IBS or irritable bowel syndrome (also called spastic colon, irritable colon, or nervous stomach) is a condition in which the colon muscle contracts more often than in people without IBS. Certain foods, medicines, and emotional stress are some factors that can trigger IBS. If you have IBS, an IBS diet is needed. The right way of eating can help mitigate IBS symptoms. IBS causes according to Ayurveda, including improper ways of eating, can also be changed to bring some relief.
Here’s a quick review of what we will cover in this article.
In these contemporary, competitive times many of us remain constantly on the go. Being stressed has become second nature. Ingesting processed foods, multitasking, and eating on the run, untimely meals, late nights, and sedentary work culture further can take a significant toll on digestive health and excretory function.
Apart from food habits being an issue, suppression of natural urges, improper sleep habits, grief, anger, fear, suffering from chronic illness along with traveling and seasonal changes are factors which may lead to diminution of metabolic fire.
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IBS symptoms include the following.
IBS does not have a direct impact on life expectancy but it does have a significant impact on performance and productivity. It causes depression, weakness, poor resistance and complicates social interactions. Modern medical science has limited solutions for IBS except for symptomatic control and psychological support.
The main symptoms of IBS include pain and discomfort in the abdomen, which is often associated with frequent diarrhea or constipation, as well as abnormal peristaltic movement of the intestines. The last symptom is often triggered by emotional or psychological stress. In addition, people with IBS suffer from intestinal spasms, the feeling of not being able to fully relieve their bowels, bloating or distention of the abdomen.
Apart from these symptoms, people with IBS suffer from heartburn (acid reflux), urogenital symptoms, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), headache, back pain and psychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety. It is a functional disorder of the gut and not a structural anomaly.
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According to Ayurvedic medicine there is a similar condition known asMuhur Badham, Muhur dravam malam,1 which means occasional constipation and hard stools along with occasional watery stool. Grahani roga is the term used to describe this health condition.
AlthoughGrahani roga is a much wider term in itself representing many disorders, it includes all that is meant by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Ayurvedarecognizes the digestive tract as the very first site that indicates ill health. Ayurveda views elimination as an important indicator of overall health because healthy elimination generally points to balancedagni (digestive fire), which is one of the keys to health and longevity.
Ayurvedadefines health as the state of equilibrium of the tridoshas, the equilibrium of the agni (metabolic fire), and thedhatus(body tissues), mala kriya (elimination of waste), including cheerful state ofatma (soul),Indriya (organs of perception) and manas (mind).2
Ayurveda considersGrahanias aTridoshic disorder of the digestive system which occurs due to vitiation ofAgni, in particular Jatharagni (the digestive fire), along withSaman Vayu, Pachak PittaandKledaka Kapha subtypes of Vata, Pittaand Kapha respectively.
Jatharagni is normal whenSamana Vata (a sub-type of Vata dosha) is in its normal state. It becomes erratic(visham) whensamana vata is unsteady. It becomes aggravated or very strong (tikshna) whensamana vatais associated withPitta. It is weak (manda)when samana vata is associated withKapha dosha.
Agni is of four types: sama(normal),visama(erratic or unsteady),tikshna(very strong) andmanda(weak).
Ayurvedic scholar Charaka described grahani to be the site ofagni(digestive fire). CommentatorChakrapani Datta, elaborated that grahani is that which retains (grahanat)4 the downward movement of undigested food and retains it until it is fully digested. As this function of the intestine is greatly altered and it loses the ability to retain for a stipulated time according to one’s absorption needs, it is called Grahani Roga. The discomfort caused by this illness causes great distress and life becomes miserable with fatigue. Many people tend to lose weight over a period of time.
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The most common theory behind the onset of IBS is a disorder of the interaction between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract, although there may also be abnormalities in the gut flora or the immune system.
Publications suggesting the role of brain-gut “axis” appeared in the 1990s, such as a study entitled ‘Brain-Gut Response To Stress And Cholinergic Stimulation In IBS’, published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology in 1993.
