Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is one of the most prevalent functional gastrointestinal disorders noted in the general population worldwide. Let’s look at IBS symptoms and Ayurvedic treatments and remedies for IBS.
This condition used to be known by other names like mucous colitis, spastic colon, spastic bowel, and irritable colon syndrome. Some forms of IBS have also been termed as spastic colon and idiopathic or nervous diarrhea in the past.1
IBS occurs more frequently in people under the age of 50.
Clinical Features And Symptoms Of IBS 1
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is characterized by symptoms like recurrent abdominal discomfort in association with alternating episodes of diarrhea and constipation or a combination of both.
This condition is also associated with mucous discharges along with the irregular bowel movements.
The following are the most commonly experienced IBS symptoms.
- Diarrhea that mostly occurs in the mornings.
- Urge to defecate after meals.
- Pain in the lower abdomen. Such pain often occurs in attacks and is usually relieved by defecation and is sometimes provoked by food.
- Bowel movement times are variable. Almost all patients notice ribbon-like stools with or without mucus.
- The sensation of incomplete emptying of the rectum.
- Abdominal distension, excessive flatus, dyspepsia, heartburn, increased urine frequency.
It is said that a combination of both physiological and psychosocial factors are usually responsible for IBS.
Physiological Factors That May Cause IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) 1
There is some evidence that IBS may be a serotoninergic (5-HT) disorder, as demonstrated by a relatively excessive release of 5-HT in diarrhea-predominant IBS (D-IBS) and relative deficiency with constipation-predominant IBS (C-IBS). 5-HT are receptors for serotonin.
Poorly coordinated signals between the brain and the intestines can cause the body to overreact to changes that normally occur in the digestive process, resulting in pain, diarrhea or constipation
Strong contractions of intestinal muscles that last longer than normal can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea. Weak intestinal contractions can slow food passage and lead to hard, dry stools.
Some of the probable causes for IBS include a host dietary factors like short-chain carbohydrates (lactose, fructose, and sorbitol, among others), collectively known as FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di- and monosaccharides, and polyols), gluten and food preservatives like salicylates or benzoates, can cause food intolerances.
Some of the probable causes for IBS include a host dietary factors like short-chain carbohydrates, gluten, and food preservatives
Such foods intolerances lead to classic IBS symptoms like bloating, pain, abdominal distention, feeling of heaviness, and altered bowel habits.
Lactose intolerance also very common which causes above symptoms especially manifest as gurgling sound and urge to defecate immediately after ingestion.
Alcohol is like poison to cells. Its initial contact with the lining of the bowel may cause some cellular damage. Damaged cells result in inadequate digestion, followed by diarrhea and IBS.
Coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate are all can cause IBS, as they stimulate muscular contractions and can sometimes even cause diarrhea.
Spices may also irritate the bowel. In some cases, it may be due to food allergies or food poisoning.
Diarrhea may also be a symptom of vitamin deficiency e.g. niacin, B-12 or folic acid.
The disorder has no definitive treatment but could be controlled by eliminating some exacerbating factors such as certain drugs, stressor conditions and changes in dietary habits.
Do’s And Don’ts For IBS Patients
Eat old rice, corn (gluten-free), jawa, quinova, muesli, gourd, coriander leaves, lentil, green grams soup, black pepper, dried ginger, wood apple, pomegranate, nutmeg, skimmed milk, buttermilk, hot water, rest, adequate sleep.
Avoid wheat, maize, barley, pigeon pea, pea, cowpea, gram, kidney bean, potato, chili, oily food, chicken, red meat, crabs, prawns, fish, leafy vegetables like sorrel, drum stick, carbonated and fermented drinks, daytime sleep, awakening at night, tension, suppression of urges before bed.
IBS in Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, there is a condition called grahani roga (duodenum disorder) and its symptoms very closely resemble those of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
Ayurveda says that this disease is due to the vitiation of agni (digestive fire/enzymes). It is understood that agni mandhya (low digestive fire) and manas (mind) are involved in this condition.2
Grahani is considered to be the seat of the body’s agni and is called so because it stores the food and releases after it gets digested. (grahani here is the duodenum)
However, when it is disturbed due to a weak digestive fire, it releases the ingested material as ama (undigested matter). Therefore, the disease is called grahani roga.
Ayurvedic Symptoms Of IBS
According to the renowned Ayurvedic scholar Charaka, grahani roga is a condition where bowel movements are irregular (diarrhea or constipation) without proper digestion.3
Another ancient Ayurvedic scholar Sushruta explained this condition as one having frequent evacuation of digested and undigested matter with irregular movements (diarrhea and constipation) with pain and a foul odor.
