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Ayurvedic Solutions for IBS: Take Control of Your Gut Health


medically reviewed by Dr Godmi Tresa

Dr. Bhavya

Updated on October 17, 2023

Are your bowel movements taking charge of your life? Has planning an outing become more challenging than ever? Have you been thinking twice before stepping out of your home?

You could be dealing with IBS - Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a prevalent gastrointestinal disease, often diagnosed when there are no other underlying causes for abdominal pain or discomfort with altered bowel habits. 
IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder that affects the way the muscles in the intestines contract, leading to abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhoea or constipation. 

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Vata, Pitta, and Kapha: The Three Keys to Managing IBS Symptoms

In Ayurveda, the traditional system of Indian medicine, it is believed that three doshas, or bio-energies, govern the physical and mental aspects of human health: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Each dosha is associated with different qualities and functions in the body.

According to Ayurveda, all diseases' root cause is improper digestive fire or gut health issues. Such issues result in an imbalance of the bio-energies in the body, including Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, which, in turn, manifest in the form of diseases. IBS is known as Grahani in Ayurveda. The digestive fire is vitiated in IBS, and all three doshas are vitiated with vata pitta predominance.

To completely cure IBS or any other disease, it is necessary to address the root cause by improving gut health. Failure to do so may result in chronic conditions that are difficult to treat.

Vata is associated with movement and creativity, and when imbalanced, it can lead to symptoms like constipation, gas, and bloating in IBS patients. 

Pitta is associated with digestion and metabolism, and when imbalanced, it can cause inflammation, heartburn, and diarrhoea in IBS patients. 

Kapha is associated with stability and structure, and when imbalanced, it can cause excessive mucus production and sluggish digestion in IBS patients.

IBS is caused by an imbalance in the digestive fire, or Agni, responsible for breaking down food and eliminating waste. When the Agni is weakened or imbalanced, it can lead to poor digestion and the accumulation of toxins in the digestive tract, further exacerbating IBS symptoms. 

Therefore, the Ayurvedic approach to treating IBS involves restoring balance to the doshas and strengthening the digestive fire through dietary changes, herbal remedies, and lifestyle modifications.

From Mind to Gut: How Your Lifestyle Affects IBS Symptoms

Stress, diet, and lifestyle can significantly develop and exacerbate Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Stress can trigger IBS symptoms or make them worse. Research has shown that stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, which can cause the muscles in the digestive tract to contract or spasm, leading to abdominal pain, diarrhoea, or constipation. 

Stress also affects the gut-brain axis, a bidirectional communication pathway between the gut and the brain, which can further exacerbate IBS symptoms. Studies showed that 42-61% of IBS patients have comorbid psychiatric diagnoses, especially depression and generalised anxiety disorder.

Diet is another crucial factor in the development of IBS. Certain foods and drinks, such as dairy, gluten, caffeine, and alcohol, can trigger IBS symptoms in some people. Additionally, eating large meals, eating too quickly, or skipping meals can all contribute to IBS symptoms. 

People with IBS may benefit from working with a dietitian to identify trigger foods and develop a personalised diet plan.

Lifestyle factors like lack of exercise and poor sleep can also contribute to IBS symptoms. Exercise helps regulate bowel function and can relieve stress, which can improve IBS symptoms. 

Sleeping well is vital because lack of sleep can worsen stress and trigger IBS symptoms.

Stress, diet, and lifestyle all play a role in developing and exacerbating IBS. Managing stress, following a healthy diet, and making lifestyle changes, such as exercise and adequate sleep, can help reduce the severity and frequency of IBS symptoms.

A Holistic Approach to IBS: Ayurveda vs Traditional Medicine

Traditional treatment can manage emergency conditions such as severe dehydration in the case of loose stool in IBS-D (IBS dominant of diarrhoea). It can handle highly complicated electrolyte imbalances and malabsorption syndrome.

However, the treatment fails to address the root cause of the problem and does not consider individualised treatment. Instead, the disease takes precedence over the person. For example, treating IBS-D with anti-diarrheal medication will not resolve the issue at the root. The same applies to IBS-C, where laxatives only provide temporary relief without addressing the underlying cause.

On the other hand, Ayurveda is a holistic science that considers the body, mind, and soul. Ayurvedic practitioners view the causes of IBS as improper food patterns, lifestyle changes, and mental health while considering an individual's body type, digestive fire type, and gut type. 

The treatment aims to balance the gut microbiome, improve the individual's overall health, and strengthen the body's immune system and overall health by enhancing Ojas. 

