Irritable Bowel Syndrome
by Monica Yearwood
(IBS) Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a motility disorder of the small and large intestine, called “grahani” in ayurveda. Grahani is also the word for “small intestine” in Sanskrit. According to ayurveda, IBS is the result of a disturbance of one of pitta’s subdoshas, called “pachaka pitta.” It can also be caused by disturbed samana vayu or a combination of both. Pachaka is principally responsible for enzyme secretion and regulation of primary digestion. It resides in the stomach and small intestine. Samana vayu is responsible for blowing the fire of pachaka. If it becomes irregular, so too will our digestion.
IBS commonly begins after an infection, a medical procedure, or a serious life event. Some researchers theorize that IBS is the result of a disconnect between the brain and GI tract, but does not give reason why this disconnection occurred. IBS also commonly occurs with other diagnoses, most commonly anxiety disorders, Celiac disease, CFS, Fibromyalgia, parasitic infections, fructose malabsorption, lactose intolerance, and bile acid malabsorption.
Symptoms of IBS include vacillations between constipation and diarrhea with a tendency to be either constipation prevalent or diarrhea prevalent. Other symptoms include chronic pain, fatigue, mucus in the bowel, abdominal pain, bloating, and other lower GI symptoms. IBS is most commonly indicated in those with abnormal gut flora, derangements in serotonin and tryptophan metabolic pathways, and intolerances to certain carbohydrates and sugars.
Ayurvedic Treatment for IBS
Ayurvedically, management of IBS requires the identification of which doshas have been provoked, usually of a vata or tri-doshic nature. Kapha type IBS usually happens as result of infection or dysentery. If infection is suspected, vamana followed by antiparasitical herbs is indicated. Carminative herbs work to reduce gas and prevent bloating. Warming carminative herbs help to stimulate agni while stabilizing vata dosha.
- Identify and reduce potential food allergies.
- Fast, if possible, on vegetable soups and broths.
- Drink warm water with lemon frequently throughout the day.
- Engage in stress reduction, pranayama, and meditation.
- Take a probiotic
- Favor a simple, liquefied, and seasonal diet.
- Use digestive spices per IBS type.
Vata Prevalent IBS
Vata IBS is characterized by a predominance of vata imbalance that can manifest as anxiety, dry skin, bloating, distention, fear, insomnia, and lack of appetite. This type of IBS is usually constipation prevalent; however, since samana vayu is involved, there may be variations between constipation and diarrhea. Samana vayu (the vata subdosha) fans the flames of pachaka (a pitta subdosha) agni, responsible for one of the primary fires required for food assimilation. When pachaka is disturbed by samana vayu, it becomes variable like vata. This influence makes samana strong at times, and weak at other times. In response, pachaka’s flames grow tall at some moments, but weak and exhaustive at other moments. In vata grahani, regulation of pachaka pitta and samana vayu is needed for full recovery from IBS.
- Carminative herbs
- Heating diaphoretics
- Vata spiced water
- Abhyanga massage
- Vegetable soup fasts with small amounts of rice
- Vata digestive ghee
- Fresh buttermilk (if there is NO intolerance), one cup daily
Pitta Prevalent IBS
Pitta grahani is diarrhea prevalent. This type of IBS also involves pachaka pitta and samana vayu, with a predominance of diarrhea, heartburn, irritability, and feeling hot. Pitta type imbalances where excessive bacteria has spread to the liver and blood can manifest inflamed skin conditions, such as acne, rashes, fungal infections, angular cheilitis, Athlete’s foot, or ringworm.
- Cooling alteratives
- Cooling diaphoretics
- Pitta digestive ghee, one to three teaspoons daily
- Coriander Water (see recipes)
- Rose tea
- Fresh takra (buttermilk), one cup diluted with one-quarter cup water, daily
- Aloe vera juice, two tablespoons daily
Tri-Doshic Prevalent IBS
In tri-doshic grahani, the features of pitta and vata can be observed and possibly, kapha will be seen in mucus-ridden bowel movements, lethargy, and nausea. This is the most difficult to remedy. Panchakarma is indicated in cases of tri-doshic prevalent IBS. Adopting a hypoallergenic diet and introducing probiotics and anti-bacterial herbs can help reduce bacterial imbalances and restore digestive balances.
- Triphala, one-half to one teaspoon in warm water before bed
- Digest Tea (see recipes), four to six cups
- Reduce grains, beans, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables.
- Avoid high carbohydrates and excess sugars.
- Sipping ginger tea can burn excess bacteria of a kapha and vata nature in the stomach and lymph.
- Consume an anti-inflammatory diet for pitta.