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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that affects the intestinal motility and manifests in the form of diarrhoea and constipation. Those with IBS are typically unable to digest their food well, which leads to frequent passing of formed or loose stools with a foul odour.

In Ayurveda, IBS is denoted as grahiniroga. The term grahani came into existence from the word grahana (holding) which refers to the holding up of food and avoiding its downward movement for the digestion process to be completed at all stages. In case of an imbalance or derangement of grahini, undigested food keeps on being released for expulsion in short-intervals, leading to symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation and stomach pain. People with IBS also experience depression, flatulence, aversion to sexual intercourse, mouth and throat dryness, ringing in the ears and other common symptoms. Certain food substances, fluctuations in hormone levels, stress or other health conditions can be triggers for grahaniroga.

Ayurvedic herbs like shunthi (dried ginger) and chitraka (leadwort) are used to treat grahani. Ayurvedic formulations of shankha vati, jatiphaladi churna and panchamruta parpati are helpful in treating grahani. Therapies such as virechana (purgation) are effective in treating diarrhoea and dysentery in people with IBS. People diagnosed with IBS should consume wholesome, fresh and organic foods. They should eat foods at specific time intervals, in proper quantities and try to avoid stress.

  1. Ayurvedic view of irritable bowel syndrome
  2. Ayurvedic treatment for irritable bowel syndrome
  3. Ayurvedic herbs and medicines for irritable bowel syndrome
  4. Dietary and lifestyle changes for irritable bowel syndrome patient as per ayurveda
  5. How effective are ayurvedic medicines and treatments for irritable bowel syndrome
  6. Side effects and risks of ayurvedic medicine and treatments for irritable bowel syndrome
  7. Takeaway
Doctors for Ayurvedic medicine, treatment and remedies for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

When the digestive power weakens due to the vitiation of doshas in the body, the body is unable to hold the food until the completion of digestion; thereby, releasing undigested food. The partly digested food travels either downwards or upwards. When it travels in the downward direction, it leads to grahani gada (malfunctioning of the small intestine or duodenum), which is a major symptom of grahani.

People who have recently recovered from diarrhoea or those with a weak digestive fire (agni) are at a greater risk of IBS, especially if they consume unwholesome food and follow an irregular diet regimen. Some people may experience grahani due to vitiation in any of the tridoshas (three doshas) individually or collectively. Depending on the dosha involved, grahini is classified as:

  • Vataja grahani: It is caused due to aggravation of vata. Excessive fasting, consuming unctuous and cold foods, suppressing natural urges, eating bitter and pungent foods, walking for a long time and excessive sexual intercourse are some of the triggers for vataja grahini.
  • Kaphaja grahani: An aggravated kapha is responsible for this type of IBS. Consuming cold foods, excessive intake of heavy and greasy foods, overeating and sleeping immediately after eating may be the causative factors for kaphaja grahini.
  • Pittaja grahani: The cause is aggravated pitta due to consuming alkaline, pungent, sour and heavy foods.

Certain foods like cauliflower, alcoholic beverages, milk, fruits, cabbage and chocolates and health conditions like stress, gastroenteritis, diarrhoea due to infection and bacterial overgrowth act as triggers for grahani. Fluctuations in hormone levels also trigger IBS, which is why women are more prone to IBS as compared to men.

  • Nidana parivarjana
    • According to Ayurveda, nidana parivarjana is the first line of treatment for most diseases. This therapy aims at avoiding the causes of disease. It has the dual benefits of putting a stop to the progression of and preventing relapse of the disease.
    • Anashana (eating in insufficient quantities), vatika annapana (vata-aggravating diet) langhana (fasting) and ruksha annapana sevana (eating dry foods) are some of the common nidanas (causes) of a disease.
    • Kostha viruddhahara (foods that are not suitable to the gut) is the major cause of grahani. Such foods cause vitiation of the agni.
    • Viruddha cheshta (performing erratic mental or physical activities) affect the normal functioning of the body, which leads to the vitiation of agni.
  • Vamana (medical emesis)
    • Vamana therapy is used to cleanse the body and draw out mucus and ama (toxins) from the body.
    • Vamana is used to treat many conditions including allergies, sinus diseases, uvulitis, fevers, obesity, diabetes mellitus, psoriasis, arthritis and abscesses. The herbs used for vamana also treat indigestion and gastroenteritis.
    • This therapy helps remove the excess/vitiated kapha in the body. Therefore, it is useful in treating IBS caused due to aggravated kapha.
    • Vamana is specifically beneficial in people with IBS having diarrhoea. Herbs with bitter properties are usually taken after undergoing vamana therapy.
  • Virechana
    • Virechana helps eliminate excess pitta from the body, which makes it useful for treating IBS caused due to vitiated pitta.
    • The bitter herbs used for virechana, e.g., senna, help with constipation, diarrhoea, excess bile, dysentery and toxic blood conditions.
    • Virechana is chosen as the first line of treatment for people with IBS who have dysentery.
    • Samsarjana (appropriate diet) is recommended for 7 days after virechana. People with IBS who have undergone virechana are given herbs that have a sour and spicy taste.
  • Rasayana
    • Rasayanas are rejuvenating herbs and formulations that aim at improving the overall health, immune system and longevity of a person.
    • Rasayanas enhance the function of endocrine and neurological systems of the body, and also improves memory and thinking skills.
    • The herbs used in this therapy mainly target the brain as it influences all other body systems. Medhya or brain tonics like brahmi (waterhyssop) and ashwagandha (Indian ginseng) are most commonly used for rasayana therapy.