However, sudden changes in the body, such as severe dehydration, may be challenging to manage using Ayurvedic treatment. It is crucial to seek expert advice before pursuing this type of treatment, and if the root cause of the issue, such as improper Agni, is not addressed, the medicine may be ineffective.

Considering both traditional and Ayurvedic approaches to treating IBS is essential to find the right fit for each individual. While conventional treatments may help manage emergency conditions, they often fail to address the root cause of IBS and do not consider individualised treatment. On the other hand, Ayurvedic treatments, including therapies, take a holistic approach and evaluate an individual's body type, digestive fire type, gut type, lifestyle, diet, and mental health.

Finding the right fit for each individual involves identifying the underlying causes of IBS and determining which treatment or combination of approaches is most effective. 

Each person's body and circumstances are unique, and a personalised approach to treatment can yield the best results.

Traditional treatments may be most effective for some individuals, while Ayurvedic treatments may be more beneficial for others. It is essential to work with a healthcare professional who can provide guidance on the most appropriate treatment options and help determine the right fit for each individual. By considering both approaches and finding the right fit for each person, managing IBS symptoms effectively and improving overall health and well-being is possible.

Healing From the Inside Out: Ayurvedic Remedies for IBS

Firstly, the digestive fire must be controlled to treat indigestion, diarrhoea and constipation. Some remedies in Ayurveda can help balance the gut microbiome. 

  • Buttermilk can act as a probiotic and help balance the gut microbiota.
  • Curry leaves can be taken as a powdered spice with food articles to help balance the gut microbiota.
  • Berry leaf teas, made from blueberry, blackberry, or raspberry, are full of tannins and can reduce inflammation. They may also reduce symptoms of diarrhoea.
  • Chamomile can be taken as a tea, liquid, or capsule and can reduce spasms and soothe the gut.
  • Slippery elm can be used in powdered form and helps soothe heartburn and mild stomach discomfort. Additionally, the herb may relieve constipation in people with IBS-C.
  • Foods rich in fibre, like flax seeds, barley, lentils, and green leafy vegetables, can help a healthy gut microbiome develop and survive.
  • Ginger is a popular remedy for digestive discomfort in people with IBS.
  • Certain teas like green, herbal, and peppermint can be soothing for people with IBS, but keeping them weak is essential to avoid worsening symptoms.

An Ayurvedic diet for IBS involves incorporating foods that are easy to digest, reducing inflammation in the gut, and balancing the three doshas. Some general guidelines for an Ayurvedic diet for IBS include:

  • Eat warm, cooked foods rather than raw or cold foods.
  • Choose foods that are easy to digest, such as soups, stews, and casseroles.
  • Avoid processed foods and focus on whole, natural foods.
  • Incorporate digestive spices like ginger, cumin, and coriander.
  • Avoid foods that are difficult to digest, such as fried foods, processed meats, and heavy dairy products.
  • Drink warm fluids like ginger tea and avoid ice-cold beverages.
  • Eat at regular times and avoid skipping meals or overeating.
  • Incorporate healthy fats like ghee and coconut oil in moderation.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sugary beverages.
  • Listen to your body and adjust based on your unique needs and dosha balance.

By following an Ayurvedic diet for IBS, individuals may experience reduced symptoms and improved overall gut health.

Integrating Ayurvedic Remedies into Your Wellness Routine

Incorporating Ayurvedic remedies into a treatment plan for various conditions can be helpful. Here are some tips for doing so:

  • Consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner: An Ayurvedic practitioner can provide personalised guidance on the appropriate remedies, dosage, and frequency.
  • Identify your dosha: Understanding your dosha can help you select the most beneficial remedies for your body type.
  • Focus on a balanced diet: Ayurvedic remedies often involve changes to diet, so focus on incorporating a variety of whole foods that support gut health and digestion.
  • Incorporate daily practices: Daily practices, such as meditation, yoga, and self-massage, can support overall health and well-being.
  • Be patient: Ayurvedic remedies can take time to show results, so be patient and consistent.

Summing Up

To truly heal the gut and manage the symptoms of IBS, addressing all aspects of health - not just the physical symptoms is crucial. 

In Ayurveda, diet and lifestyle are emphasised, as these factors significantly impact the gut and the body's health. To incorporate Ayurvedic principles into daily life, focusing on a whole-body approach that considers the body, mind, and spirit is essential. 

This may involve incorporating stress-management techniques such as meditation or yoga, eating a diet rich in whole foods and avoiding processed foods, and incorporating Ayurvedic herbs and supplements to support gut health.

By taking a holistic approach to managing IBS, you can experience long-term relief and improved overall health.

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