Constipation can be much more than just slow bowel movements. As per Ayurveda, constipation is a signal of Vata imbalance and blockage of channels. A patient with depression or rheumatoid arthritis usually has constipation as associated symptom. A patient with migraine can also have constipation. Relieving constipation can contribute to relief in migraine and depression as well, in some cases.
Even though it is a simple discomfort, if it is not treated in time or if neglected, it may lead to a major problem. So there is immediate need to look into this health discomfort, seriously.
The real problem with constiptaion:
Some people opine that with constipation, the waste products are stuck inside the intestines. Due to those stuck waste products, there will be complications. In fact, the reason is much deeper than that. The large intestine is designed to store feces for a certain amount of time. So, holding it for some more amount of time is not a big task for it. The real problem is, lack of bowel movements for a long period of time sends wrong signals to liver, brain, immune system etc, leading to migraine and such other complications (as explained below)
Ayurvedic synonyms for constipation: Vibandha, Vishtabdhata, Malabaddhata, Baddhavarchas, Stabdha Pureeshata, Varcho Vibandha etc.
Dosha responsible for constipation: Apana Vata is responsible for the free flow/expulsion of stool. When the functions of Apana Vata are significantly affected, it results in constipation.
Causes for constipation – Vibandha
Intake of food possessing dry, light, rough qualities. Any food that causes dryness of mouth, lightness in the body and roughness in skin.
Excessive consumption of pungent, astringent and salt foods
Less intake of water
Working in strong sunlight, long walk, heavy travelling
Sitting at a same place for a very long time
Lack of sufficient fibers in diet
Neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease
Excessive use of antacids
Pregnancy – the fetus putting pressure on the intestines, causing lack of bowel movements
Intestinal obstruction – structural problems such as twisting of intestines (volvulus).
Pathology of constipation as per Ayurveda:
Due to the above said Vata imbalancing factors, Apana vata is aggravated and it is blocked in the lower part of the large intestine, which results in constipation. Depending on the grade of affliction, absolute constipation or hard stool are complained by the patients.
Complications of Constipation:
If the complaint is neglected for long and causative factors are further continued,
Fissure in ano,
Gaseous distention of abdomen, bloating,
fecolith – hard, stone like feces ,
Headache, liver disorders and various metabolic as well as intestinal diseases may be originated.
In few of the individuals back ache, reverse peristalsis etc also found.
Line of treatment in Constipation (Vibandha):
Mild oleation (Mridu snehana) –
Internal oleation – Abhyantara Snehana – administering 5 – 10 grams of ghee or medicated ghee such as Sukumara Ghrita
External oleation – oil massage with sesame oil / Maha Narayana oil
Laxatives-Sukha virechana and vatanulomana oushadha
use of Suppositories – Guda Varti
Tips for preventing constipation:
Include fibers in your diet. Lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, corn (bran), cauliflower, raisins, cabbage, berries, green leafy vegetables, celery, beans, guava, figs, flax seed, spinach, orange, mushroom.
Consider eating fruit and vegetable salad mix as part of your lunch or dinner.
Drink good amounts of water throughout the day. Note that, in a normal person, Ayurveda advises to drink water only when thirsty. But in a disease condition, such as constipation, one can have good amounts of water. Water along with fiber rich diet softens bowels and prevents constipation.
Avoid excess of coffee and tea. Some people will not get bowel movement urges unless they have their coffee or tea. This advice is not applicable to them.
Milk and dairy products: If you are feeling constipated, consider cutting down on milk and dairy products.
Exercise: Do not sit at a place for a long period of time. Consider walking / jogging for at least 15 minutes in a day
Do not hold the urge: As per Ayurveda, a natural urge is a signal to the person to act. It needs to be attended immediately. Regular holding of urge eventually will lead to constipation.
Avoid excessive spicy food, heavy non veg, and fried food.
Tips for treating constipation:
Drink two to four extra glasses of water a day (unless fluid restricted).
Try warm liquids, especially in the morning.
