An Ayurvedic Take On Constipation: The 5 F's

An Ayurvedic Take On Constipation: The 5 F's
Constipation. It's not something that we like to talk about typically. Unless, of course, you happen to find yourself in the world of Ayurveda, in which case elimination is a frequent topic of conversation. Why? Because digestion is at the center of Ayurveda's understanding of health and wellness, and elimination gives us a very good gauge as to the quality of digestion.

Ayurvedic Digestive Supplements
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What Is Constipation? 
According to Allopathic (Western) Medicine, the definition of constipation is an adult who has not had a bowel movement in three days or a child who has not had a bowel movement in four days. In Ayurveda we refine that definition considerably and look for at least a daily bowel movement, preferably shortly after waking, as a sign of healthy digestion and elimination. This bowel movement should also come easily, without straining, and be well formed, not too hard and dry and not too loose and liquid.

Regularity ... 
Regularity is important, as a daily bowel movement ensures that wastes and toxins that the body has worked hard to prepare for removal from the body, are actually removed. Waste (as feces) that stagnate in the colon mean that these toxins can be reabsorbed by the mucous membrane lining of the colon, as well as block mineral and water absorption, which is one of the main functions of the colon.

How To Relieve Constipation Naturally

This type of regularity might seem like a stretch for some, but Ayurveda offers many supports to help you arrive at and keep regularity. J. Kashyapa Fisher of the Ayurvedic Institute offers a nice short-hand for these tools, the 5 F's.

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The 5 F's of Regular Elimination

1. Fluid
The easiest and often most effective way to increase elimination is to make sure there's enough water coming in to keep the gastrointestinal tract hydrated. We are a chronically dehydrated society, and many of us could see a plethora of benefits by simply increasing the water (not soda, tea, coffee, kombucha, or other liquids, but WATER) we intake daily. If the mucous membrane of the GI Tract is dehydrated it will make for a dry, rough, and sticky passage for any waste material. I have had many clients start to have a daily bowel movement simply by increasing their water intake.

2. Fiber
It's true, we need fiber to assist peristalsis in the Gastro-Intestinal tract. While 'fiber' might lead you to think of a fiber supplement, we're primarily talking about whole foods here. Fiber comes exclusively from plant-based foods, meaning whole grains, vegetable, and fruits. Upping the amount of plants in your diet, and thus your fiber, is a wonderful way to support proper elimination.

3. Fire
Fire here refers to agni, the Ayurvedic view of metabolic fire. Agni is your power of digestion and transformation, not only of physical food substances, but of thoughts, feelings, and experiences. A balanced metabolic fire will mean that we fully digest our food, keeping that which nourishes us, and eliminating that which does not serve us. A weak fire will mean that we have a hard time fully digesting our food, and the undigested food-stuff that remains putrefies in the GI tract, creating a mucoid plaque that Ayurveda calls āma. Working Ayurvedically to balance agni is a step not only to overall health, but to healthy elimination.

4. Fat
Western medical thinking has finally caught up to Ayurveda's understanding of the benefit of adequate amounts of healthy fats. In Ayurveda we view fat as the second component of hydration after water. If you're taking in enough water, but lacking fats, you'll still be dry. As we already discussed, a dry GI tract will have a hard time smoothly moving waste through. Dry, rough, or pellet-like stools are all signs that you're lacking hydration in the system, and bringing in enough fat is an important component in balanced hydration.

5. Fitness
Our bodily systems were made to be supported by regular movement. Everything functions better when there is enough movement to keep the body from stagnating. Digestion and elimination are no different here. Regular movement like yoga asana, walking, swimming, and tai chi will assist circulation; help tone the musculature of the body, including the muscles of the GI tract (how did you think it moved food through?). If your daily routine has you stationary or seated for a good portion of it be strategic with planning some daily movement. A pre or post lunchtime walk, a few rounds of Sun Salutation in the morning, or other whole body exercise will help to keep digestion and elimination moving.

Schedule
Not an F, but the final "s" in the 5 F's is schedule. The more regularity you create for yourself, the more the body will respond by being regular. Our brains are wired with a circadian rhythm, and while we can certainly disrupt it, we'll be healthiest and usually happiest when we play by the rules of the diurnal clock. By establishing regular times for sleeping, eating, and eliminating we're allowing the body to partner with us in establishing a rhythm. Often just establishing a regular elimination time in which you spend some time seated on the toilet, relaxing, and breathing is enough to cue the body that it has permission to eliminate.