Ayurvedic herbs for irritable bowel syndrome

  • Haritaki (chebulic myrobalan)
    • Haritaki acts on the excretory, nervous and digestive systems. It has rejuvenating, tonic, anthelmintic and nervine (relieves stress) properties.
    • It is useful in treating many health conditions including jaundice, urinary diseases, tumours, ulcerated gums and indigestion.
    • It acts as a blood purifier and a laxative.
    • Haritaki clears excess vata from the bowel. When given in triphala (a combination of amalaki [Indian gooseberry], vibhitaki [belleric myrobalan], and haritaki) churna, it acts as a great tonic for clearing out ama from the bowel. It also helps provide relief from chronic constipation and IBS.
    • You can take haritaki in the form of a churna, capsules or as per your physician’s direction.
  • Ashwagandha
    • Ashwagandha is known as the best brain-boosting tonic in Ayurveda. It improves memory, sleep, skin conditions and energy.
    • Ashwagandha pacifies the excess vata. Therefore, it is useful in treating IBS caused due to vitiated vata.
    • Ashwagandha helps relieve constipation in people with IBS.
    • You can take ashwagandha in the form of a decoction, powder with or without ghrita (clarified butter), asava/arishta (herbal wines) or as per your physician’s direction.
  • Musta (nutgrass)
    • Musta acts on the digestive and circulatory systems. It has carminative (relieves flatulance), astringent (constricts body tissues), anthelmintic, antifungal and stimulant properties.
    • Musta promotes memory and improves mood. It is useful in treating indigestion, gastritis, dysentery and convulsions.
    • It improves absorption in the intestinal tissues and stops diarrhoea. Therefore, it is used in people who have diarrhoea with IBS.
    • You can take musta in the form of a powder, decoction or as per your physician’s direction.
  • Chitraka
    • Chitraka acts as a stimulant and a caustic agent. It has antiseptic and anti-parasitic properties.
    • Chitraka improves digestion and provides relief from diarrhoea, indigestion, and gas. Therefore, it is beneficial for people with IBS.
    • It also helps treat sprue, piles, joint pain and abscess.
    • You can take chitraka in the form of a tincture, paste, pill, powder or as per your physician’s direction.
  • Shunthi
    • As per Ayurveda, shunthi is known to be useful in the treatment of several diseases. It is used to treat spasms, stomach pain, indigestion, bowel pain and asthma.
    • Shunthi acts on the pachaka agni, the agni which is responsible for digesting food. Its carminative and digestive properties make it useful for improving bowel movements and digestion, thereby, helping manage IBS.
    • Shunthi also helps gets rid of the excess kapha in the body.
    • You can take shunthi in the form of a powder, fresh juice, pill, decoction or paste.

