Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) involves the change in the functioning of the digestive system (motility), and not per se involving any damage to the tissues of the digestive system. It is seen as an idiopathic gastrointestinal disorder, characterised by the presence of a mix of symptoms and signs that can include:
- Urgency of bowel movement
- Abdominal pain
- Increased gas
- Altered bowel habits
- Food intolerance(s)
- Mucus in the stool
- Weakness, and bloating (distention)
- Mucus in stool
It can often lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety, sleep disturbances, chronic pelvic pain, migraines. A link has also been shown between IBS and sufferers of fibromyalgia.
The severity of the condition varies from person to person. Some individuals are able to work through their symptoms and are able to go about their regular routine. Others find the symptoms are highly limiting to their daily lives and activities, including going to work or doing other important activities.
Often, stress is linked with the onset of symptoms, with symptoms improving when the stress is gone. Others may experience random IBS episodes that have no obvious triggers. Still others may have long periods of symptoms, alternated by long symptom-free periods. Infections and/or medications have also been linked as IBS triggers.
Common food triggers can include gas producing foods, lactose, alcohol, artificial sweeteners. However, food triggers can vary from person to person.
There are four types of IBS;
- IBS with constipation (IBS-C) with constipation
- IBS with diarrhoea (IBS-D) with diarrhoea
- Mixed IBS (IBS-M) alternates between constipation and diarrhoea
- Unsubtyped IBS (IBS-U) for people who don't fit into the above types
The condition is not life-threatening, and research suggest that it does not make one more likely to get other colon conditions (e.g. Ulcerative Collitus, Crohn's disease, or colon cancer). However, for sufferers of this condition, it can be a long-lasting problem that changes how one lives their life.
There are no specific medicines for IBS treatment. In certain cases, antispasmodics, antidiarrhoeals, antidepressants or antibiotics may be prescribed to alleviate the symptoms – depending on the type of IBS present.
Over the counter probiotics may also play a role in reducing symptoms of the condition. Stress management and counselling may also be advised, as are dietary changes to avoid common trigger foods. Additionally, a FODMAP diet may be recommended. Physiotherapy to work on the pelvic floor area, and stress relieving exercise may also be advised.
Ayurvedic Approach to IBS (Grahani):
In Ayurveda, IBS is seen as a change/altering in function of the duodenum/intestine leading to the bowel losing its control, and absorption of nutrients being weakened. This is due to the disruption of the digestive fire (Agni) due to causative factors which can include:
- The suppression of natural urges
- Irregular eating habits
- Skipping meals
- Eating foods with opposing qualities or eating incompatible foods
- Excessive eating / overeating
- Eating when not hungry
- Consumption of too many fluids or fluids that are too cold.
- Decreased immunity (Ojas)
- Excess stress
- Toxins accumulating in tissue blocking the circulation.
Ayurveda speaks of 4 different types of Grahani based on the Dosha involved:
Vataja Grahani Symptoms can include: Dry skin, hair and/or nails; a dry mouth or throat; constipation or constipation alternating with diarrhoea; abdominal distension, bloating, flatulence and/or excess wind; Feeling cold most of the time; A history of back/lower abdominal pain; Loss of weight; loss of sleep; anxiety, nervousness.
Pittaja Grahani Symptoms can include: Sweating, fever, feeling hot; Heartburn; belching, acid reflux; excessive thirst; irritability; a history of loss of temper; diarrhea; loose liquid stools.
Kaphaja Grahani symptoms can include: Difficulty in digestion; nausea; vomiting; loss of appetite; runny nose; heaviness in the body; lethargy; loss of movement/feeling stagnant; heavy, slimy or mucus stools.
Tridoshaja Grahani Symptoms can include: A combination of the above.