Causes Of Grahani Roga
Agni (digestive fire) can get disturbed with excessive fasting, eating while having indigestion, overeating, irregularly eating.
It can also be disturbed by eating unsuitable, heavy, cold, too rough and contaminated food.
Other causes can be emaciation due to some disease, inability to adapt to your environment, time, and season, wrong administration of medicines and suppression of natural urges.
Types Of Grahani Roga
Classical Ayurvedic literature mentions the following four types of grahani roga as per the associated symptoms.4
Ayurvedic Management Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Grahani Roga)
- Ayurveda recommends agnidipana (administration of appetizers and carminative herbs and spices for improving the digestive fire), langhana (fasting therapy), vatanulomana (Vata-pacifying), manonukulata (stress reliving and cognition-enhancing medicines).5
- Medicated ghee in small doses is good when agni is very low. Powdered formulations with carminative (digestion-improving) herbs and spices are recommended for the Ayurvedic management of IBS.
- Have takra (seasoned probiotic buttermilk). It will help in preventing unwanted bacterial flora in the intestine.
- Panchakola is a group of 5 herbs including Piper longum, the root of Piper longum, Piper retrofactum, Plumbago zeylanica, dry ginger added in cereal soup or radish soup are recommended for this condition.
- Powdered Ayurvedic formulations like asta churna, hinguvachadi churna, dipakyadi churna kindle the agni (digestive fire).
- Mustakaranjadi kashay, vilwadi gulika, dadimashtak churna, kalaskadi kwatha help with diarrhea and cramping pains.
- For constipation, formulations like kaidaryadi kashay, patupancakadi gulika, bhuktanjari gulika are found to be effective.
- Yoga poses like the child pose, thunderbolt pose, and tree pose can be helpful in calming the mind (since stress is a factor in IBS)
- The cobra pose, cat-cow pose, fish pose, forward bending pose, and rhythmic abdominal breathing (pranayama) improve the function of agni.
Relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga nidra are found to be useful for irritable bowel syndrome.
Home Remedies For Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- 10 g (about 0.3 oz) of fresh yogurt blended with 100 ml (3.3 fluid oz) of water can be taken during or right after lunch. (you can also season this buttermilk with carminative spices)
- 5 curry leaves with a pinch of turmeric and Himalayan salt boiled in a half-liter of water which can be sipped on frequently.
- Pomegranate juice, kiwi and raisin juice help in replenishing the micro vitamins and iron content which may be lost from the body.
- Instead of having whole fruits have fruit platters with many small pieces of different fruits.
- Try having steamed veggies instead of raw. Mix steamed vegetables with some olive oil, a pinch of salt, and seasoned with curry leaves instead of raw vegetables.
- Rice, corn, and quinoa can be used for those with gluten intolerance or on gluten-free diets.
- It is better to avoid leafy vegetables like spinach when the digestion is weak/disturbed.
- Herbal teas with either one or a combination of coriander, fennel, curry leaves, ginger, and lemon improve gut health.
- Try to have small meals frequently rather than large meals three times a day.
Other Ayurvedic ghrita (clarified butter) preparations found to be effective for this condition are the following.
- Indukanta ghrita
- Vidaryadi ghrita
- Mahatiktaka ghrita (may help with gut health and enteric nervous function)
Herbal Ayurvedic formulations including decoctions, powders, medicated ghee (another name for clarified butter), and fermented formulations are advised for this condition.
A well-monitored panchakarma session including vamana (medicated emetics), virechana( medicated purgation) oil and basti (decoction enema) according to the condition of the individual can be effective.
Please consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner before trying any of the remedies, herbs, or treatments for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) mentioned in this article.
- Davidson’s Principles and Practice of Medicine, 22nd Edition 3
- Sushruta, Dalhana, Sushruta Samhita, uttaratantra, 40/166, edited by Vaidya Jadavji Trikamji Acharya, Chaukhambha Orientalia, Varanasi, 2014; p. 709\
- Agnivesha, Charaka Samhita. Ayurveda Dipika Commentary of Chakrapanidatta. Edited by Vaidya Jadavaji Trikamji acarya; Cikitsasthana 15/5 1to 53. Varanasi: Chaukhamba Sanskrit Sansthana; 2016. p. 517.
- Same as reference 3, Cikitsasthana 15/58, p. 518.
- Same as reference 3, Cikitsasthana 15/196, p. 524.