Nutritionist & Certified Diabetes Educator Madhavi Karmokar Sharma, Founder of Informed Health.
The Gut Health Survey found that 22% of adult Indians suffer from constipation. Out of this, 13% are cases of extreme constipation. Further, around 6% of people have constipation associated with other co-existing medical conditions (Abott Gut Health).
Constipation is not a new heath concern, but a result of our modern lifestyle. This condition has only worsened in the current WFH scenario. Regular use of laxatives has begun to prove ineffective because the body gets used to them over a period of time and they show no benefits rather only add to the misery.
Ayurveda’s approach to constipation is more wholesome. It identifies the underlying cause of constipation as an imbalance of Vata dosha and suggests remedies to attend to the root cause. Vata means the aspects of air and space. It is usually described in terms of being cold, light, dry, rough, flowing, and spacious.
All bodily movements, including bowel movement are the domain of Vata dosh. It is responsible for excretory function while a vitalized vata is the reason for constipation. Apana is a form of vata dosha which helps the body in storing stool in the bowels till it is ready for excretion. It also functions in smooth stool excretion. When the functions of apana vayu are messed up, it leads to constipation.
As I shared earlier, the modern lifestyle adds to constipation. Scan your daily routine to see if you are making any of the mentioned mistakes that might be leading to constipation:
- Use of Processed and Ultra Processed Foods: Processed and packaged foods lack fibre. Lack of fibre is the leading cause of constipation.
- Inadequate Water intake: Dehydration is the number one cause of constipation. In addition to this, high intake of tea or coffee is the additional culprit. Tea and coffee are both diuretics. These further induce dehydration in the body.
- Irregular meal timings: Our gut is slave to a routine. If you have an inconsistent eating pattern, this could be doing the damage to you. Improper digestion leads to bloating, gas and constipation.
- Sedentary Lifestyle: Movement is essential not just for transport of nutrients but also for the elimination of waste products. Not exercising or staying inactive is also a cause of constipation.
- Eating cold or too much of raw foods: In the age where salads and raw smoothies are hailed for their health benefits, Ayurvedic approach tends to differ. According to Ayurveda, having cold food or beverages or having too much raw food leads to constipation as it causes a Vata imbalance in the body.
Lets me take you through some Ayurvedic remedies to improve constipation.
- Start & end your meals right: Ginger is widely used in Ayurveda to improve digestion. Starting your meal with ginger helps ignite digestive fire and secrete digestive enzymes. Ending the meal with fennel (saunf) helps improve digestion. Together they ensure that digestive system functions fine and prevents & heals constipation.
- Jaggery and ghee: Jaggery helps balance vata dosha, ghee further eases constipation. This can be used anytime of the day or post a meal for better digestion.
- Including soaked draksh or Fig: Soaked black raisins or a fig has a laxative effect on the body. This helps prevent and treat constipation. What more, these dry fruits are a source of healthy nutrients and are tasty too!
- Triphala: One the most trusted herbs, Triphala is known to reverse chronic constipation. Triphala has glycoside that has laxative properties and can ease constipation. You may have it with tea or use 1/4th teaspoon with warm water. However you must consult your doctor before taking this if you are on any medication for clinical conditions like heart, kidney liver or are on thyroid or diabetes medication.
- Milk & ghee: Having a tablespoon of ghee in half a cup of warm milk before sleep is an effective ayurvedic remedy for treating severe constipation.
Constipation is a lifestyle disorder. Embracing effective lifestyle modification is the key to preventing it. Ayurveda remedies mentioned herein will help ease the problem but constipation will persist if you don’t align your meal, activity and sleep with the natural rhythm of nature. Also, all mentioned remedies need to be practiced in close consultation with your health care practitioner if you are following a prescribed medication protocol for any health condition.