Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is really a constellation of symptoms. IBS involves a change in bowel habits including diarrhoea, constipation or both. In addition to these, IBS is characterised by bloating, cramps, gas, mucus in the stool, pain and some people feel an urgent and frequent need to go to the toilet. For some reason, young women tend to be much more susceptible to Irritable Bowel Syndrome than men.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is neither just an upset stomach nor is an episode of diarrhoea or constipation. It is a real medical condition. For some people symptoms are less but for some others, symptoms are so severe which affect their daily life, mood and self-confidence.
Ayurveda classifies irritable bowel syndrome under grahani rogas which indicates the pathological state of functioning and integrity of the intestinal tract, mainly the small intestine. According to ayurveda, grahani or duodenum is the seat of digestive fire or digestive enzymes which is responsible for digestion of food.
Food is retained here until completely digested and is then passed on to colon for final absorption and subsequent excretion. If the digestive fire is weak then food is not completely digested and is passed downstream in a semi digested form. As per ayurvedic principles, this leads to ama formation or toxin formation in the body. In this vicious cycle, people continue to have weak digestive fire and eat unwholesome food and thus the digestive fire gets vitiated and causes disease of grahani.
Weak agni (which is weak digestive fire) is not supportive for proper digestive function. The bowel may contract forcefully after eating causing severe cramps or spasm. Diarrhea may occur from hypermotility of the bowel. Normal constrictions of the bowel may decrease in frequency or become weaker, leading to constipation.
Agni or bio-fire in ayurveda
Appropriate digestive fire is very important in human constitution according to ayurveda. This bio-fire is responsible for life, colour, strength, health, enthusiasm, nutritive status, reflection of light on skin (skin colour) and immunity. Extinction of bio fire ultimately leads to death. Therefore digestive fire is considered as the root of sustenance or the most important sustaining factor of a living being. Hence digestive fire is to be protected by proper food and drinks.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome classifications
Ayurveda classifies Grahani or Irritable bowel syndromes based on the symptoms and doshas involved as follows:
- IBS dominated by Vata dosha or constipation dominant IBS
- IBS dominated by Pitha dosha or diarrhoea dominant IBS
- IBS dominated by Kapha dosha or diarrhoea with mucus dominant IBS
- IBS involving all three doshas which is a complex situation with symptoms of all the above three
Most important factor in IBS treatment is an ayurvedic body analysis or a dosha analysis of the individual. An Ayurveda practitioner analyses and studies history of illness, family history and personal history, examines constitution, dosha (vitiated humors) lab investigations including ultrasound and colonoscopy.
IBS Prognosis in Ayurveda
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is difficult to cure but definitely the prognosis is curable.
IBS Treatment in ayurveda
- Removing the ama (or toxins) and improving digestive fire is the initial step in IBS treatment. Ayurvedic medicine has to be chosen according to the specific doshas involved in its relativity.
- The next step is improving the immunity power and physical strength
- Treatments for diarrohea, constipation, bloating and cramp with herbal combinations having carminative and arresting qualities.
- Ayurvedic preparations to relieve stress, anxiety, spasm and excessive motility of intestine
- Rasayana for long term benefits
- Diet and lifestyle modification includes food habits and emotional factors that initiate the onset of disease.