Put it into practice
Ayurveda is a science with a wealth of tools for optimizing digestion and elimination, all based on your unique constitutional balance. As you explore the 5 F's, try making one adjustment at a time so you can really observe the changes that take place. You might want to journal daily the shifts you're making and how they are affecting your digestion, elimination, energy level, sleep, etc. Using Ayurveda is a beautiful way to find more balance in the physical body, making us better able to be present for our work in the world. May these teachings be of benefit.

About The Author

Kara Aubin
Kara Aubin was called to the path of yoga in 1998, and has been a dedicated student and practitioner since. A lifelong lover of movement, she was drawn in by the intention and pranic wisdom of yogic movement, and the profound and challenging nature of yogic stillness. As a ParaYoga Certified teacher and NAMA Certified Ayurvedic Health Counselor based in Kalamazoo, MI and Albuquerque, NM she weaves the teachings of yoga and Ayurveda into group classes, private sessions, workshops, and retreats. Her mission is to guide students toward their bright inherent potential, as well as their right to radical wellness and balance.

Want an Ayurvedic consultation with Kara Aubin? 
Contact her at Kara Aubin


How To Manage IBS Naturally

 

How To Manage IBS Naturally
For many people, the symptoms of IBS are so severe that they can’t even leave their home or have to plan their day-to-day activities around trips to the bathroom. There are nearly 60 million Americans who have disabling symptoms of IBS such as bloating, cramps, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain only to have it dismissed as a “functional” or “psychosomatic” disease; disease caused by the mind. According to Ayurveda, the symptoms of IBS resemble most of what was described many thousand of years ago - a condition called “grahani”. “Grahani” is considered the seat of digestive enzymes [“Agni”] and if impaired, can lead to altered intestinal motility. The predominant symptoms of IBS are alternating diarrhea and constipation accompanied by abdominal cramps and is often referred to as “irritable” or “spastic colon”.

"Food As Medicine."

The Root Cause - Diet & Lifestyle
In conventional medicine, the cause of IBS is essentially unknown. According to Ayurveda, “grahani” or IBS is likely caused by a number of lifestyle factors such as improper diet, improper food-combining, stress, drinking too much fluid [especially during meals], or even suppressing natural urges. Ayurveda describes three doshas called vata, pitta, and kapha and we can think of these three doshas as the guiding principles that keep all our bodily functions balanced. However, due to imbalances caused by the above mentioned lifestyle factors [i.e. improper diet, stress, etc.] this can can affect the secretion of digestive enzymes and impair the digestive function [“Agni”]. Eventually, the by-products of impaired digestion form into toxins [“ama”] which then damages the lining of the intestines. The result is a decrease of intestinal transit time which can cause early evacuation of bowel contents [i.e. diarrhea] alternating with constipation, which is influenced by apana vata. Therefore, management of IBS is often centered around creating balance of vata dosha with emphasis on diet and lifestyle considerations.

Spice Selections To Improve Digestion
Ready-to-use spice mixtures satisfy the six ayurvedic tastes considered essential for balance. Organic Calming Vata Churna is a blend of seven ingredients, including cumin, ginger and fenugreek.

Organic Vata Calming Tea
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How To Treat IBS Naturally - Dr. Josh Axe

4 Steps to Treat IBS - By Dr. Josh Axe 
1) What foods to stay away from if you have IBS • Gluten- This inflammatory protein in grain can cause IBS. I suggest at the start of treatment to stay away from ALL grain products (especially wheat.) After about 3-9 months you can start to try adding in some sprouted or sourdough grains. • Casein or conventional dairy products- Kefir or fermented dairy can be helpful but regular dairy can be very destructive for IBS. • Hydrogenated Oils • Raw foods- salads & raw foods can damage the gut if you have IBS so it’s best to eat only cooked foods • Cold foods- Ice water, Ice cream & cold foods are hard on digestive system • Processed or refined/packaged foods

2) Top healing foods for IBS (consume foods that nourish the colon and spleen) • White immune boosting foods ⁃ Cauliflower, Garlic and Onions- Cooked onions and garlic can kill off bad bacteria in the gut • Squashes ⁃ Butternut, Acorn and Spaghetti Squashes are nursing to spleen and colon • Bone Broth- #1 superfood to consume to heal IBS ⁃ Bone Broth soup contains amino acid to help repair and heal in intestinal lining ⁃ A perfect meal would be a crockpot with organic meat, bones/broth, and vegetables such as squash and celery.

