Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay)
Udakavaha Srotas are the channels which transport water in the body. Organs related to water balancing mechanism and water regulation centers in the brain can be considered as Udakavaha Srotas.
(Udaka=Food, Vaha=Carry, Srotas=Channels).
Table of Contents
Srotas are millions of channels or pathways forming the sophisticated transport system within the body. They vary in size and shape and connect different areas, organs and tissues of the body.
They carry the tissues, raw materials needed for tissue building, food, air, water and many essential things in the body needed for life activities.
Some Srotas also excrete the metabolic wastes and toxins, keeping the body healthy.
According to Ayurveda, the whole body is made up of Srotas. The number of Srotas is as many as the number of cells, tissues and organs put together. This explains that every human cell is possibly a Srotas.
Read related: Srotas: Body Channels and Duct systems – Easy Explanation
The Srotas or channels which carry water or control the balance of ‘Udaka’ or water in the body are called as Udakavaha Srotas.
Thus Udakavaha Srotas are –
Channels carrying or transporting water in the body or
Centers or organs controlling the water balance in the body
Origin (roots) and location of Udakavah Srotas –
Udaka Vaha Srotas – Channels responsible for water transportation or centres controlling water balance in the body
उदक वहे द्वे, तयोः मूलं तालु क्लोम च।
तत्र विद्धस्य पिपासा सध्यो मरणं च।(सु.श.9/12)
उदक वहानां स्रोतसां तालु मूलं क्लोम च, प्रदुष्टानां तु खलु एषां इदं विशेष विज्ञानं भवति; तध्यथा – जिह्वा तालु ओष्ठ कण्ठ क्लोम शोषं पिपासां च अति प्रवृद्धं दृष्ट्वा उदक वहानि अस्य स्रोतांसि प्रदुष्टानि इति विध्यात्।(च.वि.५/७)
Udaka vahe dwe tayoho moolam taalu kloma cha
Tatra viddhasya pipaasaa sadhyo maranam cha (Ref –Sushruta Shaareera 9/12)
Udaka vahaanaam srotasaam taalu moolam kloma cha, pradushtaanaam tu khalu eshaam idam vishesha vignaanam bhavati, tadhyathaa – Jihwaa taalu oshta kantha kloma shosham pipaasaam cha ati pravruddam drushtvaa udaka vahaani asya srotaamsi pradushtaani iti vidhyaat (Ref – Charaka Vimana 5/7)
According to Sushruta –
The Udak vah Shrotas or the channels responsible for water regulation and supply in the body are 2 in number. They have their roots of origin in –
Talu – Palate or roof of our mouth cavity which lies in contact with the upper surface of our tongue. Whenever we feel thirsty, the thirst is first manifested in the palate followed by the lips, gums and throat.
Kloma – It is a controversial organ, the detailed explanation of which is not available in the Ayurvedic texts. It is anyhow compared to:
- Trachea or windpipe
- Gall bladder
- Water regulating centres in the brain
Symptoms of injury
Symptoms of damage or injury to the Udakavaha srotas:
When the Udakavaha Srotas gets injured or obstructed (blocked) or damaged it causes the below mentioned symptoms:
Pipasa – severe thirst
Sadhyo Maranam – death (when there is water deficit or imbalance for a longer duration and has not been compensated)
According to Charaka –
The roots of Udaka vaha srotas are located in Talu and Kloma (same as Sushrutas explanation)
Symptoms of vitiation
Symptoms of vitiation of Udakavaha Srotas:
When Udakavaha Srotas gets vitiated or damaged, it causes the below mentioned symptoms:
- Jihwa Shosha – Dryness and or emaciation of tongue
- Talu Shosha – Dryness and or emaciation of palate
- Oshta Shosha – Dryness and or emaciation of lips
- Kloma Shosha – Dryness and or emaciation of wind pipe, pancreas or water regulating centres in the brain
- Kantha shosha – dryness and emaciation of the throat
- Ati pravriddam pipaasaa – severe thirst
Analysis of Udakavaha Srotas –
Both Charaka and Sushruta have mentioned Talu and Kloma as the roots of Udakavaha Srotas. ‘Roots’ means the places of origin or controlling stations of the regulatory mechanisms of water balance in the body.