Ayurvedic medicines for irritable bowel syndrome

  • Panchamruta parpati
    • Panchamruta parpati is a herbal formulation that is made of parad (mercury), gandhak (pure brimstone), tamra bhasma (calcined preparation of copper), loha bhasma (calcined preparation of iron) and other ingredients.
    • This medicine is used to treat grahani and rajyakshama (tuberculosis).
    • This medicine has antispasmodic and antacid properties, which make it useful in the treatment of IBS.
    • You can take panchamruta parpati with honey, water or as per your physician’s direction.
  • Dashamooladi ghrita
    • Dashamooladi ghrita is a herbal formulation that is prepared using dashamoola (10 roots) decoction and ghrita.
    • The carminative and nutritive properties of this formulation make it useful in the treatment of grahani.
    • You can take dashamooladi ghrita with warm water or as per your physician’s direction.
  • Shankha vati
    • Shankha vati (tablet) is an Ayurvedic formulation made of chincha kshara (alkaline preparation of the fruit bark of tamarind), snuhi kshara (alkaline preparation of the Indian spurge tree), shankha bhasma (calcined preparation of conch), hingu (asafoetida) and other herbal ingredients mixed with vehicles or diluents like the juices of nirgundi (five-leaved chaste tree), ginger and lemon.
    • Shankha vati has antispasmodic and digestive properties, which make it effective in the treatment of grahani.
    • You can take shankha vati with warm water or as per your physician’s direction.
  • Chitrakadi vati
    • Chitrakadi vati is a combination of pippalimoola (long pepper root), trikatu (a combination of the three acrids – pippali [long pepper], shunthi [dried ginger]) and maricha [pepper]), hingu, ajamoda (caraway) and other ingredients mixed with vehicles or diluents like lemon juice or ginger juice.
    • Chitrakadi vati is specifically useful for treating vataja grahani.
    • This medicine has carminative properties and provides relief from enterotoxins.
    • You can take chitrakadi vati with warm water or as per your physician’s direction.
  • Jatiphaladi churna
    • Jatiphaladi churna is a herbal formulation made of jatiphala (nutmeg), ela (cardamom), pippali, amalaki, lavanga (clove), chandana (sandalwood), haritaki, shunthi, maricha and other herbs.
    • Jatiphaladi churna is effective in the treatment of atisara and grahani.
    • The herbs used in this formulation have antacid properties, which makes it an excellent choice of medicine for people with IBS.
    • You can take jatiphaladi churna with warm water or as per your physician’s direction.

As treatments vary according to numerous factors and an individual’s prakriti (constitution), consult a qualified Ayurvedic doctor for the appropriate medications and treatments for your specific complaints.

Do’s

  • Undergo mind and body therapy including relaxation training to manage stress and hypnosis, and antidepressant medications to treat bowel motility, improve nerve response and address emotional stress.
  • Eat a fibre-rich diet.
  • Identify and get rid of food intolerances.

Don’ts

  • Do not take stress.
  • Do not eat unctuous, cold, contaminated and heavy foods.
  • Do not suppress natural urges.
  • Do not eat foods that reduce or weaken the digestive fire.

A study was conducted among 35 patients diagnosed with IBS to assess the efficacy of vamana therapy. One group was given Ayurvedic medication along with vamana therapy for 2 months. The second group was given only the medication without therapy. The group who underwent vamana therapy along with Ayurvedic medications showed significant improvements as compared to the other group.

Vamana should not be performed in weak and thin people. It is also contraindicated in case of pregnancy.

As virechana therapy weakens the digestive fire, it is not used in people who have an aggravated vata dosha. It should also be avoided in people who have had recent fevers and have poor digestion.

People who have excess congestion should not take ashwagandha.

Pregnant women should not use chitraka as this herb can potentially cause an abortion.

Conventional treatments for IBS have their limitations due to side effects like drowsiness or blurred vision. Herbal remedies are effective in improving bowel movements and digestion and providing strength to the body without exhibiting the side effects of conventional medicines. Psychological methods like cognitive behavioural therapy and yogasanas have shown tremendous positive effects in patients with IBS. These methods help reduce stress, which is a major cause of IBS. Following appropriate dietary guidelines along with the Ayurvedic remedies helps improve the overall health and quality of life.

Dr. Ravikant Sharma

Dr. Ravikant Sharma

Ayurveda
5 Years of Experience

Dr.Roomy

Dr.Roomy

Ayurveda
1 Years of Experience

Dr. Man Singh

Dr. Man Singh

Ayurveda
3 Years of Experience

Dr. Poonam Kalia

Dr. Poonam Kalia

Ayurveda
14 Years of Experience

References

  1. American Gastroenterological Association. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Bethesda; [Internet]
  2. Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences. Diseases. National Institute of Indian Medical Heritage; Hyderabad
  3. Swami Sada Shiva Tirtha. The Ayurveda Encyclopedia. The Authoritative Guide to Ayurvedic Medicine; [Internet]
  4. Lakshmi Chandra Mishra. Scientific Basis for Ayurvedic Therapies. U.S. Government; [Internet]
  5. Government of Chhattisgarh. Standard Treatment Guidelines for Medical Officers. Department of Health & Family Welfare; Chhattisgarh
  6. KLE Ayurveda Hospital and Medical Research Centre. Kayachikitsa. Karnataka; [Internet]
  7. Ministry of AYUSH Portal, Govt. of India. CLINICAL EVALUATION OF EFFECTS OF VAMANA KARMA AND CHARAKOKTA PALASHADI PANIYA AND YAVAGU ON SHLAISHMIKA GRAHANI ROGA. [Internet]
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