Drink a cup of warm water in the evening.
Consider getting an oil massage or do it yourself.
Treating the underlying cause:
In case of depression, apart from constipation, depression symptoms should also be treated.
In case of irritable bowel syndrome, where constipation is an associated symptoms in few cases, correction of digestion process should be given due importance.
In case of migraine, rheumatoid arthritis associated with constipation, the disease should also be given due attention in treatment.
Herbs useful in mild constipation:
Hareetaki -Chebulic myrobalan-Terminalia chebula
Draksha-Raisins-Dry grapes-Vitis vinifera
Patola- Trichosanthes dioica
Castor oil – Apart from constipation, castor oil in combination with other herbs is used in many diseases. For example: Castor oil with Haritaki is used in treating rheumatoid arthritis.
Herbs useful in sever constipation:
Danti- Baliospermum montanum
Ayurvedic Medicines for constipation:
Avipattikara choorna – A famous herbal powder mix, useful in gastritis, indigestion, urinary tract disorders, liver disorders, alcoholism
Abhayarishta – Useful in piles, hemorrhoids, relieves bloating, constipation. Improves digestion
Swadishta virechana choorna
Trivrit lehyam – Useful in constipation, diseases of heart. Also used in Virechana (Purgation treatment)
Triphala choorna – Useful in eye disorders, liver and spleen related disorders, a natural anti oxidant.
Dantyarishta – used in the treatment of hemorrhoids, constipation, gastric, intestine and spleen related diseases.
Drakshadi avaleha – used in jaundice, fatty liver changes, anemia
Icchabhedi rasa – Very powerful purgative. Used only in severe conditions
Ashwakanchuki rasa – used in the treatment of cold, cough, bronchitis, asthma, fever.
Gandharvahastadi kashaya – used in the Ayurvedic treatment of Vata imbalance, bloating, constipation, lack of taste in food.
Anthrakutharam Gulika – Ayurvedic tablet used in bloating, constipation and such other abdominal conditions.
Sukha Virechana Vati – Also used in Panchakarma treatment
Pancha Sakara Churna – Famous medicine in North India, also useful in indigestion
Naracha Rasa – used in treatment of ascites and constipation.
Kayam Churna – a proprietary Ayurvedic medicine
Erandabhrista hareetaki – Haritaki powder is fried in castor oil and is administered.
Padavaladi gana kashaya
Rectal suppository – Phala varti
Simple remedies for Constipation:
Soak 10-15 raisins in water in the morning and consume it at night.
1 teaspoon of cow’s ghee should be dissolved in one cup (150ml) of warm water. In non- diabetic patients, 1 spoon of sugar candy can also be added (in non diabetic patients) and taken during bed time. This is highly effective against mild constipation.
Those who pass the bowel like pencil (hard) or like pellets, Gulkhand is administered during night time along with milk.
The fruit pulp of Aragwadha is taken (10grams) along with water or milk. This helps to relieve even chronic kind of constipation.
The tender leaves of Castor (Eranda) (2-4) are taken and ground into fine paste. To this pulp of Aloe vera is added. Consumption of this helps people, who frequently suffer from constipation.
Regular use of aloe vera pulp in diet prevents hard bowels.
Yogasanas for constipation:
Pavana Muktasana, Uttana Padasana, and other Asanas and exercises that put pressure on abdomen are very useful in the treatment.
Medicines that cause constipation:
Allopathic antidepressants such as amitriptyline and imipramine, anti convulsants such as phenytoin, carbamazepine, Iron supplements, Antacids with aluminium may cause constipation.
Ayurvedic medicines containing Guggulu and Sallaki as ingredients may contribute to constipation. In such patients, usually Triphala Churna is adminsitered to nullify the side effect.
Caution for laxatives:
Overuse of laxatives for a long period of time eventually worsens constipation. Hence, when you are prescribed a medicine for constipation, be proactive to change your lifestyle and diet habits, as explained above, so as to prevent dependency on medications.
Article by Dr MS Krishnamurthy and Dr Hebbar