A 1997 study published in ‘Gut’ magazine suggested that IBS was associated with a “derailing of the brain-gut axis.” Psychological factors may be important in the etiology of IBS. It is diagnosed as per Rome III criteria. It shares symptoms of recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort and marked change in bowel habit for at least six months, with symptoms experienced on at least three days per month in the last three months associated with two or more of the following: pain is relieved by defecation, onset is associated with change of frequency of stools, onset is associated with a change in form (consistency) of stools.5
IBS Causes According To Ayurveda
Grahani being the site ofAgni(digestive enzymes), is supported and nourished by the strength of the agni. Normally it restrains the downward movement of undigested food and releases the digested food (anna rasa) through the sides of the lumen into the circulation. In abnormal conditions, when theagni is weakened, the weak digestive enzymes bring aboutvidaha of food. That is, a part of the food is digested and a part remains undigested and is passed out as stool.
So the distinctive feature ofGrahaniisPakvam yadapakvam malam. That means, the person passes stool which is partlypakva(digested), and partly apakva (undigested).6
Ayurvedic texts have cited various causes of IBS, the first being the improper ways of taking food which in turn leads to derangedagni(deranged functioning of the metabolic fire). The root cause ingrahani roga is alteration ofagni.Ayurvedic scholar Charaka in his text Charaka Samhita Sutra Sthana,chapter five, elaborated on these various causes including food combination and the proper quantity and quality of food to be eaten to sustain a healthy agni function.
The following list demonstrates IBS causes.
The Ayurvedic approach to managing IBS focuses on restoring the agni (the digestive fire) and this approach is definitely helpful. All illnesses are considered due to the imbalance of the doshas and are managed by balancing theories.
IBS Treatment In Ayurveda
As you know, IBS is a functional disorder of the seat ofAgniaccording to Ayurveda. IBS is a result of diminished digestive enzymes leading toAjirna (indigestion).
Thus the line of management of IBS as per Ayurvedic principles is the following.
Fasting is the willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast or dry fasting is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period, usually 24 hours, or a number of days. Water fasting allows the drinking of water. Other fasts may be partially restrictive, limiting only particular foods or substances, or be intermittent.
In a physiological context, fasting may refer to the metabolic state achieved after complete digestion and absorption of a meal. Several metabolic adjustments occur during fasting. Metabolic changes of the fasting state begin after absorption of a meal (typically 3–5 hours after eating).8
According to Ayurveda, langhan is of two types, shodhan (purificatory) and saman (palliative).9
7 Types Of Palliative IBS Treatment (Samana)
All of the above forms oflanghan have their individual sphere of action and reach. They are advised by a practitioner after assessing the dosha imbalance and the state along with the strength of the client.
ForDipana, herbs which stimulate the agni (digestive fire) like piper longum, root of piper longum, piper chaba, plumbago zeylanica, ginger (Zingiber officinalis), black pepper (Piper Nigrum), Ajmoda (celery), asafoetida mixed with light and easily digestible food like soups of green gram should be used.10
ForPachana, herbs that aid in digestion likeMustaor Nut grass (Cyperus rotundus) and papaya (Carica papaya) should be used.11
IncludeSangrahi herbs, herbs that bind the stool. Those include Aegle marmelos (wood apple / stone apple), stone of amra (stone of mango fruit), nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) and more.12
Regular intake ofTakra (buttermilk) is advised in IBS as it rekindles the digestive fire. It has an absorbent property and is light to digest. It has a sweet (madhur) post-digestive effect so it does not aggravate Pitta. As it is astringent (kashaya) in taste,ushna (hot) in potency and drying in nature it balancesKapha. Because of its sweet and sour taste, and due to its density it pacifies Vata. When prepared freshly, it does not cause a burning sensation.13 Therefore all the recipes ofTakra (buttermilk) preparation described for treatment of abdominal disease should be used for the treatment of IBS.13
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Let’s now take a look at your diet based on your metabolic fire (deranged agni).
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Diet plays a very significant role in easing IBS as diet has a profound effect on elimination. Ayurveda emphasizes not only what you eat but also when you eat, how much you eat and even how you eat.