The signs and symptoms of injury (or vitiation) to the Udakavaha Srotas as explained by both Charaka and Sushruta, points out towards the ‘disturbance of imbalance of the water controlling and transportation mechanism’ in the body. Here injury or damage need not occur due to external injury, it is also due to the damage affected on the Udakavaha Srotas by the vitiated doshas (internal injury or damage).
Dryness of the mouth lips and tongue all point towards ‘thirst’. Thus, thirst or trishna is the main symptom of vitiation of udakavaha srotas. Thirst manifests only when there is shortage of water component of the body so as to maintain the functions which are water dependant, water driven and water controlled.
Udakavaha srotas vitiation definitely has something to do with want of water due to imbalance or deprivation of water which may be an acute shortage or long standing shortage.
In fact the vitiation or damage of udakavaha srotas by injury or vitiation by morbid doshas, imbalance between the want and compensation of water and feeling of thirst form the key components of udakavaha srotas vitiation.
The recovery of vitiation of udakavaha srotas depends on the balance and restoring the water deprivation. One should maintain the water stores of the body by regular intake of water. One also should remember to avoid consuming water when they are severely hungry or in the presence of hunger and not to take food in presence of thirst. These 2 factors also disturb the health of ‘water controlling and monitoring stations of the body’ hence leading to the vitiation of the related srotas.
The treatment of Udakavaha srotas vitiation mainly depends on quenching the thirst and bringing back the balance of the water component of the body. This can best be achieved by supplying the needed quantity of water to the system and maintaining the balance by regularly refilling the loss. Any thirst quenching drink can be given but nothing is as refreshing as water.
Sadhyo marana or immediate death is one of the symptoms of ‘damage to udakavaha srotas’ given by Sushruta. This might not occur just by fluid or water imbalance occurring in the body for a shorter time, because by instinct we all know to satisfy the need for water which gets manifested in the form of thirst or trishna. We just need to sip some water or refreshing fluids to quench or thirst. Sadhyo Marana may be a consequence of thirst or trishna which is of chronic nature or is associated with some serious pathology or is a part of a chronic stubborn, complicated disease with bad prognosis.
Sadhyo marana also reflects severe or complete dehydration in which even substitution or replacement of fluid also might not resuscitate the patient back to life. This may be in cases of shock especially due to severe haemorrhage and fluid loss.
Udakavaha Srotomula (controlling stations of water balance) –
Both Charaka and Sushruta have mentioned Talu and Kloma as the roots of Udakavaha srotas. They can be thought in two ways,
- They can either be the controlling stations of water regulation in the body or
- The sites where the symptoms of water imbalance in the body are first manifested
Talu means palate or the roof of your mouth. We might all have experienced what happens to our palate when we are thirsty or not have taken a sip of water for long hours. It is the first part which shows the sign of thirst, a sign that body needs water. In severe thirst, it might even stick to the tongue. Other part which get dried or shows signs of dehydration (inadequate water stores, short enough for smooth conduction of body functions) apart from palate are the lips, gums, throat and tongue, but the first signals are given by the palate.
Trishna (thirst ranging from mild to severe thirst), shosha (dryness of palate, throat, tongue, lips and gums) and marana (death due to severe dehydration which is beyond management) are the common symptoms of udakavaha srotas vitiation according to all schools of thought.
Thus, thirst caused due to any given reason depicts some sort of damage to udakavaha srotas. Alternatively it can be said that thirst caused due to any reason manifests its first signals in udakavaha srotas. All causes of Trishna or thirst are the causes of udakavaha sroto dushti and vice versa.
Since thirst is invariably associated with water imbalance or dehydration in the body, any causes of dehydration can be considered as causes of udakavaha sroto dushti. Thus dehydration caused due to any reason depicts the damage of some sort to the channels associated to udakavaha srotas. Alternatively it can be said that any type of dehydration produces its initial signs of manifestation in udakavaha srotas.
The Kapha varga dravyas (the elements and tissues which are predominant seats of kapha) are the ‘water rich tissues’ in the body. They are rasa (lymph, plasma, nutritional fluids in circulation), mamsa (flesh or muscles), meda (fat), majja (bone marrow), shukra (semen or reproductive tissue) and artava (menstrual blood). Likewise, the mutra (urine), puresha (stools) too have excess water in them being the kapha varga dravyas.
