Constipation – An Ayurvedic Perspective

Ayurvedic Treatment for Constipation

There are some health problems which are lifestyle related. One of them is constipation and is caused due to wrong eating habits.

Most of the diseases in general originate from stomach and whatever we eat has a direct impact on our health but most of us don’t pay attention to what we eat. We are observing an increasing impact of Western culture in our day-to-day life, but the maximum impact is on our eating habits.

These days, most of us like to eat outside and there also, the maximum demand for fast-food like Pizza, Burger or French-fries along with cold drinks. Since, such foods are high on calories and they lack fiber, they become a reason for origin of many fatal diseases. In our country, Constipation is known as the mother of all diseases.
Today we will talk about constipation, why does it happen and how can you come out of this situation. This is a very difficult situation as it affects our entire routine life.

Q. Constipation is a very common problem nowadays, arising out of wrong eating habits, not sleeping during nights, or wrong lifestyle. These are just a few causes but how would you actually define constipation?

Constipation has become a very common problem these days and probably every second person is affected by it. Now… when would one say that now this problem has taken the form of a disease? Actually there is no such fixed criteria but in my opinion, if your frequency of passing stool has decreased by, say about 25%… in India, we practice the habit of passing the stool every day while in Europe they normally do the same, once in two days…..but 25% decrease in your frequency of passing stool can be an indication of your being a patient of constipation. Besides, if while passing stool, you have to strain 25% of the times (i.e. you have to exert pressure for passing stool) then also, you can be a patient of constipation. Again, if 25% of your stool is hard stool, it is an indication. Also, if you have 25% feeling that your stomach is not evacuated completely, then you could be a patient of constipation. Thus, in case of decreased frequency of passing stool, having hard stools, strained passing of stool or incomplete excretion of stool, one can consider himself a patient of constipation.

Q. We all know that constipation is considered a lifestyle disease. So, If we talk about our diet and lifestyle, then according to Ayurveda, what are the main reasons behind it?

There are two main direct causes of constipation…..first is, sluggishness of digestive power or agni bal and second is – increased air or vayu in your intestines due to any reason.

Q. Please tell us in detail as to what causes sluggishness in digestive power or agni and what is the reason of increase in vayu in our intestines?

As I observe, I generally find four types of erratic dietary habits. The first one is the quality of food that we consume today is not good as it is no more organic/natural and contains lot of chemicals instead. Second, the quantity is not requirement based…say..if we like food we eat more than what is required and if we don’t like it we don’t even eat the required amount. Third is the combination – today the combinations we use are worst and killing ones e.g. cold drinks with oily and spicy food like chhole –bhature, consumption of non-vegetarian food followed by milk. Fourth is timing – we eat as and when we get time. We should not forget that our body enzymes are secreted according to biological time…you feel hunger when a particular enzyme or acid is released, and if you don’t eat subsequently, the same acid damages gastric mucus membrane and makes you a patient of gastritis. There is a shloka in our shastra which means – due to inaction of agni, a person dies. As long as you have healthy agni, you will live healthy life. Disruption in agni makes you a victim of a disease and that’s why this agni is said to be the root of our body. If we don’t care about the root and harm it, then we can’t expect a green and prosperous tree. What I mean to say is that we should understand that agni is the root of our body and agni is the one which is being manipulated the most. There is one more relevant shloka which means that your longevity, complexion, strength, your health, your enthusiasm/zest, your anabolism/growth, your glow, your immunity all of them depend upon the agni. Even the basis of your soul is agni. What I mean to say is…why this carelessness for such an important thing. We actually need to improve our lifestyle. We need to discipline and organize the quality of food, quantity of food, combinations and timings of eating food. We should ensure not to disturb the root of our body and if we manage to keep it intact then forget about constipation, you will not get any disease for that matter.

Q. OK, this was about reasons of having constipation according to Ayurveda but on the other hand, if we talk about allopathic science then what does it say about the causes of constipation?

Allopathic science classifies its causes into two categories. The first category involves mechanical reasons i.e obstructive reason and the second category is of functional reasons. When we say obstructive reasons, we refer to condition of strictures. Sometimes anal strictures are formed, sometimes adhesions are formed( as seen in tuberculosis) and sometimes insusceptions are seen(a medical condition in which a part of the intestine has invaginated into another section of intestine and hence obstructive pathology is observed ). Sometimes the malignant tumors which are formed in cancer, also create obstruction and cause constipation. In case of Piles patients, sometime hemorrhoids enlarge to such an extent that they create obstruction and the patient is unable to pass the stool. This was about mechanical reasons.

Moving to functional reasons…these are also known as organic reasons. See, if someone doesn’t consume any fiber and generally his diet is quite refined, e.g. he consumes refined flour(like maida), eats no salads or fruits and takes no fiber at all , then there are good chances that he will have constipation. Sometimes , it is even age-related. You will notice that our elders (in later age) often complain about constipation. Here, both moral science and Ayurvedic science say that as the age progresses, there is increase in vayu. Increased vayu makes the stool hard by absorbing its mucus (mucus is responsible for lubrication) and this makes passing of stool very difficult. See what a natural explanation it is… increase of vayu with increasing age and absorption of mucus (of stool) by this increased vayu thus forming dry/hard stool…..this creates problem in passing stool. Further reasons could be weakening of intestinal muscles or weakening of any nerve in that region. There are some diseases like hyperthyroidism or disturbed calcium level in our body, disturb the movement of intestine or peristalsis. Thus there could be neurological reasons, muscular reasons. Parkinson disease (which is very commonly seen in old age) can give rise to condition of constipation. Hormonal reasons…If there is regular consumption of some drugs like opium, or regular consumption of steroids , then also the person can have constipation. So, we need to look at patient’s medical history, to ascertain that his constipation falls into which of the categories or what is the reason behind his condition.

Q. Constipation, in itself is a very painful condition and it is embarrassing too. Besides, there are many other problems also which are associated with it, e.g. as you mentioned piles, gas formation or acidity. If we talk about preventive measures, what does Ayurveda say about it?

You may say that constipation is an independent disease but as I believe, it’s a symptom of indigestion. So, if we talk about the basic principle, then disturbance in our agni or sluggishness in our digestion or increase in vayu in our body, all of these are its definite reasons. Thus anyone who prevents all of these three reasons and does not let his vayu get disturbed by being careful about his diet (all the four aspects i.e quality, quantity, combination and timings), will not disturb his agni and remain safe from constipation.