Try to follow these Ayurvedic practices to further strengthen digestion and elimination.
As psychological factors like stress and anxiety impact bowel movements, so a daily routine makes you feel in tune with nature and balances the doshic imbalances. Include yoga and meditation into your daily regimen as a great way to ease symptoms.
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Physical Activity: Yoga + Meditation
Yoga asanas are the Ayurvedic way to exercise.Yogais not merely physical posture but it holds much more to it becauseyoga (meaning union), helps you to connect to your inner self, calms your mind and brings inner peace. Yoga asanasincrease blood flow to vital organs, stimulatemarma points (points in our bodies where concentrated prana is located) renders lightness to the body and prepares the body to face the struggles of the day. It also stimulates the digestive system and all the systems of the body essential for good health.
After exercise, sit quietly and do some deep breathing exercises (Pranayama) as follows.
All three can be done if you wish and have the time to balance all the three dosha.Yogapostures andPranayamaare great to prepare the body for meditation.
Meditation brings balance and peace to your life. Try and meditate for at least 15-20 minutes daily either morning or evening before dinner or both. Do not overexert yourself, meditate at your own convenience as you are accustomed to. Just de-concentrate, watch your breath and let go!
READ MORE: Watch: 12 Minute Calming Yoga Sequence
1. Shivcharan Dhyani, Kayachikitsa, Ayurvedic and Tibbi academy UP, Lucknow, pp-226.
2. P.V. Sharma, Sushruta Samhita (sutra sthana), Vol 1, Chowkhambha Vishva bharati, Varanasi, (2013), verse- 41, pp-173.
3. K.R. Srikantha Murthy, Ashtanga hridayam (Sarir Sthana), with English translations (vol 1), Chowkhamba Krishnadas academy, Varanasi (2016), pp-410.
4. R.K Sharma, Bhagwan Dash, Charaka Samhita (Chikitsa Sthana) Vol 4, Chowkhambha sanskrit series office, Varanasi(2017), verse-56, pp29.
5. Harrison’s principles of Internal Medicine, Vol 2 (2003), Mcgraw-Hill.
6. R.K Sharma, Bhagwan Dash, Charaka Samhita (Chikitsa Sthana) Vol-4, Chowkhambha sanskrit series office, Varanasi(2017), verse-51, pp-28.
7. K.R Srikanth Murthy, Astanga Hridayam (Sarir Sthana) Vol 1, Chowkhamba krishnadas academy, Varanasi (2016), verse-73, pp-410.
9. K.R. Srikantha Murthy, Astanga Hridayam (Vol-1), Sutra sthana, with English translation, Chowkhamba Krishnadas academy, Varanasi, (2016), verse-4-6, pp-192.
10. R.K. Sharma, Bhagwan Dash, Charaka Samhita (Vol-1), with English translations, Chowkhambha Sanskrit Series Office, Varanasi,(2016), verse-9, pp-89.
11. P.V. Sharma, Dravyaguna vijnan, Vol 2, Chaukhambha Bharati Academy,(2005), pp-370, 372.
12. P.V. Sharma, Dravyaguna Vijnana, Vol 2, Chaukhambha Bharati Academy,(2005), pp 455, 458.
13. R.K. Sharma, bhagwan Dash, Charaka Samhita(Chikitsa Sthana),english translation, Vol-4, Chowkhambha Sanskrit Series office, Varanasi(2017), verse-117-119, pp 46
14. Lad, Vasant. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1998. Print. 100, 153-155, 212-213.
15. Lad, Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda Vol III: General Principles of Management and Treatment. Albuquerque: The Ayurvedic Press, 2012. Print. 142.
16. R.K Sharma, Bhagwan Dash, Charaka Samhita, (Sutra Sthana) vol 1, Chowkhambha Sanskrit Series office, Varanasi,(2016), verse 4, pp 106.
17. R.K. Sharma, Bhagwan Dash, Charaka Samhita,Vol-2( Vimana Sthana), Chowkhambha sanskrit series office, Varanasi(2016), verse-3,pp-132
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