Irritable Bowel Syndrome – An Ayurvedic Perspective
Ayurvedic Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Many a times we find ourselves to be very irritated and frustrated. There are some diseases which are put under the category of lifestyle diseases. One of such diseases is Irritable Bowel Syndrome which is known as IBS, in short.
Most of the diseases arise due to disturbance in digestive system because it has a direct influence on our health. One such disease is Irritable Bowel Syndrome and is referred to in short as IBS. The patient of IBS has to go through stomach ache, cramp, bloating, gas, pain and constipation.
So, a disturbed digestion, persistent stomach ache and constipation can be an indication of IBS syndrome. Let’s have a detailed discussion on IBS with our Ayurvedic health expert, Dr. Parmeshwar Arora. Welcome to our show Dr. Parmeshwar.
Q. What is the name given to Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS, in Ayiurveda?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be compared with ‘Sangrahni’ in Ayurveda. Though IBS is not exactly ‘Sangrahni’ but if we look at the similarities in their respective symptoms then they seem to be corresponding to each other.
Q. Why is it called ‘Sangrahni’?
If we take a look at the anatomy of our intestines then the intestine is believed to begin in the mouth and culminate at the anus. The portion of intestine between stomach and large intestine which can be called small intestine is referred to as ‘sangrahni’. There is an explanation in Ayurveda to understand why is it called grahni i.e. receiver. It says that this is the center of digestion i.e. most part of the digestion takes place in this portion of intestine as this is the part which receives the food and the digestion begins here. So, grahni is considered to be the most important part of the intestine according to Ayurveda and any form of deformity (whether structural or functional) caused into this results into poor digestion or indigestion. And such a type of disease is referred to as ‘Sangrahni’ in Ayurveda.
Q. What kind of changes in lifestyle can make us a victim of ‘Sangrahni’?
The most affected system of our body due to our poor diet and lifestyle is our digestive system. That’s why when we refer Shatra to find the reasons of ‘Sangrahni’, it says there are three diseases which are directly caused due to poor agni i.e. poor digestion. These three are : ‘Arsh’ i.e. Piles, ‘Atisaar’ i.e. diarrhea and ‘sangrahni’. These three disorders are such that if I have to name one single cause for them then it would be ‘mandagni’ i.e. poor digestion.
Q. Since it falls under the category of lifestyle disease, it is understood that a disturbance in lifestyle creates this problem. But besides lifestyle, I am sure there are various other things too which we tend to ignore and thus we become a victim of IBS once again?
Definitely! Sometimes we suffer from loose-motions or diarrhea but even after we get relief, for some period of time our digestion remains weak i.e. though we feel that we have recovered but yet we haven’t completely gained our digestive power. During this period if we again tend to eat unfavourable food or food which is difficult to digest then a functional or structural disorder is created in the grahni part of our intestine and we can become a victim of sangrahni. So pay attention as I have told you the primary reason which can make you a patient of sangrahni. When you have come out of diarrhea you still have a weak digestive power and during this period if you eat rich food items (which are difficult to digest) then you can fall a victim of ‘sangrahni’.
Q. If we talk about the symptoms of IBS or as you said, ‘sangrahni’ in Ayurveda, what kind of symptoms do they present?
We can divide the symptoms into two classes: 1) “Poorva Roop” or Initial symptoms 2) Symptoms when the disease gets settled
If we talk about the initial symptoms, then as referred in Shastra the patient feels quite thirsty and his mouth remains dry, he feels lethargic and lazy, he has loss of energy and strength, he doesn’t enjoy the food which he eats and instead feels burning sensation in heart or bloating, he is not able to digest the food or the food takes lot of time to get digested and there is persistent heaviness in the body. These are the initial symptoms which may indicate that you are started to become a victim of ‘sangrahni’. These are very basic symptoms but are sufficient to suggest that our digestive power or agni is not good or as desired and we have a probability of falling prey to ‘sangrahni’.
Q. As you said, these were the primary symptoms. But once the disease has begun and still the patient tends to ignore the symptoms thinking that it would resolve on its own after sometime then what kind of symptoms can ‘sangrahni’ present in progressive stage?
