An Ayurvedic Approach for a Healthy Gut
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) refers to a widely prevalent disorder involving the gastrointestinal tract, affecting a high proportion of the modern-day global population. Although closely associated with anxiety and stress, the precise causative factor of IBS continues to elude researchers. It has been characteristically known to induce belly pain, gastroenteritis, constipating tendencies and, accumulation of gas. Women in the age group of 20 to 50 years, patients with nerve disorders and, people with a familial history of gastrointestinal problems are especially prone to this dysfunction.
Concept of Grahani in Ayurveda
The absence of a definite etiological agent has encouraged treatment subjects to resort to Ayurvedic medicine for irritable bowel syndrome. The traditional Indian school of medicine uses the term ‘Grahana’ to describe the retaining capacity of the Grahani organ (the small intestine, particularly, duodenum). Ayurveda states the occurrence of a disorder named Grahani following marked alterations in Grahana, resulting in the bowel’s failure to hold back food for the span of time necessary for absorption. This condition grossly presents symptoms resembling, those of irritable bowel syndrome.
As postulated in Ayurvedic knowledge, the digestive system which performs functions such as, enzymatic action, contraction of intestinal muscles, nutrient absorption and incorporation of probiotic microorganisms, is termed as ‘Agni’. All disorders of the human body are considered to be expressions of imbalance amongst the three fundamental doshas; Vata, Pitta and, Kapha. These imbalances imperatively lead to the lowering of Agni power, thus, inhibiting optimal digestive function.
Physiological Mechanisms Propagating Irritable bowel syndrome
- Irregular contractions of muscles lining the intestinal walls during the passage of food through the gastrointestinal tract. Stronger and longer contractions produce diarrhoea, bloating and flatus. Weak contractions apply brakes on food passage, slowing it down.
- Nerve associated problems may lead to faulty signal transmission between the intestines and the brain, demonstrated as pain and abdominal discomfort.
- Exaggerated immune responses causing intestinal inflammation.
- Debilitating intestinal infections.
- Alterations in the composition of microflora present in the intestine.
Triggering Agents of Grahani
- Foods such as wheat grains, milk derivatives, citric fruits, cabbage, and beans may act as catalysts to aggravate symptoms.
- Hormonal imbalance occurring during menstruation, in women.
- Excessive stress activates the sympathetic nervous system and blocks the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for digestive stimulation. This reduces circulation to the digestive system, thus, raising tension in abdominal muscles.
Clinically Detectable Variants of IBS
Almost all cases of Grahani present these common occurrences:
- Recurring alternate episodes of gastroenteritis (diarrhoea) and, constipation.
- Bloating and a feeling of fullness.
- A distended abdomen.
- Abdominal pain aggravated after food intake and relieved by motion of bowel.
- Mental distress leading to depression or, anxiety.
However, certain features characteristic of different forms of IBS may be clinically discerned to improve prognosis:
- IBS with predominant constipation: Associated with backaches, inguinal pain, loss of weight, fissures developing around the anus, anxiety, insomnia, decreased bowel movement, hypothermia, dryness of mucous membranes, thirstiness, bloating and, accumulation of gas.
- IBS with predominant diarrhoea: Associated with gastro-oesophageal reflux, hyperthermia, angry moods, inflammation and, stools having putrid odour.
- IBS with predominant dysentery: Associated with nausea, frequent indigestion, excessive mucous secretion in pharyngeal areas, a heaviness of chest, distension of abdomen, malaise, fatigue, obstruction in bowel movements, and mucous containing stools.
- Complex IBS: Reveals all the above mentioned features.
- Accrual IBS: This form of the disease demonstrates a combination of features of all three doshas and, manifests as a chronic disorder. It is characterised by bowel movements that are blocked at night and, increased during the day. Stools possess a slimy texture, are painful to pass and, contain undigested fragments of food. An affected patient typically exhibits constipation for a brief span of time followed by a period of loose motions.
- IBS predominated by Tympanites: Characterised by rumbling noises in abdomen and elevated frequency of bowel motions consisting of undigested food fragments.
Ayurveda incorporates various natural remedies for IBS:
- Diet: The consumption of carbonated drinks, caffeine and, alcohol should be ceased. Drinking tea infused with ginger or flaxseed, aids in eliminating intestinal inflammation. In addition, ingestion of fruits like red raspberries, fresh vegetables, almond milk, fennel seeds, cardamoms, dry ginger, Black Pepper, chamomile, coriander, cumin, cloves, poppy seeds, saffron, black cumin and, oats may provide different forms of symptomatic relief. Intake of Psyllium husk along with yogurt, an hour after one’s dinner, is known to enhance bowel motion.
- Lifestyle Modifications: Incorporating heavy amounts of dietary fibres in diet, ensuring an optimal balance of probiotic intestinal bacteria, removing food items that are not tolerated well, performing meditation daily and bringing in a healthy routine are alterations that may be implemented.
- Medicinal Capsules: Specially formulated medicinal capsules such as Samdeepan are amongst the most efficacious modes of grahani treatment in Ayurveda. Each capsule of Samdeepan consists of hydrated extracts of Bel, Pippali, Pudina, Chitrak, Nagarmotha, Chirayta, Kutki, Sandhav Lawan, Vai Vidang, Haritaki, Atis, Shunthi, Kutaj, Makoy, Jeerak, Hingu, Chavya, Saunf, Yav Chhar and, Sauvarchal Lawan in varying proportions. These capsules are instrumental in balancing one’s Agni power, thus, producing a positive, cumulative effect on the human physiology.
Ayurvedic treatment for IBS is ancient and effective as using herbal extracts and dietary supplements they not only subsides the symptoms but also aids in the enhancement of health.