IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS)
WHAT DOES IT MEAN? WHAT'S CAUSING IT? WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Are you prone to a problem with 'Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)'?
Origins & IntroductionWhether due to past trauma, digestive disorders, or habitual lifestlye of change, some people have never experienced true 'comfort' in their gut. Anxiety, from an Ayurvedic perspective, attacks the gut and digestion primarily, which you may experience as tension, nausea, a burning sensation, or simply butterflies in the belly. Chronic discomfort and tension in the abdomen has a psychological effect as well. It significantly hampers our ability to listen to gut feelings and use our gut for discernment. If chronic anxiety lodges in the intestines, it may cause IBS. IBS is called "grahani dosha" in Ayurveda and "Liver Invading the Spleen" in Chinese Medicine.
IBS is a functional disorder of the digestive tract. Usually, diagnostic testing of organs fails to uncover structural problems, inflammation, or infection. IBS is not the same as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. IBS causes pain, discomfort, loss of confidence, and potential loss of weight. In addition to pain and discomfort, individuals with severe IBS may withdraw from social situations where a bathroom is inaccessible. Women are affected three times more than men, with the average age of onset being between 20 and 40. There are two main types of IBS in western medicine: diarrhea pre-dominant and constipation pre-dominant.
Physical Effects of Stress on DigestionStress causes activation of the Sympathetic "flight or fight" nervous system and deactives the parasympathetic "rest and digest" nervous system. Effectively, stress shuts down circulation to the digestive organs, and increases muscle tension in the abdominal area.
Signs & SymptomsSymptoms may include:
Types of IBS
Parasites, giardia, infections, dysentery and any severe digestive upset can weaken your gut. Without a special diet to help your gut recover from these upsets, gas, bloating, and low grade inflammation may persist even years after the infection has resolved. Ayurveda offers special tools to determine a diet, uniquely tailored to your body, that will help your gut recover from withering pathogenic attacks.
There are two ways that emotional trauma leads to IBS. Emotional trauma may cause 1) unconscious tension in the lower abdomen or 2) a burning sensation above the belly button. Many IBS individuals report a lower tolerance for emotional tension and stress. The lower tolerance level for emotionally challenging situations may have both a physical and spiritual component.
Tension in Lower Abdomen
It's important to honor gut feelings before making a decision. The "uh-oh" gut feeling we experience whenever we're about to make a risky decision actually affects circulation to your digestive organs. Butterflies in the stomach naturally cause tightening of surrounding musculature, including those muscles attached to the pelvic floor, literally cramping and constricting space for digestion. Relaxation of these muscles will bring a greater sense of calm and ease to the gut area. Ayurveda places great emphasis on stress and anxiety management. Yoga, breathing techniques, prayer, and meditation all help to restore calm.
Burning Above Belly Button
A burning sensation above the belly button correlates to diarrhea pre-dominant IBS. In addition to diarrhea, other common symptoms include pain, bloating, urgency, and urinary incontinence. This condition is called "Pitta Grahani" in Ayurveda and "Liver Invading the Spleen" in Chinese medicine. Tension in the solar plexus area may cause food to move too rapidly out of the stomach. Lack of coordination with the pancreas and pancreatic insufficiency may lead to an inability to neutralize stomach acids, causing irritation and burning in the upper GI. There may be an excess release of bile from the liver. The pre-dominant emotions leading to diarrhea pre-dominant IBS are shame, envy, and anger.
Peristalsis is the rhythmic contractions of intestinal muscles that propels food through the GI. In IBS, these muscles lose their coordination and spasm, leading to a painful condition commonly referred to as colic and spastic colon. Pain may be continuous or come in bouts. It may pulsate. Pain is often relieved after a bowel movement. Since eating triggers peristalsis, after eating there may be an increase in bloating, gas and nausea.