Pitta too has elemental water in it. Thus, the elements and tissues belonging to Pitta i.e. Sweda (sweat) and rakta (blood, cellular part of blood) also have fluids in them, though in lesser proportions in comparison to the kapha elements.
Excess vitiation of Vata or the heat element of pitta increases, the fluid element present in the kapha and pitta dravyas will get dried up or evaporated.
Causes for vitiation
Causes for vitiation of Udakavaha srotas:
औष्ण्यात् आमात् भयात् पानात् अति शुष्क अन्न सेवनात्।
अम्बु वाहीनि दुष्यन्ति तृष्णायाः च अति पीडनात्॥(च.वि.५/११)
Aushnyaat aamaat bhayaat paanaat ati shushka anna sevanaat
Ambu vaaheeni dushyanti trushnaayaaha cha ati peedanaat (Ref – Charaka Vimana 5/11)
- Ushna aahaara vihara – Hot foods and comforts
- Aama – due to presence of products of undigested food or metabolic toxins in the body or in circulation
- Bhayaat – fear
- Paanaat – excessive consumption of alcohol
- Shushka anna sevana – consumption of dry foods
- Trushnaa peedana – habit of withholding the urge for drinking water or holding on to the urge of thirst frequently
Other causes for the vitiation of Udakavaha Srotas –
Below mentioned can be listed as the broader aspect of causes of vitiation of udaka vaha srotas –
- Causes of Trishna
- Causes of Pitta vitiation
- Causes of Vata vitiation
- Causes of vata-pitta vitiation
- Causes of kapha vitiation
- Forcibly withholding the urge of reflex of thirst (trishna vega dharana)
The treatment of Udakavaha srotas also will be in managing the above said conditions
Causes of Trishna
- Kshobha – physical or mental irritation
- Bhaya – Fear
- Shrama – Exertion, Exhaustion
- Shoka – Grief
- Krodha – Anger
- Langhana – Fasting in excess
- Madhya – Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Kshara – Alkalis
- Amla – Sour food
- Lavana – Salty foods
- Katu – Spicy and pungent foods
- Ushna – Too hot foods and exposure to heat
- Ruksha Shushka anna – dry foods
- Dhatu kshaya – Depletion of body tissues
- Gadapakarsha – Being debilitated by a chronic illness
- Vamanadhyatiyogaat – Undergoing treatments like Vamana (therapeutic emesis) etc in excess
- Surya santapa – Excessive exposure to Sun
- Balasamkshaya – Decrease of bala (strength or immunity)
- Pitta vivardhana – Foods and activities which bring about a pathological increase of Pitta
Read related: Dry Mouth – Trishna – Ayurveda and modern perspective
Line of management
Management of vitiation of Udakavaha srotas –
The treatment of vitiation of udakavaha srotas should be done on the lines of treatment of Trishna (thirst) chikitsa (line of treatment of thirst disorder)
Read related: Charaka Trishna Chikitsa – Dry Mouth- 22nd Chapter
Management of Udakavaha srotas vitiation on the lines of management of Pitta vitiation –
Causes of Pitta vitiation should be avoided. The causes of pitta vitiation are –
- Katu – excessive consumption of pungent foods
- Amla – excessive consumption of sour foods
- Ushna – excessive consumption of hot foods
- Vidahi – excessive consumption of corrosive foods
- Teekshna – excessive consumption of intense acting foods and medicines
- Lavana – excessive consumption of salt or salty foods
- Krodha – excessive anger
- Upavasa – excessive fasting, starvation
- Atapa – excessive exposure to heat of Sun
- Stree samparka – excessive indulgence in sexual intercourse
- Tila – excessive consumption of sesame and foods prepared with sesame
- Atasi – excessive consumption of flax seeds and foods prepared with flax
- Dadhi – excessive consumption of curds
- Sura – excessive consumption of fermented herbal drinks
- Shukta and Aranala – excessive consumption of sour and fermented medicated drinks
- Bhukte jeeryate – during the process of digestion of food
- Sharadi – in autumn season
- Greeshma – in summer season
- Madhyahna – during afternoon
- Ardha ratre – mid night etc.
