Ayurvedic & Yoga Articles

IBS: An Ayurvedic Perspective

Many people suffer from either constipation or diarrhoea at some point in life. Sometimes some people suffer from both constipation and diarrhoea and this can be termed as IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. When one suffers from mild symptoms they may not go to a doctor, but when symptoms get severe, constipation and diarrhoea may be accompanied by other symptoms such as abdominal cramps, bloating, abdominal pain, sometimes chronic constipation or chronic diarrhoea.

Some symptoms of IBS:

  • Pain in the lower abdominal region
  • An urge to empty the bowels after meals
  • Abdominal pain followed by the emptying of the bowels
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • A feeling of incomplete evacuation of the bowels
  • Flatulence
  • Abdominal distension

The Ayurvedic perspective:

According to Ayurveda IBS falls under the category of a certain disease called Grahani which is disturbed functions of the bowels and intestines. Grahani (or duodenum) is the seat of Agni (digestive fire). Food is held here until it is completely digested by Agni (or digestive fire). After the food is completely digested, it then passes on to the next part of the digestive tract for absorption, but if the Agni is weak, then the food is not completely digested and passes on in a half digested form.

From previous articles we know that when the food is in a half digested form, it leads to Ama formation. These toxins, or Ama, will further combine with normal food leading to foul smelling stools. Hence one will also find Ama accumulation in the body when one suffers from IBS.

Causes of Grahani:

Ayurveda has listed out a number of causes of Grahani or IBS:

  • The suppression of natural urges
  • Irregular eating habits
  • Eating foods with opposing qualities or eating incompatible foods
  • Excessive eating
  • Excess stress
  • Anxiety

Ayurveda speaks of 4 different types of Grahani based on the Dosha involved:

  • Vataja Grahani
  • Pittaja Grahani
  • Kaphaja Grahani
  • Tridoshaja Grahani

Vataja Grahani:

In this type of IBS/Grahani Vata Dosha is involved and out of balance.

Causes:

  • An excess intake of pungent, bitter and astringent food
  • Dry, contaminated foods
  • The suppression of natural urges
  • Excess physical activity
  • Intake of insufficient food
  • Fasting

Symptoms:

  • Dry skin, hair, nails, a dry mouth or throat
  • Constipation or constipation alternating with diarrhoea
  • Abdominal distension, bloating, flatulence and excess wind
  • Feeling cold most of the time
  • A history of back or lower abdominal pain
  • Loss of weight, loss of sleep, anxiety, nervousness

Pittaja Grahani:

In this type of IBS/Grahani Pitta Dosha is involved and out of balance.

Causes:

  • An excess intake of pungent, sour, salty foods
  • Suppression of natural urges
  • Excess physical activity

Symptoms:

  • Heat symptoms, sweating, fever, feeling hot
  • Heartburns, belching, sour eructation
  • Excessive thirst, irritability and a history of loss of temper
  • Diarrhea, loose liquid stools

Kaphaja Grahani:

In this type of IBS/Grahani Kapha Dosha is involved and out of balance.

Causes:

  • Intake of food that is hard to digest, fatty foods
  • An excess intake of cold and heavy foods
  • Frequent food intake
  • Sleeping immediately after food intake

Symptoms:

  • Difficulty in digestion
  • Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite
  • A running nose, expectoration
  • Heaviness of the body, lethargy, loss of movement or not wanting to move
  • Stools which are heavy, slimy and full of mucus

Tridoshaja Grahani:

  • This is caused by the combination of factors of the above three types.

Symptoms are similarly mixed. Specific symptoms are as follows:

  • Gurgling sounds in the abdomen
  • Passing of stools with mild pain
  • Stools which are a combination of liquid, compact, cold unctuous
  • Pain in lumbar region

Treatment:

Doshas involved in the conditions should be alleviated. Initially treatment of Ama should be undertaken, followed by the treatment of Doshas involved in the conditions should be alleviated. Initially treatment of Ama should be undertaken. This should be followed by the treatment of the specific Dosha excess. Diet should generally be light and easy to digest. One can take up light fasting to eliminate Ama from the body. Kitchari (basmati rice and mung beans) along with light vegetable soups is one of the best foods during fasting.

Vata type IBS/Grahani:

  • Herbs and spices: Ginger, fennel, cloves, cardamom
  • Regular food intake.
  • Tastes like sweet sour and salty are best
  • Shatavari and Ashwagandha are two good herbs to balance Vata in the body.
  • Triphala is the wonder herb for Grahani/IBS. Many people have given a positive feedback for Triphala.
  • Whole body massage with Vata reducing oil or cold pressed pure sesame oil.
  • Decoction or oil enemas are very good for Vata related IBS or Grahani.
  • Ayurvedic body treatments like Shirodhara, Abhyanga, and Ayurvedic back massage are suggested to eliminate excess Vata from the body.

Pitta type IBS/Grahani:

  • Cooling herbs and spices like coriander, cumin and fennel. Other herbs that are beneficial are cloves.
  • Aloe Vera juice is also good
  • Shatavari, Amlaki, Turmeric and Triphala are excellent to alleviate Pitta from the body.
  • Triphala is the wonder herb for Grahani/IBS. Many people have given a positive feedback for Triphala
  • Beneficial tastes are sweet, bitter and astringent
  • Ayurvedic foot massages with Ghee (clarified butter)
  • Whole body massage with Pitta reducing oil.

Kapha type IBS/Grahani:

  • Beneficial spices are ginger, honey, cardamom, turmeric, cloves,
  • Herbs that will help clear Kapha from the body are Pippali, Trikatu, Triphala.
  • Triphala is the wonder herb for Grahani/IBS. Many people have given a positive feedback for Triphala.
  • Tastes to balance Kapha Dosha are spicy, bitter and astringent
  • Whole body massage with Kapha reducing oil.
  • Udvartana (Ayurvedic herbal scrub massage) is also very good.

General line of treatment:

  • Follow dietary guidelines to suit the Dosha.
  • Avoid excess tea, coffee, caffeinated drinks
  • Avoid excessive spicy food, heavy and oily foods.
  • Intake of warm water
  • Intake of mild ayurvedic herbal teas to suit the Doshas
  • Buttermilk is specially suggested in Grahani/IBS
  • Ghee mixed with appropriate herbs and spices to suit the Doshas
  • Avoid excess intake of milk and dairy products
  • Regular ayurvedic massages.
  • Decoction or oil enemas are also very good in IBS/Grahani
  • Avoid excess stress
  • Follow meditation exercises for your Dosha type

Yoga for IBS/Grahani:

  • Half Spinal twist
  • Forward bends
  • Crocodile pose
  • Triangle pose and all its variations
  • Corpse position
  • Gentle sun salutations
  • Gentle moon salutations
  • Alternate nostril breathing
  • Breathing exercises involving chakra meditation

It is strongly recommended that you consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner before starting any detoxification process to eliminate Ama or taking Ayurvedic herbs for IBS symptoms. The treatment protocol may change based on a person's body constitution and disease.