Avasthāpāka: The Three Stages of Digestion
The word avasthāpāka comes from two words, avasthā and pāka. Avasthā means “stage” and pāka means “digestion.” Thus, the term avasthāpāka means “the stage of digestion.”
There are three stages of digestion as food moves through the digestive tract. These stages are described by the location of the dominant doṣha acting on the food and its influence on the digestive process.
- The first stage of digestion is the kapha or sweet stage. This stage dominates in the mouth and the upper half of the stomach.Here the watery components of saliva and the alkaline secretions of the stomach mix with the food.
- The second stage of digestion is the pitta or sour stage. This stage dominates in the lower half of the stomach and the small intestine. Here the fiery components of the acid secretions of the stomach and the enzymes and bile within the small intestine mix with the food and further transform the food into āhāra rasa (nutrient substance used to build tissue )
- The third stage of digestion is the vāta or pungent stage. This stage dominates the activity within the large intestine. In this phase of digestion, the food remains (annakiṭṭa) undergo a drying process. Water is absorbed and the remaining indigestible earth element is discarded.