Below said are the measures to combat vitiation of pitta:
- Nidana Parivarjana – keeping away the causative factors of pitta vitiation (mentioned in the causes)
- Sarpi Panam – intake of medicated ghee
- Swadu bhojana aushadani – foods and medicines which have sweet taste
- Tikta bhojana aushadani – foods and medicines which have bitter taste
- Kashaya bhojana aushadhani – foods and medicines which have astringent taste
- Sugandha – fragrances
- Sheeta – intake of cold foods and exposure to cold comforts
- Hridhya – indulging in likable and lovable activities, taking similar foods
- Gandha – scents, perfumes
- Haara – garlands of flowers etc
- Maninam hara – necklaces made up of pearls
- Anulepa – regular and frequent application of pastes of karpoora (camphor), chandana (sandalwood) etc coolant herbs
- Chandrama – getting exposed to moonlight
- Geetam – hearing pleasant music
- Hima anila – exposure to cool breeze
- Mitram putram – wholesome and friendly talks with friends, relatives and kids
- Chandanuvartini daara – company of loving wife who has adorned herself with coolant pastes of herbs, garlands and wet clothes
- Sheetaambu dhaaraa – spending time near sprinklers or fountains
- Garbha gruha – staying in underground homes or rooms
- Udhyaana deerghikaaha – walking in the gardens
- Salilaashaya saikate – walking on the sand on the banks of water
- Sarpi – consumption of ghee
- Payaha – consumption of milk
- Vireka – regularly taking therapeutic purgation etc
Management of Udakavaha srotas vitiation on the lines of management of Vata vitiation –
Causes of vata vitiation (food and lifestyle activities) should be avoided. The causes for vata vitiation are as below mentioned –
- Vyayama – Excessive exercises
- Apatarpana – Fasting in excess
- Prapatana – Fall, injury
- Bhanga – Fractures
- Kshaya – Depletion of tissues
- Jaagarat – Excessive vigil (awakening all night)
- Veganam cha vidharanat – Suppression of natural body urges (reflexes)
- Ati shuchi – Excessive administration of cleansing procedures (Panchakarma)
- Shaityadi – Excessive consumption of cold foods and activities
- Traasaat – Fear
- Ruksha – Excessive consumption of dry foods
- Kshobha – Irritation
- Kashaya – Excessive consumption of astringent foods
- Tikta – Excessive consumption of bitter foods
- Katu – Excessive consumption of pungent foods
- Vari-ghanagame – cloudy and rainy season
- Parinate anne – After the digestion of food
- Aparahne – Evening
Treating Vayu: The morbid Vayu can be taken care of by intellectually combining the below said measures –
- Sneha – Administration of medicated oils / ghee, Massage, oil pouring etc
- Sweda – Steaming / sudation / sweating therapy
- Mridu shodanam – Evacuation treatment (mild cleansing treatments like Virechana etc)
- Svadu bhojana – Consuming sweet foods
- Amla bhojana – consuming sour foods
- Lavana bhojana – consuming salt foods
- Ushna bhojana – Hot and fresh foods
- Abhyangam – Massage with herbal oils
- Mardana – Tapping the body with closed fists after application of vata alleviating oils
- Seka – Pouring of medicated oils over the body in streams
- Paishtika Madhya – Alcohol or fermented products prepared with flours
- Goudika Madhya – Alcohol or fermented products prepared with jaggery
- Snigdhoshna Vasti – Medicated enemas with oils and ghee, given luke warm
- Deepana pachana sneha – Oils and ghee processed with deepana (appetizer) and pachana (digestant) drugs
Management of Udakavaha srotas vitiation on the lines of management of Pitta-vata vitiation –
In dual vitiation of Vata and Pitta, the above mentioned measures should be mixed and matched skilfully depending on which dosha is predominant in the combination.
Management of Udakavaha srotas vitiation on the lines of management of Vega dharana (forcible withholding of thirst reflex)
The signs and symptoms of trishna vega dharana will be same as the symptoms of trishna disease. The management also will be on the same lines.
