Home Remedies for IBS - The Ayurvedic Approach
by Dr. Surya Bhagwati on Nov 01, 2019
Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is an increasingly common gastrointestinal condition that is estimated to affect up to 20% of India’s population – that’s roughly 270 million Indians! The condition can cause a wide range of symptoms including abdominal pain and cramping, severe constipation or diarrhea, bloating, gas, and flatulence. If not managed appropriately, IBS can severely impact quality of life. Unfortunately, treatment can be complicated and some medications can even cause other complications or side effects. This has fueled interest in natural remedies for IBS as they offer a more sustainable approach. Ayurved has a lot to offer in this regard as the ancient medical system has a wealth of information on the condition and possible treatments and home remedies for IBS.
IBS: The Ayurvedic Perspective
Some of the most valuable insights into IBS from Ayurved can be found in the revered texts of the Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita. A condition that they describe as grahani bears the strongest resemblance to IBS symptoms. They also go on to describe the etiology and pathogenesis of the condition, noting that it compromises the functioning of the GI tract, not only causing discomforting symptoms but also leading to impaired digestion and nutrient absorption. With their understanding of the natural balance of doshas and their interaction with health, they recognized the role of imbalances in the abnormal increase in small and large intestine motility typical of IBS.
Based on their observations we know that vitiation of vata and low ojas are underlying causes of IBS. This vitiation can occur as a result of dietary and lifestyle choices. Although pitta vitiation can also interfere with the condition, the dominant cause is regarded as vata vitiation. Vitation of vata tends to occur when you overeat or favor foods with extreme tastes, including highly processed foods. Lifestyle choices like constant travelling, over-exercising, inadequate rest and relaxation, and irregular sleep are also known to be risk factors for IBS induced by vata vitiation. In IBS, vata accumulates in the purishavaha srota (colon), also affecting the other dhatus or tissues. When this buildup reaches the small intestine it also disturbs agni, increasing the severity of frequency of IBS symptoms. The effects of vitiated vata are not limited to the gastrointestinal tract and can even vitiate samana vayu, which affects everything from thoughts to digestion. This is why in addition to digestive distress, IBS patients also tend to experience anxiety and depression.
The Ayurvedic treatment of IBS therefore focuses on correction of underlying dosha imbalances, providing relief from symptoms, and reducing the risk of recurring symptoms. Based on the treatment recommendations found in traditional Ayurvedic texts and ongoing research, here are some of the best Ayurvedic remedies for IBS.
Ayurvedic Home Remedies for IBS
1. Shatapushpa for IBS
Described as shatapushpa, this herb or spice is actually familiar to many of us as star anise. Highly valued as an ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine for IBS and other gastrointestinal disorders, shatapushpa is a powerful digestive aid. Studies show that oil extracts from the herb work as natural muscle relaxants, relieving IBS symptoms. In combination with other herbs it can also relieve constipation associated with IBS. Most promising however, was the research finding showing that the herb specifically improved IBS symptoms with just 4 weeks of regular consumption.
2. Pudina for IBS
Peppermint or pudina is another ingredient that is widely used in Ayurved to treat respiratory and gastric disorders. It may also be a good idea to add this herb to your salads and meals if you suffer from IBS as studies show that peppermint possesses natural anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties that can relieve cramping and pain associated with IBS.
3. Saunf for IBS
An important post meal digestive aid in traditional Indian diets, this is one tradition that we need to revisit. Saunf is extremely effective at treating IBS and is believed to relax the intestinal muscles, relieving gas, bloating, abdominal cramps, and constipation. If you’re searching for the best Ayurvedic medicine for IBS, just look for one that contains this ingredient. Several studies have confirmed the herb’s efficacy in reducing IBS symptoms and abdominal discomfort.
4. Haldi for IBS
You probably don’t need any introduction to the medicinal value of haldi or turmeric. The herb is still a common ingredient in home remedies for a wide range of ailments across the Indian subcontinent. What you may not know is that it is also helpful in dealing with IBS. Known for its powerful anti-inflammatory and wound healing effects, the herb has proven benefits for IBS patients, which are linked to its main bioactive compound – curcumin.
5. Sunth for IBS
Ginger is one of the most popular culinary herbs across the world, but India has a long history of using the herb for medicinal purposes too. Sunth or dried ginger is regarded as an effective digestive aid in Ayurved, used to strengthen agni and improve digestion. Depending on the type of IBS, you can add ginger to your diet to strengthen the mucosal lining of the stomach and reduce inflammation. It is advisable to start with small doses, as not all IBS patients will respond in the same manner to ginger and more research is needed to determine dose-based efficacy.
While these 5 herbs and spices are extremely effective at relieving IBS, we’ve just focused on the ones that can be easily consumed as home remedies by adding them to your diet or in herbal teas. However, Ayurved provides us with many more herbal solutions and you can find some of these in the best Ayurvedic medicines for IBS. They include herbs like Biligarbh, Dhavni Phool, mochras, and kutaj, aong others. In addition to using herbs and Ayurvedic medications for IBS, you should also make changes to your diet and lifestyle to find a more permanent solution for IBS.
- Kapur OP, Shah S. Irritable bowel syndrome in Indian patients. [Last retrieved on 2010 Jun 26]. Available from: https://www.bhj.org.in/journal/special_issue_tb/DPII_13.HTM
- Mosaffa-Jahromi, Maryam, et al. “Efficacy and Safety of Enteric Coated Capsules of Anise Oil to Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, vol. 194, Dec. 2016, pp. 937–946., doi:10.1016/j.jep.2016.10.083
- Ford, Alexander C et al. “Effect of fibre, antispasmodics, and peppermint oil in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis.” BMJ (Clinical research ed.) vol. 337 a2313. 13 Nov. 2008, doi:10.1136/bmj.a2313
- Portincasa, Piero, et al. “Curcumin and Fennel Essential Oil Improve Symptoms and Quality of Life in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” Journal of Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases, vol. 25, no. 2, June 2016, pp. 151–157., doi:10.15403/jgld.2014.1121.252.ccm
- Bundy, Rafe, et al. “Turmeric Extract May Improve Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptomology in Otherwise Healthy Adults: A Pilot Study.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, vol. 10, no. 6, 9 Mar. 2005, pp. 1015–1018., doi:10.1089/acm.2004.10.1015
- Nikkhah Bodagh, Mehrnaz et al. “Ginger in gastrointestinal disorders: A systematic review of clinical trials.” Food science & nutrition vol. 7,1 96-108. 5 Nov. 2018, doi:10.1002/fsn3.807
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