter (hardika dwara mudrika) as it is nearer to the heart and the lower sphincter (mudrika) is called the pyloric sphincter (grahanidwara mudrika), which marks the beginning of the deodenum (grahani).

The deodenum (grahani) is the continuation of the stomach (urdhwa amasaya), extending for about 12”. It is also the first part of the small intestine (ksudrantra). The pyloric sphincter at its beginning being a powerful one, withholds the food for about 2.5 to 3 hours, to remain in the stomach (urdhwa amasaya), and then allows it to pass slowly. 

To be continued

 

 


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