Water balance mechanism
Water Balance and water balance mechanism, modern concepts
Water accounts for about one half to two thirds of an average person’s weight. The percentage of water is lower in older and obese people. the percentage of body weight that is water is higher (70%) at birth and in early childhood. a 68 kilogram (150pound) man has a little over 10 gallons (41 litres) of water in his body. 6-7 gallons of water (23-27 litres) are present in the cells, 2 gallons (about 7 litres) in the space around the cells and slightly less than 1 gallon (4 litres or about 9% of the total amount of water) in the blood.
Fluid enters the body as preformed water, ingested food and drink and as metabolic water (lesser extent). The metabolic water is produced as a by-product of aerobic respiration and dehydration synthesis. Water is lost on regular basis from the body. A constant supply is needed to replenish the fluids lost through normal physiological activities such as respiration, sweating and urination.
In the normal resting state, input of water through ingested fluids is approximately 2.5-3 litres / day.
Balancing water loss – water loss should be balanced and compensated by regular water consumption. To maintain water balance and to protect against dehydration, the development of kidney stones and other medical problems, healthy individuals should drink at least 1.5 to 2 quarts (about 2 litres) of fluids a day. Drinking too much water is always better than drinking too little, because excreting excess water is easier for the body than conserving water. When the kidneys are functioning normally, the body can handle wide variations in fluid intake.
Water source – The body obtains water primarily by absorbing it from the digestive tract. Additionally, a small amount of water is produced when the body processes (metabolizes) certain nutrients.
Loss of water – The body loses water primarily by excreting it in urine from the kidneys. Depending on the body’s needs, the kidneys may excrete less than a pint of up to several gallons of urine per day. About 1.5 pints (little less than a litre) of water are lost daily when water evaporates from the skin and is breathed out of the lungs. Profuse sweating can dramatically increase the amount of water lost through evaporation. Normally, little water is lost from the digestive tract. However, prolonged vomiting or severe diarrhoea can result in loss of a gallon or more of water within a day.
Water compensation mechanism
Mechanisms of water Compensation –
- Drinking water – water loss should be compensated by supply of water so as to balance the lost water. People can drink enough fluids to compensate for excess water loss. However, people who have severe diarrhoea or vomiting may feel ill to drink enough fluids to compensate for water loss. This results in dehydration. It also causes confusion, restricted mobility, or impaired consciousness which causes people from not sensing thirst or being able to drink enough fluids.
- Electrolyte balance – Mineral salts (electrolytes) such as sodium and potassium are dissolved in the water in the body. Water balance and electrolyte balance are closely linked. The body works to keep the total amount of water and the levels of electrolytes in the blood constant. Example, when the sodium level becomes too high, thirst develops, leading to an increased intake of fluids. In addition, vasopressin (anti-diuretic hormone or ADH), a hormone secreted by the brain in response to dehydration, causes the kidneys to excrete less water. The combined effect is an increased amount of water in the blood. As a result, sodium is diluted and the balance of sodium and water is restored. When the sodium levels become too low, the kidneys excrete more water, which decreases the amount of water in the blood, again restoring the balance.
- Thirst – when body has deficit water, the nerve centres in the brain are stimulated, resulting in the thirst sensation. The sensation becomes stronger as the body’s need for water increases, motivating a person to drink the needed fluids. When the body has excess water, thirst is suppressed.
- Pituitary gland and Kidney – at the base of the brain secretes vasopressin (anti-diuretic hormone) into the blood stream when the body has low quantities of water. Vasopressin stimulates the kidneys to conserve water and excrete less urine. When the body has excess water, the pituitary secretes little vasopressin, enabling the kidneys to excrete excess water in the urine.
- Osmosis – Water flows passively (osmosis) from one area or compartment of the body to another. This passive flow allows the larger volumes of fluid in the cells and the area around the cells to act as reservoirs to protect the more critical but smaller volume of fluid in the blood vessels from dehydration.
Concept of thirst
Thirst is an indicator of fluid balance. Body water homeostasis is regulated by ingested fluids and this in turn is dependent on thirst. Thirst is the basic instinct or urge (vega according to Ayurveda) which drives an organism, including human beings to ingest water.
