Ayurveda for Digestive Disorders
Common digestive problems such as gastric reflux (also known as heartburn and GERD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can cause symptoms such as gas, bloating, stomach pain, or abdominal cramps. The discomfort, and often embarrassment, that result from digestive disorders often limits a person’s quality of life. Ayurvedic treatments can bring relief from these symptoms for the millions who suffer with digestive disorders by restoring harmony to the body, mind, and spirit.
Why Use Ayurveda for Digestive Disorders?
Lifestyle changes have long been recommended for digestive disorders with the goal of decreasing the inflammation of the digestive tract. Ayurvedic treatments are well suited for these diseases because they center on creating balance with our bodies through nutrition and mental and spiritual tranquility. In Ayurvedic medicine, herbs, metals, massage, and other products and techniques are used with the intent of cleansing the body and restoring balance. This is believed to help treat illness and promote wellness. Ayurvedic practitioners expect patients to be active participants in their treatment, by making the necessary lifestyle changes.
Ayurvedic Medicine recommends yoga as a form of exercise to build strength and health. To reduce stress and improve mental energy, Ayurveda suggests massage therapy, self-massage, yogic breathing techniques, and meditation. Regular practice of these arts will help you lead a healthy and harmonious life.
How Can Ayurveda Help with Digestive Disorders?
Ayurveda describes three types of toxins that may build up in the body. The most common type is ama, which is formed when the digestive tract is either weak or overloaded with the wrong foods. If ama is not cleared from the body, it will continue to build and can cause an imbalance of the doshas, or the natural forces at work in the body. When the causative factors of the imbalance are not addressed, the ama can react with subdoshas and create amavisha. Amavisha is the strongest toxin, and it can cause disease. The third type of toxin is environmental toxins, and requires you to eliminate your exposure to the contaminant.
A temporary lapse in good dietary habits will create ama. Long-term eating habits that are not appropriate for a person’s dosha will cause the development of amavisha. Digestive disorders are related to amavisha, indicated by their chronic nature.
The first treatment is detoxification and cleansing of the body. If this is not done, other methods of treatment will not be effective. Detoxification includes therapeutic use of laxatives, enemas, fasting, and cleansing of the sinuses. Diet is the most important aspect of Ayurvedic treatment. Certain tastes and foods can either calm or irritate the doshas. After an Ayurvedic practitioner determines a person’s dosha profile, a specific diet will be recommended to correct dosha imbalances and to improve health. The heaviest meal of the day should be eaten at midday, and meals should be taken in a calm manner with proper chewing and without overeating to ease the burden of digestion.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda (“ah-yer-vey-duh”) originated in India and is the ancient Hindu science of natural healing. It is based on the theory of balance and wholeness of the universe and the body. According to Ayurvedic principles, health is derived through peace with the environment, body, mind, and spirit. Treatments in Ayurvedic medicine seek to improve the balance of its patients by focusing on healthy living. It uses therapies that create physical, mental, social, and spiritual harmony.
According to Ayurveda, three basic energies influence our state of harmony or disharmony with nature. These energies, called doshas, are each associated with natural elements. The doshas are forces in the body that control the environment inside and outside of our bodies, and thus determine our state of health.
- Vata dosha relates to the elements of space and air, or wind. It is associated with the functioning of the nervous system. People with dominant Vata will be full of energy and vigor.
- Pitta dosha relates to the elements fire and water. It is commonly associated with the digestive system. Those with dominant Pitta are usually intellectual and ambitious.
- Kapha dosha relates to the elements earth and water. The respiratory system is governed by this dosha, as is the physical being. Individuals with a dominant Kapha dosha are nurturing and orderly.
Ayurvedic treatments use diet, detoxification techniques, herbal and mineral remedies, yoga, meditation, and massage as healing methods. Ayurvedic philosophy also states that maintaining dosha balance through the daily use of appropriate diet, exercise, and yoga will maintain health and prevent disease.
What Causes Digestive Disorders?
Causes for most digestive disorders have not been identified, though there is much speculation in the medical community. Suggested causes are allergies, immune system deficiencies, genetic factors, or infections. One commonality is that inflammation of the digestive tract is seen in most digestive disorders. Factors that contribute to this inflammation are thought to be diet, stress, alcohol and tobacco use, and being overweight.
Ayurveda teachings indicate that the Pitta dosha is responsible for metabolism and digestion. Pitta imbalances cause stress-related conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, heartburn, or ulcers.
Finding an Ayurvedic Practitioner
Organizations like Light on Ayurveda Education Foundation provide education and information on Ayurveda practice. Medical tourism organizations provide an opportunity to explore Ayurveda treatments within a traditional Hindu culture.
Ask about the Ayurveda practitioner’s training, licenses, certifications and experience before choosing a practitioner. The practitioner will ask questions about your health history and lifestyle on your first visit, so it is wise to have this information handy. You may also want to make a list of questions to ask the practitioner. After the first visit, decide if the practitioner is right for you, based on whether the practitioner provided enough information to educate you and answer your questions, and whether or not the treatment plan seems reasonable.
Articles on Ayurveda from Boloji
The Chopra Center for Wellbeing
Ayurveda Holistic Community
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine on Ayurveda