3) Quality Supplements • Live Probiotic Supplements • L-Glutamin- amino acid that protects & nourishes gut lining • Frankincense Essential Oil- reduces inflammation • Digestive Enzymes- take at meal to help break down food so it is easier to digest

4) Focus on reducing stress • Schedule 3 things daily ⁃ Long walk in nature ⁃ Read a spiritual growth book, meditate or pray ⁃ Wind down with a detox bath at night ⁃ 1 cup epsom salt and 20 drops oil (Lavendar) and soak away.

Stress Free Emotions
For natural resistance to emotional stress and fatigue; promotes emotional balance, positive feelings, and feelings of fulfillment. Emotional balance = strong mind & body

 

“Gut Health”
In order to be healthy, the microbial ecosystem in the gut must be healthy. If the gut flora becomes imbalanced this can become the root cause of many of the symptoms centered around IBS. For example, the gut flora promotes optimal digestive function, provides a robust immune response, regulates metabolism and even compromises more than 75% of our immune system. It’s extraordinary that the teachings of Ayurveda have stated much of these important functions many thousands of years ago. Of great importance is the consideration of bacterial overgrowth. In fact, JAMA - The Journal of the American Medical Association has acknowledged bacterial overgrowth as being a real syndrome which seems to correlate well with IBS.

Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus)
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Herbal Di-Gest
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Ginger
Holistic digestive aid. It is a useful digestive aid; helps to maintain good digestion and balanced gas production

Factors which can disrupt normal gut flora:
– antibiotics and other medications
– diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods
– diets low in fermentable fibers
– chronic stress
– chronic infections

 

An Ayurvedic Perspective
The basic approach to improving IBS from an Ayurvedic perspective is centered around pacifying and reducing this quality of vata. Vata is often characterized as being dry, rough, cold and mobile. Therefore a simple approach in helping to pacify vata is simply to eat fewer raw vegetables and eating meals which are grounding and generally warm, soft, and easy to digest.

“Yep, that’s right. Fewer vegetables. Vegetables (as well as some fruits) are often high in insoluble fiber. While soluble fiber can be soothing for the gut, consuming large amounts of insoluble fiber when your gut is inflamed is a little bit like rubbing a wire brush against an open wound. Ouch.” – Chris Kresser; “Gut Health”

10 Golden Rules For Healthy Eating

Common Causes Of Ama:
The main cause for the formation of ‘ama‘ or undigested food material is impaired digestive function. Therefore, factors which impair digestion and increase the formation of  ama include:

– overeating and consuming cold substances
–  irregular eating habits
– overconsumption of raw food
– eating heavy and fried food
– incompatible food combining
– eating with extreme emotions [i.e. anxiety, stress]
– sleeping before food is properly digested

 

Takra [Buttermilk] - The Divine Healing Digestive Drink
Takra or buttermilk, is a liquid preparation prepared by continuously churning yogurt in water. This preparation increases your digestive power and is often used in many health conditions. Takra is considered beneficial for many G.I. conditions such as IBD and Crohn’s disease as well as poor digestion, hemorrhoids, tumors, edema, diarrhea, anemia, urinary diseases and many other health-related conditions.

“He who uses takra daily does not suffer from diseases, and diseases cured by takra do not recur; just as amrita [divine nectar] is for the gods, takra is to humans.” – Bhavaprakasha Chpt 6.7

ENEMA:
According to the teachings of Ayurveda, the seat of vata dosha is in the colon and the therapy of choice is a rectal enema [i.e. “basti”]. This procedure should only be performed under the guidance and supervision of a qualified ayurvedic professional after having discussed the risk/benefits/alternatives with your primary care physician. Ayurveda recommends introducing 1/2 to 1 cup of sesame oil into the rectum and retain the oil for approximately 5 minutes. This is thought to help pacify vata and helps to nourish and support optimal gastrointestinal function.

 

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.