Again according to Shastra, the patient would have been passing stool with mucus i.e. ‘aanw’ and in terms of frequency, even if he passes stool several times a day he doesn’t feel empty and satisfied. It is very awkward situation for the doctor too as he has difficulty in deciding whether to prescribe medicines to control patient’s motions or to induce motions in him. The patient sometimes has watery stool and sometimes thick, dry sticky or hard stools which can have a foul smell too. He experiences lot of pain and cramps in stomach. So, there is an an urgency to pass stool as frequently as after every food intake but there is difficulty in passing stool or there is no stool passed after attempting.
This disease involves these kinds of discomforts with respect to bowel movements. It is quite a weird situation. There is one more peculiarity to this disease. During day time the patient would have an urge to pass stool several times but once he retires to bed at night he would have no such tendency and would have a normal sleep. This nature of the disease is termed as ‘Diva Prakop’ i.e. outbreak of daytime. It presents quite a typical feature. Normally when you suffer from diarrhea and you have to pass stool say 8 times in a day then the same tendency continues during night too. But here you might have to pass stool 10 times in a day but the moment you retire to sleep you have no such difficulty. This disease troubles you in daytime so this is a very unique symptom. That’s the reason when patient comes to us, we need to listen to him very carefully so that we can bring relief at the level of his symptoms. At the same time we focus at improving his agni or digestive power while attempting to culminate the disease. But no doubt, we get success. I would repeat, though with patience but when we follow the course of treatment, the success is achieved.
Q. Exactly if we want to get rid of the disease we would certainly need to follow the treatment well. In terms of treatment, what kind of home remedies can we use to get rid of IBS?
The root cause behind the occurrence of this disease is said to be poor digestive power or ‘agni heenata’. So any remedy which can revive the digestive power would be useful. Use of any such element which would increase the agni in the patient would help the patient of IBS in getting rid of his disease. So, our first treatment formula is increasing agni bal i.e digestive power. Our second focus is to get rid of the apakwa ras i.e. undigested juice (acting as a toxin) which has accumulated inside our body. If it is lying in the aamashay (stomach) or pakwashay (intestine) then we can remove it by method of virechan or vaman (i.e. panchkarma chikitsa). In case this toxin has spread throughout the body then we can use our deepan dravya (appetizer drugs) which are known to increase agni at the level of dhatwagni and bhootagni (i.e. metabolism at the level of tissues). We can use these deepan dravyas to get this toxin consumed inside the body. Apart from this, depending upon the specific symptoms of the patient, we make use of bael (or wood apple) and kutaja (called kurchi in english) . Bael is known to have a cooling and soothing effect on the intestines. It relieves the patient from the symptom of urgency of passing stool frequently. Takra which is a type of mattha (i.e. buttermilk) helps a lot in case of sangrahni. Takra is prepared by adding roasted jeera (i.e. cumin seeds) and kali mirch (i.e. black pepper corns) to mattha or buttermilk and it proves to be very beneficial to the patients of ‘sangrahni’. Apart from this, we have many medicines available for treatment of ‘sangrahni’.
Such patients, since they have to pass stool frequently, develop swelling in intestines. So to relieve the swelling in intestine, we give saunf ark i.e. liquid extracted from fennel seeds and makoi ark (i.e. a herbal extract prepared from makoi or back nightshade). Actually the selection of medicines is done depending upon the individual symptoms and severity of the disease. But let me tell you the basic intention lies in improving the agni bal i.e. digestive power, as the loss of agni bal is the main cause of this disease. If we just focus at symptomatic treatment then definitely the patient would get relief from the symptoms but the disease would not be eradicated. That’s why our main objective should be to strengthen the agni bal i.e. digestive power. We need to understand that agni is very important and we need to be very careful about it. It is not just about sangrahni. As it is mentioned in Shastra, agni is the root of our body and as the agni is revived we get our revival. We remain alive till the agni is maintained. Agni is responsible for strength, health, longevity and vital breath. Any irregularity in this agni makes us sick and ill. If you have a desire to remain healthy then with all your sincerity, you should protect the agni inside you.