What is Constipation?
Almost everyone suffers from the accumulation of toxins in the colon, evidenced by a coating at the back of the tongue. According to Ayurveda, normal and healthy colon function is indicated by lack of tongue coating (except for a normal thin white coating). One should have an easy bowel movement the first thing in the morning. The stool should float (if it sinks it indicates Ama, poor digestion and the accumulation of toxins).
Toxins in the colon and constipation, however, cannot always be simply treated with purgatives. These can weaken the tone of the colon and breed dependency. Their action on the system is strong and often traumatic; it can unbalance other organ functioning and, particularly, aggravate Vata, the biological air humor. Symptoms of excessive use of purgatives include lack of appetite, excessive weight loss, insomnia, diarrhea or continued constipation, palpitations, anxiety and vertigo or feeling faint.
The main cause of constipation on a physical level is dietary — eating food that is difficult to digest. It may also occur as the complication of a fever or infectious disease. Other factors include sleeping late in the morning, or not heeding the urge to go. Life-style of getting up quickly and rushing off to work tends to block the natural urge towards elimination. Sex in the morning causes apana, the downward moving air, to be weakened and can aggravate the condition. Coffee or tea in the morning may promote constipation, as they tend to be diuretic (drying).
Mental factors include insomnia, nervousness, stress, worry, grief and fear, as well as any excess stimulation of the nervous system (too much television). Medical factors such as being bedridden or taking too many drugs or medications (particularly diuretics) can come into play.
What is the general treatment?
According to Ayurveda, the digestion must improve with the right use of spices; the Agni or digestive fire must be normalized. Laxatives that tonify the colon or Improve colon function are safer and often preferable to short-term quick purgatives.
Mild laxative such as Isabgol is better for use often. Castor oil is also good for more severe constipation and is not as drying to the colon as these bitter purgatives. Fever, thick tongue coating, severe bloating, gas or abdominal pain evidences acute constipation. It usually indicates Ama, toxemia or some kind of food poisoning (which may be caused by bad food combinations). Hence, fasting or light diet should also be followed. Care should be taken, however, if the pain is in the lower right abdomen. This can indicate appendicitis, in which case purgatives, though sometimes helpful, can be quite dangerous.
For chronic constipation diet should be addressed first, with adequate intake of oily or bulk foods. These include dairy, nuts, whole grains, bran, raw fruit and raw vegetables. Many fruit juices are good — prune, grape, cherry, but not so much apple or cranberry, which can cause constipation. More oils or fats may be needed in the diet. Sesame oil is excellent, as is Olive oil.
In terms of life-style, it is important to arise at dawn (Vata time and colon time) and to empty the bowels. Often a glass of water or herbal tea will help stimulate peristalsis. Yoga postures or a mild massage of the lower abdomen are helpful.
Squatting rather than sitting on the toilet, is a more natural position for elimination and helps relieve blockages or spasms in the intestines that may inhibit normal evacuation.
A good breakfast, particularly of oily or laxative food, such as oatmeal with milk or ghee, may bring about normal evacuation if it has not occurred by that point. Or taking prune or grape juices may do the job. Cold food, like cold cereals, may block normal elimination.
Take ample fruits, fruit juices, salads, leafy and green vegetables. Whole grain bread can be taken. Unpolished rice can be taken moderately.
Fried foods and beans should be avoided. Vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli are not good. Nuts and dry fruits should also be avoided.
It is very much necessary to from a habit of evacuating early morning. Regular physical exercise is also important for having clear bowels. One should try to have relaxed mind, free from anxiety, stress etc.
Constipation is a condition that can cause the person suffering from it a lot of trauma. Although constipation can be a sign of a bigger problem like we explained in our previous post, if your medical check up has cleared you of any serious conditions, you could use simple home remedies to relieve the discomfort. Here are a few of them that can work wonders:
1. Triphala powder or Triphala Churna, consists of three fruits - Amla or Indian gooseberry, Haritaki (Chebulic Myrobalan) and Vibhitaki(Bellirica Myrobalan). It is a great laxative and helps to regulate digestion and bowel movements.
2. Raisins (kishmish) are packed with fiber and act as great natural laxatives. Soak a handful in water overnight and have them first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
3. Guavas (amrood or peru) have soluble fibre in the pulp and insoluble fiber content in the seeds.
4. Lemon (Nimbu) juice is recommended by most Ayurvedic practitioners as a quick and simple remedy for constipation.
5. Figs (Anjeer), either dried or ripe, are packed with fiber and act as a great natural laxative. For relief from constipation, boil a few figs in a glass of milk, drink this mixture at night before bed.
6. Flax seeds (Alsi) are known for their fiber content, and can very well help you when it comes to constipation.
7. Castor oil (Arandi ka tel) has been used for centuries as a sure shot remedy for constipation and has properties that can kill intestinal worms.
8. Spinach (Palak) have properties that cleanse, rebuild and renew the intestinal tract.
9. Oranges are not only a great source of Vitamin C but also have a large amount of fiber content .
10. Seed mixtures with 2-3 sunflower seeds, a few flax seeds, til or sesame seeds and almonds ground together to a fine powder can help relieve constipation.
Diet tips to avoid constipation:
In order to avoid and cure constipation, it is essential that you maintain healthy food habits. Here are a few changes you could make in your diet to cure constipation:
Avoid foods that contain white flour like maida, white sugar and other processed foods.
Eat light regular meals, and make sure you eat at least 3-4 hours before you go to bed. Regular meals not only keep constipation at bay, they also increase your metabolism and help you lose weight. find out exactly how.
Include fruits and vegetables into your daily diet.
Adding condiments like jeera, haldi and ajwain in your food while cooking it is a great way to help digestion.
Drink at least eight glasses of water every day. Make sure you have a glass of warm water every morning and before you go to bed.
Co-Authored with Dr. Preeti S. Borkar