Thirst is a sensation created by the hypothalamus, the ‘thirst centre’ of the human body. Its anatomical site appears to be roughly over the level of palate (talu in Ayurveda). Talu has been quoted as the primary site of control of Udakavaha srotas as already discussed. In terms of Talu our explanation can extend to the hypothalamus also.
Thirst is an important component of blood volume regulation, which is slowly regulated by homeostasis. Thus, water is an important component of blood and thirst is its indicator. Blood and plasma (rakta and rasa dhatu according to Ayurveda) carries with them the water which is distributed to every corner of the body. Serious imbalance of water component can lead to severe depletion in tissues and organs, and when this happens in vital organs it can lead to functional failure of organs which may also lead to death or permanent damage of organs (marana pointed out by Sushrata)
Mechanism of Hypothalamus Mediated Thirst
An osmoreceptor is a sensory receptor, mainly found in hypothalamus. It detects changes in osmotic pressure. They detect changes in plasma osmolarity (concentration of solutes dissolved in the blood).
When the osmolarity of blood changes (either getting more or less dilute), water diffusion into and out of the osmoreceptor cells also changes. This is to tell that the cells expand when the blood plasma is more dilute and contract with higher concentration.
When the osmoreceptors detect high plasma osmolarity (often representing a low blood volume), they send signals to the hypothalamus, which creates the biological sensation of thirst and also stimulates Vasopressin (ADH) secretion, which in turn starts the events that will reduce osmolarity to normal levels.
Mechanism of Renin-Angiotensin System Mediated Thirst
Thirst is also induced through another pathway, through angiotensin-II, one of the hormones involved in the rennin-angiotensin system. This system is a complex homeostatic pathway that deals with blood volume as a whole, as well as plasma osmolarity and blood pressure.
The macula densa cells in the walls of the ascending loop of henle of the nephron is another type of osmoreceptor, however it stimulated the juxtaglomerular apparatus (JGA) instead of hypothalamus. When the macula densa is stimulated by high osmolarity, the JGA releases rennin into the bloodstream which cleaves angiotensinogen into angiotensin I. Angiotensin I is converted into angiotensin II by ACE in the lungs, which is a hormone that has many functions.
Angiotensin II acts on the hypothalamus to cause the sensation of thirst. It also causes vaso-constriction and release of aldosterone, which causes increased water reabsorption in a mechanism that is very similar to that of ADH.
Alternatively, the sympathetic nervous system stimulation and low blood pressure in the kidney’s (decreased GFR) will stimulate the rennin-angiotensin system and will also cause an increase in thirst.
Ayurvedic explanation of udakavaha srotas and its sites of operation (mula sthana) or sites of manifestation of symptoms of thirst (trishna) as a part of contamination of udakavaha srotas might not correlate exactly with the concept of water balancing mechanism explained by the modern texts (including physiology of thirst), but they serve the same purpose. They suggest the deficit of water in the body and a call for its fulfilment.
Udakavaha srotas and sroto dushti are the earliest references indicating the ‘knowledge and wisdom about importance of water body in our system, its vitiation and disturbances, signs and symptoms of contamination and method of dealing with these conditions’.
Water is life element and we need to balance it in our body with regular supply for life activities to carry on smoothly. Excess or deficit supply of water is not good for health. Since thirst is the first sign of water depletion and demand for its fulfilment, it should not be ignored. Many times in our busy schedules we ignore taking water and many don’t have time to do it. We should remember that we are neglecting something which is occupying 70% of us!!
When we feel thirsty, water is all that we should provide the system. There are no other alternatives for water. Coffee, tea, snacks, alcohol, juices are not its replacements.
Also remember –
Do not eat food or anything when you are thirsty…the body just wants you to spare some time and supply water to it
Likewise, don’t drink water when you are hungry…your body’s fire wants some fuel in the form of food and giving water at that time will put off the fire
Both are dangerous with constant practise…
Ayurveda tells that ‘There is nothing bigger than eating when hungry, drinking water when thirsty and sleeping when you feel like sleepy’
Amidst all the treatment which has been described elaborately for Trishna, the best treatment or medicine will still be ‘WATER’
So let us keep it simple ‘Just sip some water and keep chill’
Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu)