I am continually amazed in to hear more and more people admitting they have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (a general “catch all term for bowel activity dysfunction) as well as the increasing amount of literature, research studies and discussion boards online relating to this topic.
Lately, through after delving or rather wading through hordes of information of the net (much of it conflicting), I realized that the answer for this and all other forms of stress-related (which includes imbalanced intestinal bacteria) disease is to found in science of Ayurveda as it is the most holistic, encompassing a big picture treatment of our bodies that takes into account our emotional states, how our food is prepared, the quality of our food, the quantity we eat in one sitting, the age of our food, sleep, awareness of our thoughts and feelings, and our breathing. It’s not just about the food pyramid although realize many of you have deduced that the FDA is definitely not the expert on health and is in no positoin to be recommending types and amounts of these foods Americans need to eat given the cross-conflict of interests with several of those on the FDA staff also having worked as lobyists or in a corporate capcity in major food companies.
In Ayurveda, we are assigned based on a test result, a basic dominant body type-either Kapha (slow digestion, bigger boned, naturally grounded, smooth skin and hair), Pitta (easily angered, fair complexion, tends to get ulcers/stomach acid problems if imbalanced, high metabolism), and VATA (generally of lighter build, lots of movement, can get cold hands/feet easily, more anxious). Some people are “Dual-Doshas” such as Kapha-Pitta, or Vatta-Pitta while even rarer, others are “Tri-Doshas”- Vata-Pitta-Kapha. I myself am a Tri-Dosha, with a tendency to exhibit all three imbalances spaced out in succession with each other if my life is out of alignment.
Those with IBS (Grahani disease- bowel and intestinal disturbances) according to the Ayurvedic approach, have VATA Dosha imbalance or a combination of VATA w/PITTA imbalance, although complex IBS can involve all three doshas. Generally, if your IBS is contipation prominent (IBS-D) then you have more of a VATA dosha imbalance, if it is diarrhea prominent, it is more of a PITTA dosha imbalance, and lastly, if it is involving both with borborygmus (gut sounds, rumblings, strange noises…) with sometime says of constipation followed by large movements, we have the complex IBS. Complex IBS is more chronic with more bowel activity during the day and less at night.
In order to correct a VATA dosha imbalance, it is important to make a few changes in your life. First off, changing the types of food you eat, how you cook them and when you eat them. It’s not enough to be eating what are called “healthy” foods as some of these foods are not in congruence with your constitution such as beans which are extremely hard to digest, but for someone with a VATA dosha imbalance, even more so and can result in constipation, excess gas (wind), gurgling noises, insomnia, increased anxiety, melacholony moods, and aching joints. Some foods have “warming” qualities while others have “cooling” properties. For a VATA dosha imbalance it is important to increase your intake of “warming foods” – ones that are warm, wet and sweet. When I say sweet I am not talking about refined sugar or sugar in general which can cause toxin (Ama in Ayurveda) accumulation and inflammation, but rather to eat natural sweet foods in stews or soups or other cooked from scratch forms such as sweet potatoes, squashes, ghee (clarified butter), ghee combined with wheat, basmatti rice or cooked oats, stewed dried fruits, and some meats (more fish and chicken).
It can be rather difficult sometimes though treating a mixed constitution such as Pitta-Vata or Vata-Pitta not to mention if you are a Tri-Dosha. The condition known as “Adrenal Fatigue” in Naturopathic Functional medicine seems to relate to a tri-dosha imbalance as well as acrual IBS (a mix of Kapha, Pitta, and Vata IBS imbalance symptoms). The treatment most highly recommended is a Panchakarma – a 3-5 day mind/body healing program that detoxifies, strengthens the immune system and restores balance. The price can be a bit hefty, but in the long run, giving yourself a Panchakarma treatment is a gift of self-love- the ultimate form of self-compassion for your body/mind/soul. Seek out a well-respect Ayurvedic Practitioner or Doctor to provide this treatment for you. At least for now, practice a form of self-massage (this is for everyone and all IBS sufferers) called Abhyanga – it’s a form of intimate self-care that helps to destress your body and mind.
You basically massage from your hair (if washing it)-scalp area down to your toes (there are some great articles in detail on this out there), leave it on for at least 1/2 hour and then shower. Or you can sleep and shower in the morning. If you are short for time, or maybe in between days, you can massage just your feet with warm coconut oil before bed and then hit the sack (you can wear socks to prevent stains, but in summer, not advisable).
There are many oils, some suited more for certain constitutional types (which a trained practitioner can help you identify along with your dosha imbalance), but coconut oil (melted to a warm temp) is suitable for all three doshas. More ways that relate to decreasing stress which is a known cause and contributor of IBS symtoms is to engage in a daily practice mediation, yoga stretches (for your imbalance and/or constitution), and journaling your thoughts and feelings as well as doing anything creative and fun that you enjoy.
PITTA type IBS is aggravated by eating too many spicy hot pungent foods. Follow a PITTA pacifying diet and lifestyle to address this type of IBS. You might find that you alternate between IBS-D (PITTA imbalance) and IBS-C (VATA imbalance)- which can be frustrating, but heartening if you are noticing this so you can switch your diet accordingly. It seems that you would do best though with a diet that balances PITTA and VATA which you can do by following the seasons with a PITTA balancing diet for the summer when it is most likely to be aggravated and a VATA balancing diet for the Fall when it is likely to also be aggravated.
Much more detailed information to follow on this soon…..(to be continued)