Constipation can happen to everyone. It is estimated that 1 in every 7 adults have constipation. For a problem that no one likes talking about it’s a pretty common occurrence. Our bowel habits are an important indication of our health. Understanding what is considered as a good bowel health can help us preventing many conditions and minimise complications.
According to Ayurvedic principles, one should empty the bowels every morning. Some people may have second bowel movement later in the day as well. So, what is considered as a good elimination and what are the signs of proper evacuation. The stool should be formed and have a shape of soft banana, you shouldn’t seat on the toilet for a long time with the book, but rather have a quick and easy movement, the smell shouldn’t be offensive, and you should have a feeling of complete evacuation. Elimination should take place at fairly consistent times with the first movement occurring upon awakening. If you do not go to the toilet daily or have incomplete bowel movement, which prompts you to go to the toilet a few times, count that you have constipation.
When stool stays in the colon for longer than it should, there is fermentation, putrification, reabsorption of waste material back into your system, which gives rise to wind, bloatedness, headaches, irritability, anxiety, fear, insomnia, greyish complexion, joint pain, back pain and sluggishness. It also produces irritation to the delicate lining of the bowel, which either tries to get rid of the irritations quickly, resulting in loose stools, or puts a spastic clamp on the intestines, leading to constipation.
When the large and small intestines are toxic, the blood, which is a carier of nutrients and oxygen becomes toxic as well affecting every single organ in the body.
I think, we can all agree that there is nothing as important to our health as good bowel elimination. Being regular and following nature’s, and your own body’s rhythm, makes a huge difference in how you feel during the day.
Some of the causes which can lead to constipation
Foods which have got drying qualities ‘dry up’ the fluid of your intestine giving rise to ‘dry stool’ constipation. If your stool is dry, pebbly and hard try avoiding some of the following foods: spicy, hot foods, crackers, dry nuts, alcohol, heavy to digest meats and foods.
Lack of fibre is a major cause of constipation. Include fresh fruit and vegetables, oat bran, wheat bran, oatmeal and wholegrains.
Overeating or undereating. Overeating can lead to accumulation of ama (toxins), undereating may not provide enough pressure for poop to come out.
Strong emotions, overwork, too much stress, frustration, anger, worry, resentment, anxiety, overthinking, can all interfere with healthy bowel movement. Meditation can help with these issues. Apana Vata, which governs elimination and downward movement, has a direct link to Prana Vata, the sub dosha, which governs our thoughts. This connection explains how emotions can affect bowel movement, and why we feel relaxed after elimination.
Lack of exercise is another reason to blame! Keep moving to stimulate peristalsis. Exercise is great, but avoid overexertion.
Dehydration: drink 6-8 glasses of water a day alongside with the juices and teas you may drink.
Sluggish liver, spastic intestine. Vata excess can cause spasms in the colon. Learning how to relax deeply enough so that muscles remember how to let go is important. Relaxing, means to not put too much pressure on the puborectalis muscles and anal sphincter.
Do not sit on the chair for a long time in the morning. Sitting on the chair for a long time slows blood flow and develops muscle atrophy (numbness). Get up, exercise, walk in the room or outside.
Irregular habits of defecation. Visit the toilet in the morning within one hour of waking even if there is no urge. Concentrate your mind on having a bowel movement. Use the squatting like position, which opens up anal area directly. Put feet up 6 inches on footstool, which mimics squatting effect. Stretch your hands above your head, so that transverse colon can empty completely. And there is no doubt, you will be rewarded with faster, satisfying, healthier bowel movement,
Frequent use of purgatives. Using large amounts of laxatives to move cemented bowels will create dependency and disturb mucosal linings. Laxative overuse can cause damage to nerve and muscle function of colon. Taking laxatives is not a solution. Understand the causes and eliminate all the obstacles.
Before discussing any suggestions on how to improve bowel movement, it is important to understand that in order to truly eliminate the constipation, the first line of treatment must be a removal of the causes. Finding a local ayurvedic practitioner for some personal investigations and guidance will be advisable.
Ayurvedic Remedies for Constipation
Follow Vata pacifying diet and lifestyle, especially if your dominant dosha is Vata.
Say goodbye to junk, refined, lifeless, empty calorie foods, and say hello to freshly cooked, warm, mildly spiced meals, with an addition of some healthy fats and fibre.
Stay hydrated – drink warm water first thing in the morning and continue sipping warm water throughout the day. Warm water will help to flush the GI tract, remove obstructions and help in healthy, smooth elimination. Fluid softens and expands the fiber you're already eating, causing it to form bulk in your colon, which stimulates the urge have a bowel movement. Avoid drinking large quantity of liquids during meal or directly after the meal to avoid re-dilution of stomach juices.
Avoid cold or iced water or beverages.
Eat three main meals a day. Have your biggest meal at noon when agni (digestive fire) is strongest. Eat according to your body type or imbalance and don’t skip meals. Your dinner should be light and eaten before 6.30-7.00 pm.
Chew, chew and chew and focus on eating. Eat in a nice, settled environment, in a good atmosphere with friends or family.
Drink linseed water. Take 1 teaspoon of linseeds with one cup of boiled water, keep in the thermos for an hour and half and drink. You can prepare 2-3 cups of
Take 1 tsp of Triphala Churna mixed with ½ cup of warm water. Stir well and drink 15 minutes before bed, or as suggested by practitioner. Triphala Churna is tri-doshic by nature. It’s a combination of three dried fruits, Amalaki, Haritaki, Bibhitaki. All three herbs have a mild laxative properties and together are one of the most effective formulas for promoting healthy daily elimination without creating dependency (and therefore can be taken for longer than usual laxative, discuss with ayurvedic practitioner).
Enemas can be used if there is a bowel blockages and on advice of your practitioner.
Fresh air, walking, swimming, gardening and light exercises are also very helpful. It tones up your muscles hence cures the constipation.
Soaked prunes, apricots, raisins, pears are all excellent sources of fibre and can promote bowel movement. Note that prunes and apricots can cause wind in some individuals.
Boost friendly bacteria, Acidophilus, to the small intestine, which may have been destroyed by antibiotics, anti-inflammatories or other reasons.