IBS is described as a functional disorder of the small intestine, characterized by pain, discomfort and altered bowel habits. Irritable bowel syndrome is a relatively common digestive system disorder whose exact cause is still unknown in western medicine.
In Ayurveda, IBS is called grahani, which means retaining the ability of the small intestine or duodenum. If the function of these organs is altered or the bowel loses its control and its absorption is weakened, the condition is considered grahani.
Common causes of IBS
Ayurveda considers poor digestive fire (mandagni) and production of toxins (ama) as the main cause of IBS. From an ayurvedic perspective, IBS is linked to:
- excessive fasting or excessive food intake
- eating before the previous meal has been fully digested
- eating improper or unwholesome food
- continuous diarrhoea or food poisoning
- consumption of heavy, cold, dry, junk and polluted food
- suppression of natural urges
- irregular sleep habits (e.g. staying awake at night and sleeping during the day)
- grief, anger or fear
- chronic illness leading to weak digestion
- weakened immune system
- constant travel and change of places
Symptoms of IBS
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Weight loss
- Headache and tiredness
- Chronic constipation and/or diarrhoea
- Mucus and/or blood in stools
- Anxiety or depression
Complication of IBS
Untreated IBS may lead to complications such as:
- Skin disease
- Anaemia (low iron levels)
- Oedema (fluid retention)
- Anorectal disease (like haemorrhoids, fissure or fistula in anus)
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal tumour
Ayurvedic Management of IBS
Ayurvedic treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome involves alleviating aggravated body energies, restoring the function of the digestive system, and eliminating accumulated toxins. As stress is often a significant cause of the disorder, an important line of treatment consists of lifestyle guidance and herbs to nourish the mind and nervous system.
Identify and remove food intolerances.
Avoid an unwholesome diet including curd, alcohol, fermented beverages, junk food and gas-producing food such as eggplant, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
Restore the healthy balance of good bacteria and flora in the gut (ayurvedic butter milk is wonderful for this).
Attain a balanced mind by practising modalities that help you manage stress, for example yoga, meditation, tai chi, etc.
Sleep well. Get adequate quantity and quality of sleep.
Line of treatment in IBS
Ayurvedic treatment is conducted according to your body constitution. It is necessary to consult an experienced ayurvedic physician who can diagnose your mind/body type and customise a program for your particular health needs.
Ayurvedic detox (panchakarma)
Ayurveda believes it is best to treat the root cause rather than the symptoms of disease. A full ayurvedic detox (panchakarma) is necessary for ridding toxins from the body and re-establishing colon health. Panchakarma treatment for IBS emphasises medicated enema (vasti), which is a colon cleansing therapy. Ayurvedic enemas provide herbal cleansing and nourishment directly into the intestine and colon, without having to pass through the stomach and upper gastro-intestinal tract. With a therapeutic ayurvedic enema, a cleansing and healing message is sent directly to the colon.
Panchakarma for IBS will also include:
- Abhyanga (ayurvedic therapeutic massage)
- Shirodhara (warm oil treatment on forehead)
- Chakra basti (warm oil treatment around the naval and associated marma points)
Ayurvedic herbal treatment
Medicines for IBS should have following qualities:
Deepana – carminative property, to improve your digestive fire and reduce flatulence.
Pachana – to promote digestion
Sangrahi – intestinal restorative, which increases the absorption capacity of the intestines
Ayurvedic herbs recommended for IBS
- Kutaja- Holarrhena antidysenterica
- Bilva- Aegle marmelos
- Musta- Cyperus rotundus
- Dhataki- Woodfordia fruticosa
- Patha- Cissampelos pareira
- Lodhra- Symplocos racemosa
- Pushkaramoola-Inula racemosa
- Chavya- Piper chaba
- Daruharidra- Berberis aristata
- Shalmali- Shalmalia malabarica
Ayurvedic herbal preparations
- Vilwadi gulika
- Brahmi vati
- Chitrakadi vati
This article is intended for education and awareness. Ayurvedic treatment and advice is always personalised. We recommend you make an appointment with one of our experienced ayurvedic doctors in either of our clinics – Brisbane or the Gold Coast – to discuss a holistic treatment for your condition of irritable bowel syndrome.