BENEFICIAL AYURVEDIC HERBS FOR IBS:
Vata Pitta Balancing: triphala, turmeric, coriander, fennel, aloe vera juice, cumin, guduchi, licorice, shatavari, punanarva, shankapushpi, jatamamsi, mandukaparni, musta
Vata Kapha Balancing: triphala, turmeric, coriander, fennel, aloe vera juice, cumin, guduchi, cardamom, cloves, ashwaganda, ginger, punanarva, shankapushpi, jatamamsi, mandukaparni, musta
Pitta Vata Balancing: triphala, turmeric, coriander, fennel, aloe vera juice, cumin, guduchi, licorice, shatavari, punanarva, shankapushpi, jatamamsi, mandukaparni, musta
Pitta Kapha Balancing: triphala, turmeric, coriander, fennel, aloe vera juice, cumin, guduchi, sandalwood, punanarva, shankapushpi, jatamamsi, mandukaparni, lodhra, musta
Kapha Vata Balancing: triphala, turmeric, coriander, fennel, aloe vera juice, cumin, guduchi, cardamom, cloves, ashwaganda, ginger, punanarva, shankapushpi, jatamamsi, mandukaparni, musta
Kapha Pitta Balancing: triphala, turmeric, coriander, fennel, aloe vera juice, cumin, guduchi, sandalwood, punanarva, shankapushpi, jatamamsi, mandukaparni, lodhra, musta
Traditional Ayurvedic Treatment(s) for IBS:
Ayurvedic treatment approach(es) are individualised and are fully dependant on a full consultation with an individual, the current imbalances, their age, strength, severity of the condition, and if other conditions are also present. Treatment approaches can include:
- Avoid causative factors
- Balance Jataragni, and digestion
- Strengthen duodenum/small intestine
- Remove Ama (toxins within the digestive tract and body)
- Balance doshic imbalances/blockages through diet/lifestyle/herbs
- Udvartana, abhyanga, swedana, shirodhara, shiroabhyanga bodywork therapies
- Intake of clean, wholefood, organic eating as much as possible
- Panchakarma detox therapies (where required)
- Establishing a healthy relationship to food, self-care and exercise
- Rasayana rejuvenation therapies
General Ayurvedic Nutritional Guidelines for IBS:
Ayurvedic nutritional approach(es) are individualised and are fully dependant on a full consultation with an individual. One should eat compatible foods, and in accordance to one's imbalances. Some additional general guidelines include:
- One should eat the foods that one does not react to, especially trigger foods, including gas producing foods.
- One should eat according to the digestive capacity, keeping meals light, cooked, warm moist and easy to digest. As a guide, eat to fill the stomach 1/3 with solid food, 1/3 with liquid and leaving 1/3 empty to allow room for digestive secretions in the stomach.
- One should eat at regular times/intervals. Avoid skipping meals.
- One should eat wholegrains and non-processed foods, be sure to use some ghee in cooking.
- Foods to avoid: Cold foods, raw foods, leftover foods (24 hours), frozen foods, cold water, processed and packaged foods, soft drinks and aerated beverages, high fat foods, greasy foods, extra salty foods.
- One should avoid overeating. Allow 6 hours between meals and snack 3 hours after a meal and eat only if hungry. If digestion is poor, then 4 light meals per day is advisable in place of three regular meals.
- Breakfast should be easy to digest, lunch the main meal, and dinner should be lighter than lunch.
- Buttermilk consumed after meals is advisable.
- Eat home cooked meals, preferably made on the same day as being prepared.
- Water should be drunk warm in the cooler months and room temperature in the summer months. Avoid chilled water.
- Use all of the five senses at mealtimes.
- Eat in a pleasant environment. Eat seated and try to avoid TV and electronic devices whilst eating.
- Eat slowly, eat with respect/reverence for what you are eating, chew thoroughly.
General Ayurvedic Lifestyle Guidelines for IBS:
Ayurvedic lifestyle approach(es) are individualised and are fully dependant on a full consultation with an individual. Some general guidelines include:
If you have any concerns about your health please be sure to consult an Ayurvedic Practitioner or your local health physician. See our Ayurvedic Practitioner Services and Consultation Page for more information.