Most of us have probably experienced constipation at least once in our lives.
The discomfort, heaviness, and brain fog . . . along with the bloating and gas that often accompany constipation are surefire recipes for a less than optimal day. As if one day isn't bad enough, if you have chronic constipation (and I can certainly empathize) then you really need to start incorporating the tips below, pronto! While we may think constipation is a common ailment not to be taken too seriously, Ayurveda actually places much emphasis on having full, regular unobstructed bowel movements at least once per day.
Since the Fall season is now in full effect don't be surprised if you are suddenly experiencing constipation or if it has worsened. In Ayurveda, each season has a dominant dosha, or elemental constitution, just like our bodies. Autumn is Vata season (the Air and Space principle), so we often experience changes in both the environment and our bodies that encompass the Vata qualities of cold, rough, dry, light, mobile, and subtle. Since Vata governs all movement in the body our bodies (and minds) can easily go haywire when Vata is aggravated.
From her interview on the Dr. Oz Show, Dr. Trupti Gokani explains, These excess wind, air, and space elements can lead to a dry, cold mind and body.One of the first signs of a Vata imbalance is constipation. Vata has sites in various parts of the body and the colon is Vata's main site, where its primary function is to move waste down and out. Excess dryness in the colon can obstruct the flow of Vata leading to gas, bloating, and constipation. Therefore, colon health, especially during windy, cold, and dry weather is especially important to maintain. Your body needs to eliminate waste regularly and fully, lest it become a site of icky ama (toxic waste), which can seep into your bloodstream and affect other tissues and organs.
It is estimated that 12 to 19 percent of Americans suffer from constipation, which can lead to other disorders such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and fecal incontinence. And that's just the beginning . . .
To get your bowels moving try the following 10 tips:
1. For gas, bloating, and irregular eating patterns make a tea of equal parts cumin, coriander, and fennel powder (known as CCF tea) and drink it before meals.
2. Drink a hot cup of senna tea with lemon. Senna is a natural laxative and lemon increases the body's alkaline levels and cleanses the liver.
3. Take triphala at night with warm water. Triphala is a combination of three powerful herbs Amalaki, Bibhitaki and Haritaki and is beneficial for all doshic types. It will help maintain proper digestion and elimination on a daily basis.
4. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and especially in the morning drink warm lemon water to awaken your organs to the day. Aim to train your body to eliminate first thing in the morning. Dehydration or inadequate water intake can be a cause of constipation.
5. Eat a Vata-pacifying diet of nourishing warm, oily, and pungent foods. Avoid cold, dry foods like crackers, salads, and iced drinks. Make sure to get plenty of fiber through natural foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
6. For really stubborn constipation add castor oil into the mix. Start with 2 tsp at nighttime in a cup of warm water. Increase the next night if bowels have not fully released. Use castor oil in moderation and only in extreme circumstances as a dependency can develop. The goal is to train your bowels to eliminate naturally without the help of any aids.
7. Soak chia seeds overnight and make a drink by blending 2 tbsp of chia seeds with a cup of almond milk, handful of soaked raisins, cinnamon, and coconut oil. Drink in the morning.
8. Many yoga postures can help with the downward flow of Vata. Try the Pawanmuktasana II asana series for healthy digestion.
9. Breathing exercises, such as Kapalabhati pranayama, can also be beneficial for moving Vata down and out.
10. Use a Squatty Potty to assist with proper alignment of the colon when eliminating. Vata's mobile quality makes it the main driver in the disease process so it is always beneficial to keep Vata in check no matter the season. Try to incorporate Vata-pacifying practices into your daily routine.
- Go to bed and waking up early
- Do a self-oil massage daily (try sesame oil)
- Eat warm, nourishing foods cooked in healthy oils
- Drink warm water in the morning and throughout the day
- Take quiet time out for yourself at least once per day
- Avoid raw, cold, and dry foods and drinks
As you start to listen to your body more closely, try to recognize and address signs of Vata increase early on: dryness, constipation, gas, bloating, pain, and mental agitation are all good indicators. This will save you much agony in the long run. Namaste and happy healing!
Meet the author, Naomi Boas, Ayurvedic Wellness Educator and Practitioner