In Ayurveda, Vata governs all motility. Uncoordinated movement is a sign of Vata disturbance. Intestinal muscles may lose coordination when there is a buildup of toxins, anxiety and tension, an electrolyte imbalance, inflammation or irritation somewhere in the intestine, or too much gas. Loose stools with painful colic is called 'Excess Cold in the Spleen' in Chinese medicine, possibly signifying a systemic Yang deficiency.
Vata dosha tends to enjoy experimenting and the inspiration that comes from change, even to the point of ignoring gut feelings. This kind of openness is no doubt expansive mentally but may be too challenging for the body to keep up. As much as the mind craves freedom, the body prefers structure and routine. However unexciting this may feel at first, routine ultimately leads to contentment and satisfaction. The first and most vulnerable organs are the GI tract and the lungs because they are in direct contact with our environment and diet. To summarize, digestive disorders often arise from changes in routine, leaving home, crossing our own boundaries and experimental lifestyles. It may be that some knowledge makes us feel aware and spiritually enlightened, but actually leaves us too open and vulnerable. Many digestive conditions are associated with the need to re-establish identity and boundaries.
Irritable bowel syndrome is generally a sign of high Vata in the bowels, but there are numerous types. Avoid foods that irritate the digestive tract or lifestyle choices that overstimulate the nervous system. Yoga poses that relax the lower belly will help you process emotional traumas. Yoga poses that realign the hips and lower spine can help relax the nervous system in the area. Notice any physical pain in the pelvic area.
When Kapha dosha attacks digestion to symptoms of nausea or heaviness. Wheat, dairy, oily, and rich foods aggravate this condition. In Pitta type, chronic inflammation anywhere in the body, anemia and infection can weaken the digestive fire.
Disclaimer: 'Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)' could be serious and should be checked by a medical doctor.
REBALANCE YOUR BODY WITH DIET, LIFESTYLE & HERBS HAVING THESE QUALITIESEverything you eat has an effect on your body, which Ayurveda categorizes in a simple and easy way, using gunas. Gunas are qualities (like cold and hot) that describe the effect a food or herb has on your body. Cooling foods like cucumber, decrease metabolism. Heating foods like chili pepper, stimulate your body and increase metabolism. For 'Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)', you should select foods with the following qualities (gunas). Individual results will vary, based on your body type and the root cause of your imbalance. For best results, get a one on one consultation.
QUALITIES THAT USUALLY CORRECT IMBALANCES
|GUNA||FOODS TO FAVOR||CONDITION IN YOUR BODY|
|EASY INGREDIENTS EASY RECIPES||
Status UnknownTake these quizzes to find out if you need to increase Easy to digest foods
To learn more about the symbols above, click on them.
Symptoms Tell A StoryThe first step to healing is learning patterns from your symptoms. Symptoms are clues that reveal underlying imbalances, showing you where your body is weak. Specifically, they reveal the doshas & qualities that may have become aggravated. If you notice a quality or dosha appears next to many of your symptoms, it helps you establish a pattern that may be systemic.
|GUNA||DO YOU HAVE THIS IMBALANCE?|
Status UnknownTake these quizzes to find out if you have an imbalance of 'Dry' guna
Status UnknownTake these quizzes to find out if you need to decrease Difficult to digest foods
To learn more about the symbols above, click on them.
On Joyful Belly, we've created an extensive categorization of food in relation to qualities (gunas). By eating an optimal diet that balances your gunas, your whole body is strengthened and the conditions that created the disorder are removed. Once the root causes of the disease are removed, the disease lessens in strength or disappears altogether. Additional remedies - such as herbs and lifestyle practices - focused on the specific disorder, can greatly enhance your healing.
About the AuthorJohn Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda. His approach to Ayurveda exudes a certain ease, which many find enjoyable and insightful. His online course Balance Your Ayurvedic Diet in a Week provides tools for gracefully healing with Ayurveda to thousands. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda , which specializes in digestive tract pathology & Ayurvedic nutrition. John and his wife Natalie recently published Explore Your Hunger: A Guide to Hunger, Appetite & Food.
John's interest in Ayurveda and digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, including his public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well.