AYURVEDA PERSPECTIVE ON IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS)
Origins & Introduction
Whether 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 Digestion
Stress 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 & Symptoms
Symptoms may include:
Frequent or alternating diarrhea and constipation accompanied by pain
Abdominal distention, fullness, gas, bloating
Abdominal pain that comes & goes, occurs after meals, or is relieved by a bowel movement.
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.
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.
Do you notice butterflies or anxiety in your stomach when stressed?
Do you feel any tension in the muscles above the pubic bone?
Does your stomach feel comfortable and at ease?
Do you feel strong enough to honor your personal space and boundaries when threatened?
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.
Do you have a history of habitual change, or an experimental or alternative lifestlye?
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.
DISCLAIMER: The pathogenesis of each person's condition is unique, and so the diet must be fit to the individual and the unique root causes of the condition in your body.
The information on this page is for educational purposes only and should not be used to treat a medical condition. It is not a substitute for medical care.
Please check with your doctor before making any changes to your health and wellness routine.
FAVOR DIETS, LIFESTYLES & HERBS WITH THESE MEDICINAL EFFECTS
Everything you eat has an effect on your body, which Ayurveda categorizes in a simple and easy way, using biocharacteristics (gunas).
Biocharacteristics 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 biocharacteristics.
Individual results will vary, based on your body type and the root cause of your imbalance.
FOODS TO FAVOR
CONDITION IN YOUR BODY
ABOUT EASY BIOCHARACTERISTIC
Easy refers to anything easy to digest, or digests quickly.
IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS) IS IN STAGE OF DISEASE 3 - ATTACKING TISSUE
If you have symptoms in this category it means that your imbalances are becoming stronger and weakening your body's resistance.
Most people have a weakness in one or more organs.
These areas of weakness are the 'weak link in the chain.'
They are first to succumb when an imbalance reaches a tipping point.
Repairing imbalances in this category often represent your last opportunity to prevent disease.
At any moment, these imbalances could overwhelm weakened tissue and develop into a disease.
You may feel pain or discomfort in the weakened area.
At this stage you will need to support the weakened tissue with specialized foods and herbs for the weakened tissue.
AVOID DIETS, LIFESTYLES & HERBS THAT AGGRAVATE THESE EFFECTS
According to Ayurveda, one or more of the following
and biocharacteristics may aggravate 'Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)'.
If you have an excess of one of these doshas or biocharacteristics below, Ayurveda recommends reducing foods and lifestyle habits that aggravate them.
Click on the biocharacteristic to learn what foods and
lifestyle habits should be reduced.
Symptoms Tell A Story
The first step to healing is learning patterns from your symptoms.
Symptoms are clues that reveal underlying imbalances.
Symptoms show you where your body is weakened.
Ultimately, all disease has a root in tissues too weak to defend itself.
Ayurveda describes these patterns of weakness using doshas & biocharacteristics.
If you notice a biocharacteristic or dosha appears next to many of your symptoms,
it helps you establish a pattern that may be systemic.
The following symptoms & habits may be related to 'Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)'.
See your quiz results for a computerized assessment of your body type.
Please click on the symptoms below to learn more about them.
Risk Factor: 10% more often Complication: +0.8 times as often
Please login or create a free account to see research statistics filtered on Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Female.
Biocharacteristics of 9,239 People Reporting Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
On average the biocharacteristics
of people reporting Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) were more aggravated than 62% of other symptoms.
From the 9,239 people who reported Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in this research study of 74,671 individuals,
average deviation in biocharacteristic levels were the following:
Please login or create a free account to see research statistics filtered on Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Sweet.
9,650 have Sweet constitution
Risk Factors of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Below you will see general risk factors as well as the greatest risk factors, i.e. those who were also more likely to report Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Overall, 23.16% of people surveyed in this research study reported Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Please login or create a free account to see research statistics filtered on Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Sore eye muscles.
5.97% (2,328 cases)
DISCOVER YOUR BODY WITH YOUR FREE INDIVIDUALIZED BODY MAP
Find ideal foods, herbs and lifestyle tips.
See your imbalances, and locate intervention points.
Your body map contains a complete analysis of your Ayurvedic imbalances, organ by organ.
Give your chart to your functional medical doctor or any alternative health practitioner.
Ayurveda strengthens the body while opposing disorders. It takes a holistic,
systemic approach that looks at the whole body. Ayurveda
shows how to interpret signs and symptoms of imbalance, and how to address them
using diet, lifestyle adjustments, and herbs. It shows a person how to optimize their health on a continual basis. You can't
take the doctor home with you, but you can take Ayurveda home with you.
Ayurveda is the most advanced and easy to use home system for self healing.
HOW DOES AYURVEDA WORK?
Ayurveda starts by identifying your body type,
which identifies certain tendencies in your body to get sick (as well as identifying your strengths).
It uses body type to determine the likely root causes of your disorders.
Next, Ayurveda analyzes the nature of your disorder.
It fits all your signs and symptoms into a pattern, expressed as a combination of biocharaceristics (gunas).
For example, you may have a heat disorder, a cold disorder, or an oily disorder, etc.
This simple categorical approach shows you how to correct systemic imbalances and strengthen your body as a whole.
On Joyful Belly, we've created an extensive categorization of food so you can easily match food to your imbalanced biocharacteristics.
By eating an optimal diet that balances your biocharacteristics, 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
To get started on your Ayurvedic journey, we first recommend that your find your body
type by taking our free quiz. In Ayurveda, every solution is based on your unique body type, so
by taking this quiz, you’ll get the best results.
John Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a
healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda biocharacteristics.
His approach to Ayurveda is clinical, yet exudes an ease which many find enjoyable and insightful.
John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda,
offering professional clinical training in Ayurveda for over 15 years.
John's interest in Ayurveda and specialization in digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel,
as well as 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.
Outside of work, John enjoys spending time with his wife and 6 kids, and pursuing his love of theology, philosophy, and language.